Archive for August, 2010

What’s your grade for auto report cards?

Restaurants get letter grades. Will it work for cars?

The government has proposed labeling each new passenger vehicle with a letter grade from A to D based on its fuel efficiency and emissions, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It’s part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to promote electric cars and other advanced-technology vehicles.

The proposed new rules, released jointly Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, would be the most substantial change in 30 years to the price-and-mileage labels affixed to the windows of new cars, the WSJ writes.

Currently, the labels must show how many miles per gallon a car gets and its estimated annual fuel cost. Under the proposed changes, a new label design would carry a large letter grade assigned by regulators.

Under the system, the only cars that would receive an A-plus, A or A-minus would be electrics and plug-in hybrids, the government said.

Many compact and midsize vehicles would …

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Power Breakfast: Turner settles suit over teams’ sale, Fox Phantom, teacher layoffs, AirTran, auto report card

The long-running lawsuit over the sale of the Hawks and Thrashers has been settled.

Turner Broadcasting System withdrew a court appeal Monday opposing a $281 million verdict against it in a breach-of-contract lawsuit involving the 2003 sale of the Hawks and Thrashers, AJC staffer Peralte Paul reports.

Turner had previously vowed to fight what it called an “erroneous” and “excessive” judgment in which it was ordered to pay Texas car dealer David McDavid.

“In the interest of bringing this seven-year-long matter to a conclusion, we have chosen to resolve it through a settlement,” Turner spokeswoman Misty Skedgell said Monday. “Our focus has been and remains on the future of our business.”

As part of the deal, the settlement terms are not being disclosed, Paul writes.

Also in the AJC:

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Andy Young pushes ‘public-purpose capitalism’

Pastor. Civil rights leader. Congressman. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Atlanta mayor. Olympics promoter. Business consultant.

Andy Young

Andy Young

I can’t think of anyone with that type of resume, except for Andy Young.

I sat down with him recently to see if he could provide any words of wisdom to deal with the tough business issues we’re facing. At 78, Young still has a lot of fire in his belly. (The air-conditioning was out in his Cascade Heights home that day, so he was really cooking in the summer heat.)

“The challenge of the 21st century is for us to make capitalism produce for the poor, like it did for the rich and middle class in the 20th century,” Young said. He recognizes, of course, that much of the middle class is getting squeezed in this economy, along with the poor.

Young advocates what he calls “public-purpose capitalism” — essentially an alliance of private firms and government. He cited the Olympics and Hartsfield-Jackson airport as two critical examples of …

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Will new housing programs cut foreclosures?

Record foreclosures and high unemployment have combined to clobber the housing market.

Now, the Obama administration says it will launch two new programs to try to improve the situation.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said that his department in the coming weeks will roll out an FHA refinancing program to help borrowers whose mortgages exceed the market value of their homes, the Associated Press reports.

Donovan also said his department will launch “an emergency homeowners loan program” to help people who are unemployed keep their homes, AP writes.

There are no details yet. But previous programs by the administration have done little to stem the tide of foreclosures. In metro Atlanta, they have been running at a record pace.

Do you think this will be more of the same? Too little too late?

Or finally, might these programs end up doing what the previous ones failed to do?

What else might work?

For instant updates, follow …

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Power Breakfast: Energy drinks grow beyond niche, local ‘White House’ for sale, Chick-fil-A, Gulf, hospitals

It’s what every business wants to do — grow beyond a niche market.

Well, it seems that energy drinks are doing just that, according to AJC staffer Jeremiah McWilliams.

In the past, caffeine-laced energy drinks were easy to stereotype as beverages for young punks, McWilliams writes. Some of the biggest brands, such as Monster, revel in the macho imagery of extreme sports and are clearly marketed to young guys.

Energy drinks also have been used as vodka mixers in bars and clubs, and as part of the college survival kit, McWilliams writes. Their heavy doses of sugar and caffeine helped students stay up, party and study.

“Today, it’s a lot bigger than that,” John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, told McWilliams. “It’s office workers and truck drivers. Now, there are people using them in lieu of an afternoon cup of coffee. It’s moved into a broader consumer base.”

With their expanded reach into the blue-collar and white-collar corners of American society, …

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Got a recipe for weakening economy?

What should be done to prop up a weakening economy?

More government stimulus? Continue the expiring tax cuts?

