Archive for October, 2009

Now what for the economy? More government stimulus?

Now what?

The economy expanded at a surprisingly strong 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter. It’s also likely to post a decent gain in the fourth quarter, although not as strong, according to many economists.

Much of that growth can be attributed to government spending, namely from Uncle Sam.

But federal programs to encourage consumer spending on cars and houses are expiring.

What’s more, companies remain reluctant to hire. In fact, most economists expect unemployment to continue to rise into next year. That could cause the economy to limp along for quite some time.

So should the government do more to stimulate consumer spending and business investment,  such as extend the home-buyer tax credit and pump an extra $250 into seniors’ bank accounts? Perhaps, a tax credit for expanding businesses?

Or has the deficit grown too large already, meaning we’ll just have to tough it out until consumers and businesses return to the driver’s seat?

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Power Breakfast: Water war, Aflac, clunkers, GDP, health care

This is not good news in what arguably is the most important long-term issue facing our region — water.

Gov. Sonny Perdue and members of Congress are pointing their fingers at one another.

Perdue called on Congress on Thursday to help settle Georgia’s water rights dispute with Alabama and Florida — a day after congressmen from all three states said Perdue and the other two governors needed to take action, AJC reporters Jeremy Redmon and Bob Keefe write.

Perdue repeated his call on Congress to create a national water policy that could resolve the long-standing legal case concerning the Atlanta region’s reliance on Lake Lanier for drinking water, the reporters write.

Perdue and others have pointed out that there are dozens of federally managed lakes in other states that, like Lanier, are used for municipal water supplies even though they aren’t specifically authorized for that purpose.

The governor’s renewed request came after federal lawmakers from Georgia, Alabama and Florida …

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After job cuts, do survivors pay a bigger emotional toll than those laid off?

Is the emotional toll from job cuts worse on those who get laid off or those who survive?

New research says, perhaps surprisingly, that survivors can suffer just as much, if not more, than colleagues who get laid off, Business Week reports.

Researchers embedded themselves at Boeing from 1996 to 2006, a tumultuous decade during which the company laid off tens of thousands, Business Week says. The results of the study will appear next year in a Yale University Press book called “Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers.”

“How much better off the laid-off were was stunning and shocking to us,” says Sarah Moore, a University of Puget Sound industrial psychology professor who is one of the book’s four authors. “So much of the literature talks about how dreadful unemployment is.”

But the researchers discovered that the people who had been laid off often were happier than those left behind, Business Week reports. Many had new jobs, even if they didn’t always …

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Reminder: Special foreclosure help available today

Consumers in jeopardy of losing their home may benefit from attending a special foreclosure-prevention program this afternoon.

The event, which will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Homeowners who plan to attend are urged to bring all necessary paperwork, including recent pay stubs, mortgage documents, tax returns and bank statements.

The event is being organized by the HOPE NOW Alliance, in partnership with the Obama administration’s Making Home Affordable program, NeighborWorks® America and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

“This is the best opportunity for at-risk homeowners, and families facing foreclosure, to sit down face-to-face with their mortgage servicer or housing counselor, and work on a viable solution for saving their home,” Eric Selk, Director of Outreach for HOPE NOW, said in a statement.

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Power Breakfast: Office vacancies keep rising, Delta, CCE, Wachovia, stimulus

This recession has really clobbered commercial real estate here.

AJC reporter Gertha Coffee writes that it could take more than a decade to fill all the vacant office space in metro Atlanta.

The glut of commercial space — most apparent in Buckhead with more than 3 million square feet of empty space — challenges any thoughts of constructing new towers in metro Atlanta for years to come, Coffee writes.

Overall, the metro Atlanta office market has 24 million square feet of vacant office space. The absorption rate — move-ins vs. move-outs — showed 59,000 square feet of negative absorption in the third quarter of 2009, according to a report by Richard Bowers & Co.

That was the fourth consecutive quarter of negative absorption and the second longest period of negative absorption since the company started tracking the Atlanta office market in 1987.

As it stands, Coffee reports, metro Atlanta’s office vacancy rate for the third quarter was 18.1 percent, up from 15.7 percent for the …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Office vacancies keep rising, Delta, CCE, Wachovia, stimulus »

What should be done with Georgia Dome?

