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Friday, 17 August 2012 03:31

Louisiana Business: Home Prices Rise, Fielkow, Verizon, Unemployment, Bonds

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LouisianaLouisiana Real estate, internet by Verizon, Arnie Fielkow, the NBA, the Mississippi River, unemployment, the Louisiana bond commission are in the business news today:



Here are excerpts of press releases

Louisiana real estate: Home Prices Start Moving Up as Sales Activity Continues to Strengthen

Louisiana’s residential real estate market continued its positive upward track with a 12.7 percent increase in the number of homes sold for the second quarter of 2012, according to the Louisiana REALTORS Association’s second quarter Real Estate Trends report released this week. Total sales volume was up 13.4 percent for the quarter and the average home sales price rose slightly to $188,254, a 0.6 percent increase compared to the second quarter of 2011. Year to date through June, Louisiana home sales are up 14.7 percent over last year.

Throughout the six month period ending in March 2012, Louisiana sales prices had failed to keep pace with the previous year, but the increase shown during the second quarter is positive news for sellers and a sign of the market recovery taking hold.

“Sales activity has been up for a while now, but many industry observers have been waiting for home prices to start bouncing back before declaring the housing market to be in recovery,” said Rick Roberts, Louisiana REALTORS® president. “Prices in markets throughout the country have started moving upward during the spring and summer, and Louisiana is following that trend.”

Seven of the state’s eight major metropolitan areas saw an increase in the number of sales during the second quarter. Leading the way was the Lafayette area, with residential sales jumping 27 percent over the second quarter of 2011, and 27 percent year to date. The average Lafayette home sold for $181,052, down slightly from 2Q11 (-0.9 percent). Baton Rouge followed with a strong 20.5 percent increase in home sales for the quarter. Sales in the capitol region have increased 19.4 percent year to date, and the average sales price for the quarter was $203,336, off 1.9 percent from the same period last year..

Elsewhere around the state, the Greater New Orleans metro area registered a 12.1 percent increase in the number of sales compared to 2Q11, and year to date remains ahead of last year’s sales pace by 13.6 percent. New Orleans was also one of the markets where the average sales price rose for the quarter. The average home in the Greater New Orleans area sold for $203,130 during 2Q12, a 2.3 percent increase over the same period last year.

Including New Orleans, four of the state’s eight major metro areas showed an increase in average sales price. Houma-Thibodaux had the biggest increase, up 6.6 percent to $167,976. Sales in the Bayou region were up 8.8 percent for the quarter and 16 percent year to date. The region continues to have the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 5.2 percent.

In Shreveport, home sales increased 6.9 percent for the quarter and are up 10.7 percent year to date, while the average sales price dipped slightly to $175,186 for the quarter (-1.9 percent). Lake Charles home prices were up 1 percent over 2Q11 (to $153,115) and are up 4.5 percent year to date. Sales activity in southwest Louisiana rose 8.2 percent for the quarter and 12 percent year to date.

Sales activity in the Alexandria-Pineville metro increased 3.5 percent during 2Q12 and is up nearly 7 percent year to date. The average home sales price in central Louisiana jumped 5.1 percent for the quarter and is up 6.6 percent year to date. Monroe home sales dropped 8.5 percent for the quarter and are generally flat year to date (-0.4 percent). The average home price was down 4.7 percent to $158,262. Monroe currently shows the highest unemployment rate in the state at 8 percent.

Fielkow and NBA Retired Players

– Arnie D. Fielkow, twice elected as New Orleans Councilman-at-Large post-Katrina, is returning to his adopted hometown to launch the Jack Fielkow Memorial New Orleans Recreation Scholarship Fund in conjunction with Major League Baseball and New Orleans-based youth mentoring program Each One Save One. As part of a 3:30 p.m. press conference on August 17 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel (located at 300 Bourbon Street in New Orleans), Fielkow and his family will announce details of a $40,000 scholarship program honoring his late father that will award two $2,000 college scholarships annually to youngsters that came up through the New Orleans recreation system, with ties to the New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy and/or Each One Save One annually.

