News alert: First choice for planning director position declines offer
Charles Graves III has declined the Planning Commission's offer to lead the East Baton Rouge Parish planning department as director. Daily Report has learned that Graves, who is currently director of city planning and buildings in Cincinnati, contacted Planning Commission Chairwoman Tara Wicker earlier today to notify her of his decision. At a special meeting Monday night, the commission voted to offer the position to Graves, pending the successful outcome of a background check. He was one of six finalists interviewed last weekend by the commission for the job, which has been vacant since late November. Read the full story in Daily Report PM.—Stephanie Riegel
Metro Council to consider leasing airport space for BRCC helicopter pilot program
The Metro Council will today consider authorizing Louisiana Aircraft to sublease a hangar and additional ramp and office space at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport to Guidance Aviation—which operates Baton Rouge Community College's helicopter pilot operations program. Though the training program has existed for less than a year, it has grown from 19 students and three helicopters to 33 students and four helicopters, with a fifth helicopter arriving later this month, says Chris Horton, Guidance Aviation's manager of flight operations in Baton Rouge. Horton attributes increasing demand for the program to the need for helicopter pilots across a wide range of industries, such as emergency medical service, offshore oil rigs, law enforcement, tourism and news gathering. Although the growing popularity of the program—in which students earn an associate of applied science degree in six semesters—is apparent, Horton says Guidance Aviation still has details to sort out with BRCC before they finalize the lease with Louisiana Aircraft. The council meeting starts at 4 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall, 222 St. Louis St. See the complete agenda. —Rachel Alexander Read the full story.
Community leaders, Arts Council finding ways to move forward in Old South B.R.
Three weeks after a simmering dispute between the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and a faction of community leaders in Old South Baton Rouge bubbled over—threatening to derail the implementation of an arts-based community revitalization plan in the neighborhood—the controversy appears to be dying down. Community activists from Old South Baton Rouge met earlier this week with representatives from the Arts Council, the Center for Planning Excellence and a team of consultants working on the plan. "It's a good process," says Boo Thomas, executive director of CPEX. "I think everyone has come to a new understanding of what it takes to move forward." In early February, a group of artists, community leaders and elected officials from the neighborhood asked the Arts Council to stop applying for grants that would help implement the Community Dreaming Plan, which has been in the planning stages for the past two years and envisions a neighborhood revitalization based around new arts initiatives. Some in that neighborhood complained they were left out of the planning process and essentially told the agencies that their unsolicited help was not needed. Arts Council President Eric Holowacz and Thomas say their organizations will no longer apply for grants that might benefit Old South Baton Rouge without first consulting with neighborhood leaders. "It means the process will take a lot longer," says Thomas. "But hopefully we can get enough lead time to involve everyone who wants to be involved." —Stephanie Riegel
La. tax revenues see highest rise of any state in 4Q, report says
Boosted by a more than 10-fold increase in corporate income tax collections in October through December of last year compared to the fourth quarter in 2012, Louisiana posted a 13.4% rise in total tax revenue in the quarter—the highest of any U.S. state—according to preliminary figures released Tuesday by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. Of the 45 states reporting corporate income tax collections in the report, Louisiana was among 23 that saw its collections rise in the final quarter of 2013—and its 1,066% increase over fourth quarter 2012 collections was by far the best of any state. Connecticut posted the second-best increase in corporate income tax collections, 305%, during the fourth quarter. Along with corporate income tax, the report from the Rockefeller Institute—a public policy research arm of the State University of New York—includes personal income and general sales tax collections. Louisiana saw its personal income tax collections fall 1% during the quarter, while its general sales tax collections rose 2.1%. On average, U.S. states saw personal income tax rise 1% during the fourth quarter, while corporate income and sales tax collections were each up 5.5%. Total sales tax collections among all states averaged a 3% increase during the quarter, compared to October through December in 2012. See the complete report. —Staff report
'Business Report': The importance of employee onboarding
