Archive for August, 2010

Banks are betting on a brighter future in Atlanta

Despite all of the bank failures here, growth-minded financial institutions are betting on Atlanta, American Banker is reporting.

The Georgia capital, hard hit by overbuilding and now a double-digit unemployment rate, has been a tough market for financial institutions the past three years. But several banks are actively looking to expand in the city, viewing it as a market that will inevitably rebound from the tough times, American Banker writes.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. recently announced plans to open at least 35 branches in the area over the next two years.

Regions Financial Corp. is touting efforts to recruit bankers from competitors as it plans to move into a new regional headquarters building downtown, American Banker reports.

And many smaller banks are increasing their presence, too, by buying failed banks from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

“Atlanta has fallen down and come back many times,” Ralph “Chip” MacDonald, a lawyer at the Jones Day firm in Atlanta, told …

Continue reading Banks are betting on a brighter future in Atlanta »

Is prison labor really a ‘win-win’?

County budgets are hurting. But with metro unemployment still over 10 percent, so are jobless Atlantans.

Is using more prison labor a good idea?

Gwinnett County will revive a prison inmate labor program that supporters say saved the county millions of dollars, AJC reporter David Wickert writes.

The county scaled back inmate work crews last year because many employees who supervised them left after the Board of Commissioners voted to close the prison, Wickert explains. The commission later reconsidered and now awaits a staff recommendation due Oct. 30.

In the meantime, inmate work crews that provide labor for the county and other local governments will be restored, Wickert reports.

Operating six work crews instead of the 24 it once had, the county has found it difficult to keep up with park maintenance and other work performed by inmates.

“I think it’s a win-win for the cities and the county,” prison warden David Peek told Wickert. “It also provides an …

Continue reading Is prison labor really a ‘win-win’? »

Power Breakfast: Rise in M&A activity, traffic up as schools open, GOP debate, Hewlett-Packard, BP

Will the recent rise in mergers and acquisitions — a good economic indicator — continue?

That’s the question asked by AJC reporter Russell Grantham who writes about the issue.

Atlanta-based Eclipsys Corp.’s shareholders will vote Friday on a proposed $1.2 billion deal to merge with a Chicago medical records company. The deal  puts Eclipsys on a growing list of Georgia businesses that have been involved in mergers or acquisitions this year — after such deals slowed to a virtual standstill a year ago during the financial meltdown, Grantham reports.

But it’s unclear whether the revival in the volatile deal-making business will last.

Some experts believe most companies are too worried about the economy to do big strategic deals, Grantham reports.

“The uncertainty in the economy is so high right now, people don’t know if we’re headed for a double-dip [recession],”  Campbell Harvey, a finance professor at Duke University, told Grantham. “This is not the time …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Rise in M&A activity, traffic up as schools open, GOP debate, Hewlett-Packard, BP »

What should be done to create more jobs?

With the unemployment rate stuck at 9.5 percent in July, we’re still in a terrible job market 31 months after the recession began.

If this is an economic recovery, it’s an awfully shallow one. Nearly half of the unemployed have been without work for more than six months.

What should be done?

Should the expiring tax cuts be extended? Including the break in estate taxes for the wealthy?

Should the government hit the stimulus accelerator, despite the growing federal deficit?

What’s going to get the private sector to start hiring in big numbers again?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading What should be done to create more jobs? »

U.S. jobless rate holds steady at 9.5 percent

The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 9.5 percent in July, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Total nonfarm payrolls dropped by 131,000. That’s about twice as big a decline as economists had been expecting.

The widely watched private sector added 71,000 jobs in July.

Economists had been expecting private employers to add 90,000 to 100,00 jobs — another disappointment in the report.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading U.S. jobless rate holds steady at 9.5 percent »

Power Breakfast: Jobless report today, Hartsfield, traffic lights, Beazer, AGL, Kagan, Romer

The big business story today will be the U.S. jobs report.

Most economists are expecting July’s unemployment rate to rise to 9.6 percent, from 9.5 percent in June. The U.S. Labor Department will release the numbers at 8:30 this morning.

Total non-farm payrolls are expected to decline by about 65,000 to 70,000 employees because the federal government cut more temporary census workers.

