Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Wed, October 01, 2014

Amoroso wants council to oppose stricter EPA air quality standards

The Metro Council will consider at its next meeting a resolution to formally oppose proposed changes to Federal Air Quality Standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Councilman Buddy Amoroso, who is sponsoring the agenda item, says the proposed standards—which would lower air standards from 75 parts per billion to as low as 65 ppb—would hurt continued industry growth. "There is $70 billion of new construction on the books and this could kill it all," Amoroso says, referring to proposed plant construction in south Louisiana over the next several years. The EPA is currently taking comments on the proposed standards, and if approved the council's resolution would be submitted in opposition. Amoroso says he came up with the resolution after discussing the new standards with local industry leaders, other city officials and business associations. Since the 1970s Baton Rouge has struggled to meet the EPA air quality standard, only falling below the bar last April, thanks in part to industry cooperation, Amoroso says. "What you've seen in the major industries, [companies are] putting in equipment to make their operations cleaner. Even tugboats on the Mississippi River have tried to lower emissions," says Amoroso, who notes in an agenda item request that Baton Rouge has lowered its air pollution from more than 110 ppb in the 1970s to somewhere between 70 ppb and 74 ppb today. Amoroso's resolution also calls for the council to formally support loosening regulations regarding carbon credits. For example, if CATS were to update its fleet with more environmentally conscious buses, they should be able to transfer credits to businesses looking to expand their plants, Amoroso says. Calls for comment to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, a leading environmental group in the area, were not returned by this afternoon's deadline. The Metro Council will consider introducing Amoroso's item for further discussion at its meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 8. —Kelly Connelly

RDA transferring land in Ardendale to state for automotive training center, allied health facility

The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority is finalizing paperwork today to transfer to the state 20 acres of property at Ardendale for the construction of an 86,000-square-foot automotive training center and 45,000-square-foot allied health facility. Both facilities will be part of Baton Rouge Community College's new east campus, the centerpiece of the mixed-use development known as Ardendale, which sits on 200 acres north of Florida Boulevard in a neighborhood formerly called Smiley Heights. Once the transfer of the 20 acres is complete, the state will put out for bid the Center for Excellence in Auto Technology, as the automotive training center is officially known. Construction is set to begin in January, and it is expected to open in September 2016. The allied health training facility is scheduled to be completed in late 2016, as is a Career Academy High School, which will be developed on 8 acres that will be transferred to the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in the coming weeks. RDA President and CEO Walter Monsour says while work is proceeding with the ambitious project, the RDA continues to be hampered by a lack of long-term funding. At an upcoming special meeting, the RDA board of directors will discuss options for permanent funding. The meeting is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Oct. 13, at the offices of the Mortgage Finance Authority, 601 St. Ferdinand St. —Stephanie Riegel

BR job growth to be best for insulators, assemblers and home health aides, analysis says

Insulators, assemblers and home health aids are poised to see the most significant increases in job opportunities across Baton Rouge in the coming years, according to a new analysis of expected job growth through 2017 by USA Today. The newspaper has looked at data from Economic Modeling Specialists International and CareerBuilder in the nation's 125 largest metros, and has created a searchable database of the middle-skill level jobs expected to grow the fastest in each of them. By 2017, an estimated 2.5 million new middle-skill jobs will be added to the nation's workforce, accounting for nearly 40% of all job growth. USA Today says most of these new jobs pay at least $13 an hour, but many pay much more. In Baton Rouge, jobs for insulation workers are expected to see the greatest growth, at 39%. While those jobs pay a median wage of $18.46 per hour, which is considered a livable wage for the city, other professions expected to see the most growth over the next three years in Baton Rouge do not pay livable wages, the analysis says. For example, jobs for team assemblers are expected to grow at 31%, but the median hourly wage of $14.44 is not a livable wage for the Baton Rouge area, the analysis says. The same is true for home health aides, who are expected to see 31% growth in jobs here. But the median wage is $8.91 per hour. And so it goes for gaming dealers. The analysis says there will be 25% growth in those jobs through 2017, but at a non-livable median wage of $8.83 per hour. Read the full story and check out the complete database. —Steve Sanoski

'10/12 Industry Report': Where will the workers come from?

