Archive for October, 2010

Power Breakfast: Atlanta key for Southwest Airlines, new Metro Chamber chief, Rollins, Grady, BP, GM

Atlanta could grow into the largest operation in Southwest Airlines’ system nationwide after the carrier completes its proposed acquisition of AirTran Airways, AJC staffer Kelly Yamanouchi is reporting.

Bob Jordan, Southwest’s executive vice president of strategy and planning, said he thinks Southwest could eventually have “well more than the 202” daily flights AirTran operates out of Atlanta now, Yamanouchi writes.

Dallas-based Southwest last month announced its deal to acquire Orlando-based AirTran, which has its largest hub in Atlanta.

“It could turn out to be that Atlanta is the largest city in the Southwest network in a reasonable amount of time,” Jordan said Thursday at a media conference in Dallas.

Las Vegas is now Southwest’s biggest city, with 224 daily flights, Yamanouchi reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Carol Tome to lead Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2012

Carol Tome

Carol Tomé

It’s hard to imagine, but Carol Tomé’s life just got more hectic than it already is.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber is announcing Friday that Tomé, chief financial officer of Home Depot, will chair the organization’s board in 2012.

In addition to being the top numbers-cruncher at Georgia’s biggest company, Tomé’s plate has been more than full. She chairs the board of the Atlanta Federal Reserve and serves on the boards of UPS and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. She just got through heading the city’s search for a new airport chief.

My guess is that she’s not going to be coaching much youth soccer or taking afternoon siestas, but what do I know?

“I’ve got a lot of stamina,” Tomé told me. “I work a lot of long hours, and it’s OK.”

Tomé, 53, is only the second woman to chair the metro chamber’s board in 151 years. (In 1997, Jackie Ward, former CEO of Computer Generation, became the first.) At major public companies, there are not a lot of …

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Power Breakfast: AGL rates to rise, Atlanta unemployment falls, nonprofit donations down, governor’s race, Wells Fargo

The Georgia Public Service Commission hiked Atlanta Gas Light’s rates by roughly $26 million Wednesday, despite a recommendation from its staff that the gas pipeline company’s rates should be cut, AJC reporter Margaret Newkirk writes.

The increase is about half of what the company had originally requested and will raise the typical residential customer’s bill by about $1.14 a month, Newkirk reports.

The commission approved the increase by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Robert Baker voting against.

Baker said the proposal included two changes in the rules governing AGL that will hurt its customers over time, Newkirk writes.

One overcharges customers for depreciation, according to Baker. The other allows the company to sweep costs from an unregulated AGL side business into gas rates, he said.

Also in the AJC:

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Metro Atlanta unemployment drops to 10 percent in September

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell to 10 percent in September, from 10.3 percent in August, the labor department said Thursday.

“While the local unemployment rate dropped, the change was primarily due to people leaving the workforce, often because of their inability to find work, rather than an increase in hiring,” state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said in a statement. When people leave the workforce, they are no longer searching for work, so they are not counted as unemployed.

The number of unemployed workers in the metro area declined to 265,295 in September, down 8,755 from August, the labor department said.

The number of payroll jobs decreased by 4,000 in September to stand at 2,265,300.

On the positive side, 26,658 laid-off workers in metro Atlanta filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits — a decline of 21.7 percent from August.

Last week, the labor department reported that Georgia’s jobless rate was 10 percent in September. It was the 36th …

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How are you spending your money?

Uncle Sam wants to know what you spend your money on. And so do we.

During the next 15 months, the U.S. Census Bureau will sample 27,500 American households to determine how we spend our money, AJC reporter Leon Stafford writes.

Last year, spending fell 2.8 percent, Stafford reports.

Where did we cut back?

Housing spending fell 1.3 percent while transportation was down a whopping 11 percent. We also cut back on food (down 1.1 percent), apparel (-4.2 percent), entertainment (-5.0 percent) and personal insurance (-2.4 percent).

The only increase came in health care, which saw spending rise 5.0 percent, the survey found.

Does this square with your situation? Where are you cutting back and where are you spending more?

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Should credit checks be used in hiring decisions?

Should companies use credit checks to help them decide whether to hire you?

