Celtic wants to be annexed into Baton Rouge
Celtic Media Centre wants to take Metro Councilman John Delgado up on his offer to annex into the city of Baton Rouge any properties adjoining the city limits. Patrick Mulhearn, director of studio operations at Celtic, says the studio—which comprises about eight acres inside the city limits and 22 acres in unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish—has long wanted to be incorporated into the city limits. “Logistically, it would be so much easier for us, especially with respect to film production,” Mulhearn says. “When we are shooting, if the crews are on the Baton Rouge side we have to call the Baton Rouge Police Department and fire department. If they’re on the other side, we have to call the sheriff’s office and the St. George Fire Department.” Though more of the studio’s property is outside the city limits than inside, Mulhearn says Celtic wants to be part of the city of Baton Rouge—and not the proposed city of St. George—for reasons other than practical considerations. “I think [the St. George movement] sends the wrong message—that we’re a divided community,” he says. “We want to be a Baton Rouge studio.” Mulhearn says a previous attempt at annexation was deferred because the property adjacent to the studio, which will be the site of a new Costco, was re-subdivided. “That kind of just put everything on hold,” he says. “Now that Delgado has taken the lead on this, we’re going to get with him to see what we have to do to make it happen this time.” In response to annexation efforts by those behind the city of St. George effort, Delgado announced late last week that he plans to sponsor an ordinance to annex the properties of any qualified property owner in the unincorporated area of the parish who wishes to join the City of Baton Rouge. —Stephanie Riegel
Matherne’s downtown grocery store to be under construction within weeks
The Matherne family announced plans this morning to open a 15,000-square-foot supermarket downtown on the first floor of the former Capital One building at 440 North Third St., which was acquired earlier this year by local investors and is undergoing renovation into a mixed-use development. This morning’s announcement is a triumph for DDD officials who have worked for years to bring a full-service grocery story to downtown. “This is just a tremendous, historic day for this city, this community,” says DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer, noting that the store will be the first full-service supermarket downtown in nearly half a century. “This will open the door for so many opportunities and developments.” The store will be the fifth supermarket for the family-owned Matherne’s Supermarket chain and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014. It will include a deli, produce department, and wine and cheese department. It will also feature local products and house specialties, like Matherne’s signature fried catfish. Architect Dyke Nelson, one of the owners of the building, says the deal was first proposed by Associated Grocers, which approached him and his partners about putting a supermarket on the ground floor. Making the numbers work was initially a challenge, he says, adding that the deal came together through a combination of traditional financing from Iberia Bank, New Market Tax Credits and Historic Building Tax Credits. “Without the New Market Tax Credits we would not have been able to do it,” he says. Construction is slated to begin in three weeks. Buquet & LeBlanc will be doing the construction. The owners of the former Capital One building say it will henceforth be called 440 on Third. —Rachel Alexander
Holiday Inn Express planned on North Boulevard downtown
The Baton Rouge Savings & Loan building at 400 North Blvd. will be renovated into an 89-room Holiday Inn Express, bringing the total downtown hotel room count to more than 900 by the end of 2014. Plans for the hotel were announced at this morning morning’s DDD meeting by architect Francisco Alecha, who says construction will begin in January. Renovations will entail a restoration of the exterior and interior of the building to National Park Service standards, Alecha says. Renderings of the renovated building display a royal blue color on the exterior of the first floor and the original clock on the exterior wall facing west restored back to operation. “This project was largely viable due to the state and federal tax projects,” Alecha said. “It’s a bit expensive to renovate an old building like this.” Alecha says the hotel will include some parking available in the back, though it will be mostly handicapped spaces. However, the central location of the future Holiday Inn Express will put hotel guests in walking distance from the 19th JDC courthouse and popular downtown destinations, says DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer. “My goal is to get to 1,000 rooms (downtown), and we started with zero,” Rhorer says. “So we’re seeing the homestretch. It’s going to be an incredible, incredible turnaround for this area.” —Rachel Alexander
