Archive for June, 2010

Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate rises slightly to 9.9 percent

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent in May — up from a revised 9.8 percent in April, the state labor department reported Thursday.

The number of unemployed workers in the metro area increased by 3,113 to reach 262,571, the labor department said. A year ago, the jobless rate was 9.2 percent.

“We will not see a significant improvement in Georgia’s job market until small businesses begin hiring, which will lay a solid foundation for a sustainable economic recovery,” Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said in a statement.

Last week, the labor department reported that Georgia’s jobless rate fell to 10.2 percent in May, from 10.3 percent in April. It was the 32nd consecutive month Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is now 9.7 percent.

On the positive side, the number of jobs in metro Atlanta increased  for the fourth consecutive month. There were 2,272,800 payroll jobs in May — an increase of 0.7 percent from April.

Also in May, …

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Planning to buy Apple’s new iPhone 4?

The Wall Street Journal calls Apple’s new iPhone 4, which will be officially rolled out Thursday, “a major leap forward” over its predecessor in both hardware and software.

It has some downsides, the WSJ says. The most important one is the overwhelmed AT&T network in the U.S.

But overall, “Apple has delivered a big, well-designed update that … keeps it in the lead in the smartphone wars,” the WSJ says in a comprehensive review.

Are you planning to buy one? Why or why not?

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Power Breakfast: Peanuts escape airplane ban, transit money, BP, Cobb retirements, China strikes, Fed

The Georgia peanut industry is flying high.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is backing off from a proposed rule that could have banned peanuts on airplanes, after realizing it didn’t have the legal authority to do so, AJC  reporter Bob Keefe writes.

The DOT has issued a clarification stating that it was wrong when it issued an official notice of proposed rulemaking earlier this month, Keefe reports. Such a peanut ban would have violated a 2000 appropriations act that funds the DOT, the agency acknowledged.

The DOT’s original peanut ban proposal on June 8 drew cheers from peanut allergy sufferers but scorn from Georgia’s peanut growers and the politicians who represent them, Keefe writes. Georgia is the country’s biggest peanut producer.

“This is great news for all peanut producers, especially those in Georgia,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Albany, whose district includes numerous peanut farms.

Also in the AJC:

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The right PR strategy for a company crisis

First Toyota. Now BP.

The two global companies were tone deaf when a crisis erupted. But why? I thought the practice of “crisis communications” was a lot more advanced than it has played out recently.

Karen Kaplan

Karen Kaplan

To get experts’ perspective on the damaging mistakes and provide a better model for execs who may face a crisis in the future, I sat down with three local PR veterans: Rob Baskin of Manning, Selvage & Lee; Bob Hope of Hope-Beckham; and Karen Kaplan of Fleishman-Hillard. Each heads the Atlanta operation of their respective firms. Together, they have 105 years of PR experience.

To be honest, they were befuddled by BP’s actions and how ill-prepared and off-balance it has been from the start. But rather than belabor the well-reported misdeeds, how do you do it right?

When a crisis erupts, they said, a company — hopefully the CEO — needs to take charge quickly or a bad situation can spin out of control. If that happens, it’s hard to regain control and a …

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Power Breakfast: Coke and Pepsi bottlers, immigration, Synovus, gas prices, health insurance, BP

With Coke and Pepsi in the process of digesting their biggest bottlers in North America, what about the smaller ones?

AJC reporter Jeremiah McWilliams asks if those companies are next up for the merger and acquisition machine. The answer: It doesn’t look like it on a large scale.

In the wake of their respective multi-billion dollar deals, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo say they have enough on their plates and aren’t eager to encourage smaller bottlers to sell out, McWilliams reports.

But both say they wouldn’t turn down the right deals.

“We are 110 percent focused on integrating (bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises) into our operations,” Coke’s chief financial officer Gary Fayard said recently. “It’s more than most humans can handle. It’s a huge project.”

When asked if Coke would actively seek sellers or would be a willing buyer, Fayard said the company will evaluate potential deals on a case-by-case basis.