But the widely watched private-sector payroll figure is expected to increase by 90,000 to 100,000. That would be a small rise from the increase of 83,000 in June. But it would still be too little to bring down the unemployment rate.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Jobless report today, Hartsfield, traffic lights, Beazer, AGL, Kagan, Romer »

Power Breakfast: Billionaires giving away money, teachers low morale, hotel closures, Delta, BP, Google and Verizon

It’s nice to know that greed doesn’t always win.

Bernie and Billi Marcus and Ted Turner are among 40 wealthy families and individuals who have pledged to give away at least half of their fortunes to charity through “The Giving Pledge” campaign, AJC staffer Shelia Poole reports.

Six weeks ago, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett launched a movement to get other billionaires to donate at least half  of their fortunes. On Wednesday released the first list of people who have made a commitment, Poole writes.

“I grew up with a Jewish upbringing that teaches you that giving back is very, very important,” said Bernie Marcus, a co-founder of Atlanta-based Home Depot and the man who donated hundreds of millions of dollars  to build the Georgia Aquarium. “It’s something I learned as a child and I’m not waiting until I die to give it away. It feels good to do good things.”

In  2006, Buffett decided  to give 99 percent of his fortune …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Billionaires giving away money, teachers low morale, hotel closures, Delta, BP, Google and Verizon »

Planned job cuts rise from June, but well below a year ago

Employers announced plans to shed 41,676 workers nationwide in July — a 6 percent increase from June, according to a report released Wednesday.

While July marks the third consecutive monthly gain in announced job cuts, downsizing activity remains at its lowest level since before the 2001 recession, said the report done by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The July total is 57 percent lower than the cuts announced the same month a year ago, Challenger, Gray said.

Overall, the total of 339,353 job cuts announced so far this year is 64 percent fewer than the planned layoffs recorded in the first seven months of 2009.

“It is true that job cuts have increased in each of the past three months. However, the increases are so slight and the monthly totals so low when compared to recent years, that the trend in no way suggests a reversal of the significant slowdown in job-cut activity witnessed over the past year,” John Challenger, chief executive of the firm, said …

Continue reading Planned job cuts rise from June, but well below a year ago »

Power Breakfast: Tough time for local hotels, SunTrust, Fulton taxes, PSC, BP, Toyota, Barnes & Noble

It’s a tough time for local hotels.

Five years ago, the chances of getting room rates of less than $100 at a swanky upscale hotel like the W or the Grand Hyatt were few and far between, AJC reporter Leon Stafford writes.

But these days, with the economy struggling and the inventory of hotels in metro Atlanta way outnumbering guests, room rates have stagnated and are creating unheard of deals that could last into 2012, lodging experts say.

Biddingfortravel.com, which lets users of priceline.com post accepted bids for rooms, shows that visitors recently got the Westin Atlanta Airport for $44 while the InterContinental Buckhead accepted a bid for a $90 stay, Stafford reports. The cost for the Atlanta Marriott Northwest in the Cobb County Galleria area went for $34 at the same time that the W Hotel Perimeter approved a room for $50.

What gives? The law of supply and demand. Metro Atlanta simply has too many rooms — about 94,000 — but not the bodies to fill them all, …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Tough time for local hotels, SunTrust, Fulton taxes, PSC, BP, Toyota, Barnes & Noble »

Top 10 consumer complaints — and how to protect yourself

The Top 10 consumer complaints for 2009 have been released.

The list is based on a new survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and North American Consumer Protection Investigators, according to a news release by the Better Business Bureau.

(Below this complaint list are tips on how to protect yourself.)

Top Consumer Complaints Nationwide for 2009

1. Auto: Misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars; lemons; faulty repairs; leasing and towing disputes.

2. Credit/Debt: Billing and fee disputes; mortgage-related fraud; credit repair; debt relief services; predatory lending; illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.

3. Home Improvement/Construction: Shoddy work; failure to start or complete the job.

4. Utilities: Service problems or billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas services.

5. Retail Sales: False advertising and other deceptive practices; defective …

Continue reading Top 10 consumer complaints — and how to protect yourself »