Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Wed, November 02, 2011

Nearly 20% of Louisianans getting by with food stamps

Some 907,000 people in Louisiana were using food stamps in August—19.9% of the state's population—a rise of 5.9% from a year ago, according to new data by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A record number 45.8 million Americans were receiving food stamps in August, or roughly 15% of the U.S. population. That's an increase of 1.1% from July and an 8.1% jump from a year ago. The number of Americans receiving food stamps via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has set a new record high each month but once since December 2008. Among all the states, Mississippi had the largest share of its population relying on food stamps in August: more than 21%. You can see an interactive map of food stamp use by state on the Wall Street Journal website here. Subscription is required.

Transocean claims indemnity under BP contract

Transocean, the company that owned the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico last year, argued in court documents filed Tuesday that its contract with BP shields it from having to pay for the largest offshore spill in the nation's history. In court documents filed in federal court in New Orleans, Transocean says it was operating under a contract with BP that contained "standard industry reciprocal indemnity language" and that BP promised to exempt Transocean from "fines and penalties." A trial designed to assign shares of fault for the April 20, 2010, disaster—which killed 11 workers and led to a spill of more than 200 million gallons of oil—is scheduled to start Feb. 27. The trial also is to determine whether Transocean can limit what it pays claimants under maritime law. In a statement, Transocean says BP has broken its contractual promises by suing Transocean. BP countered with its own statement saying Transocean's court filing showed it was "putting its own interests ahead of the people and communities of the Gulf and seeking to obscure its role in the Deepwater Horizon accident." Federal regulators says BP, Transocean and Halliburton—the three companies working on digging the well—are at fault for alleged safety and environmental violations. A report issued in March by the panel of government investigators says BP bears ultimate responsibility for the disaster because it ignored crucial warnings and made bad decisions during the cementing of the well. The report, however, also says Transocean and Halliburton share some of the blame.

LSU professor developing program to take lab work to marketplace

LSU biological and agricultural engineering professor Dan Hayes has more in mind for his students than textbooks and research in the laboratory. Hayes wants to build an entrepreneurial culture at LSU through the development of a 12-credit certificate program teaching the fundamental techniques of business processes and plans so that engineering students can turn their research ideas into business ventures. The 12-credit program will help engineering students understand research and design projects from an industry perspective. Through six different BAE courses in entrepreneurship, psychology, business and industry engineering, students will learn the importance of designing with customer needs in mind. "Sometimes, as academic researchers, we get very myopic about our research, focusing solely on what is feasible and publishable from an academic standpoint," Hayes says. But, Hayes points out, what is feasible and publishable from an academic perspective does not necessarily have real-world, industrial or clinical applications. Hayes hopes to help LSU engineering students design their materials, devices and processes not only with academic goals but also with a bigger picture in mind—real-world applications. The planned certificate program will prepare engineering students to develop their ideas in such a way that they move from the lab bench to product invention; students will gain an understanding of how then to take those products to industry and businesses. "In academia, we often neglect to define a 'good product' as one with industrial scale feasibility and marketable characteristics," Hayes says.

B.R. entrepreneurs share secrets to success

"Never accept 'no' for an answer." "Broaden your horizons, but stay true to your core." "Adversity brings about opportunity." These are just a sampling of the many insights provided by a dozen of Baton Rouge's most successful entrepreneurs for the cover story of the latest edition of Business Report, which hit newsstands Tuesday. Entrepreneurs who shared their secrets for success and who are profiled in the cover story include Diane Allen, Jairo Alvarez, Lee Michael Berg, Louis DeAngelo, Chris Ferrara, John Folse, Mike Hackley, Richard Lipsey, Jenni Peters, Pete Stewart, Mohit "Mo" Vij and Ronnie Williams. Learn about their entrepreneurial journeys and business philosophies by reading the story here.

Cane's refinances with new line of credit

Raising Cane's has received a $25 million revolving line of credit from GE Capital Franchise Finance, allowing for a refinancing of the chicken finger chain's existing facility and amending a $21.6 million term loan. Founded in 1996 in Baton Rouge, Raising Cane's now has 110 locations throughout 16 states and is slated to open nine more restaurants by the end of 2011. The company remains headquartered in Baton Rouge, but also has an operations office in Plano, Texas. A Raising Cane's representative did not return calls by this morning's deadline to comment on the line of credit and refinancing plan.

Huntsman calls on feds to investigate oil 'monopoly'

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman says federal officials must investigate what he calls a monopoly of the oil industry. The former Utah governor won't blame specific companies, but compares the situation to media company domination in the 1970s that required government intervention. He wants the Federal Trade Commission and Senate Judiciary Committee to launch a speedy review of the oil industry. Ending the perceived monopoly is among the priorities for an energy policy Huntsman outlined at the University of New Hampshire Tuesday afternoon. He calls for more oil drilling in Alaska and elsewhere, less government regulation and investment in new technologies.

Today's poll question: Do you think the federal government should investigate the oil industry to determine whether or not it's operating as a monopoly?

News roundup: LBTC celebrates anniversary … Siegen Lane improvements complete … Former LSU coach has new book

23 and counting: The Louisiana Business & Technology Center, LSU's award-winning incubator, celebrated 23 years of assisting small businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators Monday evening at an event on the LSU campus. Red Six Media was named Tenant of the Year, and Object 9 received the Graduate Company of the Year award. LSU Chancellor Mike Martin, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret were among those who spoke at the event to honor the more than 140 graduate companies and the 10,000-plus jobs they've created since the incubator was founded in 1988.

Getting the green light: Mayor Kip Holden will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday to mark the completion of improvements to Siegen Lane, the 21st roadway project completed in the Green Light Plan. At a cost of $13.2 million, Siegen Lane has been widened from a two-lane undivided roadway to a four-lane curb and gutter roadway with a raised median and sidewalks on both sides, from Highland Road to a point just south of Perkins Road. Improvements also include a realigned intersection with new traffic signals at North Oak Hills Parkway and Briar Hollow Avenue, the installation of new sewer force main along the full length of the project limits, and a storm drainage system replacing the previous roadside ditches. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the project right-of-way area at Siegen Lane and North Oak Hills Parkway.

Still motivating: Former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown will launch his latest book tonight. Brown, now a motivational speaker, will unveil Getting Over the 4 Hurdles of Life. The 160-page hardcover book is billed as showing "ways to get past obstacles, or hurdles that block paths to success, happiness and peace of mind." The introduction is by former LSU and NBA star Shaquille O'Neal. Brown coached LSU for 25 years, leading his teams to four SEC titles and two Final Four appearances.

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