Financing offers for B.R. office deal reflect thawing lending market, developer says
Though some complain lenders are still tight-fisted when it comes to commercial projects, that's not the experience Atlanta development company Songy HighRoads and its Louisiana partners had earlier this year when trying to secure financing to acquire a portfolio of office buildings in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. "We actually had five or six lenders competing for the deal," says Tabb Neblett, a native of Alexandria and partner in Songy HighRoads. "It was very competitive, which speaks really well of this market." Deutsche Bank ended up financing the $52.7 million deal, lending 75% on the project. The equity came from Songy HighRoads—which was founded by Neblett's fellow Alexandria native David Songy—and several local investors, including Mike Wampold and New Orleans real estate executive Robert Merrick. Neblett says their experience suggests lenders are high on the office and multifamily markets in Baton Rouge. Big banks are also willing to finance hotels in the New Orleans market and office properties in Metairie, though not in Orleans Parish. "They're not too keen on Alexandria, either, or Shreveport or even Lafayette," he says. "But certain segments of Baton Rouge and New Orleans are very strong." Songy HighRoads plans in the coming months to make improvements to some of the class A and B properties in the portfolio, which has an average occupancy rate of 87%. "But really, there is not that much to do," he says. "Most of them are in good shape." —Stephanie Riegel Read the full story here.
La., Miss. officials preparing for Tuscaloosa shale development
Communities on both sides of the Louisiana/Mississippi line are hustling to prepare for the economic activity they hope is coming as the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale oil play is developed. "Our challenge is to get ahead of the development," says Dennis Manshack, who directs economic development for West Feliciana Parish. Manshack was a panelist at a TMS conference in Baton Rouge today. While West Feliciana doesn't want fleets of travel trailers housing temporary workers, Manshack says he has spoken with large companies about possibly hosting organized "crew camps" in the parish. Such camps typically have tight security and ban alcohol, panelists said. The influx of workers, if it comes, doesn't happen all at once, says Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez Inc. "This is not a 30,000-person event for six months," he says. Thomas Tolliver Jr., an official with Wilkinson County, Miss., says communities are working together, even across state lines, and hope to "speak with one voice" to the oil companies. A road maintenance agreement forged with oil companies in West Feliciana is being duplicated in Mississippi, Tolliver says. He says some county residents hope to become overnight millionaires. "We're still waiting," he says. Cooperation notwithstanding, competition may also come with TMS development. Russ says his region will aggressively recruit supply companies, and he says there will be a push in the Mississippi Legislature to expand incentives for horizontal drillers. —David Jacobs
Sheriff's Office starting to receive CATS tax protest letters
Once again, Milton Graugnard—whose lawsuit challenging a 10.6-mill tax benefiting CATS has yet to be resolved since being filed last summer—is calling on those in Baton Rouge and Baker to send a formal letter of protest to Sheriff Sid Gautreaux's office. Last year, the first year the tax was in effect in Baton Rouge and Baker, the Sheriff's Office received 1,299 letters in protest, and $483,118.18 was put into an escrow account pending the outcome of Graugnard's suit—which has been hung up in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals since October 2012. "We had thought we'd hear something in the summer, but we're still waiting," says Graugnard, who is again circulating a sample letter of protest.
