Archive for May, 2011

Power Breakfast: Novelis hiring 150 for new R&D center in Kennesaw, Grady loss, Microsoft nears Skype deal

Aluminum can and sheet maker Novelis Inc., headquartered in Buckhead, announced Monday the establishment of a research and development center in Kennesaw — affirmation of a growing global economy and Atlanta’s attractiveness to foreign-owned multinationals, AJC reporter Dan Chapman writes.

Roughly 150 well-paid scientists and technologists will be hired over the next few years, Novelis spokesman Charles Belbin said, adding that the R&D center should open next summer, Chapman reports.

A “significant number of people” will transfer from Novelis’ research center in Ontario, Canada. Others will be hired locally, Belbin said.

Novelis could receive at least $1.9 million in job tax credits over five years from the state of Georgia, Chapman reports.

Kennesaw will serve as the hub of Novelis’ R&D activities worldwide, which include seven other such facilities in the U.S., Canada, Europe and South Korea, Chapman writes. Atlanta already serves as global headquarters …

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Apple surpasses Google as most valuable brand

The strength of the iPad has pushed Apple ahead of Google for the first time as the most valuable brand in the world, according to Millward Brown’s 2011 BrandZ study of the top global brands, AdvertisingAge writes.

Apple ended a four-year run by Google at the top of the brand ranking, AdvertisingAge reports.

But the study also showed a changing of the guard among top brands in other sectors and an influx of new entrants from the so-called BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — which collectively accounted for seven of the 11 newcomers to top 100 brands, AdvertisingAge writes. While the eight top global brands are still U.S. based, China now has 12 brands in the top 100 — up from seven a year ago.

Amazon edged out Walmart as the most-valuable retail brand by Millward Brown’s accounting, with its brand value rising 37 percent to $37.6 billion as Walmart’s fell 5 percent to $37.3 billion, AdvertisingAge reports. Walmart parent Wal-Mart Stores still has more …

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Power Breakfast: Primer on Southwest Airlines, immigration bill, toll project, fraud, Grady, gas prices

Many have been waiting for Southwest Airlines to enter the Atlanta market for years. Others are unfamiliar with the low-cost carrier.

With the Southwest-AirTran deal now completed, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi offers a primer on the new carrier in town.

Southwest Airlines does things a bit differently, Yamanouchi writes. But while the two carriers’ integration plays out over the next couple of years, local fliers may want to bone up on a variety of procedures — from seating, fares and fees to frequent flier policies and routes and hubs.

You may already know Southwest doesn’t have assigned seating. Here are seating tips from Yamanouchi. Please go to her story for suggestions on the other topics.

● Most important, check in online at Southwest’s website 24 hours before your flight and print your boarding pass. That’s because you board in the order in which you checked in.

● If you can’t check in online, do so as soon as you get to the airport.

● Your boarding …

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How do you see the job market?

U.S. employers added more than 200,000 jobs in April for the third straight month — the biggest hiring spree in five years, Associated Press reports.

But the the unemployment rate rose to 9 percent — in part because some people on the sidelines resumed looking for work, AP writes.

The Labor Department says the economy added 244,000 jobs last month, AP reports. The gains were widespread.

What is your take on the job market right now?

If you’re employed, is your boss hiring or getting ready to?

If you’ve been looking for work, are you noticing a change? Getting more interviews or callbacks?

Do you think higher gas prices will cut into hiring?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Storm damage raises insurance rates, FAA, Buckhead tower, Reynolds Plantation, gas prices

Hundreds of thousands of Georgia homeowners will be paying higher insurance rates because of the unusual amount of storm-related damage here over the past several years, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes.

Allstate is leveling a 23 percent rate hike when customers renew their policies, an increase approved by the state insurance commissioner’s office, Markiewicz writes. Other home insurers have bumped rates as well.

“From 2005 to 2008 we had quite a bit of losses with hailstorms and tornadoes,” said Steve Manders, director of insurance product review for the commissioner’s office. Insurance companies regularly showed underwriting losses during that time, largely as a result of hard weather, he said.

Now, as they calculate future risks to determine rates in coming years, they’re factoring in those losses, Markiewicz reports.

In Georgia, the average Allstate annual premium will be $917 after the rate hike, up from $745, Markiewicz writes.

Also in the AJC:

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Fourteen Georgia companies make Fortune 500 list

Wal-Mart rules the Fortune 500 for the second year in a row — and the eighth time this decade — beating Exxon Mobil in the battle to be crowned America’s largest company, the magazine wrote today in releasing its 2011 list. Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Fannie Mae round out the top five.

