Archive for January, 2011

Power Breakfast: Atlanta bankruptcies up, home prices down, Obama speech, Toyota recall, Jekyll

Bankruptcies in metro Atlanta and outlying counties rose significantly in 2010 — yet another sign that the devastating effects of the economic crisis continue to plague many people here, AJC staffer David Markiewicz reports.

Personal filings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia increased 10 percent last year to 54,564, Markiewicz writes. The grim number has risen every year since 2006 when there were only 24,326 filings.

Business filings also increased 10 percent last year to 1,844, Markiewicz reports. Most of the bankruptcies were in the district’s Atlanta division, which covers Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Newton and Rockdale counties.

And the worst may not be over.

“We’ve not yet hit the crest in bankruptcy filings,” Jack Williams, a law professor at Georgia State University who specializes in bankruptcy, told Markiewicz. “You can expect these numbers to continue to get worse if we’re still …

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Part 2: Experts answer your credit, debt questions

Here’s the second installment of answers to your credit and debt questions from CredAbility, an Atlanta nonprofit that helps consumers.

Please return Wednesday for the next group of answers.

Q: Over the past few years, the value of my home has dropped from $112,000 to $70,000 or less. Some of the foreclosures in the neighborhood sold for $25,000 to $40,000. My credit score, when I purchased my home six years ago, was 742. Now it is less than 500 because my bank dropped my credit limit on the card from $18,000 to $5,000, because I stopped using the cards.

I have considered bankrupcy or debt consolidation to eliminate the debt. The value of the home will possibly never be recovered in equity. I want to know if debt consolidation or bankruptcy should be considered. Thank you for your assistance.

A: We can’t give legal advice, but someone in your situation probably should speak with a credit counselor at a nonprofit agency before taking an action as drastic as bankruptcy. One of …

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Local car salesman breaks the mold

Auto manufacturing may have improved over the years, but I doubt we’ll see any mass production of car salesmen like Bill Florence.

Bill Florence

Bill Florence

Florence, 77, just retired after selling cars in Atlanta for 55 years. He would have liked to continue his normal routine of working six days a week, but his physical stability and mobility are no longer what they need to be, following the side effects from a kidney transplant.

Florence, an Atlanta native who spent his entire career working for just two local dealership groups, was a little disappointed that he wasn’t able to work longer than his late aunt. She was employed by an Atlanta paper company for 65 years.

“The work ethic has changed over the generations,” Florence said.

It certainly has. And so has the way many companies treat their employees, especially senior ones.

But Florence managed to survive the ups and downs of the auto industry, partly because he didn’t try to make a quick buck at the consumer’s expense.

“You don’t …

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Power Breakfast: Major acquisition for Rock-Tenn, Sunday alcohol sales, Deal on taxes, Obama, airlines

Mergers and acquisitions generally signal business confidence, and there’s been a significant one in metro Atlanta.

Rock-Tenn, the quiet Norcross-based packaging company, raised its profile Monday with the purchase of a Chicago competitor for $3.5 billion dollars and, in the process, signaled optimism for the economy’s recovery, AJC staffer Dan Chapman reports.

Rock-Tenn, with 730 metro Atlanta employees, said it will keep its headquarters in Gwinnett County and will likely add some white-collar jobs once the merger with Chicago-based Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. is completed, Chapman writes.

The acquisition of the larger Smurfit-Stone, which exited bankruptcy last year, triples Rock-Tenn’s revenue to more than $9 billion. It rockets Rock-Tenn into the ranks of Atlanta-based Fortune 500 corporations, revenue-wise, just behind SunTrust, and Genuine Parts and ahead of AGCO, Chapman reports.

Rock-Tenn’s growth stamps Atlanta as a leader in the packaging industry – from …

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Do you still shop by using catalogs?

J.C. Penney Co. is closing some stores, outlets and call center locations — including two in metro Atlanta — and continuing to work on an exit from its catalog business in an effort to streamline operations and boost profits, Associated Press is reporting.

The retailer’s exit of its legacy catalog business includes shuttering 19 outlet stores that carry a large amount of catalog merchandise, AP writes. Penney announced in November 2009 that it would stop publishing its twice-yearly “big book” catalogs.

