Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Thu, August 28, 2014

High-rise Marriott hits the auction block with a $7M starting bid

The iconic high-rise Marriott Hotel off Interstate 10 near the College Drive exit is up for auction, with a starting bid price of $7 million. That's considerably less than the $32 million lenders were owed when they bought back the property for $2,200 in court costs nearly one year ago. It's also much less than the $28 million local real estate experts estimated, at the time, the asking price could be. But the 43-year-old hotel needs considerable updating, and the $7 million starting bid suggests it may well find a buyer who will be able to invest heavily in renovating the 21-story, 299-room hotel. The property is listed on auction.com, which describes the hotel as the "most visible lodging establishment in the region," with 20,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space and a 6,050-square-foot ballroom. Potential bidders were invited to tour the property on Tuesday and today. The auction is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 17. Lender CCMS, a trust, seized the hotel in May 2013 from Columbia Properties Baton Rouge, which owed more than $32 million on a $36.5 million promissory note. —Stephanie Riegel

Level buys 21 Rouzan lots for $1.43M

Level Construction and Development LLC has bought 21 lots in the Rouzan development located near the Glasgow Avenue and Perkins Road intersection for $1.43 million, or a little over $68,300 per lot. "It's a tremendous location, it's a great concept, and we feel very strongly about it," Level partner Todd Waguespack says. "It just needs some momentum." Rouzan has seen its hiccups, including the six years it spent tied up in a zoning conflict and opposition from its neighbors in the Southdowns community. But Waguespack says Rouzan is over the hump. "It's going to create a market and grow from there," he says. Waguespack says he hopes to price 1,400- to 2,500-square-foot homes for between $330,000 and $460,000. When complete, the plans for Rouzan call for a retail component, office spaces and a farmers market. A library branch was also planned at one time, but the deal fell through and the library board hired a site-selection firm earlier this year to find another site for a new branch in the area. Check out a Business Report story from March on the zoning battle at Rouzan. —Kelly Connelly

Red Jacket Firearms cuts ties with 'Sons of Guns' star accused of raping child

A Baton Rouge firearms company at the center of the reality show Sons of Guns is distancing itself from the program's star this week after he was arrested on charges of repeatedly raping a child. Will Hayden was arrested Tuesday. Today, Red Jacket Firearms says that it is "with heavy hearts" that it has legally cut ties with Hayden, but that it will continue to operate. "We are the heart and soul of Red Jacket and will remain steadfast in our commitment to quality and our customers, for years to come," reads a statement on the company's website. An email request sent by The Associated Press for information from the company was not immediately answered. After the arrest, The Discovery Channel canceled the show, citing "the serious and horrific nature of the charges" against the star. Hayden remained in prison as of this morning, jail records showed, with bail set at $250,000. He was arrested on aggravated rape charges involving a child, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office says. He already faced child molestation and aggravated crime against nature charges stemming from an arrest Aug. 9. Sons of Guns began airing in 2011 and followed Hayden's family-owned custom firearms business. The Associated Press has the full story.

Crest Industries acquiring Eunice firm for diversification and expansion

Pineville-based Crest Industries announced today it's acquiring Eunice-based Precision Cutting Specialties Inc. and will invest $5 million to develop a new cutting, machining and fabrication facility in Eunice and add new machining centers to existing PCS equipment. Crest says the acquisition, the financial details of which were not disclosed, will help it diversify into the oil and gas sector. PCS also serves the utility, petrochemical and automotive industries. PCS will continue operations at its Eunice facility while the new facility is being built. The company will continue to operate under the PCS banner upon completion of the new 21,000-square-foot facility in the first quarter of next year, officials say. Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Crest CEO Kenneth Robison in making the announcement today. State officials say the acquisition retains 18 existing PCS jobs and the expansion project will create 20 new direct jobs, as well as 24 indirect jobs. To support the expansion project, Crest is expected to utilize the state's Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs. The acquisition of PCS marks the third major announcement by Crest over the past year. In January, the company announced a $2.3 million capital investment to add a new office building at its headquarters in Pineville, an expansion that will create 90 new direct jobs and result in an estimated 105 new indirect jobs. Three months prior to that announcement, Crest announced it will build a $15 million galvanizing plant in the southeast region of the state that is expected to create 70 new direct jobs and result in an estimated 95 new indirect jobs. Louisiana Economic Development has more details on today's announcement.

