Archive for March, 2010

Metro Atlanta foreclosures set new monthly record

Metro Atlanta’s foreclosure problem keeps getting worse.

The number of foreclosure notices this month — 12,568 — set a new record for metro Atlanta, according to data just released by Equity Depot.

Foreclosure notices in the 13-county metro area jumped 22 percent when compared with February and 24 percent compared with March of last year, Alpharetta-based Equity Depot said.

This month’s number also is greater than the previous monthly record of 12,318 notices, set in September of last year.

Barry Bramlett, president of Equity Depot, said in an e-mail that the number of foreclosures is “obviously impacted by both the lingering sub-prime [mortgage] mess and [the] economy.” He said there are “increasing commercial [real estate] foreclosures of every business nature.”

The foreclosure notices published this month are for public auctions scheduled on April 6. Bramlett explained that he expected a “bump” this month, partly because the foreclosure auctions on the county steps occur …

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Metro Atlanta unemployment jumps to 10.8 percent

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate jumped to 10.8 percent in January from 10.1 percent in December, the Georgia Labor Department said today.

The number of unemployed workers in the area increased to 289,555, up 22,031 from December.

A year ago, metro Atlanta’s unemployment stood at 8.5 percent, the labor department said.

Previously, the labor department reported that the state’s unemployment rate rose to 10.4 percent in January, topping the former record high of 10.3 percent in December.

This marks the 28th consecutive month that Georgia has exceeded the national jobless rate, which was 9.7 percent.

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Gone fishin’

I’ve taken a few days off.

Please return for Power Breakfast first thing Monday morning. Thanks.

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Sprint CEO focuses on execution

It’s not easy when your company is a distant third in any industry. In fact, many experts believe you have to be in the top two spots — Coke and Pepsi, UPS and FedEx, Home Depot and Lowe’s — to flourish over the long haul.

Dan Hesse

Dan Hesse

It’s also not easy when you have to write off the entire value of a blockbuster merger. Even by today’s Great Recession standards, a $30 billion write-down is a big blemish on your books.

But Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse has had to deal with both challenges since taking the reins two years ago.

With 48 million cellphone customers, Sprint has a mountain to climb to make up ground against Verizon (91 million) and AT&T (85 million). And Hesse has to try to do that even though Sprint is not in the financial position to spend billions of dollars on ad campaigns like his two major rivals have.

Still, given the tough hand he’s been dealt, Hesse seems to have a well-defined strategy he’s in the process of executing.

I talked to Hesse, 56, last week when he …

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Power Breakfast: Sea Island and Grady headed in opposite directions, school cuts, legislature, Home Depot

Today will be the only Power Breakfast this week because I’m taking a few days off. Please come back Tuesday for this week’s business column. Power Breakfast will start again Monday. Thanks.

There are two contrasting stories about storied institutions headed in opposite directions.

AJC reporter Jim Tharpe writes that the once-vaunted Sea Island Co. is awash in debt, badly behind on its loan payments and desperately trying to find a buyer for its five-star portfolio that once seemed immune to the economic whims that batter regular folk.

The company’s downward spiral is a stunning tale of over-borrowing and over-expansion that collided with the worst recession since World War II, a downturn that has pummeled the luxury resort market across the nation.

At the other end of the wealth spectrum, AJC reporter Craig Schneider writes that Grady Memorial Hospital, on the verge of financial collapse about two years ago, has reached financial stability and improved patient care, hospital …

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New study: Toyota owners remain loyal despite recalls

Toyota owners are remaining loyal to the company.

Despite the recall of 8 million vehicles, Toyota owners have not wavered in their support of the automaker, according to a report released today by Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

The study, based on a national sample of 455 U.S. vehicle owners, found that the level of overall satisfaction with their vehicles’ quality was equally high among Toyota owners and owners of other vehicles, according to a news release.

“The recall does not seem to have dampened Toyota owners’ evaluations of their vehicles,” marketing professor Vikas Mittal said in the release. “Before the recalls, Toyota’s reservoir of brand equity was seen as unparalleled among its customer base. That didn’t just vanish. The consistent and high level of satisfaction with the brand experience means that their current customers are viewing this performance lapse as an anomaly.”

The study found that Toyota’s track record created a “brand insulation …

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How’s conflicting job news affecting you?

What do you make of all this mixed news on the jobs front?

Today, the government reported that the national unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent, as payrolls were cut by 36,000 jobs. The previously reported rate in Georgia is currently 10.4 percent.

On the other side of the coin, a new survey says small business in Georgia is starting to improve.

Finally, another story talks about the boomerang trend being adopted by some employers. When many do hire, they often go after former employees.

If you’re unemployed, what have you been experiencing? Has a former boss called you up? Have you contacted him or her?

If you’re a small business owner, are you about to hire again? Are ex-workers on your radar?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Small business improving, Hyundai, college cuts, AT&T, Coke, Toyota, health reform

Before the unemployment numbers come out later this morning to dampen the day, I thought I’d reach for some good news.

A new survey suggests that Georgia’s small businesses, mired in the long economic slump, may be seeing small signs of improvement, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes.

The average paycheck paid by small employers in the state increased 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008. That marks the first such uptick during the recession.

Early indications are that the trend has continued in the first two months of this year, Markiewicz reports.

But not all the news is good. Contract workers, not permanent full-time employees, continue to make up most of the limited amount of  hiring. And more hours  worked by existing employees accounts for most of the paycheck increase, rather than wages earned by newly added employees.

The data was reported in the SurePayroll Scorecard, a national economic indicator that tracks the U.S. small …

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How should Georgia boost biotech?

How do we build up our biotech industry? It should be a more powerful job creator here, given all of our universities, medical operations and the CDC.

Last May, the state spent nearly $2 million hosting biotech’s biggest annual convention at the Georgia World Congress Center. Billed as the debutante ball for the state’s life science industry, Georgia leaders vowed to recoup their investment in the 2009 Bio International Convention, AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes.

It appears they did, Chapman concludes.

A week ago, a Texas blood-testing center announced it would spend $12 million and hire 125 scientists, technicians and support staff for a laboratory in Norcross.

In all, Chapman writes, state economic development officials tallied tens of millions of dollars in investments and hundreds of new jobs in the pharmaceutical, medical device and bio-energy industries over the last fiscal year.

But Georgia still has a long way to go to match North Carolina and Florida, let alone …

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Power Breakfast: Georgia unemployment keeps climbing, census, libraries, foreclosures, health reform

The state’s jobless picture is getting worse with one economist predicting our unemployment rate will rise to 11 percent.

Georgia’s unemployment rate hit a record high of 10.4 percent in January, up from the previous record of 10.3 percent in December, the state Labor Department reported.

“I expect we will hit 11 percent,” UGA economist Jeff Humphreys told AJC reporter Michael Kanell. “I think it will keep inching upward.”

While consistent data have been kept only since the mid-1970s, the state’s labor market is almost certainly at its weakest point since the Great Depression of the 1930s, Kanell writes.

The rate had never hit double digits until August.

“Georgia’s unemployment crisis is deepening,” said Michael Thurmond, the state’s labor commissioner.

Also in the AJC:

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