Do you still shop by using a catalog? Or do you now go online? Which way works better for you?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Expert answers to your credit and debt questions

Thanks for asking a lot of good credit and debt questions.

Today begins the first installment of the answers. They are provided by the credit counselors of CredAbility, an Atlanta nonprofit that specializes in these issues.

Please return Tuesday morning for the next group of answers. My guess is that there were enough good questions to run this every morning this week.

Q: I recently went through a home loan modification, which did a great deal of damage to my credit score — about 200 points worth. But over the last quarter, payments have began to be reported and my score has climbed back by 30 points. How soon before I get to a 620 again. I am looking to purchase a vehicle mid-summer and would like to be able to get a good deal, which I am used to.

A: We can’t predict when your credit score will return to 620. But we can offer some tips that should help you get back on track and might show results in time for your summer car shopping.

– Pay your mortgage and all other bills on …

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Power Breakfast: Pete Correll’s new project, Atlanta schools, bank failure, north Ga. real estate, Obama’s speech

Former Georgia-Pacific chief Pete Correll has a new project, AJC staffer Scott Trubey reports.

Correll, a key player in the rehabilitation of Grady Memorial Hospital from critical to stable condition, is part of a coalition of heavy hitters devoted to saving a major undeveloped parcel on St. Simons Island, Trubey writes.

The turnaround of metro Atlanta’s trauma hospital has been no small chore— nor is it finished— and neither is his latest endeavor.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his wife, Wendy, tapped Correll and his wife, Ada Lee, to help them preserve 600 acres known as Cannon’s Point, Trubey reports.

“It’s a massive expansion of the protected land on St. Simons Island,” said Correll, a native of nearby Brunswick. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The property includes the foundational remains of an 18th century plantation home and slave cabins, Trubey reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Is VW Chattanooga right or wrong to bypass Georgians?

No production worker from Georgia has benefited from the new VW Chattanooga plant, AJC staffer Dan Chapman is reporting.

What do you think of this?

Volkswagen officials bluntly explain their parochial pattern: Tennessee gave them $577 million in tax breaks and other financial inducements so, naturally, those from that state get the jobs, Chapman writes.

But Georgia and the local officials around West Point did not take the same approach with the Kia plant — even though $469 million in incentives were spent there, Chapman writes. One-fourth of the workers there are from Alabama.

“With all those tax breaks, maybe they should’ve worked harder to keep the jobs in Georgia,” Tim Stennett, an unemployed engine builder from Ranger, told Chapman.

Which side are you one?

Are VW and Tennessee justified in keeping the work for themselves?

Or is it short-sighted to bypass Georgians, given how interconnected local economies are these days — not to mention all the joblessness in …

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Power Breakfast: No Georgia workers or suppliers at VW Chattanooga, snow day pay, home prices, Arby’s, Google

When Volkswagen chose a site outside Chattanooga, within 10 miles of the state line, Georgia officials were ecstatic, AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes.

They anticipated hundreds of jobs for North Georgians. And they expected auto-parts suppliers to set up shop as far south as Cherokee County.

But while roughly 1,300 workers have been hired to manufacture a new Passat, not one lives in Georgia, Chapman reports. In addition, not a single, new VW parts supplier has opened here.

Doubt builds that Georgia will ever benefit from the Chattanooga car plant, Chapman writes. So too does frustration and anger, fueled by north Georgia’s double-digit jobless rate.

Also in the AJC:

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Three Georgia-based companies among best places to work

Three companies headquartered in Georgia made Fortune magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.”

Alston & Bird, an Atlanta-based law firm, ranked No. 13. Fortune said that “for a decade the law firm has had its own child-care campus a block away from its offices. The facility was expanded this year and now provides day care to 110 children, with subsidized rates for parents in lower-salaried ranks.”

Aflac, the Columbus-based supplemental health insurer, ranked No. 57. Fortune said the “insurance firm treats employees — two-thirds of whom are women — to on-site child care and occasional half-day pampering binges.”

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta came in at No. 60. Fortune said the “leading pediatric health center offers generous adoption and fertility benefits and pays a $1,040-a-year child care subsidy.”

Here is the entire Top 100 list.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on …

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