Judge to rule Friday on enforcing new La. abortion law if no settlement reached

A federal judge will rule Friday on two abortion clinics' request that he block the state from enforcing a new law requiring doctors who perform abortions to receive admitting privileges at hospitals in their areas. Gannett Louisiana reports Judge John deGravelles took under consideration today arguments by plaintiffs in the case that doctors don't have enough time to secure the privileges before the law goes into effect and the state's argument that it wouldn't enforce the law if doctors have applied at hospitals and are waiting for approval. The law goes into effect Monday. Attorney Dimitra Doufekias, representing clinics in Bossier City and Shreveport where abortions are performed, said that attorneys for Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert, the State Board of Medical Examiners and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell—all named defendants in the case—had never offered not to enforce the law before today's court hearing. She argued in her request for a temporary restraining order that the state should be prohibited from enforcing the provisions if doctors have applied for admitting privileges and hospitals had not acted on those requests. Kyle Duncan, attorney for Kliebert and State Medical Officer Jimmy Guidry, said a previous court decision on a Texas law that was used as a pattern for the Louisiana law prohibits enforcement until hospitals have ruled on granting admitting privileges, so that's what DHH is following. Judge deGravelles urged the parties in the lawsuit to reach a compromise that would negate the need for a temporary restraining order. Read the full story.

La. panel puts off appointments that could have big impact on ‘Big Oil’ suit

It will be next month before Gov. Bobby Jindal will likely get a chance to change the membership of a south Louisiana flood board that is suing dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies. The Associated Press reports the panel that nominates members for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority–East today put off a vote on applicants to fill two expired terms until September. That gives the panel time to consider an applicant who filed after the deadline. One of the expired terms is that of Paul Kemp, a supporter of the lawsuit, which Jindal opposes. Kemp has re-applied for another term. However, even if he is re-nominated, Jindal would likely replace him with someone who would vote to kill the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Kemp continues to serve until a successor is named, and the lawsuit continues in federal court. Along with Kemp, another SLFPA-E member whose term has expired is Jeff Angers, who also has re-applied. He opposes the lawsuit. Kemp's nomination is key, however, because if Jindal is able to replace Kemp, he could then swing the current 5-4 majority on the flood board that supports the suit.

News roundup: US economy grew at brisk 4.2% rate in Q2 … Americans' pessimism on economy has grown … St. John the Baptist Parish purging water system after amoeba found

Beating expectations: After a bleak start to the year, the U.S. economy grew at a brisk annual rate of 4.2% in the April-June quarter, the government reports today, slightly faster than it had first estimated. The Associated Press reports the upward revision supports expectations that the second half of 2014 will prove far stronger than the first half. The Commerce Department's second estimate of growth for last quarter followed its initial estimate of 4%. The upward revision reflects stronger business investment than first thought. Read the full story.

That sinking feeling: Americans are more anxious about the economy now than they were right after the Great Recession ended despite stock market gains, falling unemployment and growth moving closer to full health. A new survey released today by Rutgers University shows 71% of Americans say they think the recession exerted a permanent drag on the economy. By contrast, in November 2009, five months after the recession officially ended, the Rutgers researchers found that only 49% thought the downturn would cause lasting damage. The Associated Press has the full story.

Under the microscope: St. John the Baptist Parish is using chlorine to flush a water system on the east bank of the Mississippi River after tests showed the presence of a dangerous amoeba. The state Department of Health and Hospitals says the Naegleria fowleri amoeba was found in the water system serving more than 12,500 people in the Reserve, Garyville and Mount Airy communities. No illnesses or deaths have been attributed to the amoeba, which can infect the brain. State and parish officials say the water is safe to drink. Read the full story.
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