After six years spent in public service helping rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Fielkow returned to the business of sports when he accepted a Chicago-based position as Chief Executive Officer of the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA). Fielkow began his position as CEO of the only retired players organization for NBA, ABA and Harlem Globetrotters alumni in October of 2011. The scholarship launch will coincide with the NBRPA’s Legends World Sports Conference, an annual networking event for former professional basketball players that will take place in New Orleans from August 16-19.

“My father, the late Jack Fielkow, was my best friend and role model, and I am thrilled to announce this scholarship program that will memorialize his legacy for years to come,” said Fielkow, whose father died of cancer in 2011. “My dad played and loved sports, and had a special place in his heart for the passion and resiliency of New Orleanians. The entire Fielkow family is honored to bring this educational assistance program to New Orleans youth, and we couldn’t find two better youth-based programs in New Orleans than the new MLB Urban Youth Academy and Each One Save.”

“Education is an important element of the MLB Urban Youth Academies, so, we are pleased to be working closely with the Fielkow family and Each One Save One to help young men and women pursue their college degrees,” said Frank Robinson, Executive Vice President, Baseball Development, Major League Baseball. “The New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy will be a resource for youth in the area not only to enhance their skills as ballplayers, but also to achieve academic success.”
The Jack Fielkow Memorial New Orleans Recreation Scholarship Fund will be jointly administered annually by Major League Baseball and Each One Save One. Scholarships will be awarded annually beginning in in 2013 through applications evaluated by a committee that will include officials from Major League Baseball and Each One Save One.

"The Jack Fielkow Scholarship is an excellent vehicle to encourage excellence and assist financially in students' educational achievement, which leads to career success,” said Cathy Harris, co-founder of Each One Save One. “Kudos to Arnie for his commitment to young people and for this thoughtful and generous contribution."

The New Orleans MLB Urban Youth Academy is a $5.3 million facility located at Wesley Barrow Stadium in Pontchatrain Park that will provide free, year-round baseball and softball instruction, and additional educational programming, for underserved youth throughout Southern Louisiana. The complex includes three fields (baseball, softball and tee ball) complete with scoreboards, seating, dugouts, lights, four batting cages, an indoor facility, pitching mounds and other professional-caliber training facilities. The New Orleans facility will join Compton, Calif., Houston, Texas and Gurabo, Puerto Rico as the fourth operational MLB Urban Youth Academy.


Verizon Wireless is promoting HomeFusion Broadband: a new service that provides high-speed in-home Internet access using the power and speed of the nation’s largest 4G LTE network. The solution offers households in areas with limited broadband options a reliable alternative for data connectivity in their homes.

“HomeFusion Broadband is just one of the new products and services that is made possible with our 4G LTE network,” said Tami Erwin, vice president and chief marketing officer, Verizon Wireless. “Customers want to connect more and more devices in their homes to the Internet, and HomeFusion Broadband gives them a simple, fast and effective way to bring the most advanced wireless connection from Verizon into their homes.”

The 4G LTE network is efficiently delivered to an antenna which transmits the signal to a broadband router inside the home. The cylinder-shaped antenna is professionally installed at the customer’s home, and the product’s innovative design includes multiple internal antennae allowing the device to pick up Verizon’s 4G LTE signal. The broadband router can connect up to four wired and at least 20 wireless devices inside the home using Wi-Fi, including everything from computers to gaming consoles.

 Verizon Wireless is working with Asurion, a trusted leader in consumer technology protection services, for installation.

Customers can choose several usage-based plans, beginning at $59.99 monthly access for 10 GB of data, specifically designed for HomeFusion Broadband. A one-time equipment fee of $199.99 applies, and installation is free.

Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network now covers more than 200 million people in the United States. In real-world, fully loaded network environments, Verizon Wireless 4G LTE customers, including HomeFusion Broadband customers, should experience average data rates of 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink.

