Archive for December, 2010

Atlanta’s major business stories of 2010

So this is what a “jobless recovery” looks like. Pretty ugly.

Hopefully, next year we’ll see more of a recovery and fewer jobless. The good news is that many economists are predicting just that.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves or we’ll neglect the local business stories that made this year memorable. There were plenty.

Without doubt, nothing comes close in importance to the double whammy of high unemployment and record foreclosures. They continue to inflict pain and undermine any positive force that’s searching for traction.

Three years after the recession started, joblessness remains stubbornly high at 10.1 percent in the state. What’s more, the problem of long-term unemployment keeps getting worse. Those who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks now comprise 53.7 percent of the jobless, the state labor department said. A year ago, they represented a third, which was already high by historical standards.

Without work, many homeowners can’t pay their …

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Elf helps Santa Claus weather the economy

Even the CEO of the North Pole has been put through the wringer in this economy.

Ted Jackson and Steph Seibert

Ted Jackson and Steph Seibert

But Santa Claus, aka Ted Jackson of Marietta, has made it so far, with the help of his elf daughter.

Jackson, 56, has been bleaching his long white hair and beard to entertain kids at Christmas time for some 20 years. But when he lost his main IT job in August 2008, his 27-year-old daughter, Steph Seibert, stepped into the void.

“He had to get enough Santa requests to make a house payment or we’d lose the house,” said Seibert, who with her husband and two kids, lives with her father and mother. “I marketed my father. He had at least one gig every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas.”

That was just the beginning of this Christmas story. When it looked like Jackson would be joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed like half of Georgia’s jobless, Seibert launched her own firm, Atlanta’s Santas, to market her father, as well as other Santas he …

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Time for vacation

I’m going to be on vacation over the next two weeks. Power Breakfast and other blog posts will return on Monday, Jan. 3.

I am writing two columns that will be posted on Tuesday, Dec. 21 and on Monday, Dec. 27.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Power Breakfast: New foreclosure program, DeKalb schools, bank rebuked, Coke, tax deal, Madoff, iPhone

Foreclosure prevention has mainly focused on homeowners behind on their mortgages.

But AJC reporter Scott Trubey is reporting on one neighborhood program that takes a different approach — fixing up homes of owners who are up-to-date on their mortgages after some of their neighbors abandoned their homes.

“There hasn’t been any focus to the flip side of [the foreclosure crisis], and that is the people still in their homes, struggling to do the right things,” Brenda Rayburn, executive director of Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, told Trubey. “They’ve been struck by this crisis, too.”

Southern Crescent, with $175,000 in grant money from Wells Fargo, plans to help 70 homeowners in a Jonesboro community weatherize their houses, install energy efficient thermostats and make minor repairs to improve the looks of their homes, Trubey reports.

The idea is that making lived-in homes more attractive will boost the neighborhood’s overall marketability, making it …

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Power Breakfast: Delta eyes more mergers, Georgia unemployment up, HOPE, MARTA, Pepsi

Delta’s top executive said he expects more consolidation in the industry — even after two mega-mergers in the past two years — and wants to keep enough cash available to be able to participate, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes.

Delta executives also told investors Wednesday that they see a “strengthening business environment” that will lift Delta well into the black for the year, Yamanouchi reports.

Chief executive Richard Anderson’s comments at an investor conference came amid reports that the British carrier Virgin Atlantic is seeking potential partners or an investment and that Delta is among potential candidates, according to Sky News in the U.K.

“We’ve got to prepare our balance sheets for future opportunities,” Anderson said during the New York conference, which was webcast. “I think we need to be flexible enough to participate, even through joint ventures or other sorts of arrangements.”

He said he wants to position Atlanta-based Delta “to be able to …

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Georgia’s unemployment rate jumps to 10.1 percent

Georgia’s unemployment rate jumped to 10.1 percent in November from a revised 9.8 percent in October, the state labor department said Thursday.