Those who send letters of protest to the Sheriff's Office by the end of the year will still have to pay the CATS tax; however, their payments will be held in escrow until Graugnard's suit—which claims the tax is unconstitutional—is resolved. Sheriff's Office spokesperson Casey Rayborn Hicks says 25 letters of protest have already been received this year. "I would expect that there will be more this year than last year," Graugnard says. "We didn't start promoting the fact that you could protest the tax until the last two weeks of December last year because we didn't know. This year we're getting the word out a little earlier." Letters of protest can be sent to the Sheriff's Office, attention: Octave, at P.O. Box 70, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. —Steve Sanoski
Pennington gets $15.5 million grant for military readiness research
The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a pair of military research and health promotion grants collectively valued at nearly $15.5 million to Pennington Biomedical Research Center, officials announced today. One of the grants is for $7.3 million and is called CROWN 2, while the other is for $8.2 million and is called Weights, Measurements, and Standards for Soldiers 2. The CROWN 2 grant will be used to develop novel nutritional strategies to promote soldiers' health and resilience, improve combat readiness and sustain performance. The research will provide the scientific evidence basis for developing new combat rations, food products and dining facility menus, as well as health promotion policies and programs for soldiers. The CROWN 2 research will begin next year and be conducted through 2017. The $8.2 million grant is for a six-year study, which began in 2010 and will conclude in 2016, aiming to ensure the health, readiness, performance and resilience of soldiers via nutrition and fitness technology. The Defense Department awarded the grants in collaboration with the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center and the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. Pennington has more details on today's announcement. —Staff report
Report: LSU spending on athletics far outpaced increases for academics
According to a new database of athletic and academic spending at colleges across the country, LSU's spending increases on academics has kept pace in recent years with the national average, while its spending on athletic programs—especially football—has increased at a far greater rate and one faster than either the SEC or national average. The database, created by The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, shows spending on academics and athletics between 2005 and 2011. LSU increased its academic spending per full-time student by 24% over that span, the report says, which is equal to the average of the approximately 125 schools with a team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. However, LSU increased its spending on student-athletes participating in its 20 athletic programs by 62% over the same span—and its spending on football scholarship players increased 87% over the span. On spending per student-athlete, the FBS average increase was 58% between 2005 and 2011, while the average among SEC schools was 60%. Meanwhile, on football scholarships, the FBS average increase in spending was 75%, and the SEC average was 80%. The Knight Commission says the online, interactive database is a follow-up to a 2010 report it released calling for greater public transparency of athletics finances and incentives to encourage responsible spending in athletics. The report warned that spending trends in major college sports were not sustainable for most Division I colleges and universities. The database shows spending on student-athletes increased at a greater rate than academic per-student spending at every Division I school. Check out the complete database
, or take a look at the numbers just for LSU. —Staff report
U.S. growth stays moderate during shutdown, Fed says
A Federal Reserve survey released today found the U.S. economy held steady during the 16-day partial government shutdown, growing moderately in most regions from October through late November. Manufacturing strengthened in most districts, helped by more production of cars, trucks and high-tech products. Consumers boosted spending in most regions, and retailers were hopeful yet cautious about the holiday shopping season. Hiring improved in five of the districts; the other seven reported little change.The Beige Book survey, as it is known, is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered along with other data when the Fed meets next on Dec. 17-18. Many economists believe the Fed will make no changes to its interest-rate policies at that meeting. They expect the Fed will continue to buy $85 billion a month in bonds, which is intended to keep long-term interest rates low and encourage more borrowing and spending. But some analysts think the central bank could start to reduce those purchases in December, especially if Friday's report on November employment shows another strong month of hiring. The Associated Press has the full story.
News roundup: Closure of Lion Copolymer plant in B.R. to idle 265 workers … Louisiana to process military benefits for same-sex spouses despite state ban … Mettenberger's LSU career officially over
A company spokesperson for Lion Copolymer tells Daily Report
that approximately 150 employees and 115 permanent contractors will be affected by the temporary closure of Lion's Baton Rouge SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) facility
on Scenic Highway, announced this morning. Dana Coody says the employees will be considered for current vacancies at the company's Geismar facility, which employs 113. Company officials say they do not know how long the Baton Rouge facility will remain idle, but Coody says when it reopens Lion will bring employees back.About face:
The Louisiana National Guard has reached a deal with the Pentagon to process military benefits for same-sex spouses despite the state's constitutional ban on recognizing gay marriage, The Washington Post
reports. The state will temporarily place some of its National Guard members in a federal status in order to handle enrollment for same-sex couples, thus avoiding a conflict with Louisiana law. Louisiana is the latest state with a ban on gay marriage to reverse its policy of requiring same-sex spouses to enroll for military benefits at federal facilities instead of state installations. Texas made a similar change last week, leaving Georgia and Mississippi as the lone holdouts as of today. Read the full story.Tiger for life:
LSU has announced that Zach Mettenberger's playing career with the Tigers is officially over. Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury today. Mettenberger will require surgery and his rehabilitation will take place when he would have been preparing for next spring's NFL draft. "We are very disappointed for Zach," Miles said in a written statement provided by LSU. "He's been a tremendous leader for our team and he's as competitive a guy as I have ever been around. He's had a great impact on our program." The Associated Press has the full story.