Louisiana unemployment

Attached are the latest Unemployment Insurance claims files from the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Initial UI claims for the week ending Aug. 11, 2012, decreased to 2,814 from 3,216 for the week ending Aug. 4, 2012. Continued UI weeks claimed for the week ending Aug. 11, 2012, decreased to 36,001 from the previous week's total of 36,452.

Visit the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s website at and select Labor Market Information.
Then under LMI Products select Unemployment Insurance Claims for the following selections: Weekly Statewide UI Claims Data, Weekly UI Claims by RLMA, UI Claims by Industry, 13-Week Trend By Area, and UI Area Characteristics.

Mississippi River

 Members of the Nicollet Island Coalition (NIC) today called on the Army Corps of Engineers to take decisive and prompt action to protect the Mississippi River from imminent, long-term damage due to poor river management decisions and stem the loss of benefits provided by the river’s floodplains and other natural functions. Today’s meeting was one of several being held along the Mississippi River as members of the Mississippi River Commission and Corps officials conduct their annual low-water inspection of the river.
While this year’s drought has lowered water levels in the river, the certainty of floods in the future has drawn into question the adequacy of current flood control measures. The New Madrid Floodway was operated last year for the first time since 1937 to alleviate flooding at the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers’ confluence. It required the Bird’s Point Levee to be blasted open, unleashing a deluge of water that washed away crops and topsoil and left farm fields, homes, and roads under more than 20 feet of water in some areas.
“The Corps needs to design and construct a more reliable and less damaging system for using the Floodway,” says Brad Walker, Wetlands and Floodplain Director for The Missouri Coalition for the Environment, “because undoubtedly there will be another flood requiring the Floodway to divert excess river flow.” Restoration of the river’s natural floodplains can also help alleviate the need to use the Floodway in the future.
NIC also commented at the public hearing that any reforms related to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund should not only require the navigation industry to make adequate contributions to the Fund but also ensure that taxpayer dollar allocations for Fund activities are made fairly. Monies in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund pay for half the cost of construction and rehabilitation of locks and dams. Since 2008, expenses have exceeded revenue and the Fund is now bankrupt. Currently, taxpayers pay 50% of all lock and dam construction and rehabilitation costs while the navigation industry contributes the other 50%, which amounts to around $80 million annually. All other inland navigation infrastructure costs are paid by taxpayers.
“The Nicollet Island Coalition opposes a recent proposal from the barge industry, H.R. 4342, which shifts more funding for infrastructure costs onto taxpayers,” said Olivia Dorothy, Regional Conservation Coordinator for the Izaak Walton League of America’s Upper Mississippi River Initiative. “Taxpayers already contribute around $800 million annually towards operations, maintenance, planning, construction, and rehabilitation of the inland waterway infrastructure, while industry only contributes around $80 million annually for lock and dam construction and rehabilitation. H.R. 4342 calls for taxpayers to take on the full cost of rehabilitation and dam construction, increasing taxpayer contributions to at least $1 billion annually while the navigation industry will only increase its contributions to $110 million annually.”
Current principles and guidance for evaluating Corps water resource development projects dates back to 1983. The 2007 Water Resources Development Act directed that this document, commonly called the Principles and Guidelines, be revised to incorporate new knowledge and complexities of water resource projects and their impacts on river ecosystems and natural functions.
“The Council on Environmental Quality’s 2009 draft Principles and Guidelines made some headway in recognizing the need to modernize the previous guidance,” said Cecily Smith, Water Resources Specialist with the Prairie Rivers Network. “However, it still lacks several key elements, such as clear and mandatory decision standards. For example, in selecting a flood control project plan, the Corps should be required to select one that incorporates nonstructural approaches unless they are able to clearly show that such an alternative is impracticable. Without such provisions, future water project planning will lack needed accountability and fail to comply with federal laws requiring the Corps and other federal agencies to protect the Mississippi River from environmental impacts.”
Louisiana State Bond Commission Approves Over $110 Million for Projects and $4 Million
in Savings Statewide

BATON ROUGE, LA - The State Bond Commission approved over $4 million in savings by refinancing existing public debt and $110 million for projects statewide at its August 16th meeting, according to State Treasurer John Kennedy.

