B.R. ranked No. 88 on list of metros for business locations
Of the 380 metro areas Area Development ranks in its Leading Locations for 2013 list, Lafayette is said to be the top city in which to locate a business as it emerges from the recession as an economic front-runner. Baton Rouge is ranked No. 88 on the list; Houma is ranked No. 24, Lake Charles is No. 54, and Monroe is No. 87. New Orleans shows up on the list at No. 15; Alexandria is ranked No. 286, and Shreveport is No. 300. Area Development, a trade magazine for site selection and facility planning, says it bases its rankings on 21 economic indicators from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census American Community Survey. You can find the full rankings here.
'Tres' Bernhard in court for sentencing today
Former attorney James M. "Tres" Bernhard III is in U.S. District Court this morning, where he is expected to be sentenced on a single count of wire fraud. Earlier this year, Bernhard pleaded guilty to wire fraud and for diverting funds from his former law firm for his personal use. Bernhard, son of The Shaw Group founder Jim Bernhard, was charged by the feds last fall, after settling a civil law suit that was filed against him by his former law firm, Crawford Lewis, and some of its clients. That civil suit alleged that Bernhard, who had billed himself as an expert in the state's movie tax credit program, sold invalid tax credits to third parties, then misappropriated the proceeds from the sale, using them for his personal gain. Last May, Bernhard was permanently disbarred. Wire fraud carries a possible penalty of 20 years in prison and a possible fine of $250,000. The sentencing was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson's courtroom. —Stephanie Riegel
'Business Report': University leaders aim to embrace the digital age
In the business world, "adapt or die" is a truism. The ubiquity of the Internet is altering—in some cases, radically upending—the models for all sorts of industries. Exhibit A: the current turmoil in print journalism. Higher education is no different. University leaders are realizing that, to remain relevant, they must embrace the digital age. It's a theme Bill Jenkins has hammered home repeatedly since he returned to LSU as interim president and chancellor last year. "We recognize that higher education has become a global market," Jenkins says. "LSU wants to actively participate as our domestic students are coming to see their future as tied to their global citizenship." Distance learning isn't new. But LSU and Southern University, along with private and public universities across the country, are putting new emphasis on online education, as evidenced by the fact that both local institutions recently signed deals with outside firms to bring complete degree programs to cyberspace. The reasons why are both financial and philosophical. The economic stresses for higher education are well documented. As public universities are forced to replace taxpayer support with self-generated revenue, the Internet presents opportunities to fill the gap and potentially reach students that might never have considered a university education otherwise. "There's not a whole lot left to cut on the expense side," says Southern University System President Ronald Mason. "The solution for us is revenue, and revenue means enrollment; and online enrollment is something that, once we get it straight, can help grow our enrollment pretty rapidly." Read the full story by David Jacobs from the current issue of Business Report here.
Council approves driver safety course for city-parish employees
All current employees of the city-parish who are authorized to drive municipal vehicles will have to take a four-hour driver safety course every two years, following Metro Council approval Wednesday of an ordinance by Councilman Buddy Amoroso. The ordinance will also apply to new hires authorized to drive municipal vehicles but does not apply to the city-parish's nearly 1,000 fire, police and EMS employees, who are already required to take driver safety courses. Roughly 700 employees are affected by the ordinance. Amoroso, who took the course himself earlier this month to ensure it would be worthwhile, says he drafted the ordinance in response to the high number of accidents city-parish employees are involved in. Claims settlements are also routinely before the council due to accidents in which employees are at fault. "What we're trying to do is change the culture of city-parish employees to make them more safety-minded," he says. The course is expected to cost about $4 per employee. Read a previous Daily Report story here for more details on the course. —Steve Sanoski
Today's poll question: Do you think a four-hour driver safety course mandated for city-parish employees who drive municipal vehicles will reduce the number of accidents they get in?
'225 Weekender': Bayou Country Superfest is here
We all know where Louisiana country music fans will be this weekend. Bayou Country Superfest kicks off two days of live music in LSU's Tiger Stadium on Saturday. This year's performers include Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert and Darius Rucker on Saturday; and Zac Brown Band, Luke Bryan and The Band Perry on Sunday. The event also provides a free Fan Fest stage outside the stadium, which will feature performances from Yvette Landry, Jaryd Lane and The Parish, among others. For more festival details, ticket information and sound clips from a few bands set to play here this weekend, read a 225 story here. Also, check out 225 Editor Jeff Roedel's interview with Miranda Lambert here. And if you're going to Bayou Country Superfest, feel free to submit your videos to 225 here. For further scoop on this and other local happenings on tap this weekend, read the new 225 Weekender e-newsletter here.
Vitter to appear at $5,000-a-head gator hunt, fundraiser
U.S. Sen. David Vitter will spend several days this fall raising money for an outside group set up to support him in both state and federal elections, Politico reports, fueling speculation that the Republican may be preparing to run for governor in 2015. The Fund for Louisiana's Future will host a $5,000-a-head "Louisiana Bayou Weekend" to benefit the independent expenditure organization, according to an invitation obtained by Politico and others. Vitter will appear at the event, which will take place Sept. 5-7. The invitation prepares guests for "Cajun cooking," an "airboat swamp tour" and an all-caps-worthy "ALLIGATOR HUNT." The invitation lists Courtney Guastella, a former finance director for Vitter's Senate campaign, as the point of contact for attendees. The group's chairman and treasurer is Charlie Spies, the former head of the Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Spies says there's "no way to draw conclusions" about Vitter's plans based on the event for a group that can spend to support the senator in both state and federal elections. Candidates are allowed to appear at super PAC events but are barred from directly soliciting money for unlimited-donation groups set up to support them. The Fund for Louisiana's Future was incorporated earlier this year as both a federal super PAC and a state political action committee. It has not yet filed its first report detailing its contributions. You can read the full story here; and you can see the invitation for yourself, courtesy of the Washington Examiner, here.
News roundup: BRAC looks to connect B.R. businesses with IBM … Tropical Isle owner gets $4M in trademark suit … Exxon Mobil gets record-low score in corporate gay-rights ranking
Feeling blue: In response to requests from local businesses for information on how to form a relationship with IBM as the company prepares to come to Baton Rouge, BRAC has set up an online form on its website to connect with IBM. The site allows companies to enter their contact information, upload promotional materials and describe the services they provide. This information will be forwarded to IBM, BRAC says, "with the hope of forging new partnerships and opportunities." You can find the site, which also includes info on job opportunities with IBM, here.
The name game: 721 Bourbon Inc., which operates the Tropical Isle bars in the French Quarter known for their trademarked Hand Grenade drinks, says it has won a $4 million trademark infringement and counterfeiting lawsuit against an Illinois restaurant. In a press release, the company says it sued Lombard, Ill.-based New Orleans French Quarter Kitchen after learning the restaurant was selling its own Hand Grenade drinks. 721 Bourbon says the Illinois restaurant did not respond to requests that it stop using the trademark drink name. The $4 million ruling was handed down in a U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Under pressure: The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group, has released its latest ranking of corporate anti-discrimination policies to protect gay, lesbian and transgender workers. In it, many Fortune 500 companies got scores of 80 or higher on a scale of 100, but Exxon Mobil Corp., the nation's largest oil and gas company, became the first firm to get a score below zero. Now Exxon is facing what is described as a "groundbreaking discrimination complaint" in Illinois. An Exxon Mobil spokesman tells The Associated Press the company is reviewing the complaint and has no immediate comment. Read the full story here.