Archive for January, 2011

How has the economy affected your office location?

Several metro Atlanta companies are taking advantage of better real estate deals to move into much nicer — and often brand new — space as landlords scramble to reduce vacancies caused by the weak economy, AJC staffer Rachel Tobin reports.

Has your company moved to take advantage of the slumping economy? What do you think of the new digs?

Or maybe your company has had to move into cheaper and more confined offices as part of a cost-cutting move? What’s that been like?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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Continue reading How has the economy affected your office location? »

Atlanta does NOT rank when it comes to vanity

Atlanta, you’re not so vain.

That title goes to San Francisco, followed by Boston and New York.

The Daily Beast online news blog just published a list of “America’s 20 Vainest Cities” — those that spend the most time and money to look good.

Atlanta is not on it. Buffalo is.

The Daily Beast said it tried to figure out which major metro areas across the country exert the most effort to look good—by spending time in the spa, sweating in the gym, or shelling out for personal-care products.

After combing the stats, here’s the Daily Beast’s rankings of the vainest cities:

1. San Francisco

2. Boston

3. New York

4. Los Angeles

5. Hartford

6. Dallas

7. Chicago

8. Charlotte

9. Minneapolis

10. Columbus

11. Nashville

12. Denver

13. San Diego

14. Raleigh

15. Miami

16. Indianapolis

17. Buffalo

18. St. Louis

19. Houston

20. Orlando

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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Continue reading Atlanta does NOT rank when it comes to vanity »

Power Breakfast: Bartering grows among businesses, pension bonuses, Chick-fil-A, eBay, Egypt, Google

There’s an interesting Q&A by AJC contributor Kathy Brister about a Buckhead company that connects businesses that want to buy and sell — without using cash.

Barter Consultants International can facilitate a transaction between a plastic surgeon who wants a new bathroom and a contractor who wants a nose job, Brister writes. BCI can connect an art gallery owner who needs a hotel room in New York and a hotelier who is looking for fine art.

Barter Consultants CEO Lee Anne Busman studied psychology, which she has used more in business than in clinical settings, Brister writes. After careers in retail, 
real estate and sales — including as a broker for another bartering firm — Busman started BCI in 1999. It has grown every year since.

Busman says BCI does more than $1 million a month in trade volume, Brister reports. The company just started an online marketplace that Busman expects will help boost business by as much as 20 percent this year.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Bartering grows among businesses, pension bonuses, Chick-fil-A, eBay, Egypt, Google »

Final part: Answers to your credit questions

Here’s the fifth and final installment of answers to your credit questions.

I’d like to thank the counselors at CredAbility, the Atlanta nonprofit that specializes in consumer issues, for providing the answers.

Q: I’ve read your articles in the AJC these past few days and I’ve found them very informative and helpful. I have a question that I would like to ask you in reference to my personal financial situation. I filed for bankruptcy two years ago and it was discharged in 2009.

However, I was able to keep my home by doing a loan modification. The problem is that added $33,000 to the balance of my loan and increased my monthly payments an additional $300 a month. With the housing market being what it is now, the value of my home has dropped and it’s now worth $55,000 less then the total due on the loan.

I’m also having a very hard time paying the additional $300 a month, along with fees I owe my homeowners’ association because I decided to stay in my home. It’s become a …

Continue reading Final part: Answers to your credit questions »

Power Breakfast: Mergers difficult to execute, Kia record, outsourcing, Hawks, Newell

One Atlanta-based company sells roast beef sandwiches and the Frosty. Another makes folding cartons for fast food. But that’s where the similarities end for Wendy’s/Arby’s Group and Rock-Tenn, writes AJC reporter Jeremiah McWilliams.

Both made big mergers and acquisitions news recently for different reasons.

Rock-Tenn, built on a string of business consolidations over the past 113 years, just proposed its largest yet: a $3.5 billion takeover of Smurfit-Stone, a larger producer of containerboard, the stuff that makes moving boxes. If approved, the deal will triple Rock-Tenn’s size, McWilliams writes.

Ten miles to the west, leaders of Wendy’s/Arby’s have encountered the flip side of a merger. They want to break up the company less than three years after pulling the two brands together, McWilliams writes.

