Archive for February, 2010

Metro Atlanta foreclosures skyrocket this month

Foreclosure notices in metro Atlanta jumped 27 percent in February, compared with January. They were up 34 percent when compared to a year ago, according to data just released from Equity Depot.

“Residential foreclosures basically run across the board in every price range,” Barry Bramlett, president of Alpharetta-based Equity Depot, said in an e-mail. “Commercial properties [are] clearly on the rise.”

There were 10,357 foreclosure notices published in February in the 13-county metro area. That compared with 8,181 in January and 7,701 a year ago, Equity Depot said. The notices published this month are for public auctions scheduled in March.

In January, there was short-lived decline, Bramlett said, “probably due to [foreclosure] moratoriums some lenders put in place over the holidays.”

This month, Gwinnett led the pack with 2,163 foreclosure notices, followed by Fulton with 2,008. DeKalb was third (1,511), followed by Cobb (1,243) and Clayton (821).

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Should more be done to create jobs?

With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent and employers still cutting payrolls, do you think the government should do more to create jobs?

Some tax and other business incentives are being proposed that will help in limited ways. But this massive jobless problem continues to drag down the economy. It will take several years just to get back the 8.4 million jobs that have been lost since this recession started.

So, do we dig a bigger budget hole and try to have another large stimulus program to get more people back to work and hopefully reignite the economy?

Or do we tough it out, given the already large deficit and the fact that the first stimulus had a smaller impact than expected?

On a personal note, if you’re unemployed, how are you making it? How tough is it to even get in the door for an interview? Have you had an interesting success story you could share that people might learn from?

If you’re working, has employment stabilized at your company or are you still …

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Power Breakfast: Bank troubles grow, Toyota recall, Delta, AirTran, job losses, China and US chicken

The state’s banking crisis keeps getting worse.

The number of troubled Georgia banks grew to 64 at the end of last year, AJC staffer Paul Donsky reports.

That’s up from 57 in the third quarter and 49 in the second quarter, based on a measure of bank health known as the “Texas ratio.”

The Texas ratio measures a bank’s problem loans against its capital on hand to absorb losses. While regulators don’t release an official list of troubled banks, the Texas ratio serves as an informal misery index that circulates widely among bankers and analysts, Donsky writes.

A ratio of 100 or more means a bank has more problem loans than capital on hand to absorb losses. Topping Georgia’s list: tiny McIntosh Commercial Bank in Carrollton. McIntosh had a ratio of 884, one of the highest in the nation, according to Atlanta-based FIG Partners, a bank consulting firm.

In all, 16 Georgia banks joined the list in the fourth quarter and eight others fell off because they failed.

Also in the AJC:

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Power Breakfast: Landlords pursue medical tenants, Toyota, foreclosure on shelter, Google, health care, China

With metro Atlanta’s retail vacancy rate at 11 percent, shopping center owners are going after more health-care tenants, AJC staffer Gertha Coffee reports.

Shopping centers are ideal for physical therapists, dental providers, urgent-care doctors, chiropractors, family physicians and other independent practices, said Bob Wordes, of Atlanta-based Shopping Center Group.

“Facilities are on the ground, occupancy costs are a lot less than building a new building and customers are drawn to shopping centers,” he said. “The fact that people can access doctors a lot closer to their homes is a positive thing. I think the trend will continue.”

From a landlord’s perspective, Coffee writes, credit for a group of doctors is easier to get than for the typical retail store owner.

The current downturn has a lot to do with the trend, said Scott Shuman of the Arnall Golden Gregory law firm. “Retail shopping center owners are re-evaluating how they do business,” he said. “I don’t think once the …

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What’s going on with Toyota?

What’s happening? Toyota, a company known for decades for extremely high quality, is getting the opposite reputation right now.

First the gas pedals. Now the brakes on the popular Prius hybrid.

What do you think is going on? Growing too fast? Losing focus? Bad coincidence?

