Archive for October, 2010

Renting vs. buying: Has your housing view changed?

Changing your view of the housing market? Temporarily? Forever?

The rental market is getting hotter as the for-sale market continues to struggle, AJC staffer Michelle Shaw reports. Companies that used to focus on listing sales are now paying more attention to the single-family home rental market.

At the same time, many homes are being offered by owners who either can’t sell or don’t want to at reduced prices, Shaw reports.

Has the housing mess made you a renter? Will you go back to buying when the dust clears? Or are you thinking about renting for a long time?

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Nation evenly divided on whether we’re living American Dream

Just over half of the people in the country (52%) believe they are living the American Dream today, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

Of the 48 percent who say they are not living the American Dream — more than half (56 percent) don’t think they ever will, according to the survey of 1,008 Americans by the polling firm StrategyOne.

Among middle-class households earning between $40,000 and $50,000, only 41 percent believe they are living the American Dream, according to the survey, which was conducted on October 11 and 12.

For college graduates, 58 percent believe they are living the American Dream.

Despite doubts about achieving the American Dream, three-quarters (74 percent) of those surveyed believe the idea of being able to “make it” in America is “largely true and possible,” the survey found. Twenty-six percent said reaching the American Dream is “largely a myth and not possible.”

What do you say — Is the American Dream alive and well? Not so well?

Are you …

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Aflac goes high-tech to run Japan operation from Columbus

Aflac's special videoconference room helps communication between Columbus and Tokyo. Chris Graham/Aflac

Aflac's special videoconference room helps communication between Columbus and Tokyo. Chris Graham/Aflac

It’s not easy leading an essentially Japanese company from downtown Columbus, but technology certainly reduces the burden for Aflac CEO Dan Amos.

Take the insurer’s special videoconference room, sometimes called the “Japan Room,” which is located on the seventh floor of Aflac’s 19-story headquarters in Columbus.

The oval meeting desk is constructed in such a way that one half is in Columbus and the other half is in Tokyo. During a teleconference, it looks like you’re sitting directly across from execs who are halfway around the globe. The black chairs and similar wall colors on both sides of the Pacific make you feel like it really is the next best thing to being there.

I was in the room last week, when a half-dozen Japanese execs, including a translator, delivered their September sales report to Amos and his headquarters team. The images from Tokyo on this Cisco …

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Power Breakfast: Lobbying business is booming, City Hall East sale, SunTrust, BP, Apple vs. IBM

At a time when the economy has most industries hurting, the business of lobbying is booming, with the help of Atlanta-based companies including Coca-Cola and Southern Co., AJC staffer Bob Keefe reports.

Coca-Cola and its affiliated bottling companies, for instance, paid Washington lobbyists about $6.3 million in the first half of this year alone — double what they spent in the comparable period last year, according to public records.

The rise in spending on lobbyists by Coke and its affiliates coincided with a rise in legislation that could have affected the company, such as a proposed tax on soft drinks, new school nutrition guidelines and environmental legislation affecting water use, Keefe writes.

Southern Co., the Atlanta energy giant, is the biggest spender on lobbying from Georgia. The parent of Georgia Power spent $7.4 million on Washington lobbyists in the first half of this year, according to public records, on everything from fighting carbon cap-and-trade …

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What do you think of telecommuting?

An estimated 300,000 metro Atlanta telecommuters skip their road trips to the office at least twice a week, according to an AJC report by Tina Brown.

Hundreds of metro companies provide such workplace opportunities — with and without the state’s tax credit, Brown writes.

The state offers up to $20,000 in tax credits to employers who participate in its Telework tax-credit program.

Additionally, participating employers are eligible for $1,200 for each new so-called teleworker on its payroll, Brown reports. The state has allocated $2.5 million for the program, which expires in 2011. The deadline to apply is Oct. 30.

Do you telecommute? Does your company offer this option or have a good reason not to?

If you do telecommute, have you found that you’re more productive?

Do you miss the camaraderie? Worry about what’s going on when you’re not there?

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New report: Facebook transmitting identifying information

Concerned?

Many of the most popular applications on the social-networking site Facebook have been transmitting identifying information — providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names — to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings, the WSJ reported.

The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure, the WSJ said.

Facebook spokesman said it is taking steps to “dramatically limit” the exposure of users’ personal information.

“A Facebook user ID may be inadvertently shared by a user’s Internet browser or by an application,” the spokesman told the WSJ.

Knowledge of an ID “does not permit access to anyone’s private information on Facebook,” he said, adding that …

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Power Breakfast: Profitable 4th quarter expected for Ga. firms, Delta hiring, Fed, air show, stem cells, foreclosures

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve been through the worst.

Many of Georgia’s businesses are expected to rake in the profits in the final months of 2010, AJC staffer Russell Grantham reports.

Wall Street analysts project that profits will be up by double-digit rates at most of Georgia’s largest publicly traded companies, and generally could match their profits in late 2007, when the worst recession in decades was just beginning.

Fourth-quarter profits at package shipper UPS, consumer products firm Newell Rubbermaid and money manager Invesco, for instance, are expected to be up more than 30 percent compared to last year, Grantham writes.

Despite the profit rebound, there are still plenty of causes for worry about the economy in coming months, even though the recession officially ended 16 months ago.

Much of the profit growth is coming from earlier cost-cutting by companies rather than rising sales, say experts, and stubborn unemployment and mounting government debt are …

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Thumbs up or down on your supervisor for National Boss Day?

In case you didn’t know it, today is National Boss Day.

It’s normally October 16 of each year, but when that day falls on a weekend, it’s generally celebrated on the closest working day, which is today.

So, do you have a good boss? What does he or she do to make your life easier? (By the way, there’s a good piece today on this topic by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich.)

Or, unfortunately, do you have a lame boss? What does he or she do to make your life miserable? (Remember, unemployment is high right now, so be discreet if you’re going to hammer your boss.)

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What works better for prominent office buildings: Big sign or no sign?

Wells Fargo will begin installing the biggest branding symbol in its history Saturday at a prime location next to the Downtown Connector, AJC staffer Rachel Tobin reports.

A construction helicopter will lift three massive signs atop the building at 171 17th Street in Atlantic Station that used to sport the Wachovia name. Wells Fargo bought Wachovia in 2009 and is completing the brand overhaul.

But, Tobin points out, other big companies take the opposite approach on prominent buildings here.

Rather than an in-your-face statement, the Atlanta skyline is more given to sign-free but architecturally compelling buildings, such as Bank of America Plaza, our tallest building.

And Home Depot, which has never been bashful about advertising, does not sport a big sign on its headquarters overlooking Interstate 285 and Paces Ferry.

Which works better for prominent buildings — in your face or nothing? Why?

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Power Breakfast: Foreclosure investigation limited in Georgia, governor’s debate, airport, federal deficit, Yahoo

Observers of the state’s financial industry say they expect limited impact in Georgia from the joint investigation by all 50 states into foreclosure practices of major mortgage lenders, AJC staffer Scott Trubey reports.

Georgia is one of 27 states that do not require a judicial hearing for lenders to foreclose on borrowers in default and the breakdowns in paperwork alleged at some of the nation’s biggest mortgage owners don’t apply to cases in this state, Trubey writes.

But advocates for borrowers say a moratorium on evictions is probably necessary to make sure banks are getting it right. One legal aid official said in a small number of Georgia foreclosure cases, lenders have had issues with their paperwork, Trubey reports.

Foreclosures continue to pile up in Georgia. The state ranked seventh in the nation for foreclosures in the third quarter, according to a report issued Thursday by RealtyTrac.

One in every 98 households was involved in some form of …

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