The divergent paths underscore the difficulty of crafting a successful merger or takeover, McWilliams reports. Such deals create some of the diciest issues in American …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Mergers difficult to execute, Kia record, outsourcing, Hawks, Newell »

If you itemize IRS deductions, wait until Valentine’s Day to file

If you itemize your federal tax deductions, there’s no point in filing until Feb. 14.

That’s because the Internal Revenue Service had to delay processing returns from some taxpayers because of late changes in the tax law passed by Congress in December, Associated Press reported.

The IRS says it will start processing returns on Valentine’s Day from people who itemize their deductions, those who claim a deduction for college tuition and teachers who claim a deduction for out-of-pocket classroom expenses, AP writes.

Forms received from those taxpayers before Feb. 14 won’t be processed until that date.

Other taxpayers’ returns will be processed when they’re filed.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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Continue reading If you itemize IRS deductions, wait until Valentine’s Day to file »

Part 4: Experts answer your credit questions

Here’s the fourth installment of answers to the credit and debt questions you’ve asked. They have been provided by CredAbility, an Atlanta nonprofit that specializes in these issues.

Please return Friday for the final part. Thanks.

Q: If my home’s value is way below what I paid, could I use this as a bargaining tool to have my loan modified? Are you allowed to threaten non-payment if the mortgage isn’t modified?

A: Millions of people owe more on their home than it would bring if they sold it. But your mortgage is a contract you signed with your lender and you should pay that debt if you can afford it. It is never a good negotiating strategy to threaten not to pay.

If you are having trouble making payments, you may find options that will work for you through the federal government’s Making Home Affordable program (makinghomeaffordable.gov). A nonprofit housing counselor can also advise you if you are having trouble paying your mortgage. (You can schedule an appointment with …

Continue reading Part 4: Experts answer your credit questions »

Power Breakfast: Delta-labor fight now a legal battle, unemployment, Atlanta schools, transit, Synovus

Delta and labor unions seeking to organize the carrier’s workers have shifted their clash from on-the-ground campaigns to voluminous legal filings, AJC staffer Kelly Yamanouchi reports.

Unions for flight attendants and ground workers failed to win enough votes to represent Delta employees last year. So now the National Mediation Board is weighing the unions’ appeals for re-votes on grounds that the company illegally interfered in the elections, Yamanouchi writes.

Both sides have now laid out their initial claims in legal filings, and each accuses the other of inappropriate behavior during the campaigns.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Delta-labor fight now a legal battle, unemployment, Atlanta schools, transit, Synovus »

Metro Atlanta unemployment stays at 10.2 percent in December

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate remained stuck at 10.2 percent from November to December, the state labor department said Thursday. A year ago, it was 10.1 percent.

The number of unemployed workers in the area fell slightly to 270,900 — down 639 from November, the labor department reported.

But 31,319 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in December — an increase of 10.6 percent from November.

Among the five core metro counties, Clayton had the highest jobless rate at 12.6 percent. It was followed by Fulton (10.6 percent), DeKalb (10.4 percent), Cobb (9.5 percent) and Gwinnett (9.1 percent).

Last week, the labor department reported that Georgia’s unemployment rate rose to 10.2 percent in December, from 10 percent in November. Most of the first-time claims were filed in manufacturing, trade, construction, and administrative and support services.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

Continue reading Metro Atlanta unemployment stays at 10.2 percent in December »

Part 3: Answers to your credit and debt questions

Here’s the third installment of answers to your credit and debt questions. They’ve been provided by the credit counselors of CredAbility, an Atlanta nonprofit that specializes in consumer issues.

Please return Thursday for the next series of answers. Thanks.

Q: I was recently forced to relocate from Atlanta to Chicago in order to keep my job. I purchased a home in 2008 for $210,000. I was forced to sell it through a short sale for a whopping $83,000. I was always on-time with my mortgage payments and had pretty good credit prior to this problem. My score was around 735. Do you know how this short sale is going to effect my credit and for how long?

Ultimately, I would like to rebuild my credit and purchase another home in my new home state, but I realize that is going to take some time. Also, my credit score is lower than it should be due to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy nine years ago. It was due to fall off my credit report this year. I have worked hard to repair my credit after …

Continue reading Part 3: Answers to your credit and debt questions »