Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Wed, August 27, 2014


News alert: Jindal administration working to keep BR General ER open

Baton Rouge General Hospital President and CEO Mark Slyter has notified employees by email that the Jindal administration has committed to working with the hospital to identify new funding to help keep the hospital's Mid City emergency room open. As first reported by Daily Report this morning, hospital officials began notifying employees early today of a pending closure and were planning to publicly announce their decision this afternoon. In an email sent to hospital employees shortly before noon, Slyter says: "I am delighted to report that the Governor's Office reached out to help us within the last hour to let us know they are committed to working with BRG to identify new funding to help us continue providing ER services at Mid City. … Upon learning of the Governor's offer, our Board convened an emergency meeting and has approved the state's proposal." Read Daily Report PM this afternoon for details on this developing story. —Stephanie Riegel

BR General to announce closure of Mid City ER

Baton Rouge General Hospital is expected to announce later today that it is shutting down the emergency room at its Mid City campus on Florida Boulevard. Daily Report has learned from multiple sources at the hospital that employees were notified early this morning of the pending closure, as were select business, political and community leaders. Rev. Raymond Jetson, a former state legislator and pastor of Star Hill Church, was among them. He says he was first made aware of discussions among hospital leadership several weeks ago and that he is disappointed by the final decision, though he does not blame the hospital for making a difficult choice. "There are literally lives that are going to be placed in jeopardy as a result of this," he says. "Not singularly because of the decision of the General but because of the health care policy that has been practiced in this state. … This is an anticipatable consequence of the actions that have been taken by the (Jindal) administration and from its rather short-sighted approach in terms of health care policy." Over the past few years, the Jindal administration has been privatizing health care for the poor, a policy that, last year, resulted in the closure of the "charity" hospital, Earl K. Long. Since then, charity patients have been directed to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, which has a state contract to provide care to the indigent. However, many indigent patients continue to seek treatment at Baton Rouge General's emergency room, which can no longer afford to provide care. Hospital officials reached this morning declined to comment at this time, as did a Jindal spokesperson. Repeated calls to a hospital spokesperson went unanswered as of press time. —Stephanie Riegel

Jindal suing feds over Common Core

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit this morning against the Obama administration, accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards. The U.S. Department of Education has used a $4.3 billion grant program and federal policy waivers to encourage states to adopt uniform education standards and testing. Jindal says that "effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content. The legal challenge puts Jindal, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, at the forefront of a dispute between conservatives and President Barack Obama, bolstering the governor's profile on the issue as he's trying to court conservative voters nationwide. "The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal says in a statement. More than 40 states, including Louisiana, have adopted the Common Core standards for math and English benchmarks. When the state education board adopted the standards in 2010, Jindal supported them, saying they would help students to better prepare for college and careers. He reversed course earlier this year, however, and now says he opposes the standards because they are an effort by the Obama administration to meddle in state education policy. See the full lawsuit. The Associated Press has the full story.

'Business Report': Are short stints by EBR schools superintendents hurting classroom outcomes?

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board in 2012 unanimously hired Bernard Taylor to be the system's next superintendent. In 2014 the board voted 10-1 not to extend his contract, which means Taylor, like his predecessor, John Dilworth, likely won't serve more than three years. Dennis Dearden, associate executive director with the American Association of School Administrators tells Business Report that a brief term at the top is pretty much the norm for an urban schools leader. He says the average tenure at an urban district is about 2.5 or 2.6 years, compared to roughly six years at smaller districts. But just because a brief tenure is typical doesn't mean it isn't worrisome, Dearden says. "There's a definite correlation between superintendent tenure and student achievement," agrees Dana Bickmore, an assistant professor at the LSU School of Education. "It's a pretty direct line." Of course, correlation doesn't prove causation. And Bickmore says some research shows the existence of a few "turnaround specialists" in education who can make significant changes in a short period of time, although that research focuses more on principals than on superintendents specifically. But in general, it appears that stability at the top makes a difference in the classroom. "It takes about five years to make any substantive change in district student achievement," Bickmore says. Read the full feature. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

Today's poll question: The position of superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish Schools changes hands every few years. Do you believe the high turnover rate impacts student achievement?

LSU, La. Tech students unveil 3D 'printed' medical devices

Jeffrey Weisman envisions a future where low-cost three-dimensional printers spit out custom plastic implants to treat infections and cancer. As The Shreveport Times reports, Weisman, Karthik Tappa and Uday Jammalamadaka recently showed off prototype implants—plastic rods and tiny beads—they created in the past six months with an off-the-shelf 3D printer. They're seeking a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue their work at LSU Health Shreveport and Louisiana Tech in Ruston. "We haven't seen this in any of the (scientific) literature. We believe we are on the forefront of this approach," says Dr. Gerald Capraro, head of LSU Health's microbiology lab. Weisman believes the plastic implants could be a safer, more effective tool than bone cement in joint replacement surgery. The implants would contain antibiotics to fight post-surgery infections. Because the plastic breaks down in a person's body over time, a patient wouldn't have to undergo another operation to remove the implant. "One of the things we've learned here at LSU Health Shreveport is personalized medicine," says Weisman, who is attending medical school/doctoral program operated jointly by LSU Health and Tech. Tappa and Jammalamadaka are in a nanoengineering program at Tech. They came up with the drug-infused devices while brainstorming how they could use 3D printers—a staple in manufacturing since the 1980s—in medicine. The prototypes work, at least against one common bacterium. The trio also plans to study whether the implants could treat tumors. Read the full story.

