Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Wed, October 22, 2014

Jones Creek Road apartments to undergo $5.8M addition, expansion

The Ivy Park apartments, a luxury apartment complex at 6444 Jones Creek Road, will undergo a $5.84 million addition that will tack on 68,810 square feet and 60 apartments. Ivy Park is owned by Key Real Estate Co., a New Orleans company that owns and manages several upscale apartment complexes throughout south Louisiana and Texas, in conjunction with CR Properties LLC out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and AMCAL, a California real estate company.

The companies have owned Ivy Park together since it was constructed in 2007, but are expanding now, because "it's a good time in the market to do an expansion," Key CEO TJ Iarocci says. Three new buildings will be constructed between a Regions Bank branch near the complex and the Jones Creek Regional Library.

Iarocci says the companies plan to break ground on the new apartments in the second quarter of 2015 and open by the end of 2015. Lance Malley and Eric Spearman with The Architectural Studio are the architects on the project.

Key's other Baton Rouge apartment complexes include Camden Lake, Lakeside Villas, Mansions in the Park and Bristol Place. Key is also playing a role in redeveloping the Commerce Building downtown. Led by Iarocci, New Orleans-based firm 5thfloor Company purchased the eight-story, 180,000-square-foot Commerce Building in August 2012 and is spearheading its redevelopment.

A plan review application for the Ivy Park addition was recently filed with the city-parish Department of Public Works. Other projects for which plan review applications have recently been filed include a new gymnasium and covered carpool depot for St. Jean Vianney Catholic Church and School, at 16166 S. Harrell’s Ferry Road. The project will cost $3 million and add 13,940 square feet.

Quarters, the arcade at 4330 Sherwood Forest Blvd. that operates out of a building owned by Commercial Properties Realty Trust, which is the real estate arm of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, applied for a $250,000 remodel of its bowling, laser tag and arcade areas.

Menzie Manufacturing plans to add 2,440 square feet of office space to its new fabrication shop and showroom at 16575 Commercial Ave., at an estimated cost of $150,000. Finally, RASCO FR Inc., which makes flame retardant clothing, plans to add 20,217 square feet to its 1757 N. Flannery Road facility.
—Kelly Connelly

La. fishing industry worries new EPA mandate could lead to larger Gulf dead zone

Nitrogen run-off from the nation's booming corn belt is the single largest source of nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River basin, which drains a stunning 41% of the waterways in the contiguous United States. And as National Geographic reports in a new feature on coastal erosion in Louisiana, the Gulf dead zone, and its effect on commercial fishermen, the problem may worsen if the Environmental Protection Agency raises the ethanol mandate for blended gasoline next month—despite earlier commitments to reduce it.

Fully one-third of corn grown in the U.S. already goes to ethanol refiners today, and that number could climb. Various strategies are being pursued for reducing the nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River basin, which is largely unregulated. A lawsuit is pending against the EPA. Petitioners want the agency to set enforceable, numeric limits on nitrogen and phosphorus that would force upstream states to curb the pollution.

The Gulf's dead zone forms far offshore, but even oysters are not immune to the low-oxygen condition, called hypoxia, that agricultural wastes can create. Shallower marsh waters can get hit as well.

"If you get a dead zone over your bed, it'll wipe you out," says John Tesvich, a fourth generation oysterman and chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.

Some summers, Tesvich says, he's lost 20% to 30% of his oysters from it. Shrimpers and commercial red snapper fishermen are also hit hard.

The dead zone is one of many reasons why the Gulf's valuable fishing industry, generating close to $2 billion in sales in Louisiana alone, is diminishing. Thirty years ago, 90% of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. originated in the Gulf. Today it's just 30%. Read the full story.

In push to extend boom, oil and gas producers cramming shale wells closer together

U.S. shale producers are cramming more wells into the juiciest spots of their oil and gas fields in a move that may help keep the drilling boom going as prices plunge. Bloomberg reports the technique, known as downspacing, aims to pull more oil at less cost from each field, allowing companies to boost profit, attract more investment and arrange needed loans to continue drilling.

