Archive for January, 2010

Ready for the tablet computer?

It hasn’t been introduced yet, but Apple’s tablet computer should have plenty of apps to run when it is.

The New York Times is reporting that the tablet Apple is widely expected to introduce Wednesday will run applications designed for the iPhone. That’s based on data that an app-tracking company is picking up from devices in use around Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

What’s more, the larger screen — most likely 10 inches diagonally — and other features of the tablet could inspire developers to create new twists on apps, like games that two or more people can easily play at once on the same device, the Times reports.

“Given the success of the iPhone, developers are going to start devoting resources to developing for the bigger format,” Gene Munster, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, told the Times. “The larger screen really plays to the imagination and clearly gives app developers a new kind of canvas.”

How much will all the potential apps …

Continue reading Ready for the tablet computer? »

Power Breakfast: Free-rent deals, job cuts at Sam’s Club, body scanners, Obama, Bernanke, Davos

If you’re searching for an apartment, you’re likely to be enticed with free-rent deals.

Vacancies are rising and rents are falling, creating good conditions for the bargain-hunting tenant, AJC reporter Michelle Shaw writes.

“Of the four communities I’ve talked with, two were offering some sort of free-rent deal,” said LaVelle Johnson, who’s been staying with a relative since losing her job late last year. “On the other hand, the rent advertised at the other two communities was comparable to what the first two were offering, including the discounts.”

Shaw reports that the average rent in Atlanta during the last three months of 2009 was $748, the lowest figure since the third quarter of 2000, according to Alan Wexler, president of Databank Atlanta, which tracks apartment data.

For all of 2009, the average rent was about $756, compared to $774 in 2008. The last time the annual figure was less than $760 was 2004, according to Databank.

Apartment owners and managers are …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Free-rent deals, job cuts at Sam’s Club, body scanners, Obama, Bernanke, Davos »

Microsoft and state team up on free vouchers for tech training

Microsoft and the state are teaming up to provide free online training to workers who want to improve their tech skills to land better jobs.

A total of 30,000 vouchers will be issued to Georgians interested in learning how to use Microsoft Windows or one of its other office programs.

The vouchers also are good for certification exams that will help prove to a prospective employer that the person is proficient at specific computer skills.

Advanced training vouchers are available for professionals interested in Web development or database management.

“This partnership will provide thousands of Georgians with the education and skills required to succeed in the new economy,” Gov. Sonny Perdue said Friday at a Capitol news conference attended by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer pointed out that the need for computer literacy in the workplace is growing dramatically. Now, he said, about half of the jobs in our economy require some computer skills. That will grow to nearly 75 …

Continue reading Microsoft and state team up on free vouchers for tech training »

Power Breakfast: Troubled banks quietly protect customers, Georgia jobless, water ruling, Supreme Court, health care

Here’s another interesting story out of the banking crisis — some institutions in danger of failing quietly helped customers protect their cash.

As Atlanta’s RockBridge Commercial Bank tumbled near collapse last fall, bank officials had more to worry about than saving their company, AJC reporter Paul Donsky writes.

The bank didn’t survive, but virtually all of its customers’ money did.

It’s a pattern that has held throughout Georgia’s banking crisis, Donsky reports. The state leads the nation in bank failures since 2008 with 30, but depositors have emerged relatively unscathed.

The biggest reason, of course, is that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insures deposits up to $250,000 per account.

But even accounts exceeding that limit have largely escaped harm, Donsky writes. In many cases, all it took to insure all of a customer’s cash was for a second account to be opened, perhaps in a spouse’s name.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Troubled banks quietly protect customers, Georgia jobless, water ruling, Supreme Court, health care »

Power Breakfast: Streets of Buckhead, office market, bioenergy, Delta, GM, Buffett, health care

It’s yet another sign that it’s tough to be in commercial real estate.

Streets of Buckhead developer Ben Carter said Wednesday he is in talks with private investors to raise $200 million to resume work on the stalled luxury retail project, AJC reporter Rachel Tobin Ramos writes.

Unable to get a traditional bank loan amid the credit crunch, Carter said he has been seeking private investment money instead — a position many developers are in.

“I think that in the next 30 days we will have selected the investor and have completed an agreement with all existing lenders,” Carter told Ramos. “The goal is to start construction shortly after that.”

