Archive for January, 2010

Wanted: Ideas to create more jobs in Georgia

Dear Georgia Workers and Employers:

Now it’s your turn.

Last month in this column, I urged state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond to call a jobs summit to seek ideas for reducing the biggest problem we face right now — double-digit unemployment. I got the idea from Thurmond, who had been quietly talking about it for months, but he was reluctant to pull the trigger.

Michael Thurmond

Michael Thurmond

Two weeks after I wrote about it, Thurmond announced an all-day summit for Monday at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. The goal is to bring together the “best minds,” as Thurmond puts it, from academia, business, government and labor to come up with promising job-creating measures. Democrats and Republicans are supposed to leave their politics at the door and help develop a practical, bipartisan strategy.

Well, the “best minds” also include you. While the meeting will be open to the public, most of you will not be able to attend. So, if you have a good idea, please go to …

Continue reading Wanted: Ideas to create more jobs in Georgia »

Atlanta foreclosures drop in January

The foreclosure picture improved in metro Atlanta with the first January-to-January decline in 10 years, according to data released today.

A total of 8,181 foreclosure notices were published in January in a 13-county metro area — down 3 percent from last January and 21 percent from December, according to Alpharetta-based Equity Depot. The notices published this month are for public auctions scheduled in February.

Equity Depot President Barry Bramlett said one reason is that the “sub-prime” mortgage crisis is getting cleaned up. The majority of foreclosures are now related to the economy and unemployment.

Bramlett also said a higher percentage of commercial property is being foreclosed on, while fewer residential loans are in the foreclosure pipeline. So with residential lending much bigger than the commercial sector, the decline in overall foreclosures is understandable, Bramlett said.

Still, he cautioned, it “may be too early to read too much in. … Could just be a …

Continue reading Atlanta foreclosures drop in January »

Credit card help is on the way — experts to answer your questions

Do you have a debt hangover after the holidays?

Need an answer to a credit card question?

Experts at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta may be able to help. Typically, January is the busiest month for CCCS as consumers wrestle with their holiday credit-card bills.

If you have a specific question for CCCS, please post it below. Beginning Thursday, answers to some of your questions will be provided on this blog.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Credit card help is on the way — experts to answer your questions »

Power Breakfast: Rural banks hurting, JAL rejects Delta cash, free office space, Heineken buys Femsa, AOL-Time

Georgia’s banking crisis is spreading to more rural parts of the state.

AJC reporter Paul Donsky writes that banks from the North Georgia mountains to the onion fields outside Vidalia are reporting mounting losses and rapidly expanding pools of bad loans, just like their metro Atlanta counterparts.

As if to underscore the trend, federal regulators recently slapped five Georgia banks with enforcement actions — only one of which was in metro Atlanta. The others were in north and central Georgia.

The root of the problem is common to Georgia banks of all stripes: real estate loans that soured after the housing bubble burst.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Rural banks hurting, JAL rejects Delta cash, free office space, Heineken buys Femsa, AOL-Time »

How do you like working from home?

If you don’t normally work from home but relented to the snow and ice today, how’s it going?

Can you get a lot done or do too many distractions get in the way?

Do you think more companies should start telecommuting programs — not only because of the weather, but to reduce our infamous traffic congestion?

Continue reading How do you like working from home? »

Power Breakfast: More commercial real estate ills, Barnes, SunTrust, senior drug benefit, gas prices, jobs data later today

It’s another sign that it’s going to be a tough year for commercial real estate.

With up to 46 stories and a dramatic, back-lit opening near the crown, 50 Allen Plaza promised to change the city’s skyline and further cement Allen Plaza’s position as downtown Atlanta’s hottest new address, AJC reporter Paul Donsky writes. But construction of the office tower, planned during the height of the real estate boom, never started as the local economy nose-dived.

Now, the project’s lender has started foreclosure proceedings on the property, a 1.6-acre tract located on the northern edge of downtown, after the developer, Barry Real Estate, apparently failed to pay on two loans worth a total of $9.5 million, Donsky reports.

