Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Mon, September 15, 2014

Permits filed for Crispy Catch seafood restaurant planned on Perkins

The owners of the former Kean's Fine Dry Cleaning building near the Perkins Road overpass have submitted plans with the city-parish Department of Public Works to redevelop the property into a new seafood restaurant called Crispy Catch. According to plans submitted to DPW's office of permits, the restaurant at 3901 Perkins Road will measure 2,393 square feet and will include the former Kean's space, as well as 805 square feet from an adjacent storefront that is part of the building and 700 square feet of canopy space. The application was submitted in late July by Tyler Pizzolato, whose parents, Tracie and Cliff Pizzolato, acquired the building in May for $564,219 from Frank Kean. Cliff Pizzolato is estranged from his siblings, who own and operate Tony's Seafood in north Baton Rouge and also Louisiana Fish Fry Products. The two factions of the family are embroiled in a heated legal battle, and Cliff Pizzolato is no longer associated with Tony's. Neither Cliff nor Tyler Pizzolato could be reached for comment and their attorney declines to comment on the new enterprise. The documents filed with DPW end months of speculation that, given their ties to the seafood business, the Pizzolatos were planning to develop some sort of seafood establishment at the site. DPW is still reviewing the plans and is awaiting additional documents from the Pizzolatos' architect. There is no word on how long the review process may take. —Stephanie Riegel

Library director justifies millage, provides project updates

East Baton Rouge Parish Library Director Spencer Watts addressed the Baton Rouge Press Club this afternoon to provide updates on the system's various construction projects and tackle recent criticism surrounding its seeming surplus of funds. "We're lucky to have a dedicated tax," Watts said. "We appreciate the support from taxpayers." Libraries don't have to rely on donations every time the system wishes to engage in a new project, Watts said. Instead, EBR libraries have a dedicated funding stream that has allowed them to invest in technologies that were once considered experimental, such as e-books, where others have fallen behind. The library system has also been able to undertake several infrastructure projects while improving content and programs, Watts said, noting the first phase of parking lot construction for the new main library on Goodwood Boulevard should be complete in the next 12 to 14 days. The second half of the parking lot is set to be finished in early October. On the new downtown library branch, which could carry a price tag of over $19 million, Watts said there have been some design complications. Watts said he is attending meetings with designers this week and next to work out the kinks. —Kelly Connelly Read the full story here.

La. named sixth-best state for business by 'Area Development'

At No. 6, Louisiana's ranking by Area Development in its 2014 list of the best states for doing business is unchanged from a year ago. The trade publication, which bases its annual rankings on a survey of site selection consultants from across the nation, says Southern states are dominating again this year. Georgia supplanted Texas as the top state for doing business on this year's list, while Texas slipped to No. 2, followed by South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Last year, Texas was followed by Georgia and South Carolina (tied at No. 2), Alabama and North Carolina. Aside from the overall rankings, Louisiana is also ranked in the top five nationally for its business climate, at No. 4, also unchanged from last year's rankings. "Louisiana tied with Alabama for No. 4 in overall business environment and is in the top four in several important sub-categories, including No. 1 in incentives programs," Area Development notes. "The state has combined a business-friendly approach with enduring advantages such as a highly productive and well-trained workforce and a modern transportation infrastructure." See the complete rankings. —Steve Sanoski

Editor's note: This story has been changed since original publication. An earlier version misidentified the source of the ranking as Site Selection magazine. Daily Report regrets the error.

Executive Spotlight: Shelia Sterling

Shelia Sterling has served Volunteers of America professionally for 25 years—even while earning her master's in social work she was a VOA employee. "I have never worked for another organization," Sterling tells Business Report in its new Executive Spotlight feature. "I find the work we do both rewarding and humbling. I can't imagine doing anything else." Sterling's institutional knowledge reflects job experience at all three Louisiana affiliates: Volunteers of America of North Louisiana, Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans and, since 1991, Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge. Now vice president and COO of VOAGBR, which serves a 19-parish region, Sterling oversees its leadership team and is responsible for the overall management, development and implementation of service programs. Those programs now annually impact over 20,000 of the region's most vulnerable residents, young and old: the homeless and the hungry; those living with disabilities and those living with AIDS; veterans and low-income seniors and traumatized children, among others. In short, VOA throws a wide net. Read the full Q&A. Here's a sample of what you'll find:
What keeps you energized as a leader in a charitable organization that daily addresses the needs of the area's most vulnerable people?
"My strong belief in the fact I am making a difference in the lives of people every single day is what keeps me energized! I work for an organization that people often come to because they are attracted to our mission. The people who volunteer with us believe the work they do is their 'life's calling,' as do I! I encourage all those who have never volunteered to get involved! The positive change happens both ways: those on the receiving end as well as the givers of service."