Industry observers don't expect states like La. to follow North Carolina in axing film tax credits

As Louisiana debates the merits of its own film tax credit and other states such as California are looking to substantially boost funding for such credits, North Carolina may be exiting the Hollywood stage. As The Los Angeles Times reports, North Carolina state legislators opted last week not to renew its program despite heavy lobbying by the local film industry to preserve the incentives. The decision not only was a big blow to North Carolina's film industry but also underscores the growing scrutiny that film subsidies are receiving nationwide. Other states have also voted to eliminate or curtail their film programs by imposing caps and reducing funding. Michigan and New Mexico, for example, took steps to scale back their programs, and Iowa scrapped its program in 2009 after an audit identified widespread abuses. Still, 39 states offer some form of tax credit, rebate or grant. Will some of those states now follow North Carolina's lead? Not likely, industry observers say. "I believe it will have some impact but likely will not cause other states to follow suit," says Rob O'Neill, a partner and film tax credit specialist at the accounting firm Moss Adams. "Production will just occur in other states, and an industry will likely die in North Carolina." Read the full story. Also, check out the latest Business Report cover story—"Louisiana's billion-dollar investment in film: Economic boon or fiscal drain?"—examining Louisiana's film tax credit, which is among the most generous in the nation and has turned Louisiana into a leading state for film and TV projects since it was enacted in 2002.

Turner Industries unveils state-of-the-art fleet vehicle facility in north BR

Roland Toups, chairman and chief executive officer of Turner Industries, thanked "those whose shoulders we all have stood on" as more than 100 employees and guests gathered for the grand opening of the industrial construction and maintenance company's new 50,000-square-foot equipment repair and refurbishing facility in north Baton Rouge on Tuesday. Specifically, Toups thanked members of the Turner family—including Sue Turner, founder Bert Turner's widow, who was on hand for the event—and "the 18,000 individuals on our payroll in our various locations." Toups pointed out that the new $7.5 million facility is built on the spot that once housed Nichols Construction Corp., the Turner Industries' predecessor that Bert Turner acquired in 1961. The new facility has 25 bays to service Turner Industries' fleet of nearly 2,000 vehicles and pieces of heavy equipment. At the heart of the new facility is a massive painting booth large enough to hold the huge cranes Turner deploys to construction sites. One entire wall of the painting booth consists of air filters, a precaution against airborne dust that might otherwise enter the paint. The facility is more efficient than having distributed repair and maintenance, Toups said. It is also safer. Toups emphasized that the new facility represents Turner Industries' core values of integrity and class. "Nobody should ever be ashamed to say, 'I worked for Turner Industries,'" he said. "Nobody should ever have reason to say, 'I worked for Turner Industries, and I'm sorry I did." —David Dodson

News roundup: BRAC congratulates local investors on Inc. 5000 list … Oil industry urged to work harder to get its story across … US economy forecast to grow by 1.5% in 2014

On the grow: Inc. magazine's annual listing of the nation's 5,000 fastest-growing firms includes more than a dozen Capital Region companies this year—nine of which are Baton Rouge Area Chamber investors—which BRAC CEO Adam Knapp says is "great testament to the economy and talent" in the area. BRAC investor companies making the list this year are: General Informatics; Hunt, Guillot & Associates; InfiniEdge Software; inoLECT; Investar; MESH Integrated Marketing & Advertising; QCS Logistics; Sparkhound; and Zehnder Communications. Other local companies on the list include Ruston Properties, Resource Environmental Services, Envoc and ShoppersChoice.com See the complete list.

The message: The backlash against oil and gas activities across the nation means that the industry needs to do a much better job of telling the public about the benefits of today's drilling boom, executives and state leaders say. FuelFix.com reports the fight over potential drilling restrictions—and whether local communities have the right to impose outright bans on the activity—served as the backdrop for a recent energy summit in Denver, where much of the discussion focused on how the industry can win public trust. Read the full story.

By the numbers: The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that the U.S. economy will grow by just 1.5% in 2014, undermined by a poor performance during the first three months of the year. The new assessment was considerably more pessimistic than the Obama administration's, which predicted last month that the economy would expand by 2.6% this year even though it contracted by an annual rate of 2.1% in the first quarter. The economy grew by 0.9% during the first half of 2014. The Associated Press has the full story.

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