Barry Real Estate’s chairman, Hal Barry, said he still hopes to work a deal with lender BB&T to avoid foreclosure.

It’s the latest high-profile Atlanta project to fall into trouble. Greenbriar Mall in southwest Atlanta has been threatened with foreclosure over …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: More commercial real estate ills, Barnes, SunTrust, senior drug benefit, gas prices, jobs data later today »

Power Breakfast: Atlanta home prices stabilize, new AT&T lab, Delta-JAL opposition, Microsoft, Las Vegas tech show

The local housing picture is stabilizing, but still has a long way to go to fully recover, AJC reporter Michelle Shaw writes.

Sale prices were down 0.7 percent over the past 13 months, according to the Clear Capital Home Data Index, released Wednesday.

It is the smallest decline the metro Atlanta area has seen in three years, the data revealed.

Though that may look hopeful, that home prices in the metro area ended 2009 nearly flat compared to the year before, the reality is 2008 was one of the worst years on record for housing prices, said Alex Villacorta, a senior statistician for Clear Capital.

“That 0.7 percent does look hopeful, but the reality is we’re still down 32.7 percent from where we were at the peak of prices in mid-2006,” he said of the Atlanta area.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Atlanta home prices stabilize, new AT&T lab, Delta-JAL opposition, Microsoft, Las Vegas tech show »

Is 3-D TV in your future?

Are you up for 3-D TV? Better yet, will you dip into your bank account for it?

Two major cable networks — ESPN and Discovery — said they plan to start beaming 3-D entertainment into viewers’ homes for the first time, Associated Press reports.

ESPN said it will have a 3-D channel for broadcasting live sports events in time for the FIFA World Cup soccer match on June 11. The channel will not operate 24 hours a day, but plans at least 85 live events in its first year, AP writes.

Separately, Discovery Communications Inc., which ownsDiscovery, TLC and other cable channels, said it will partner with Imax Corp. and Sony Corp. to bring out its own full-time 3-D network in 2011.

But consumers will likely have to buy new TV sets and wear 3-D glasses.

Is the experience worth it to you? Why or why not?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Ads on fire hydrants — what’s next?

Is nothing sacred? Not even a fire hydrant can escape an ad campaign.

KFC is giving two Indiana cities $7,500 so it can emblazon founder Colonel Sanders’ face on their hydrants and fire extinguishers to promote new “fiery” chicken wings, Associated Press reports.

KFC told Indianapolis and nearby Brazil, Ind., it wanted to improve their fire safety by helping pay for new hydrants and extinguishers in exchange for advertising on them.

AP says the company plans to e-mail a national network of mayors on Wednesday to find three more cities to participate.

Should Atlanta or some other local government here raise its hand?

Experts told AP to expect more ads like this. Companies want to cut through the clutter of traditional advertising and cash-strapped governments need the money.

Are you OK with this or does it seem over the edge?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: GE footprint growing in Atlanta, Gwinnett court defeat, health reform, forensics

GE is beefing up in Atlanta.

The metro area could benefit from a corporate restructuring at General Electric even though no jobs are scheduled to move to the area as a result, AJC staffers David Markiewicz and Kristi Swartz report.

The company said it is shifting control of its electrical operations from the Louisville, Ky.-based Consumer & Industrial division to the Atlanta-based GE Energy unit.

While the electrical operations unit’s 11,000 employees won’t be coming to town, anything that boosts the size of GE’s Atlanta-based units could have benefits down the road as business expands, the reporters write.

GE’s corporate headquarters is located in Fairfield, Conn. But the two units based in metro Atlanta employ about 3,300 workers.

GE Energy generated revenue of $39 billion in 2008. The Technology Infrastructure unit, which includes medical equipment and services, generated $46 billion.

Meanwhile, GE’s other two units, which are not based in Atlanta, are undergoing …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: GE footprint growing in Atlanta, Gwinnett court defeat, health reform, forensics »