Archive for October, 2009

Atlanta tops for retirees during recession — really?

The sun is out again today, so there’s another list of top places for one thing or another.

Forbes magazine says Atlanta top its list of  “America’s recession-proof places to retire.” The city’s number of sunny days and affordable housing are two reasons.

What do you think? Are we really No. 1 for the golden years? Our unemployment rate, for example, is higher than the national average, so retirees seeking supplemental income may find it tough here.

Also, with so many surveys like this out there on so many subjects, how much attention do you pay to lists like these? Do you find them helpful or more hype than value?

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Kia puts premium on training

I’ve heard rumors that there’s a recession and companies are looking to save money anywhere they can.

Randy Jackson

Randy Jackson

I’ve also heard rumors that the auto industry is not doing so well.

So why would Kia Motors fly 800 newly hired employees in West Point – mostly production workers – to Korea to learn their jobs?

Maybe the trips are not as expensive as I think. Maybe the company is saving on air fare by shipping them all UPS.

In any case, Randy Jackson, who’s been chiefly responsible for preparing the plant to begin operating next month, wouldn’t disclose the tab.

“It’s very expensive, but it’s an investment,” Jackson, 52, said. “They were over there experiencing the equipment and … picking up cultural differences. … We’re also flying more than 100 Korean trainers here.”

With a $1 billion investment at stake, Kia appears to be focusing on the long haul ­– especially in hiring and training.

“Putting in the manufacturing system is not that …

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Power Breakfast: SunTrust keeps market share lead, 1,500 temp jobs, daycare, flood meeting, new Toyota hybrid

The French were right — the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After one of the most tumultuous years in banking history, a familiar name remains atop a list of the largest banks in the metro Atlanta: SunTrust.

AJC reporter Paul Donsky writes that the Atlanta-based bank held more than 23 percent of the metro area’s bank deposits, according to a new report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The No. 2 lender by deposits was Wachovia, with a 19 percent share. That’s roughly the same as last year, though the gap between the bank and SunTrust has shrunk from seven percentage points to four.

Donsky reports that SunTrust officials said the decline in market share reflects the bank’s effort to reduce the amount of wholesale “brokered” deposits, which are more expensive and volatile than checking accounts and other kinds of “core” customer deposits.

Rounding out the metro area’s top five were Bank of America, BB&T and Bank of North Georgia.

Also in the …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: SunTrust keeps market share lead, 1,500 temp jobs, daycare, flood meeting, new Toyota hybrid »

Rethinking cable TV service?

Recently, AJC reporter Carrie Teegardin wrote about consumers who were upset with Comcast’s move to all-digital TV service.

They complained about new monthly charges for the required boxes, poor customer assistance, slow channel changing and long lines to pick up equipment.

Comcast faces more competition these days, however, with the arrival of AT&T’s new U-verse TV service. That service is now being rolled out in metro Atlanta. In addition, there is also competition from the satellite TV companies.

Are you thinking about switching out of cable TV? Or are you satisfied? Why or why not?

In this era of high-definition channels, which service is the best?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Oil prices: Time for concern?

Oil prices jumped above $79 a barrel to a 2009 high Monday in Asia.

They have been creeping up recently with news of the beginnings of an economic turnaround. But if they start rising too fast, they could affect the pace of the recovery.

In Atlanta, gas prices average about $2.40 a gallon, which is up from about $2.25 a gallon a week ago, according to Still, they’re considerably below the $2.76 a gallon of a year ago.

What do you think is driving up the price –  our declining dollar or demand? Our government’s piling on more debt or greedy oil companies?

Also, are you starting to look at the pump prices more closely? Doing anything differently?

Or are there more important things to be concerned about right now with unemployment at 10.1 percent in Georgia?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Growing bank problems, airport delays, oil prices shoot up

The second shoe is about to drop on some Georgia banks.

Many Georgia banks face a growing danger — a deteriorating market for shopping centers, office buildings and other commercial property, AJC reporter Paul Donsky writes.

This comes on top of the bad residential real estate market that got them into trouble in the first place.

For months, Donsky writes, experts have said a wave of commercial real estate problems is on the way. Retail and office vacancies are rising, and remaining tenants are demanding lower rents. As a result, rental income is dropping and the value of properties is falling, making it difficult for borrowers to make loan payments and refinance loans when they come due.

“Loans are not worth as much now,” said Henry Lorber, an Atlanta consultant who advises banks on how to deal with troubled real estate loans. “All hell is going to break loose, because [borrowers] cannot refinance those loans.”

Still, Donsky points out, most of Georgia’s 300 small, …

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Power Breakfast: Stimulus saving jobs, BofA, Pike, holiday travel, oil prices

The federal stimulus money is coming in handy with Georgia’s unemployment rate stuck at 10.1 percent.

Stimulus spending on road projects, schools, public safety and other areas has created or saved more than 23,000 jobs in the state, AJC reporter Jeremy Redmon writes.

A total of 18 state agencies have spent $702 million of the $3.2 billion allocated to them since the president signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February. That resulted in 23,879 jobs created or retained in Georgia, according to a state report obtained by the AJC.

That breaks down to $29,380 spent per job across the state.

According to the study, 12,923 jobs were retained – mostly in local public school systems — after the state spent so-called “fiscal stabilization” funds — stimulus money intended to shore up local and state government budgets amid the recession.

State officials have cautioned not to draw strong conclusions from the numbers yet, as only a fraction of the $6.4 billion set …

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Investor tips for the next bear market

Fear caused many small investors to miss the recent stock market rally. While understandable, emotional investment decisions can be very short-sighted. offers the following tips to consider the next time we’re in the middle of a bear market:

  • The stock market turns up when pessimism is rampant.
  • A bear market associated with a recession almost always ends in the middle of the economic downturn.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of government intervention in the economy.
  • The worst are often first — at least at the outset. Stocks of companies that are small and weak, which often have had the stuffing beaten out of them during the down period, typically lead the way at the start of the bull market.
  • Once you decide to get in, don’t wait for a correction — there’s no telling when it will come.

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Special $250 payment to seniors?

President Obama attempted to preempt today’s announcement that Social Security recipients will not get an increase in their benefit checks for the first time in three decades by encouraging Congress to provide a one-time payment of $250 to help seniors and disabled Americans weather the recession, the Washington Post reports.

Obama endorsed the idea, which is expected to cost at least $13 billion, as the administration looks for ways to sustain an apparent economic rebound without the kind of massive spending package that critics could label a second stimulus act, the Post writes.

An increase in benefit checks each January has been a yearly ritual since the mid-1970s, when the government moved to ensure that its subsidies to retirees, pension recipients and others who receive Social Security benefits kept pace with inflation.

Today’s announcement by the Labor Department will mark the first time that the federal formula used since then, which is tied to the consumer price …

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Power Breakfast: Small investors miss Dow rally, Clayton mass transit, Southern Co., lottery, Social Security

The big business news yesterday was the Dow hitting 10,000 for the first time in a year.

But there’s an interesting story in the Washington Post today about small investors missing this rally.

Still shell-shocked from the ravaging of their retirement accounts during the financial crisis, mom-and-pop investors remained cautious as the Dow soared 53 percent from its March 9 low to Wednesday’s closing price of 10,015.86, the Post writes.

The likely drivers of the rally are instead institutional investors such as large pension funds and hedge funds, market analysts said. And in interviews over the past two weeks, fund managers and financial advisers said most small investors have only recently begun to talk about getting more aggressive with their beaten-down portfolios.

In the AJC:

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