How do we get consumers and businesses to start driving the economy again?

The Commerce Department on Friday cut its estimate of second-quarter growth in the U.S., Associated Press reports.

The economy expanded at a 1.6 percent annual rate — down significantly from an earlier estimate of 2.4 percent.

What’s more, the new number represents a sharp drop in the April-to-June period from the 3.7 percent growth of the first quarter.

Weak growth like this hurts the prospects of reducing unemployment.

Economists look for growth of about 3 percent to keep the unemployment rate from increasing. In metro Atlanta, the unemployment rate is 10.2 percent and in Georgia it’s 9.9 percent. Nationally, unemployment stands at 9.5 percent.

Do you think we’re headed for a double-dip recession? Or will we just muddle along with weak growth for awhile?

For instant updates, follow …

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Power Breakfast: Georgia hotspot for video games, Beazer exec indicted, water bills, mergers, Bernanke, retirement funds

Georgia’s got game.

Over the past two years, the state has snagged hundreds of jobs in game development — from graphic design to software engineering to the atmospheric music that builds a game’s tension, and more are on the way, AJC staffer Leon Stafford reports.

The state’s point man, Asante Bradford, and others are traveling the country and the globe to bring video game development to Georgia, Stafford writes.

Companies are coming to Georgia because of the tax incentives the state offers the entertainment industry, which includes the fast-growing digital segment, and the plethora of courses dedicated to digital entertainment at the state’s institutions of higher learning.

“If you are a game company, you’ve got 20 colleges and universities that have game programs here,” Nick Masino, vice president of economic development for the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, told Stafford. “That’s huge.”

Also in the AJC:

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Power Breakfast: Atlanta poised for ‘quasi-growth’, metro jobless rate dips, airport, GM Doraville, hotel tax, BP

Unemployment may rise and home sales may fall, but Atlanta’s economy is poised for “quasi-growth” the next two years, the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University predicted Wednesday, AJC staffer Dan Chapman reports.

Fears of a double-dip recession and deflation are unfounded “provided we don’t have a steep drop in home values,” said center director Rajeev Dhawan, Chapman writes.

“What happens to home prices over the next few months will be critical to the confidence of consumers,” Dhawan said. “It will affect their spending decisions, especially for big-ticket items. This, in turn, will send a signal to CEOs about whether or not to ramp up their investment and hiring plans.”

Dhawan was surprisingly upbeat in his report, Chapman writes. Georgia will add a measly 5,000 jobs this year, but 60,300 next year and 78,300 in 2012. The statewide unemployment rate, currently at 9.9 percent, will remain above 9 percent, Dhawan said.

Also in the AJC:

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Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate dips slightly to 10.2 percent

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 10.2 percent in July, from 10.3 percent in June, the state labor department said Thursday.

Still, Atlanta’s jobless rate — back to where it was in July 2009 — exceeds the 9.9 percent level in Georgia and the 9.5 percent rate nationally.

The number of unemployed workers in the metro area decreased to 271,118 — down 950 from June, the labor department said.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in July dropped 6.8 percent from June.

But the number of payroll jobs in metro Atlanta fell by 11,400 to total 2,254,400 in July.

The slight drop in the jobless rate was likely driven, in part, by discouraged workers who have given up their job search and are no longer counted as unemployed.

Last week, the labor department attributed the decline in the state’s jobless rate to a shrinking labor force caused primarily by discouraged workers giving up their search.

Statewide, one out of two jobless workers has been unemployed …

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Where’s the best place to put your money?

It’s not easy to decide where to put your money these days?

The interest rates depositors earn from banks are at record lows — and Georgia banks’ rates are lower than most, according to a new study reported by AJC staffer Scott Trubey.

The national average interest rate for all deposits — checking or savings accounts, money markets or CDs — dropped in July to 0.99 percent, according to Market Rates Insight. The average in Georgia was 0.75 percent, MRI said.

It’s the lowest national figure in a decade, Trubey reports.

Meanwhile, the stock market has been retreating lately because of fears of an even weaker economy.

Government bonds are paying very low rates, given the high demand for safety in this perplexing economy.

And while corporate bonds pay higher rates, they also carry more risk.

Because of the tough choices, many consumers are using their spare cash to pay down debt, instead of investing.

The amount consumers owed on their credit cards in this year’s second …

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