Archive for August, 2009

Power Breakfast: Tap vs. bottled, trash, Social Security, clunkers

We try to look for different ways this recession is playing out — both big and small.

For example, as the recession was just beginning, AJC reporter Tammy Joyner wrote that dry cleaners were noticing smellier clothes as financially-pressed consumers wore their shirts and pants longer before bringing them in for service.

Now, AJC reporter Joe Guy Collier writes that tap water is eating into bottled water sales as consumers look to save money.

Once a fast-growing segment for beverage firms, bottled water sales have slowed as the recession has deepened and environmental issues gained momentum, Collier writes.

The shift in the market has hit home at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co., which sells the Dasani, Smartwater and Aquarius Spring! water brands.

It’s another lesson that a major event causes all sorts of intended — and unintended — consequences.

Also in the AJC:

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Power Breakfast: State unemployment rises, FedEx, Synovus

I’m taking two days off, so today’s Power Breakfast will be the last one until Monday morning. See you then.

Today, the state labor department reported that Georgia’s unemployment rate rose to 10.3 percent in July.

A total of 493,748 state residents were unemployed. Of that number, 163,839, or 33.2 percent, received state unemployment insurance benefits, while approximately 140,000 received federally funded extended benefits.

That leaves about 190,000 people without any government unemployment benefits.

“These jobless workers could comprise a mythical unemployment line that stretches from Dalton to Atlanta, through Macon and down to Valdosta,” Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said in a statement.

Thurmond said in a previous interview that he expects state unemployment to hit 11 percent to 11.5 percent. In metro Atlanta, he expects unemployment to peak at 11.5 percent to 12 percent.

Also in the AJC:

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Power Breakfast: Recession hits churches, Home Depot, health care

From time to time, this recession sparks interesting developments.

AJC reporter Gertha Coffee takes a look at churches and concludes that the ones looking to expand into bigger facilities are in a buyer’s market. They are getting good deals right now because of the downturn in commercial real estate.

But because of declining donations, some other churches are having trouble meeting their mortgage payments and are selling their buildings to downsize. Churches are the main buyers of other churches.

“One of the things that is a little bit different than a few years ago is more properties are on the market because of bank pressure and foreclosures,” Matt Messier, of CNL Specialty Real Estate, told Coffee. “Churches are not immune to that issue.”

To make some deals works, sellers have been using creative financing to help buyers purchase churches, said Dan Simpson, managing broker at America’s Network Realty Group in Dunwoody. That’s because traditional mortgages have been …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Recession hits churches, Home Depot, health care »

Executive survives PR disaster

To many, Frank Argenbright Jr. is a pariah for founding the company blamed for lapses in airport security right before the Sept. 11 hijackings.

To others, he was a convenient scapegoat, since no one knows how the hijackers got weapons onto the airlines.

To me, Argenbright is a survivor. He’s also a savvy Atlanta entrepreneur who has been able to start over and flourish, despite this recession.

But it was touch-and-go for awhile after the terrorist attacks. Then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft had lashed out at his company. An e-mail from someone else told him “to burn in hell” — a common opinion back then. He considered suicide because of the fallout but, in the end, decided to prove he was worthy of living.

“As depressed as I was, my wife told me to get off my butt and go build a great company, and prove everybody wrong,” he said.

Argenbright, now 61, started over by sticking with what he knew — providing security. He launched two companies, one for airports …

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Power Breakfast: AT&T hanging up directory, jobs, renters

It’s another sign of the times. AT&T in Georgia has asked state regulators for permission to stop delivering residential “white pages” to its customers, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes.

The company called delivery a “substantial hardship” that is no longer necessary. AT&T said consumer use of the Internet to find numbers is a key reason, along with the growing number of homes without landlines and the ability of wireless devices to store numbers.

Customers could still obtain a hard copy, at no cost, upon request.

I guess Rick Watson, a business professor at UGA, summed it up best: “We stopped riding horses, too,” Watson told Markiewicz. “It’s just part of the technological change that occurs and the move to electronic services, which are more convenient.”

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

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Health reform: Is Obama’s move to co-ops a good one?

In an effort to gain more political support — inside and outside the Beltway — the Obama administration appears willing to embrace insurance cooperatives over a government-run plan, Associated Press reports.

Some believe the government would be much better at containing insurance companies than co-ops would be. Others oppose such direct intervention in the market.

Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry. With $3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government, the co-ops would operate under a national structure with state affiliates, but independent of the government.

Is this a good move? Does it change your mind on supporting or opposing health care reform?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Health reform, pensions, Japanese rebound

There’s been a major development on health care reform.

The Obama administration signaled Sunday that it is willing to embrace insurance cooperatives over a government-run plan, the Associated Press reports.

The move attempts to deal with mounting criticism of President Obama’s reform effort by offering political cover to fiscally conservative Democrats who have opposed the option of government-run insurance.

The shift also leaves open a chance for compromise with Republicans. But that could enrage Obama’s liberal supporters who believe the government option is the best way to keep insurance companies in check.

Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry.

With $3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government, the co-ops would operate under a national structure with state affiliates, but independent of the government, AP reports.

Also in the AJC:

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What do you think of new airline ID requirements?

Do you support the new ID requirements to book a flight?

Travelers will now be asked to give their birthdate and gender when booking flights, along with a full name matching their identification, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes.

The new requirements are part of a Transportation Security Administration program aimed at improving security and reducing misidentification of people on terrorist watch lists.

Have you ever mistakenly ended up on a terrorist watch list?

What do you think of this new policy?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Will this new concept for the old Macy’s building work?

Will the attempt to rejuvenate the glamorous, old downtown Macy’s building work? Would you hold your special event, wedding or big corporate party there?

Construction started this week to transform the three main shopping floors of the 82-year-old historic building on Peachtree Street into an events venue, AJC reporter Rachel Tobin Ramos writes.

During the six years that the bottom floors of this historic building have been shuttered, several ideas were floated that never came to fruition. They included condos, a civil rights museum, a Target and a gallery of retail shops with a food court, Ramos writes.

Now, a team of 25 investors, led by Robert Patterson, is rebranding the building as 200 Peachtree.

The Grand Atrium and The Gallery spaces are scheduled to open in early 2010 for special events. Also, two restaurants are planned, Meehan’s Public House and Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint.

Later, a venue for traveling exhibits will open on the ground floor.

What do you think? …

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Disappointed about Southwest’s loss?

There was a lot of excitement — some expressed by readers of this blog — about the possibility of the dean of low-cost carriers, Southwest Airlines, buying Frontier and landing in Atlanta for the first time.

Well, that’s not going to happen. Republic Airways won the fight for Frontier in bankruptcy court, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes today.

How disappointed are you?

Republic is planning to operate Frontier as a stand-alone carrier. What has been your experience with Frontier in and out of Atlanta?

And have you had experience with Republic? Two of Republic Airways’ other subsidiaries, Chautauqua Airlines and Shuttle America, are regional partners of Delta Air Lines, flying as Delta Connection.

Continue reading Disappointed about Southwest’s loss? »