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LABI Conference Today; Louisiana Export News; DANOS in Port of Iberia

Written by  // Thursday, 27 February 2014 09:05 //

labiLABI conference held today; Louisiana export news; DANOS builds in Port of Iberia; and more. These are the latest Louisiana business news...

 LABI Conference

The Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce will host the La. Association of Business and Industry (LABI) Legislative Issues Conference in Thibodaux. Stephen Waguespack, President of LABI, will share LABI’s priorities and vision for the 2014 legislative session, focusing on threats to La. business and opportunities to improve the state’s economic climate and global competitiveness.  The event today is held at the Bayou Country Club, 900 Country Club Road, Thibodaux, LA 70301 starting at 11:30 a.m., and will end at 1:00 p.m.

Louisiana Exports Grow

Louisiana’s 2013 worldwide merchandise exports increased by 0.3 percent over 2012 according to a report released last week by the World Trade Center of New Orleans. For the year, Louisiana exports totaled $63.1 billion, compared to $62.9 billion in 2012, and $55 billion in 2011.  

Louisiana’s principal export markets for 2013 were China ($8.23 billion, down 11.6 percent), Mexico ($6.3 billion, down 2.9 percent), and Canada ($3.1 billion, up 14.9 percent), followed by Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Brazil. Rounding out the top ten, were France, Colombia, and Panama.

World Trade Center CEO Dominik Knoll remarks that, “In terms of exports, 2013 was a fantastic year for both the state of Louisiana and the United States as a whole. Louisiana surpassed Florida to become the sixth highest producing export state in the country.”  Knoll added, “Here at the World Trade Center of New Orleans, we are proud of Louisiana businesses for their accomplishments. We will continue working to help our members and Louisiana industries by providing assistance to further develop international trade relations around the world, and to create more jobs and wealth in Louisiana.”

Exports for all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia set a record in 2013, totaling $1.58 trillion, a 2.14 percent increase over 2012. Louisiana ranked 6th among U.S. states, one spot higher than its 7th place ranking last year. Among all other U.S. States, Texas, California and New York remained the top three exporters and Louisiana moved the ranks to number 6, one spot higher than last year.

In terms of overall growth in Louisiana, Gary LaGrange, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans, states, “Louisiana exports continue to be driven by investments in manufacturing and refining on the Lower Mississippi River, as we continue to strive to reach the President's goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2016.”

Petroleum and Coal, Agriculture Products Leading; Large Gains in Transportation Equipment

The value of Louisiana’s petroleum and coal exports rose 9.7 percent in 2013, from $23.2 billion to $25.5 billion, and remained the top exported product from Louisiana. Agriculture products and Chemicals followed, accounting for $15.8 billion and $9.1 billion of Louisiana’s exports.

When compared to last year, there were no major fluctuations in terms of ranking of Louisiana’s top ten industries. The few shifts in industry ranking were experienced in the areas of Transportation Equipment, Fabricated Metal Products, and Beverage and Tobacco Products.

Transportation equipment moved to the 8th position, up from number ten in 2012. Fabricated Metal Products and Beverages and Tobacco Products, however, suffered a decrease in the rankings, finishing 2013 in positions 9th and 10th respectively among Louisiana’s top ten industries. In terms of growth, the largest growth was experienced by Transportation Equipment (64.22 percent), Primary Metal Manufacturing and Fabricated (29.59 percent) Metal Products (27.27 percent).

Compared to U.S. industry results, the Louisiana ranking displays certain distinctions. To Louisiana, for example, Petroleum and Coal Products remains the main export product, while for the US is only the 5th. Such situation is explained by the concentration of petroleum and coal related facilities located in Louisiana. A similar situation takes place regarding Agricultural Products, Louisiana’s second largest export commodity, but only U.S.’8th. Particularities such as these portray Louisiana’s strengths and ability to remain unique while being productive.

“Last year was phenomenal, with total US agriculture and food exports reaching an all-time record $141 billion" says Jerry Hingle, Executive Director of the Southern US Trade Association and chair of the World Trade Center's agriculture committee. "Measured by value, Louisiana exports are down by 19%, but that's only because bumper crops lowered bushel prices -- the volume of exports actually increased" he adds. Hingle also points out that strong growth in poultry and value-added food exports has been a big boost to Louisiana's economy.

Increased Exports to France and Panama

The 2013 numbers show that Louisiana recorded significant growth in exports to France and Panama when compared to the previous year. Exports to France grew 121.9 percent in 2013 while exports to Panama reached a 110.03 percent. “The Consulate General of France in New Orleans welcomes this sign of an increase of trade relations between Louisiana and France, and hopes, in return that the trend of French exports to Louisiana may also increase soon,” Press Attaché’ for the French Consulate in New Orleans, Bartholomew Wander tells the WTCNO regarding the relevant growth of Louisiana’s trade partnership with France.

