Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Mon, July 28, 2014

BTR officials, Metro Council to work on airport ground transportation regulations

Officials with the Baton Rouge Metro Airport are planning to work with the Metro Council to draft an ordinance that would regulate the various forms of ground transportation at the airport. The move comes in the wake of Uber's entrance into the local market. The transportation networking company began offering its UberX ridesharing service here earlier this month, just weeks after the Metro Council passed an ordinance setting up a framework for which transportation networking companies can do business in Baton Rouge. The ordinance does not specifically cover operations at the airport, however, which has raised questions among airport officials such as: Where should ground transport vehicles park while waiting for passengers? How much should they have to pay for that space? And how should they advertise and promote their services on airport property? "We have taxicabs, limos, hotel shuttles, private companies that operate shuttles and a CATS bus, too," says Airport Director Anthony Marino. "Now we have Uber … and we're just trying to figure out how to make it an even playing field." Other airports around the country are grappling with similar issues, and Marino says his board has been researching how they are dealing with the challenges. Regardless of what potential solutions are contained in an ordinance, however, Marino says Uber must still negotiate an agreement with the airport if it wants to drop off and pick up passengers, something it has yet to do. —Stephanie Riegel

Strain: Farmland preservation key to continued agricultural success in La.

As the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry announced earlier this year, the state's agriculture industry has doubled in just under seven years, from $5.9 billion in 2008 to $11.8 billion this year. But in order to meet the increasing global demand for food to feed a world population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, the agriculture industry in Louisiana will need to accelerate production increases in coming years, says Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, who was guest speaker at the Baton Rouge Press Club today. To double and triple production will require science, technology, innovation and protection of land, he says, emphasizing farmland preservation. "We need to protect the private property owner's right if they want to sell [their farmland] to a mitigation bank," Strain said, "but instead of converting farmland into CRP [Conservation Reserve Program] or converting it into wetlands, let's leave it as farmlands." Strain said he's been encouraging Louisiana's congressional delegation and both senators to challenge the federal government to have a better formula to mitigate land while still protecting farmland. The efficient utilization of water is equally vital for accelerating agricultural production, he added, which is why the department has been hosting listening sessions—the next of which is July 30 in Winnsboro—with the Environmental Protection Agency for farmers to relay questions and concerns about the agency's proposed water rules. As for the department's state general fund, which was cut during the session, Strain isn't worried. "We were able to pass some amendments that would allow us to better utilize our self-generated revenue," he said. —Rachel Alexander

BESE sets another special meeting to discuss possible Common Core lawsuit

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday will hold its second special meeting this month to discuss a possible lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over the ongoing Common Core controversy. The meeting will take place at 11 a.m. in the Louisiana Purchase Room of the Claiborne Building, 1201 N. 3rd St. In a brief news release issued today, BESE says it will "receive updates and discuss possible additional actions related to standardized testing for the 2014-15 school year" at the special meeting. At a special meeting on July 1, BESE authorized hiring special legal counsel, without charge, to consider a legal challenge of the Jindal administration's suspension of contracts for tests associated with Common Core. BESE also directed Superintendent of Education John White to try to reach a compromise with the governor. The two have since met, but no compromise was reached. In the meantime, the Jindal administration has raised concerns about BESE's move to hire legal counsel, while White and BESE President Chas Roemer have continued to charge that Jindal is overstepping his authority. Two lawsuits were filed last week over the Common Core controversy, one by a group of lawmakers who oppose the national standards and another by public supporters of the standards. —Steve Sanoski

Pennington hires first chief business development officer

David Winwood has been named Pennington Biomedical Research Center's first chief business development officer, which Pennington says underscores "the importance of moving research discoveries focusing on health, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases into the global marketplace." Winwood's appointment is effective immediately, and he brings more than 20 years of experience in technology transfer and commercialization to the research center. He joins Pennington Biomedical from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he served as both senior associate vice president for economic development and innovation alliances and chief executive officer of the research foundation. He also previously spent time at North Carolina State University on commercialization ventures and worked in the Research Triangle and at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He began his career in startup companies, where he had the opportunity to work on the drug development process for a drug that is still on the market today. "With this investment in Dr. Winwood and the team and resources he will assemble, we are growing our business model to meet today's research challenges," says Pennington Biomedical Executive Director William T. Cefalu in a prepared statement. "Research centers across the country are facing the realities of limited national funding, changes in health care delivery and constrained state budgets. We must be proactive and strive to be at the forefront of innovation. Dave brings vast experience in cultivating new business initiatives and opportunities for commercialized technologies to the Pennington Biomedical team, which will contribute to sustaining and growing the research infrastructure that's expected from a vibrant center like ours." Pennington Biomedical has more details on today's announcement.