Many professionals share the experience of having shown up for their first day of work only to find their new company isn't quite prepared to welcome them. Maybe a desk hasn't been cleared, or a computer ordered; in some cases, management is too busy even to sit down and discuss job responsibilities. If you never get a second chance to make a first impression, then these employers have blown it. "That person can feel very disconnected," Jennifer Adcock, a partner with Excelerant who has more than 10 years of human resource experience, tells Business Report contributing writer Erin Z. Bass for a feature in the magazine’s current issue. "It's very important that on that first day, everybody is prepared for this person, everybody's expecting this person to come in, and everybody's on the same page about their role in helping this person leave thinking they made the right decision." In Adcock's world, this is called employee onboarding. She's helped companies document their values and culture—what she calls the "foundation of any good onboarding program"—all the way to developing an extensive orientation program that can last up to one year. According to a 2013 study conducted by Aberdeen Group, "Employee onboarding has become a key business initiative and an accelerator of company growth and performance." Read the full feature. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Few La. lawmakers pledge opposition to expand Medicaid
It's been slow-going for a national tea party group trying to get state lawmakers to pledge their opposition to Democrats' efforts to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program. The Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity sent the pledge request to all 144 lawmakers in February. A month later, Phillip Joffrion, director of the AFP state chapter, tells The Associated Press he has over a dozen signatures. That's not enough to defeat a Medicaid expansion bill. But Joffrion says he expects to get pledges from many more lawmakers now that the legislative session has opened. He says AFP has signatures from key legislative leaders, including Senate President John Alario and Rep. Scott Simon, chairman of the House health care committee. Plus, lawmakers rejected the Medicaid expansion last year, and it's strongly opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Poll: Obama's approval rating hits new low
President Barack Obama is struggling to overcome widespread pessimism about the economy and deep frustration with Washington, notching the lowest job-approval ratings of his presidency in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The results suggest Obama could weigh on fellow Democrats in midterm elections this fall, particularly in the conservative states that will play a large role in deciding whether his party retains its Senate majority. Obama's job approval ticked down to 41% in March from 43% in January, marking a new low. Some 54% disapproved of the job he is doing, matching a previous high from December, when the botched rollout of his signature health law played prominently in the news. The latest survey also showed the lowest-ever approval in Journal/NBC polling for Obama's handling of foreign policy. The findings come amid dissatisfaction with all elected leaders in Washington and low regard for the Republican Party. Roughly a quarter of those polled view the GOP positively, with 45% harboring negative views, weaker numbers than for the Democratic Party. Americans surveyed in the poll said they were less inclined to support a candidate if the person had been endorsed by Obama or was a "solid supporter" of his administration. Approval of Obama is particularly weak in the South and Midwest, regions where Democrats could have a tough time defending Senate seats. The Wall Street Journal has the full story.
Today's poll question: Does an endorsement by President Barack Obama make you less likely to support a candidate for office?
News roundup: Women confront barriers in oil and gas industry, survey shows … Analysts lower forecast for 2014 airlines profit … Obama to push for broad expansion of overtime pay
A man’s world: Oil and gas companies are trying to lure women into the industry, but they have some work to do, according to a new report. The analysis by NES Global Talent, released this morning, finds in a survey that while 75% of women feel welcome working in the oil industry, nearly half believe they don't get the same recognition as male colleagues who dominate the field. In anonymous comments, some of the survey participants said that women are generally welcomed in the industry, where roughly 80% of the workforce is male. FuelFix.com has the full story.
Descending: The global airlines industry still expects a record profit for 2014, just not quite as high as previously forecast, due to the impact of rising jet fuel prices, officials announced this morning. The Geneva-based International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 airlines—or 84% of total air traffic—says the profit this year is expected to be $18.7 billion, a downgrade from the $19.7 billion it forecast in December, as fuel prices have been higher than expected since then. That profit figure is still well above the $12.9 billion earned in 2013 and the $6.1 billion in 2012. The Associated Press has the full story.
Making work pay: President Barack Obama will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers. As The New York Times reports, it's the latest move by the Obama administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated. On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as "executive or professional" employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement. Read the full story.