Energy companies see closely packed wells as their best chance to add billions more barrels of oil to U.S. production that's already the highest in a quarter century. However, to make downspacing work, the industry must first solve a problem that for decades has required producers to carefully distance their wells.

Crowded wells may steal crude from each other without raising total production enough to make the extra drilling worthwhile. Too much of that cannibalization could propel the U.S. production revolution into a faster downturn.

In Louisiana's Haynesville field, which mostly produces gas, data from producers and regulators shows that efforts to drill wells closer together has led to what industry insiders call "interference." That's when a second or third well drilled close to an existing location produces less than the first, according to an analysis of the practice by Drillinginfo, which collects and analyzes data on thousands of wells across the U.S. Closer spacing may mean that wells deplete faster, and ultimately produce less, leading to diminishing returns over the life of the field. Read the full story.

'Business Report': BR investors look to give Quickick a reboot

Legendary LSU athletic trainer Martin Broussard created a sports drink called Bengal Punch in 1958 after discovering that the salt tabs and soft drinks consumed by his athletes weren't adequately replacing their electrolytes.

"He took a swab of sweat from guys and looked at it and said we need to put these electrolytes and minerals back in these guys," his grandson, Trey Beall, tells Business Report in a feature from the current issue.

That's how Quickick, originally called Bengal Punch, was born. Beall says Broussard shared his recipe with friend and University of Florida researcher Robert Cade, who then went on to develop Gatorade in 1965. Cade died a very rich man, with his drink dominating food market shelves all over the world. Forbes has in years past placed Gatorade among the world's 40 most valuable sports brands.

Although Quickick was created seven years before Gatorade and is coined "the original sports drink," Broussard did not profit from his recipe and Quickick lives in only a few stores around Louisiana.

"I just think he didn't know what he had," Beall says. "I don't think he ever thought about the marketing piece. He was just trying to keep his kids from cramping. I don't think he knew he stumbled upon a $6 billion industry."

Or possibly more. Sports drink sales reached $7.4 billion last year, according to Maryland-based market research firm Packaged Facts.

And that's where Greg Tramontin fits in. Tramontin is the Go Auto man, the self-made insurance guru whom friends describe as a marketing "Boston Terrier." Tramontin is a golfer, an LSU enthusiast and an avid fan of Quickick. And at the end of this month, he will be its new owner.

"Why buy it? Well, I don't invest in anything that will fail," says Tramontin, who is buying the company with four local business partners. "And this is basically a dormant company that has a lot of potential. The downside is minimal and the upside is unlimited. And I love the taste." Read the full feature. Send your comments to [email protected].

News roundup: EBR sales tax collections rise 1.8% in August … BRAF sets public input meetings on LSU lakes master plan … Bayou Classic Business Plan Competition open to BR businesses

In the bank: Roughly $14.8 million in sales taxes were collected in East Baton Rouge Parish in August, which was about 1.8% more than the $14.5 million collected the previous August. According to the latest monthly report from the city-parish Finance Department, released Tuesday afternoon, year-to-date collections through August are up 2.5% this year over last year. A total of $114.8 million was collected last year through August, compared to $117.7 million this year. See the complete sales tax report.

Ideas wanted: The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which is spearheading an effort to rehabilitate the LSU lakes, will hold four meetings to get public input as it continues to work toward creating a master plan for the lakes. The dates and times for the first two meetings are set, with the other two yet to be scheduled. The first meeting will be at the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business on Thursday, Nov. 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. The second will be at the LSU Cotillion Ballroom on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. RSVP to attend.

You have to be in it to win it: Baton Rouge businesses looking to compete in the Capital One Bank Bayou Classic Business Plan Competition, which will award $60,000 to small businesses in south Louisiana, must attend one of two business development workshops being held later this week to be eligible. The workshops are on Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 4655 Sherwood Common Blvd., and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Louisiana Small Business Development Center, 616 Harding Blvd. Complete details on the workshops and the competition can be obtained by emailing [email protected].

Today's poll question: The latest report card from the Louisiana Department of Education shows the East Baton Rouge Parish School System maintained its C grade and showed slight improvements, though the number of failing schools doubled to 16. What grade would you give EBRPSS?

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