And what can Toyota do now to earn your trust back? Or is it too late?

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Power Breakfast: UPS chief says recession over, new Georgia bank, Chick-fil-A, SBA, AIG, Toyota

UPS is known as a bellwether company because it deals with all sectors of the global economy in its package shipping business.

So I certainly hope UPS CEO Scott Davis is right when he declared Tuesday an end to the recession, according to a story by AJC reporter Rachel Tobin Ramos.

“It looks like this recession is finally over and believe it or not, that makes 21 that UPS has successfully managed through,” Davis told analysts.

The company, which was founded in 1907, will restore raises to about 40,000 managers at a cost of $100 million, chief financial officer Kurt Kuehn told Ramos.

Still, the company is proceeding with a plan to eliminate 1,800 positions, in part by asking 1,100 management and administrative employees to retire early.

The move will cost the company about $80 million in the first quarter of 2010, but produce annual savings of about $160 million to $170 million, starting in 2011. The benefit won’t be felt in 2010 as employees are moved and retrained, Kuehn …

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AIG bonuses — deja vu all over again?

What do you think about round two of AIG bonuses?

The Washington Post is reporting that American International Group plans Wednesday to pay another round of employee bonuses worth about $100 million, a year after similar payments at the bailed-out insurance giant infuriated many Americans and inflamed Washington.

This week’s retention payments will go only to employees at the company’s Financial Products division who agreed recently to accept 10 to 20 percent less money than AIG had initially promised them years ago, the Post reports, citing  several people familiar with the matter. In return, they are receiving their payments more than a month ahead of schedule.

The company is still scheduled to pay out tens of millions of dollars more in March, mostly to former employees who did not agree to the concessions, the Post reports.

AIG executives have been scrambling to hammer out a compromise before March 15, when the firm faces a deadline to pay nearly $200 million in …

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer looks into future

I have a confession to make. I’m not very swift with technology. Those who know me know that.

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer

So I may not have been the best person to interview Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer when he came to town recently. I only can you give the bare bones of his view of our high-tech future before discussing a topic I do know something about — business leadership or the lack of it.

On the tech front, Ballmer actually was quite clear. He’s expecting a high-tech world in which computers and other devices will be able to anticipate more of our intentions, and then take the appropriate actions to help us.

Now, for example, he said search engines only understand what we’re looking for about half the time. That needs to improve — and will improve — through innovation. His company alone is spending $9.5 billion on R&D this year.

“You innovate or you die,” Ballmer, 53, said.

Consumers can expect computers to do a better job at voice recognition and understanding down the road. Screens …

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Power Breakfast: Competition makes difference in fares, property taxes, CDC, lottery, Obama’s budget

Competition makes a difference when it comes to price.

If there’s any doubt, writes AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi, take a look at Savannah a year after AirTran pulled its flights. The move left Delta as the dominant airline flying between Atlanta and Savannah, and people in Savannah are unhappy about the fares.

In the third quarter of 2009, Savannah/Hilton Head International was the only airport in the nation to see higher air fares compared with a year earlier, according to the most recent federal report on domestic fares at the nation’s top 100 airports, Yamanouchi writes.

Savannah fares increased 2.5 percent to an average of $396 per round trip at a time when fares at all the other airports declined amid recession and slow travel demand.

Savannah business leaders have complained to Delta Air Lines.

“The disparity in fares on Delta traffic into and out of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is having a negative effect, not only on our tourism but also on our local …

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What do you think of Toyota’s fix?

Toyota Motor Corp. is telling dealers that they should get parts to fix sticky gas pedals later this week, Associated Press reported.

But the 4.2 million customers affected by the recall may have to wait a while for repairs because technicians will need to be trained.

Do you think Toyota is acting appropriately and quickly enough?

If you own an affected car, are you still worried? Are you still driving it?

Longer term, do you think Toyota will be able to rebound from this or will many consumers just go elsewhere in the future?

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