Louisiana’s exports in 2013 declined to trading partners such as China (down 11.57 percent), Japan (down 27.2 percent) and the Netherlands (down 18.91 percent). According to a report published by the Associated Press, growth in China is showing signs of slowing, as the nation transitions from an export-driven economy to one that is fueled by demand from Chinese consumers. Though Professor Scheherazade Rehman, of George Washington University, said in an interview on NPR that she believes China’s slight slowdown is not expected to last long. Rehman, a professor of international business, finance, and international affairs further commented that of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) emerging economies, China will still display positive economic performance.

Klaus-Jochen Guhlcke, German Consul General to Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas notes that, “Germany is the United States' most important trading partner in Europe, just as the United States is our most important partner outside the EU. Bilateral trade volume amounted to $162 billion in 2013 – Germany thus ranks fifth among the United States trading partners. Louisiana plays an important part in this equation – with $553 million imports (above all chemicals, machinery and electronics) from and $1,329 exports (mainly agricultural, petroleum and coal products) to Germany (2012). Important German companies have directly invested in Louisiana – BASF, Degussa, Benteler Steel and German Pellets, to name a few. Let's continue on this path!”

The WTCNO report covers the exports of both Louisiana-originating products and some major commingled bulk commodities (especially grain and coal) that are produced in other states, shipped abroad from Louisiana’s ports, and recorded as Louisiana exports because of Department of the Census standards used to calculate exports.

The following charts summarize the data reported above. Trade data and chart representations are presented by the World Trade Center of New Orleans and WISERTrade.

Trade reports that provide information on 32 industry categories of Louisiana exports (NAICS) and 97 commodities (HS) to more than 230 countries worldwide, as well as export totals of other U.S. states, are available on the WTC’s website, www.wtcno.org.

You may download a PDF version of this full report here. http://www.wtcno.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/PR-2013-LA-Export-Stats_Final.pdf
(From the WTC)

DANOS Chooses Port of Ibera

On Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Danos President and CEO Hank Danos announced the company’s selection of the Port of Iberia for a new $23.2 million manufacturing facility, which will create 100 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $65,000, plus benefits. The announcement accompanies today’s approval of a 40-acre lease for the project by the port’s board of commissioners, with Danos beginning construction on a 172,000-square-foot facility in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The Danos manufacturing facility represents a key portion of a larger expansion announced by the company in May 2013. Danos also will build a new Gray, La., headquarters facility ¬– near Houma, La. – at the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and Louisiana Highway 24. Together, the headquarters and manufacturing facilities will represent a capital investment of $40 million, with 426 new direct jobs created over the next five years. LED estimates the entire project will result in an estimated 871 new indirect jobs, for a total of nearly 1,300 new jobs in the Bayou and Acadiana regions of the state.
Gov. Jindal said, “Danos is a major economic driver in Louisiana, and its decision to reinvest in our state represents a tremendous vote of confidence in Louisiana’s outstanding business climate, workforce and infrastructure. We’re proud that one of our leading oil and gas technology companies believes in the central role that Louisiana plays in the production of deepwater oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. With companies like Danos, Louisiana’s reputation as an innovative oil and gas leader will continue to grow and shape this vital industry. This project will provide high-quality jobs and great career opportunities for the people of our state for many years to come.”
With the expansion, Danos will retain 400 existing land-based jobs in Louisiana and create 200 construction jobs. The company also will maintain fabrication operations at its current headquarters site in Larose, La., where Danos was founded in 1947. In New Iberia, Danos will build offshore-bound production modules, as well as structural and process piping products, for the oil and gas industry. The Port of Iberia’s strategic location with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico will expedite product deliveries to all offshore locations, company officials said.
“Danos is thrilled to be in position to commence construction of a world-class manufacturing complex in Louisiana,” said Eric Danos, the company’s executive vice president. “We looked across the Gulf Coast and found a site close to home in New Iberia with the right infrastructure and a talented workforce. This new Danos facility will allow us to continue to build on a long legacy of partnering with major oil and gas operators to solve complex energy challenges.”
(FROM JINDAL PRESS RELEASE)

Time to Claim Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Assessment Rebate

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is reminding property insurance policyholders that tax season is one of the easiest times to claim the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Assessment rebate. At a joint press conference today, Donelon and Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) Director of Customer Service Kent LaPlace encouraged Louisiana property owners to claim their Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) rebate when they file their taxes this year.
“The Citizens rebate can be claimed at any point during the year in one of three ways, but tax time may be the most convenient. At the end of 2013, nearly two-thirds of available Citizens rebate funds, nearly $240 million, went unclaimed,” said Commissioner Donelon. “Whether you have insurance through Citizens or through another insurance company, you are entitled to the rebate once you have paid the assessment on your property insurance bill.”
The amount of the assessment rebate can be found on the declaration page of a property insurance policy. Once a policyholder knows the amount of their assessment, they can claim their rebates for 2010 through 2013 in one of three ways:

1.)    Claim the rebate as a tax credit on your Louisiana Income Tax Return due each May.  With this option your rebate will be included in your total tax calculation.