Tom Greco, chief commercial officer of Pepsi Beverages Company, said …

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Is Bernie Madoff hiding $9 billion?

Is there a hidden $9 billion for prosecutors to go after in the Bernie Madoff case?

The New York Post is reporting that Madoff told fellow inmates that he secretly funneled $9 billion in swiped funds to three people before he was caught.

The Post says Madoff told an inmate in the Butner, NC, prison that his partner, Frank DiPascali, knows who the recipients are — and that he suspects DiPascali is using that information to cut a better deal with federal prosecutors.

DiPascali, 52, pleaded guilty last year to 10 felonies in connection with helping Madoff swindle investors out of more than $60 billion at his Manhattan financial firm.

Madoff, 72, is serving a life sentence, but DiPascali has reportedly been trying to avoid that fate by cooperating with prosecutors, the Post reports.

DiPascali remains locked up awaiting sentencing, unable to post a $10 million bond, the Post writes.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Support or oppose Gwinnett airport expansion?

Which side on you on? And why?

Supporters say turning over Gwinnett’s airport to a private operator to add commercial flights could boost the local economy at an opportune time, AJC reporter David Wickert writes. It could also provide an alternative to Hartsfield.

But many Gwinnett residents oppose the move. They cite the added noise, traffic congestion and declining real estate values that would affect the surrounding communities, Wickert reports.

Where do you stand?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Hospitals teaming up to save money, Georgia Power, Delta, Gwinnett airport, BP, China currency

Spurred by a tough economy, metro Atlanta hospitals are increasingly creating partnerships with one another, AJC reporter Craig Schneider writes. The goal is to save money, expand territory and, in some cases, pump new blood into struggling institutions.

These joint ventures can be good for the hospitals and the surrounding communities. Ideally, people receive more medical services and more expert care, Schneider reports.

Smaller suburban hospitals benefit from the technology of a larger facility. And both medical centers save money by buying supplies in larger bulk and negotiating on behalf of more patients with insurers, said Michael Rovinsky, a longtime health consultant in metro Atlanta.

But such partnerships also can create problems, Schneider reports. They can stifle competition and run the risk of spreading a hospital’s services — and good name — a bit thin, experts say.

Also in the AJC:

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Cut back on summer camp?

The economy impacts all of our lives — including kids going to summer camps.

Summer camp operators are more closely managing costs in response to lower demand, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes.

“It’s been somewhat of a challenge,” Sean Nienow, a director of the National Camp Association, told Markiewicz. “There was a spike in interest in shorter stays. Families don’t want to tell their child they can’t go, but they’re still looking at ways to save money.”

With sleepaway camps running around $1,000 a week, and specialty camps about $200 to $300 per week, cutting back makes sense for many families, Markiewicz reports.

What about your family? Did you still send your child to summer camp?

Cut back on the number of weeks or the number of camps you register your child for?

Was is just too much for your budget this year? What is your kid doing instead?

For instant updates, follow me on …

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Power Breakfast: HOT lane OK’d, pipeline delayed, school cheating scandal, Screen on Green, soda tax, Obama and BP

Could we finally be getting our act together on traffic congestion?

First, the legislature passes a regional funding plan.

Now, the state Transportation Board told staff they could bid out a project to add electronic tolls to the I-85 HOV lane in Gwinnett County, AJC reporter Ariel Hart writes.

It is planned as the seed of a whole network of metro Atlanta HOT lanes.

The idea, Hart writes, is to offer something extraordinary at rush hour — one spot where drivers who can afford it are nearly guaranteed mobility. The flip side is that two-person car pools, which currently make up most of the free HOV lane’s traffic, will be kicked out to make space for the paying drivers.

Public transit, motorcycles, alternative fuel vehicles and car pools of three people or more ride free. Two-person car pools and solo drivers must pay, Hart reports.

The high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane, which will open in June 2011, will run from about Chamblee Tucker Road in DeKalb County to Old …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: HOT lane OK’d, pipeline delayed, school cheating scandal, Screen on Green, soda tax, Obama and BP »