'Business Report' planner: Together Baton Rouge holding community meeting on food access issues … LSU hosts Fraud & Forensic Accounting Conference … Traina to address LSU Executive Education's Breakfast to Business

Tonight: Together Baton Rouge hosts a communitywide meeting on addressing food access issues and the lack of grocery stores in East Baton Rouge Parish beginning at 6:30 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 1134 Julia St. RSVP by emailing contact@togetherbr.org with "July 28th" in the subject heading.

Monday-Tuesday The LSU Department of Accounting hosts the 2014 Fraud & Forensic Accounting Conference at the Crowne Plaza, 4728 Constitution Ave. The registration fee is $300 for both days or $150 for individual days. Certified public accountants, certified fraud examiners, certified internal auditors, forensic accountants, governmental accountants and other accounting and auditing professionals or educators are encouraged to attend. Get complete details and register to attend.

Tuesday: Lisa Traina, president of Traina & Associates, will be the next speaker in LSU Executive Education's Breakfast to Business series. The event will be held in room 1420 of LSU's Business Education Complex from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Registration for the event is $25, which includes a full breakfast, coffee, juice and the opportunity to meet with LSU experts and business professionals from the Baton Rouge area. LSU students, staff and faculty, as well as some local association members, can register for $20. 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.

'Business Report': BR barber has kept customers laughing, looking good for five decades

Tucked behind what may be the smallest Subway sandwich shop in America on Perkins Road, just south of College Drive, is the three-chair Beau James barber shop. As Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, the unassuming shop is the sixth place where Jimmy Fontenot, 72, has cut hair since he left Mamou when he was 21 years old. Over that span, Fontenot has trimmed hair and traded barbs with four governors, a music legend and a whole lot of regular Joes. Customers like the entertainment—and suspense—Fontenot provides at the barber shop. Recently, Fontenot arrived at the punch line of a joke as he lightly applied a straight razor to the neck of Justin Speed, 25. "It's like he's daring you to laugh," Speed says. Dane Domingue, a 42-year-old engineer, enjoys trying his fractured French on Fontenot. "I'll pick up every 10th word," Domingue says. "I like talking to Mr. Jimmy. My mother's from Ville Platte." Domingue got childhood haircuts from Tom Johnson at Southside Barbershop in Rayne. "He had a little bench when I was small." After Domingue left home, he'd go back to Rayne for haircuts. For years, though, he's been sitting in Fontenot's chair. "This is a traditional barbershop," the engineer says. "There's an entertainment factor I look for. When I came here, I found a little bit of home." Read the full feature. Send your comments to editors@businessreport.com.

News roundup: US Medicare hospital fund to last four years longer than previously estimated … US housing data weaker than expected, but services sector expands … Report estimates replacing nation's aging pipelines is 30-year job

Upon further review: Medicare's finances are looking brighter, the government says in a report issued today. The program's giant hospital trust fund won't be exhausted until 2030—four years later than last year's estimate. Meanwhile, Social Security's massive retirement program will remain solvent until 2034, officials say, though disability benefits are in more immediate danger. The disability trust fund now is projected to run dry in 2016, unless Congress acts. The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare issued their annual report today on the financial health of the government's two largest benefit programs. The Associated Press has the full story.

By the numbers: Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes unexpectedly fell in June, but the data did little to change perceptions the housing sector was gradually recovering after slumping in late 2013. Meanwhile, a separate report released today shows services sector activity held at a more than four-year high in July, a sign of economic momentum early in the third quarter. Reuters has the full story.

In a fix: Campaigning for the acceleration of repairs to the nation's aging natural gas utility pipelines, labor unions and environmentalists say expediting the replacement schedule would boost the economy and curb the amount of pollution emitted into the air each year. The alliance of labor unions and environmentalists say in a new report that the U.S. should expedite repairs to aging municipal gas pipelines. Nationwide, the alliance reports, the current pace of repairs will require 30 years to replace 112,000 miles of leak-prone pipeline made from cast iron and unprotected steel that dates back in some cases to World War II. FuelFix.com has the full story.
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