As the state readies itself for the biggest industrial expansion in its history, having an abundance of jobs to fill is "a wonderful problem to have," says Roland Toups, chairman and CEO of Turner Industries. Yet, despite Louisiana's good fortune, the question remains: Where will the workers come from? As detailed in a feature from the new 10/12 Industry Report—a special publication from the publishers of Business Report—a single recipe for meeting the state's workforce needs does not exist. Instead, industry, government, education and professional organizations are working in partnership to address this question. With the highest demand and most acute workforce shortages concentrated in skilled craft workers and engineers, many of the workforce-development efforts focus on increasing the supply of these workers. As the state's largest training provider, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System will play a lead role in preparing the workforce. In addition to offering two-year associate degrees and diplomas, LCTCS has re-engineered its industry-based certification programs and tailored them to industry's demands, according to Jimmy Sawtelle, LCTCS's vice president of workforce solutions. Associated Builders and Contractors also has stepped up its training capacity. Yet, even with increased and accelerated training opportunities, the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council's Craft Workforce Development Task Force notes that basic training—which typically prepares students for entry into a profession—is not sufficient to meet industry's demand for skilled craft workers, particularly journeymen. Read the full story, and check out the full lineup of stories from 10/12 Industry Report. Send your comments to editor@1012industryreport.com. Copies of the 10/12 Industry Report can be purchased at the offices of Louisiana Business Inc., 9029 Jefferson Highway, Suite 300, or by contacting the circulation department at circulation@businessreport.com or (225) 421-8140. Look for future issues of 10/12 Industry Report to be published as the industrial boom along the interstates 10 and 12 corridor continues.

LSU board approves rewritten hospital contracts

LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services. The Associated Press reports the LSU Board of Supervisors approved the rewritten contracts without objection today. The reworked deals are part of an effort by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration to win federal approval to keep Medicaid dollars paying for the privatization arrangements. The contracts govern the management transfer of hospitals in New Orleans, Lafayette, Bogalusa, Shreveport and Monroe and a deal that closed LSU's Lake Charles hospital, moving its inpatient services to a private hospital. Federal health officials rejected prior financing plans. Several LSU board members raised concerns about the ease with which hospital managers can now exit the deals, saying they want the university system to devise backup plans.

US, UK securities suits against BP move forward

BP failed to persuade a Texas federal judge to dismiss several lawsuits brought by U.S. and U.K. institutional investors who claim the London oil company misled them about the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As FuelFix.com reports, in a series of rulings unsealed today U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison in Houston disagrees with many of BP's case-killing arguments against securities lawsuits brought by foreign investors and U.S. public pension funds, allowing 85 of the 120 plaintiffs bringing claims before the Texas federal court to move forward into discovery. Fifteen others survived BP's efforts to dismiss them last year. In this round, the U.S. public pensions and foreign investors like Avalon Holdings alleged BP misled them about its safety procedures in oil drilling, as well as the size of the 2010 oil spill, the company's ability to contain the spill and its likely responsibility for the disaster. The plaintiffs said the misstatements cost them "tens of millions of dollars in losses" once BP shares fell, and they're seeking compensation for those losses. Private and public interest "must weigh heavily in favor of England to disrupt the foreign plaintiffs' choice of forum," Ellison wrote. "Because it does not, the court once again declines to dismiss English law, securities fraud claims." BP spokesman Geoff Morrell declined to comment. Read the full story.

News roundup: Campus Federal opens OLOL branch … Jindal discusses Ebola preparedness in La. … Exxon fracking report responds to shareholder concerns

Now open: Campus Federal Credit Union announced today the grand opening of its relocated and remodeled branch at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. The branch, located in Medical Plaza II on the campus at 5000 Hennessy Blvd., is the fifth location in Baton Rouge for the credit union. Campus Federal originally laid out plans for the OLOL branch in January 2012, when a merger with the Our Lady of the Lake Regional Federal Credit Union was announced.

Here's the plan: Gov. Bobby Jindal held a meeting of the Unified Command Group today at the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to get an update from state agencies and ensure the state is prepared if a case of Ebola were to be present in Louisiana. "First and foremost, it's important to note that there are no known cases of Ebola in Louisiana. However, if there ever were a case in our state, Louisiana is prepared," says Jindal in a prepared release. The first case of Ebola diagnosed inside the U.S. has been reported in Dallas. Jindal has more details on Louisiana's preparation efforts.

Here it is: ExxonMobil has issued a report acknowledging the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing but also defending the practice as being better for the environment than other types of energy production and generation. Under pressure from the corporate responsibility group As You Sow, as well as New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and other shareholders, Exxon agreed earlier this year to reveal more about how it manages the risks involved with the drilling technique, known as fracking. The Associated Press has the full story.
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