"We saved the taxpayers $4 million by signing off on the refinancing of public debt in eight parishes, including over $2 million in Rapides Parish," said Treasurer Kennedy. "In addition, the Bond Commission gave approval for bonds to finance public safety projects in St. James, St. Mary and St. Tammany Parishes, as well as various infrastructure and capital improvement projects across the state."

Among the individual projects the Bond Commission approved are:
• Beauregard Parish, Hospital Service District No.2, $2 million in Certificates of Indebtedness, Series 2012, to construct and equip an intensive care unit addition.
• East Baton Rouge Parish, East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, $360,000 Promissory Note: For Brownsfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund.
• East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana Community Development Authority, Episcopal High School of Baton Rouge Project, $10 million in Revenue and Refunding Bonds: To refinance existing debt and to construct, renovate, and equip campus buildings and facilities.
• Evangeline Parish, Waterworks District No.1, Ward 5, $50,000 in Certificates of Indebtedness: For improvements and extensions to the water system.
• Iberville Parish, Iberville Parish Council, $100,000 in Limited Tax Certificates: For the purchase of equipment, three maintenance trucks and a utility vehicle for the Recreation Department.
• Jefferson Davis Parish, Town of Lake Arthur, $305,000 in Certificates of Indebtedness: To purchase a fire truck and improvements to the sewerage system.
• Lafayette Parish, Lafayette Parish School Board, $30 million in Limited Tax Revenue Bonds: For construction, rehabilitation or repair of public schools facilities.
• LaSalle Parish, Town of Olla, $115,000 in Revenue Bonds: For improvements and extensions to the water system.
• Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana Community Development Authority, Parish of Plaquemines Project, $65 million in Revenue Bonds: For planning, construction and improvements of specific drainage/coastal restoration projects; To fund a debt service reserve fund if necessary.
• St. James Parish, St. James Parish Council, $180,000 in Limited Tax Certificates: To purchase fire trucks and other firefighting equipment.
• St. Mary Parish, Fire Protection District No. 11, $600,000 in Limited Tax Revenue Bonds: For the purchase of fire trucks and fire protection equipment.
• St. Tammany Parish, Fire Protection District No. 12, $1.5 million in Limited Tax Certificates of Indebtedness: To purchase and improve facilities, vehicles and equipment for fire protection and rescue and emergency medical services; Non-economic refunding of Limited Tax Certificates.
• St. Tammany Parish, Village of Folsom, $150,000 in Certificates of Indebtedness: For capital improvements.
The Commission also approved over $5.9 million in savings for local governments by refinancing existing debts. Among the refinancings approved were:
• Calcasieu Parish, City of Westlake, $73,000 in savings.
• East Carroll Parish, East Carroll Parish School Board, $48,000 in savings.
• Lincoln Parish, Lincoln Parish School Board, Ruston School District No. 1, $755,000 in savings.
• Rapides Parish, City of Alexandria, $1,657,000 in savings.
• Rapides Parish, Rapides Parish School Board, Pineville School District No. 52, $151,480 in savings.
• Rapides Parish, Rapides Parish School Board, Rigolette School District No. 11, $216,000 in savings.
• St. Martin Parish, Recreation District No. 1, $35,000 in savings.
• St. Martin Parish, St. Martin Parish Council, Sales Tax District No.2, $145,000 in savings.
• St. Mary Parish, St. Mary Parish Council, $476,100 in savings.
• St. Mary Parish, St. Mary Parish, Recreation District No.5, $158,000 in savings.
• Tangipahoa Parish, Tangipahoa Parish School Board, School District No. 39A, $68,400 in savings.
• Webster Parish, Webster Parish School Board, Springhill School District No. 8, $355,815 in savings.
The Louisiana State Bond Commission meets monthly to review and approve applications from parishes, municipalities, special taxing districts, and other political subdivisions of the State requesting authority to incur debt. 




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