AJC reporters Katie Leslie and Marcus Garner write that a growing number of people affected by record joblessness and foreclosure have a new worry: Will bad credit keep me from getting the job?

While the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reviews testimony regarding the use of credit background checks for employment, supporters say the checks are a smart business tool. Critics counter that the reports unfairly discriminate against minorities and those affected by the recession, Leslie and Garner write.

What do you say? How much weight should credit checks be given? Are they relevant? Why or why not?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Stinging Gwinnett grand jury report, credit checks, governor’s race, housing, Census, graduation

Gwinnett County commissioners paid millions of dollars too much for parkland in a series of deals that used taxpayer money to bail out commissioners’ friends and associates, a special grand jury concluded, AJC staffers Andria Simmons and David Wickert report.

The grand jury’s report, unsealed Tuesday, discloses that the grand jury was prepared to indict then-Commission Chairman Charles Bannister on a perjury charge when he offered Oct. 8 to step down, Simmons and Wickert write. In effect, he gave up his office to avoid prosecution.

The 10-month inquiry, prompted by reports in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calling the land deals into question, continues to rock the state’s second-most populous county, the reporters say.

In addition to toppling Bannister, the grand jury also indicted the county’s longest-serving commissioner, Kevin Kenerly, on bribery charges, criticized a former Superior Court judge for his involvement in one of the land deals and, in its …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Stinging Gwinnett grand jury report, credit checks, governor’s race, housing, Census, graduation »

Turner Broadcasting goes viral to market Conan O’Brien

Conan O'Brien survives driving a car off the cliff in a promo for his new show.

Conan O'Brien survives driving a car off the cliff in a promo for his new show.

Not only is Conan O’Brien unusual, but so is the marketing campaign leading up to the debut of his new TV show in two weeks.

Jeff Gregor

Jeff Gregor

Never before has Turner Broadcasting relied so heavily on the Internet to create interest in a show. For the first few months of the campaign this summer and fall, Turner — a TV company, I think — had its own medium play second fiddle to the Web. What’s more, its strategy is likely to be repeated by the company and adopted by competitors in the future.

I often run into execs who talk about “exploiting social media” when hawking their wares. But they frequently have little to show for their efforts. In this case, however, Turner execs took advantage of Conan’s Web-savvy fan base, which was fueled by NBC’s decision to move Jay Leno into Conan’s late-night spot.

I sat down last week in the “Conan War Room” (that’s literally the sign on the …

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Power Breakfast: Ryla to add 1,400 jobs in Kennesaw, non-compete deals, OSHA, Mountain Dew, Buffett

There’s good news on the jobs front.

Ryla, one of Georgia’s biggest call-center operations, announced Monday the hiring of 1,400 seasonal and full-time employees in Kennesaw, AJC staffer Dan Chapman reports. Average salary: $10 an hour.

About 1,000 of the jobs will last only three months. Supervisors will be hired for 100 or so positions, said company spokeswoman Karen Clay.

With an unemployment rate of 10 percent in Georgia, call-center jobs – once regarded as low-pay, high-pressure telemarketers – have grown in volume, popularity and sophistication since the recession started nearly three years ago, Chapman writes.

The 1,400 hires won’t make cold calls, the company says.

Most of the new employees will help a repeat client (Clay wouldn’t divulge the company) enroll its employees in a health-care plan, Chapman reports. The remaining 400 hires will do federal government work for a third-party contractor.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Ryla to add 1,400 jobs in Kennesaw, non-compete deals, OSHA, Mountain Dew, Buffett »

Do health benefits have a future at your workplace?

Are you worried about your employer cutting off health insurance or dramatically raising employee costs?

While it’s too early to proclaim the demise of job-based coverage, corporate number crunchers are looking at options that could lead to major changes, AP is reporting.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, D-Tenn., said the economics of dropping coverage are “about to become very attractive to many employers, both public and private,” AP writes.

At least one major employer has shifted a greater share of plan costs to workers, and others are weighing the pros and cons of eventually forcing employees to strike out on their own, AP reports.

That’s just not going to happen, White House officials say.

What do you say?

Would it be short-sighted for employers to drop health insurance? Or an understandable cost-cutting move?

How hard would you try to change jobs if your employer gave up health insurance?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Do health benefits have a future at your workplace? »