CATS board considers marketing, public relations contract today
When the CATS board meets this afternoon, among the items on its agenda will be the renewal of a public relations and marketing contract with Clay Young Enterprises, a local PR firm that has been representing the transit agency on a temporary basis since December. Clay Young, the firm's owner, says he has a $19,000 contract with CATS that runs through the end of May. That contract has covered work his firm has done on the CATS logo, annual report, and radio and TV spots, Young says, though it has not covered the cost of placing the media buys for the commercials. Young says his firm has also "facilitated an extended dialogue with the media" in an effort to keep the public informed about the progress the beleaguered public transit agency has made toward implementing service upgrades and improvements that were promised in 2012 when voters in Baton Rouge and Baker approved a 10-year, 10.6-mill property tax to fund CATS. The CATS board is today considering a $12,000 contract extension that would keep Young on as its PR and marketing representative through August—after which the board will issue an RFP for a long-term public relations contract, Young says. In the meantime, he is encouraging CATS board Chairman Isaiah Marshall and board member Dalton Honore—who has temporary administrative authority over the agency in the absence of a CEO—to communicate to the public through media interviews. "We're just trying to get them to keep talking, keep telling the public what is going on and when they can expect to see these changes on the street," Young says. The CATS board meets at 4:30 p.m. at the BREC Administration Building, 6201 Florida Blvd. —Stephanie Riegel
Maginnis: The old two-year college try
In the past five hard years of higher education's declining state support, rising tuition, defecting faculty and deteriorating facilities, college leaders have stuck together and let the Board of Regents coordinate their requests for funding from the Legislature. A lot of good that did them. Now the community college system, the only one growing in enrollment, has had enough of standing in line. In the most audacious power play of the legislative session, one that is shaking the foundations of higher education, the two-year colleges are close to pulling off a $250 million end run on established procedure in order to build 28 training and technology centers all around the state. Supporters hail the plan as essential to training a skilled workforce to fill technical jobs in high demand areas. Opponents call it a debt-ceiling buster that violates the spirit if not the letter of the constitution and robs four-year colleges of badly needed resources. Instead of following the usual process for approving and financing construction projects, called capital outlay, Senate Bill 204 cuts to the front of the line to authorize $250 million in borrowing, to be repaid with $20 million a year for 20 years coming out of the state budget. Read the full column here.
(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)
Today's poll question: Do you support the legislative effort to provide the Louisiana Community and Technical College System with $250 million for facility expansions and upgrades?
Entrepreneur: Joey Coco
On the first day of the MBA program, Joey Coco's class defined "an entrepreneur" as someone who brings disparate resources together to create value. That's what he says he was trying to do when he co-founded Engensus, an engineering firm, in 2006. Last year, Coco says he saw an opportunity to create value through a merger with Forte and Tablada, and decided to pitch the idea to the larger company. Forte and Tablada is a multidisciplinary firm but lacked in-house expertise in structural and bridge engineering, Coco says; Engensus had been working with the larger company to provide those capabilities. Also, Engensus had started a new business—Engensus Measurements—to do laser scanning work, which complemented Forte and Tablada's land surveying component. Coco says the relative youth of the people of Engensus is valuable to the older company's long-term future. Read the rest of the Entrepreneur feature on Coco, from the latest issue of Business Report, here.
Baton Rouge casino winnings fall in April
The three casinos in Baton Rouge collectively saw their winnings in April fall more than 15% compared to March, according to figures released by the Louisiana State Police. L'Auberge Casino & Hotel, Hollywood Casino and the Belle of Baton Rouge took in approximately $24.3 million last month, down from $28.8 million in March. L'Auberge led the three, with $12.3 million, down from $15.1 million the month previous. Hollywood took in about $7 million, down from $8 million in March. And the Belle won roughly $5 million, down from $5.6 million. The winnings of Hollywood and the Belle last month were also down significantly from April a year ago, which is due to the increased competition L'Auberge has brought to the city since opening last September. Hollywood won $10.5 million from gamblers in April 2012, or about 33% more than last month. The Belle won $6.9 million in April last year, which is 27% more than last month. According to the report, L'Auberge had roughly 128,200 admissions in April, while Hollywood had about 72,300 and the Belle had 71,300. The Baton Rouge casinos all conformed to a larger trend seen across the state in April. Every riverboat casino in the Shreveport/Bossier, Lake Charles and New Orleans markets also saw its winnings during the month fall from March. You can find the complete winnings reports here.
La. posts third-highest construction job growth last month
With 10,200 more people working in the construction industry in April than were during April 2012—an increase of 8.1%—Louisiana's sector job growth was the third-best in the nation, according to the latest monthly jobs report from the Associated General Contractors of America. Alaska was No. 2 for job growth by percentage on the year, at 9.1%, while Hawaii led the nation with 11.5% year-over-year growth. The 135,600 construction workers in Louisiana in April represented a 0.4% increase, or 600 more jobs, from the month previous. Construction sector employment has now grown in Louisiana every month so far this year. It is one of just 29 states in the country that saw year-over-year growth in April, while 32 states and the District of Columbia posted job losses. Louisiana is also among just 17 states that had construction job growth between March and April. You can find the complete April jobs report from AGCA here.
Louisiana ranks 10th in U.S. for tornado frequency
Louisiana is more known for its hurricanes, but the state also has gotten its share of twisters over the years. As The (Lafayette) Daily Advertiser reports, Louisiana ranks 10th in the nation for frequency of tornadoes that have been reported since 1950, the year the National Weather Service considers the beginning of the modern era of tornado recordkeeping. Since 1950, Louisiana has been the backdrop of 1,689 tornadoes that resulted in 204 deaths, weather service records show. Warm, humid weather that usually creeps into the state in May typically minimizes tornado threats here after April, says Stephen Carboni, a weather service meteorologist and forecaster in Lake Charles. That seems to be the case so far this year, but things can always change. "We're past our typical spring tornado season in this part of the country ... but you never want to say never," Carboni says. As many as 1,300 tornadoes are reported each year nationally, according to the weather service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. A tornado that struck Amite on April 24, 1908, killed 143 and still ranks as the deadliest twister to hit Louisiana. Read the full story here.
News roundup: Apple's CEO faces Senate today to talk tax strategy … U.S. bank mergers seem less likely with sellers holding out … Forum sheds light on natural gas exports
Beneath the skin: A Senate panel says Apple Inc. is avoiding paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes, but the world's most valuable company says it is complying with the laws and pays "an extraordinary amount" in taxes to the U.S. government. Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to testify today on Capitol Hill to explain the company's tax strategy. The Senate investigation, results of which were disclosed Monday, found Apple employs a group of affiliate companies outside the United States to avoid paying taxes. Read the full story here.
Money matters: Bank managers in the U.S. are less likely to engage in mergers and acquisitions this year as regulators heighten scrutiny of potential deals and sellers wait for higher valuations, according to a survey by audit, tax and advisory services firm KPMG. About 13% of executives said they were "very likely" to take over another firm in the next year, compared with 21% in 2012, according to the report issued today. Respondents also are less apt to sell assets, with 8% saying they anticipate divestitures, down from 13% last year. Bloomberg has the full story and more survey results here.
Energized: Energy analysts will be reading the tea leaves today as Obama administration officials field questions about their approach to exporting U.S natural gas during a Senate forum on the issue. The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee's roundtable comes just days after the Obama administration granted a second company the authority to broadly export the fossil fuel. The forum—the second in a three-part series focused on natural gas—includes experts from think tanks, representatives from the chemical sector, economists and Energy Department officials. The Houston Chronicle has the full story here.