National News Taking Toll On Baton Rouge's Reputation

Tuesday, the CBS Early Show featured a national broadcast from Baton Rouge with family members of the American soldier accused detonating several grenades, which killed one and wounded 15 others in Kuwait. This is just another in a string of news stories which have reached around the country with one thing in common - a Baton Rouge connection.

The serial killer's work has shown up on CNN, as did the serial snipers, who also had a Baton Rouge connection. Add in West Nile deaths, dual hurricanes just a week apart last year, plus the LSU anthrax connection and you might begin to understand the publicity nightmare those promoting Baton Rouge have had to face during the past year.

Jimmy Lyles is charged with selling Baton Rouge to companies around the globe. 18 months worth of negative publicity does not aid his cause. Lyles says, "The thing that worries you the most is not the people who come in and talk to you. It's the people who are sitting there and getting ready to locate somewhere and they look at that and they never give you an opportunity to talk to them. That's the ones you never know about."

There is still another aspect to this seemingly unending string of public relations bad luck here in Baton Rouge. Not only is it difficult to attract people and business, but Lyles says it's tough to keep what we already have.

"We're trying to retain people in Baton Rouge were trying to retain jobs in Baton Rouge. These are the people who see this every day and they know," said Lyles.

However, others see optimism through the onslaught of national publicity. "It's unfortunate that Baton Rouge has had a few bad months with some of the stuff that's been happening. But also I know the resilience and strength of this community and they are reaching far beyond that," said Davis Rhorer, director of downtown Baton Rouge development.