Two BR firms recommended for state incentives

Two Baton Rouge firms and a third in Shreveport have won recommendations for nearly $3.7 million in state awards from the Louisiana Economic Development Corp.

Lacking a quorum because of intense rains Friday, Chairman A.J. Roy and several other board members said the recommendations would be subject to a vote of the full board at a later date for Pod Pack International Ltd. and The Catalyst Fund in Baton Rouge and Module X Solutions in Shreveport.

Brewed-beverage packager Pod Pack, which announced a $10.1 million expansion of its Baton Rouge facility in May, was recommended for a state development award of $760,000 for that expansion.

Pod Pack officials’ said the project will create 19 new jobs carrying an average annual salary of $30,100. That payroll boost of more than $570,000 is expected to double Pod Pack’s packaging of coffee and tea blends into single-cup servings for purchase by hotels and other businesses.

Last year, Pod Pack produced about 100 million of the ready-to-brew pods.

Officials of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development estimated in May that Pod Pack’s expansion also will generate 67 new indirect jobs in the Baton Rouge area.

LEDC board members noted Pod Pack must complete its expansion by the end of 2016, meet its hiring promise and ensure at least 50 percent of its sales are to out-of-state customers in return for the $760,000 award.

LEDC board members also voted to conditionally recommend board approval of a $1.1 million grant to The Catalyst Fund for the Baton Rouge firm’s plan to provide new businesses with growth-stage capital.

Jeanne Bayless, The Catalyst Fund’s chief executive officer, has previous experience in both running and funding technology companies. She said she already has raised more than $1 million in additional funds from private sources for The Catalyst Fund.

Bayless founded AnswerSoft, a firm that developed software for call centers, in the early 1990s and later sold it to Davox Corp. for $80 million.

Bayless then became vice president of marketing for NetBoost Corp., a startup that accelerated network applications before it was sold in 1999 to Intel for $225 million.

Before moving to Baton Rouge, Bayless worked for Intel Capital and gained insights into the venture capital business.

Bayless said she hopes to arrange funding for about four innovative technology companies annually in the Baton Rouge area.

LEDC board members agreed to conditionally recommend the full board approve the $1.1 million request. The grant is conditioned upon The Catalyst Fund’s federal certification as a nonprofit organization.

Shreveport company Module X Solutions was recommended for a $1.8 million LEDC award. That award would be tied to the firm’s expenditure over four years of $7.4 million on renovations to a city -owned industrial facility. The firm also must hire 357 employees with an annual payroll of $17.8 million.

In addition, board members coupled their recommendation for the $1.8 million award with a requirement that Module X Solutions ensures at least 50 percent of its sales are to out-of-state customers.

Steve Schoonover, chief executive officer for Module X Solutions, said all requirements will be met as the company transforms a disused 750,000-square-foot Shreveport facility “into a revenue producing and job producing site.”

Module X, Schoonover explained, manufactures modular communications buildings for the oil and gas and other industries.