There are no big surprises with the Georgia-based companies on the list, which is based on 2010 revenue.

Georgia was No. 13 among the states with the most company headquarters on the list. All but two of the companies — Aflac in Columbus and Mohawk Industries in Calhoun — are based in metro Atlanta.

Here are the Georgia companies:

No. 30 — Home Depot — $68 billion in annual revenue

48 — UPS — $49.5 billion in revenue

70 — Coca-Cola — $35.1 billion

88 — Delta Air Lines — $31.8 billion

125 — Aflac — $20.7 billion

147 — Southern Co. — $17.5 billion

215 — Genuine Parts — $11.2 billion

236 — First Data — $10.4 billion

244 — SunTrust Banks — $10.1 billion

340 — AGCO — $6.9 billion

347 — Coca-Cola …

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New survey: Rich Americans more bullish on economy

The affluent, who account for about half of all U.S. consumer spending, have a better 12-month outlook for the economy and their personal spending plans than they did six months ago, according to a new survey.

The spring 2011 survey of the nation’s wealthy by the Alpharetta-based American Affluence Research Center found:

– Spending plans for all 17 products and services tracked by these semi-annual surveys are much stronger than in the fall 2010 survey.

– More of those polled plan to make major expenditures, such as for a new auto, cruise or vacation home.

– The rich like bargains, too. Discounts by prestige brands during the past two or three years of this weak economy have apparently been accepted without diluting the stature of the brands. A quarter of the survey participants said discounts motivated them to make purchases, while only 5 percent said discounts lowered the brand’s image.

The spring survey was based on the responses from 405 men and women who met the minimum …

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Power Breakfast: Uncertain future for Thrashers, summer airfares, repair scams, Japan reactor, debt ceiling

More than two months after declaring a “sense of urgency” to find a buyer or investors who would keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, part-owner Michael Gearon Jr. reports limited progress, AJC reporter Tim Tucker writes.

“We continue to have discussions with different prospective investors or buyers of the franchise,” Gearon told Tucker. “The comments I made in February generated some preliminary interest. I wish there was more. There are some people we are talking to, but nothing that is far enough along at this stage that it deserves further comment.”

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the Thrashers and their fan base, and in the rumor-rich NHL, speculation has gained momentum recently that the team’s fate could be tied to how another franchise resolves its own muddled ownership situation, Tucker reports.

The Phoenix Coyotes are expected to be sold soon, either to a Chicago businessman who would keep them in Arizona or to a Winnipeg, Manitoba, group that …

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Planned job cuts decline 12 percent in April

The slower pace of downsizing continued in April, as U.S. employers announced plans to cut 12 percent fewer jobs than during March, a report from the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Wednesday.

The 36,490 announced job cuts in April was down 5 percent from the same month a year ago, Challenger said. It was the lowest monthly total of the year.

In Georgia, Challenger recorded only 67 announced layoffs in April.

Year-to-date, U.S. employers announced 24 percent fewer layoffs than during the same time last year, Challenger said.

Not only have layoffs declined, but hiring is on the rise, Challenger said. So far this year, employers announced plans to add 172,590 new workers — an increase of 149 percent over same period in 2010.

“The slow pace of downsizing suggests employers remain optimistic about business conditions going forward, despite higher energy costs, government deficits and slipping confidence among consumers,” company CEO John Challenger said in a …

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Power Breakfast: Small business still hurting for access to capital, Briscoe Field, Hartsfield, Aaron’s, Coke

Federal officials traveled to Atlanta this week to ask more than 100 small business owners how Washington could help them. The emphatic answer: Help us get access to capital and cut red tape, AJC reporter David Markiewicz writes.

“We got a couple earfuls,” said Marie Johns, deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Startup America: Reducing Barriers Roundtable is part of the Obama administration’s effort to boost small business and entrepreneurship, Markiewicz reports. The Atlanta event was the sixth of eight being held across the country. The administration will use the input from businesses to produce a report.

Business owners discussed a variety of barriers they face, but a common complaint was what they described as a stifling lack of access to capital, Markiewicz writes.

David McDougall, who is starting a business is Atlanta to provide services to small and medium franchise companies, said that in recent years, franchisees have had …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Small business still hurting for access to capital, Briscoe Field, Hartsfield, Aaron’s, Coke »