'Business Report' planner: LSU AgCenter offers Lead Certified Renovator Training … Leaders With Vision hosts panel discussion on Common Core affiliated tests … Sales and Marketing Executives meeting features national customer service expert

Tuesday: As part of its Healthy Homes educational initiative, the LSU AgCenter LaHouse Resource Center in Baton Rouge will host a daylong Lead Certified Renovator Training course beginning at 8:30 a.m. The course fee is $200, with a discount available for some LHBA members. Get complete details and register to attend.

Thursday: Leaders With Vision hosts a forum on the PARCC exams, which are affiliated with the controversial Common Core education standards, at Drusilla Seafood, 3482 Drusilla Lane, with a panel of local education representatives. Doors open at 11 a.m., with the program to begin at noon. Cost is $20 for LWV members, $25 for guests. Get complete details and register to attend.

Thursday: Sales and Marketing Executives of Greater Baton Rouge continues its series on sales and professional development with an address by nationally known customer service expert Teresa Allen at Juban's, 3739 Perkins Road, at its monthly meeting. Registration begins at 11 a.m., with the luncheon and presentation to start at 11:30 a.m. There is no charge for SME members; the cost is $35 for guests. Get complete details and register to attend.

The Business Report planner is open to events of general interest to the Capital Region business community. Items must be submitted no later than noon the Friday before the event occurs. Email ssanoski@businessreport.com with information.

For the full list of upcoming events, click here.

Downtown mixed-use project breaks ground with completion expected by next fall

Officials gathered downtown this morning to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Onyx Residences, a $7 million, mixed-use development including 28 apartments that is expected to be completed in about a year. A project of Commercial Properties Realty Trust—the real estate arm of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation—the five-story building at the corner of Third and Convention streets will also include 5,600 square feet of commercial space. The 28 one- and two-bedroom apartments will be located above the ground floor commercial space and will range from 600 to 1,100 square feet. They'll rent for between $1,600 and $2,500 per month, with each apartment featuring a home security and home management technology package from Monroe-based CenturyLink, as well as a balcony or terrace overlooking Third Street, Convention Street or the Shaw Center for the Arts. "Downtown has more than a dozen new restaurants, more class-A office space, a new Town Square, hotels, the Shaw Center for the Arts and its Manship Theatre," says BRAF CEO John Davies, in a prepared statement. "With this development, more people will be able to live downtown, which is vital to continuing the area's transformation." The Onyx building originally opened in the 1950s and was the home of Rider's Jewelry store until the late 1970s, BRAF says. It sat empty for more than three decades before City Year occupied it briefly in the last decade. The renovated Onyx will include more than 100 Carrera marble panels that were salvaged from the old building, BRAF says. See renderings of the Onyx Residences. —Steve Sanoski

GOP says Landrieu charter flight review is incomplete

Republicans say U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu fell short of her pledge to review all her taxpayer-funded private charter flights to make sure they complied with the law. The Democratic senator, who is seeking re-election on the November ballot, released on Thursday a review of her flights dating back to February 2002. But The Associated Press reports that Republicans, including Landrieu opponent U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, say the three-term incumbent cherry-picked what she chose to release. They also question why she didn't comb through flights from her first six years in Congress. Landrieu says her campaign reimbursed the federal treasury for nearly $34,000 in flight costs involving political fundraisers. Her campaign says the review only went back 12 years because that's when federal rules changed to allow flight costs to be split between Senate and campaign accounts if the trip had mixed purposes.

News roundup: Keep Louisiana Beautiful names new executive director … Ethics complaint filed against Vitter … La. child care providers concerned about funding

Leading the charge: Keep Louisiana Beautiful announced today it has hired Susan Russell to lead the organization's fight against litter as its new executive director. Russell formerly led Keep Mandeville Beautiful as director for eight years. She has been leading the state organization since July. As executive director of KLB, Russell will lead the anti-litter and community enhancement charge throughout the state. The state organization provides training, educational program support and administration of grants for a network of 35 affiliate programs and operates a statewide public education campaign.

Following the money: A Democratic group has lodged an ethics complaint against Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, alleging he violated state campaign finance restrictions. The American Democracy Legal Fund announced today it filed the complaint with the Louisiana ethics board. It seeks an investigation into a $100,000 fund transfer from Vitter's federal campaign account to an independent PAC supporting Vitter's 2015 candidacy for governor. Vitter's spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press, which has the full story.

The bottom line: While most child care providers in the state support efforts to upgrade care and unify the application process for parents, they're concerned about funding cuts and what it will cost to implement the state's new plans, Gannett Louisiana reports. "Money isn't everything," Superintendent of Education John White said at a meeting in Baton Rouge today, setting off a groan from providers who packed an auditorium-style meeting room to receive an update on the state's plans to implement standards for every child care center and set up a grading scale so parents can easily see how well centers perform. Read the full story.
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