The future of the Georgia Dome — and whether the Atlanta Falcons continue to nest there — is up in the air, so to speak.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the state organization that oversees the football arena, agreed Tuesday to pay the Kansas City architecture firm, Populous, $145,000 to propose a master plan for the Dome, reports AJC staffer Leon Stafford.

Dan Graveline, executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center, said the Populous study would look at the merits of renovating the current Dome or building a new stadium.

The study will take into consideration building a new dome, an open-air arena or having a retractable roof, Stafford writes. It also will look at the cost of gutting the current building and starting over.

The decision could affect whether Falcons owner Arthur Blank decides to keep the team downtown or look to the burbs.

What do you think should happen to the Dome? How much public money should be spent?

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Special foreclosure help available Thursday

Consumers in jeopardy of losing their home may benefit from attending a special foreclosure-prevention program Thursday.

The event, which will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Homeowners who plan to attend are urged to bring all necessary paperwork, including recent pay stubs, mortgage documents, tax returns and bank statements.

The event is being organized by the HOPE NOW Alliance, in partnership with the Obama administration’s Making Home Affordable program, NeighborWorks® America and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

“This is the best opportunity for at-risk homeowners, and families facing foreclosure, to sit down face-to-face with their mortgage servicer or housing counselor, and work on a viable solution for saving their home,” Eric Selk, Director of Outreach for HOPE NOW, said in a statement.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Special foreclosure help available Thursday »

Power Breakfast: Public hearing here on bank crisis, Georgia Dome, Coke, UPS, GMAC

Georgia has led the nation in bank failures and members of Congress are coming to town to hear about their effect.

U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich, a liberal Democrat from Ohio, and Lynn Westmoreland, a conservative Republican from Coweta County, plan to hold a public hearing at the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, reports AJC writer Bob Keefe.

They want to hear about how the high rate of bank failures in Georgia is affecting commercial and residential real estate markets.

Most of the failures have been small community banks, a major source of real estate loans in many towns .

But while federal grants through the Troubled Asset Relief Program helped prop up some of the nation’s biggest banks and financial institutions, “the little banks are getting the shaft,” Westmoreland said in an interview with Keefe.

“That’s causing a snowball effect,” he said. “You can imagine what it does to the rest of the economy.”

The hearing comes as some in Congress are considering injecting federal …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Public hearing here on bank crisis, Georgia Dome, Coke, UPS, GMAC »

Economist: Local unemployment to start falling dramatically in second quarter of 2010

It seems to be too rosy of an employment picture, but I hope he’s right.

After a few more rough quarters, University of West Georgia economist William “Joey” Smith predicted that local and state unemployment will fall dramatically beginning in next year’s second quarter.

Smith predicted that metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate would drop to 9.2 percent in the second quarter, from 10.4 percent in the first quarter, according to a university statement today. The statement was issued in conjunction with the university’s annual economic forecasting breakfast.

“The good news is the bad news is close to being over,” Smith said in the statement. “The recovery so far has been driven by optimism in the stock market and a bounce in consumer confidence.”

By the fourth quarter of next year, Smith said metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate would retreat to 6.5 percent. That would be an enormous decline from the current rate of 10.5 percent.

For the state, Smith predicted Georgia’s …

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Turner exec questions, listens before plotting growth abroad

Expand overseas.

That’s been the prescription laid out for many U.S.-based companies facing the twin challenges of a mature market for their brands here, along with a still-faltering economy.

Louise Sams

Louise Sams

Business execs often salivate when they think about the large, ripe markets of India, China and Brazil, among others. But like any worthwhile venture, there can be plenty of risk.

Enter Louise Sams, president of Turner Broadcasting’s international operations. For six years, Sams, a Decatur native and Princeton grad, has run Turner’s TV networks around the globe.

By next year, Sams will oversee more than 2,400 employees at 104 Turner channels in 180 countries. But that’s still relatively small potatoes, since international represents less than 15 percent of Turner’s revenue, which is about $7 billion annually.

“We’re trying to broaden our portfolio of channels and we’re trying to get content anywhere the consumer wants it,” Sams, 51, said during an interview last week in her …

Continue reading Turner exec questions, listens before plotting growth abroad »