Honeywell to build new auto-refrigerant plant in Geismar
Honeywell issued a news release this morning announcing its plans to build a new auto-refrigerant manufacturing plant at its Geismar facility that is expected to be fully operational sometime in 2016. The size of the plant has not been determined, but it will be a part of an approximately $300 million investment the company and key suppliers are making to increase production of HFO-1234yf, a new refrigerant for automobile air conditioners with a lower global-warming potential. Honeywell says the new product's global-warming potential is 99.9% lower than that of HFC-134a, the current refrigerant in use, and even lower than carbon dioxide. Demand for the new refrigerant is rising in the U.S. and Europe as auto manufacturers work to meet new regulations, Honeywell officials say. In addition to the Geismar plant, company officials say they are considering another in Europe but add that demand will ultimately determine whether or not it is built. —Staff report
Louisiana seeks to block doctors from steering Medicaid patients
Doctors in Louisiana who steer Medicaid patients into specific health insurance plans could face heavy sanctions under an emergency rule the state started this month. Calder Lynch, chief of staff for the Department of Health and Hospitals, says the policy is needed to "ensure the integrity of the Medicaid recipients' freedom of choice" when deciding into which of the five Bayou Health plans to enroll. Bayou Health is the Jindal administration's program that moved about 880,000 Medicaid recipients into privately run insurance plans that would manage their patient care. Under the new rule, physicians would be subject to potential removal from the program and a financial penalty of $5,000 per recipient improperly steered to a particular plan. For example, the policy seeks to block physicians who direct patients to join a specific plan for reasons other than health care, such as personally liking the plan's administrative process. But a Louisiana State Medical Society official says the "anti-steering" policy infringes on doctor-patient relationships. "Are physicians not going to want to talk to their patients about plan benefits and services offered because they are scared of getting sanctions?" asks Greg Waddell, the society's vice president. If a patient asks their doctor which plan best suits their health care needs, the doctor should be able to advise them without fear of punishment, Waddell says. The Associated Press has the full story.
One week left to nominate for 2014 Business Awards and Hall of Fame
There’s just one week left to make your nominations for the 2014 Business Awards and Hall of Fame, presented by Business Report and Junior Achievement. The awards annually honor a Business Hall of Fame laureate for a lifetime of achievement; two Companies of the Year, with one award going to a business with 100 employees or more and another going to one with fewer than 100 employees; a Young Businessperson of the Year, which goes to someone 40 or younger; and a Businessperson of the Year. You can nominate your company, yourself, a client, a vendor or a friend online. Nominations will close at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17. Winners will be profiled in the March 4 issue of Business Report and honored at a March 27 banquet sponsored by Franklin and Capital One Bank. See a list of previous winners. —Staff report
News roundup: Tech firms look to protect personal data, profits … For IPOs, 2013 nears busiest year since dot-com era … Business economists expect growth pickup in 2014
A very public year: By at least one count, The Wall Street Journal reports, the number of initial public offerings in 2013 is about to rise to the most of any year since the dot-com era, yet another sign of the equity market's strength this year. Ten U.S.-listed IPOs are scheduled for this week, which would bring the year-to-date count to 220, exceeding the 213 in 2007 and 217 in 2004, according to IPO research firm Renaissance Capital. That's still a ways off from the heady numbers of the tech-bubble years. For example, 406 companies went public in 2000 and 502 in 1996, according to Renaissance. Read the full story.
The fiscal forecast: Business economists expect the recovery to accelerate at the end of the year and into 2014 as politicians are likely to avoid another government shutdown. The economy still faces challenges, but most participants in the National Association for Business Economists' quarterly survey say they expect there will be enough growth for the Federal Reserve to start reducing a key stimulus program in the first half of next year. The economy will grow 2.1% this year, up from a September forecast of 1.9%, the economists say, and will increase to a 2.8% annual rate next year, down slightly from the September median projection of 3%. The Los Angeles Times has the full story.