2.)    Claim the rebate online through the Louisiana Department of Revenue’s Online Filing and Payments webpage www.revenue.louisiana.gov/fileonline. Users will need to create an account to access the electronic form for claiming their Citizens rebate.

3.)    Claim the rebate by filling out a paper form. The one-page form along with the insurance declarations page can be mailed to the Louisiana Department of Revenue. Forms (R-540INS) for all four calendar years are located on the Louisiana Department of Insurance and Louisiana Department of Revenue websites.
Businesses may claim the Citizens rebate by filing the Department of Revenue Form R-620INS or by filing a current-year or amended tax return. Individual policyholders may also claim the rebate by amending a prior-year tax return. A copy of the insurance policy declaration page showing proof of the assessment amount must be attached to any claim form.
“Filing for the Citizens rebate on the tax return or at LDR’s Louisiana File Online option will certainly speed up payment of the rebate,” said LaPlace.  “Since LDR introduced the online filing option, almost 200,000 Citizens rebate applications have been submitted electronically, with an average turnaround time of 21 days compared to a non-electronic refund rate of 16 weeks.”  
LaPlace also gave several warnings that can slow down the Citizens rebate:
•    Don’t claim the rebate on both the INS form and the tax return. It will delay your refund.
•    Don’t claim the total insurance premium, only the Citizens assessment.
•    Including a copy of the insurance policy declaration page if filing the R-540INS or R-620INS paper forms, showing proof of the assessment amount when requesting the Citizens rebate. If filing electronically, keep a copy of the declaration page with your tax form in case of an audit.
•    For multiple properties, be sure to attach the R-INS Supplement form, along with your single rebate form, for all properties rather than a separate rebate form for each property.
Commissioner Donelon noted that the allotted time to claim funds for 2006 through 2009 has expired and nearly $256 million or 54 percent of those assessment funds went unclaimed. The option to claim the 2010 assessment will expire after December 31, 2014.
(for more information, visit the website http://www.ldi.la.gov/index.html

BRAC Supports TOPS Reforms

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) announced today that the organization will support reforms for increased TOPS standards and a competitive fund to improve workforce challenges during the 2014 Louisiana Legislative Session. BRAC views higher education as critical to economic development, especially as global shifts to a talent and workforce economy continue to develop.  The regular session of the legislature convenes on Monday, March 10, 2014 and adjourns on or before Monday, June 2, 2014.
 
“The TOPS program is an important tool as we work to retain our talented students in the region and prepare them to enter our workforce.  BRAC recognizes that changes must be made in order to sustain this program,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC.   

In May 2013, BRAC issued a white paper calling attention to the drastic reduction in state funding for higher education since fiscal year 2008-2009 while advocating for TOPS reform.  The state of our higher education system continues to be a top priority for BRAC, with a specific focus on increasing TOPS standards during the 2014 Regular Session.
 
An increase in the eligibility requirements will better align TOPS to comparable merit-based programs in Georgia and Florida.  BRAC’s specific recommendations, phased in over multiple years, include:
Opportunity Award: 2.5 GPA in core courses to 3.0 GPA in core courses, 20 on ACT to 26 on ACT (83rd percentile)
Performance Award: 3.0 GPA in core courses (unchanged), 23 on ACT to 28 on ACT (91st percentile)
Honors Award: 3.0 GPA in core courses to 3.5 in core courses, 27 on ACT to 30 on ACT (95th percentile)
 
BRAC also supports an increase in Louisiana’s need-based aid made available through Go Grant.  TOPS has disproportionately been awarded to the state’s most affluent students since the program’s income cap removal in 1997 and almost eight out of ten recipients are Caucasian.  To prevent causing a disadvantage to low-income and minority students, a raise in required academic standards for TOPS must be coupled with increased funding made available through the Louisiana Go Grant Program, a statewide need-based grant program for college students.
 
Finally, BRAC continues to support the stabilization of state funding and the transfer of tuition and fee autonomy for our higher education institutions.  State cuts and lack of tuition control is taking its toll on the flagship university, Louisiana State University and A&M College (LSU).  The Grad Act helped to increase tuition autonomy, however, Louisiana is still the only state where the state legislature has final authority over tuition and fees, and requires a two-thirds vote.
 
In terms of workforce, BRAC continues its efforts to identify solutions to the workforce challenges facing the Capital Region.  BRAC is in support of the governor’s proposed Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy (WISE) Fund.  This $40 million competitive fund for higher education institutions will incentivize these groups to maintain a strategic focus on occupations deemed in high demand by the Louisiana Workforce Commission.  The measure also ensures local buy-in, requiring institutions to secure a 20 percent match from the private sector.

INTERVIEW II: Stephen Waguespack talks of new future, challenges for Louisiana

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