Business Briefs for Feb. 3

Courses target tree care, landscapers

The LSU AgCenter is offering two short courses for tree care and landscape professionals at the LSU Lee Memorial Forest near Franklinton.

Introduction to Arboriculture will be held Feb. 18-22. The course is designed to help new and experienced tree care workers prepare for taking the Louisiana Arborist Exam and the International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist Exam.

Registration for the full course is $600 and includes meals, lodging and a copy of the ISA Arborist Certification Study Guide. Full course participants will be able to take the Louisiana Arborist License Exam after the course.

The second course is offered in two parts. Technical Tree Felling and Cutting and Climbing will be held Feb. 25-26. Fall Protection and Work Positioning will be held Feb. 27-28.

The course targets experienced and novice chainsaw operators and supervisors, climbers and other professionals seeking to learn the latest techniques for felling and working in trees. The cost for each part is $450 or $800 for both. The registration fee includes room and board.

For more information and to download brochures and register, go to http://www.lsuagcenter.com/arborist or contact Hallie Dozier at hdozier@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Calcasieu rice mill being expanded

Farmers Rice Milling Co. Inc., a division of The Powell Group in Baton Rouge, is undergoing a $13.4 million expansion and modernization of the company’s rice mill in eastern Calcasieu Parish.

The 55,000-square-foot expansion of the mill’s clean rice packaging and distribution facility will allow the company to increase processing speed and volume, the state said in a news release. The project will retain 87 jobs at the rice mill, with an average salary of $34,500, plus benefits.

Overall, the company employs more than 125 workers in the rice mill and related facilities in and around Lake Charles. The company also employs an additional 25 people at its headquarters in Baton Rouge.

“This project ensures Farmers Rice Milling will continue to purchase rice from the farmers of southwest Louisiana and grow its position as a leader in the world rice market,” said company CEO James Warshaw.

The mill purchases $120 million annually in locally grown rice and is capable of processing more than 800 million pounds of rice per year.

The Louisiana economic development department offered the company an incentive package, including a Modernization Tax Credit of $425,000 payable over five years. The company is also expected to use the Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

LaHouse sets healthy house training class

The LSU AgCenter LaHouse Resource Center has joined with the National Center for Healthy Housing to offer training programs, including Lead-Certified Renovator Training classes, for contractors.

A class is scheduled 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Thursday. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to increase lead safety and awareness of its Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule by mailing postcards to uncertified renovation contractors as a reminder of their obligation to become certified and by increasing its monitoring and enforcement activities, officials said.

All paid contractors, maintenance workers, painters and other firms and individuals performing projects that disturb lead-based paint in housing and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 are required to be lead-certified, said LSU AgCenter housing specialist Claudette Reichel. The firm must apply to EPA, and at least one person in the firm must be a Lead-Certified Renovator.

More information about the certification requirements, course fees and a link to the course registration site are available at the seminars and events link at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/LaHouse. More information also is available by calling (225) 578-2378 or emailing lahouse@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Venture Challenge set for LSU students

The LSU Student Incubator, a program of the Louisiana Business & Technology Center, is hosting its second annual Venture Challenge this spring and awarding $25,000 to four student businesses.

“By giving students access to seed capital, this event is instrumental in retaining university graduates in Louisiana and creating jobs for the community,” said Charlie D’Agostino, LBTC executive director.

The Venture Challenge starts with a series of five free business planning workshops open to all LSU students and culminates with a final competition when four students will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges and a live audience.

The deadline for the first round of the 2013 Venture Challenge is March 15. The final round will be held on April 19 at the Crowne Plaza Baton Rouge.

An information session and a series of five free workshops will be held in the months leading up to the Venture Challenge at LSU’s Business Education Complex.

More information and registration can be found at http://www.eventbrite.com/org/1381113591.

Lourdes opens clinic in Breaux Bridge

Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center has opened a Lourdes After Hours walk-in clinic at 1821 Rees St. in Breaux Bridge.

The clinic provides urgent care medical treatment without appointments during hours in which most doctors’ offices are closed. Lourdes After Hours also has locations in Lafayette and Carencro.

For more information, visit http://www.lourdesafterhours.com.

IRS promoting income tax credit

The Internal Revenue Service and partners nationwide have launched an Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day outreach campaign.

The campaign is designed to help millions of Americans who earned $50,270 or less take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

On 2011 tax returns filed last year, about 5,000 families in Louisiana received approximately $1.38 billion in EITC with an average amount of $2,615.

The IRS said the annual campaign is necessary because one-third of the eligible population changes each year as their financial, marital and parental statuses change. Although an estimated four out of five eligible workers and families get the credit, one in five still miss out on it, either because they don’t claim it when filing, or don’t file a tax return at all, the IRS said in a news release. The EITC varies by income, family size and filing status.

“This year, millions of workers could qualify for EITC for the first time, and the IRS urges them not to overlook this valuable credit,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller.

More information on EITC and detailed eligibility rules are available at http://www.irs.gov/eitc.