John Leonard, vice president and regional manager in Atlanta for real estate investment firm Marcus & Millichap, said Carter will have to pay higher interest rates on new investment money, at a time when there’s a downward pressures on retail rents, especially in Buckhead.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Streets of Buckhead, office market, bioenergy, Delta, GM, Buffett, health care »

Final part: Answers to your credit questions

Today is the last in a Biz Beat series featuring your credit questions, with answers provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

If you have a question about credit card debt, worried about foreclosure, or in need of budget counseling, you can call CCCS at 1-800-251-2227.

I’d like to thank everyone who participated and hope it was helpful.

Q: I’m considering a loan modification. I can make the current payment, but I have some expenses on the horizon this year related to college. Is getting set up in this new agreement going to impact my credit scores? How can I avoid a negative impact on my credit history? Should I try to do a regular refinance?

A: If you change the terms to your existing loan, which is what a loan modification does, your credit score could drop. Typically a loan modification drops the monthly payment by reducing the interest rate, or by extending the length of the loan.

If you can qualify for refinancing, that would indicate your …

Continue reading Final part: Answers to your credit questions »

Part 4: Experts answer your credit questions

Here’s another installment of answers to your credit and debt questions, provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

Please return Thursday for the final part.

Q: I financed 100% of the price of my home in 2007 with a conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Because I financed at 100% I also pay private mortgage insurance. I enrolled in a payment plan that takes half the mortgage payment biweekly and consequently I make a 13th principal only payment each year.

My husband and I are thankfully both still employed but our household income will be cut by 6% beginning this month. Previously I called the mortgage company to see if my payment could be lowered. I asked to have the private mortgage insurance removed and I was told no because I have not paid the mortgage down to 80%. Essentially, they didn’t offer me any relief because I was not behind on the mortgage. Are there any things in particular that a homeowner can request to receive relief prior to …

Continue reading Part 4: Experts answer your credit questions »

Power Breakfast: Dems rethinking after Mass. loss, public safety tax, Haiti, flooded homes, lottery, texting bill

Now what?

Reeling from the loss of a long-held Massachusetts Senate seat, Democrats are rethinking the lessons of Barack Obama’s 2008 election, with the GOP cheerfully suggesting they scale back their ambitions and agenda, Associated Press writes.

Republican Scott Brown’s win in a liberal state will do more than vastly complicate Obama’s bid to overhaul the U.S. health care system. It will send his party into a painful re-examination of voters’ anger and desires ahead of the November elections for Congress, governorships and state legislatures, AP writes.

Questions will include whether Americans really want more government help in matters such as obtaining health insurance, even though Obama campaigned on that very issue.

Most immediately, Brown’s win Tuesday over Martha Coakley to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy will deprive Democrats of a filibuster-proof Senate majority. That could kill the Democrats’ effort to revamp health care unless House Democrats reluctantly …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Dems rethinking after Mass. loss, public safety tax, Haiti, flooded homes, lottery, texting bill »

Part 3: Answers to your credit questions

Here’s the new installment of answers to your credit questions,  provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.

Please return Wednesday for more answers.

Q: Recently I had a credit card that went from 12.99 percent interest to 29.99 percent. With the interest rate being increased, this caused my account to go over the limit, at which time they also added an extra fee for being over the limit. When I contacted the company I was told that they could do this as their company had problems with people paying. I asked the cistpmer service rep to check as I had never been late, never been over my limit, and always paid more than the minimum. The answer was yes you have good credit, but they raised the rate because a new law is coming into effect in February. I was told there was nothing I could do. I used the card over Christmas, but I wasn’t expecting the extra fees. What can I do?

A: Counselors at CCCS are hearing similar stories from clients in advance of …

Continue reading Part 3: Answers to your credit questions »

Veteran car dealer rides over rocky road

Charles Oglesby has been through a lot in his 38 years selling cars, but nothing like the past two years.

Charles Oglesby

Charles Oglesby

As CEO of Duluth-based Asbury Automotive Group, the sixth largest car retailer in the country with 81 locations in 11 states, Oglesby saw:

– The stock price plummet to $1.60 a share from a high of $29.82. That prompted a warning letter about possibly getting delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.

– A credit crunch that squeezed his business — sales dropped to about $3.5 billion last year, from $5.5 billion two years before.

– A quarterly loss of $2.5 million at the end of 2008.

But all that was just a prelude to a more intense crisis. Oglesby, 63, and his management team were sent scrambling by an auditor’s letter saying there was “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”

That letter, dated March 16, 2009, meant that more than $500 million in debt could be immediately recalled by the firm’s lenders. If that had …

Continue reading Veteran car dealer rides over rocky road »