There has been virtually no progress from a year ago, when the jobless rate stood at 10.2 percent in November 2009. This November was the 38th consecutive month that Georgia’s jobless rate has exceeded the national rate, which is 9.8 percent.

“The unemployment rate is up because of increases in new layoffs and in the number of long-term unemployed,” state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said in a statement.

There were 252,200 long-term unemployed in November — those who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks, the labor department said. This represents an increase of 4.8 percent from October and 59.8 percent from November 2009.

The long-term unemployed now account for 53.7 percent of the 469,702 jobless workers in Georgia. A year ago, the long-term jobless represented 32.9 percent of the unemployed.

In November, …

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Power Breakfast: Foreclosure prevention not working, Southwest-AirTran merger, taxes, SEC, Spain debt

Now we know one of the reasons for record foreclosures in metro Atlanta.

The Obama administration’s foreclosure prevention program was blasted in Washington on Tuesday as “ineffective,” ACJ staffers Scott Trubey and Bob Keefe report.

The Congressional Oversight Panel over the program criticized the Treasury Department for not holding accountable the big mortgage companies and servicers.

The Home Affordable Modification Program gives mortgage companies financial incentives to modify mortgages for struggling homeowners and gives borrowers incentives to repay the reworked loans and stay in their homes, the reporters write.

But borrowers have complained of a baffling bureaucracies, botched paperwork and abuses by banks apparently ill-equipped to handle the crush of struggling homeowners seeking aid, Trubey and Keefe report.

Also in the AJC:

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Production line key to Kia quality

First, 43,013 people applied for the initial 1,200 jobs at the Kia plant in West Point.

Then, 11 months after starting production in November of last year, Kia launched a second shift after hiring another 900 workers from 44,507 applicants.

Stuart Countess

Stuart Countess

And now, with the third wave of hiring just beginning, Kia already has received more than 11,000 applications for up to 1,000 new jobs. Tens of thousands of more applications are expected.

Kia is flooring it, moving from one to three shifts and from producing one to three vehicles faster than West Point execs thought it would.

At the same time, the growth has not affected production quality — if a recent Consumer Reports survey is to be believed. The West Point-produced Kia Sorento (V6 model) placed first in owner satisfaction and second in overall scoring among the 24 SUVs in the survey category.

Given the explosive growth, I wanted to find out how quality was being maintained, especially since many companies, including …

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Power Breakfast: Update on Coke and Pepsi mergers with bottlers, Ga. Power, Walmart, health law, Yahoo

Coke and Pepsi execs expressed measured satisfaction Monday about the mergers with their big North American bottlers, AJC staffer Jeremiah McWilliams reports.

PepsiCo bought its two largest North American bottlers in February, and Coca-Cola acquired the North American wing of Atlanta-based bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises in October. Both deals were worth billions of dollars and required executives to mesh massive organizations.

At a Beverage Digest conference in Manhattan, PepsiCo chief executive Indra Nooyi said the integration has been done fairly well, McWilliams reports. PepsiCo aims to achieve $400 million in pre-tax savings from the bottling acquisitions by 2012.

But “if I said the integration was going swimmingly well, I’d be lying,” Nooyi said Monday. “It’s a challenging integration.”

In a later presentation, Sandy Douglas, president of Coke North America, said the merged company is “off to a good start,” six weeks into Coke’s new ownership of a vast U.S. bottling …

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Feeling less economic stress?

Are you feeling less stressed about your economic situation?

Job gains around the country offset higher foreclosures and helped reduce the nation’s economic stress in October to an 18-month low, according to The Associated Press’ monthly analysis.

Stress fell in 56 percent of the roughly 3,100 U.S. counties analyzed and in 28 of the states, the AP’s Economic Stress Index shows, AP writes.

The AP’s index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. A higher score signals more economic stress. Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score exceeds 11, AP says.

The average county’s score in October was 9.9, down from 10 in September. A little over one-third of counties were deemed stressed. That’s down slightly from 35 percent in September, AP writes.

How does this square with your feeling? Has your stress declined or does it remain high?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on …

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