Archive for July, 2011

Execs more willing to relocate for a job

The percentage of unemployed managers and executives relocating for new positions rose to its highest level in nearly two years, a new report says.

The rise in mobility could indicate more willingness by job seekers to take a loss on the sale of their home, said outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which did the survey.

It also may indicate more willingness by employers to help the newly hired relocate, Challenger said.

Over the first half of 2011, an average of 9.4 percent of job seekers finding employment relocated for their new positions, Challenger said. That is up from an average relocation rate of 7.6 percent during the same period a year ago.

“The 9.4 percent relocation rate in the first half of 2011 is still low by historical standards, but the increase does indicate that job seekers are finally beginning to loosen the stakes that have kept them tethered to a specific region,” John Challenger, CEO of the firm, said in a news release.

Challenger said survey …

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Power Breakfast: New fuel economy deal set for today, Turner Field vendors, nuclear costs, CCE, debt ceiling

With everyone focusing on the debt ceiling impasse in Washington, I wanted to highlight another important story developing there today.

President Barack Obama and top auto executives are set to unveil details of a compromise to slash the amount of gasoline cars and trucks will need in the future, Associated Press is reporting.

The deal, to be announced Friday, will double fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 and further restrict the tailpipe emissions blamed for global warming, AP writes.

In a concession to automakers, light trucks — which are among their best-selling vehicles — would get easier treatment at the outset, AP reports.

The deal also includes credits for solar-paneled roofs and battery-powered cars that could allow fleets to fall short of the target, AP writes.

Obama’s spokesman said the deal would save drivers money at the pump, reduce oil consumption and pollution, and create jobs, AP reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Should 20 percent down payment become the norm again?

There was a time when putting 20 percent down on a house was the accepted norm for most buyers, AJC reporter Christopher Quinn writes.

A proposal to move back toward that standard in the wake of the housing meltdown, however, has produced an odd-bedfellow coalition of Democrats and Republicans, consumer advocates and bankers who fear that would leave homebuyers unable to afford loans and sellers unable to find buyers, Quinn reports.

What do you think of the proposal?

It would split home loans into two categories, Quinn writes. One would be loans to buyers who put 20 percent down, and lenders would face few regulatory hurdles bundling those loans to sell as investment securities. It was the volume of subprime loans in such securities that helped precipitate the financial crisis.

The other loan category would allow smaller down payments, but would require lenders to maintain at least 5 percent of the total value of their loans so they shoulder part of the risk, Quinn …

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Georgia CEOs worry about debt-ceiling impasse

From Chick-fil-A to UPS, top executives of Georgia firms are worried about the impasse over the federal debt ceiling. Some already are noticing a financial fallout, including higher interest rates and fewer job prospects.

To a person, they echoed what Edward Callaway, chairman and CEO of Callaway Gardens, said: “Uncertainty is the enemy of business investment.”

That enemy has already done damage.

Lenders are raising interest rates on some newly proposed deals in the struggling commercial real estate industry, said Bob Peterson, chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based Carter. That, in turn, has caused some property purchases to be postponed, which is not what the weak commercial market needs right now.

Because of the uncertainty, Peterson said, some commercial lenders are sitting on the sidelines. Others are starting to raise rates to cover the increased risk of the unknown.

“I’ve been seeing it over the last 48 hours,” as the gridlock intensified, Peterson said.

Dan Cathy, president …

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Power Breakfast: Long-term transportation plan approved, metro jobless rate jumps, schools, Delta, debt ceiling

The Atlanta Regional Commission approved the region’s 30-year plan to spend $60.9 billion on transportation projects and manage growth, AJC reporter Ariel Hart writes.

That transportation list is unrelated to the list being drawn up for a sales tax referendum next year.

ARC updates the plan every three or four years and last did so in 2007, Hart reports. Since then it has had to cut $7 billion from the plan as revenue continued to shrink. Those cuts included road and highway projects.

The region is expected to be home to 8.3 million people by the year 2040, according to ARC. The new plan spends billions of local, state and federal dollars on road widening and mass transit, and it aims to manage the expected population growth by choosing those projects in a coordinated way.

The plan passed overwhelmingly, but Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed voted against it, saying it didn’t spend enough on mass transit, Hart reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate jumps to 10.5 percent in June

The unemployment rate in metro Atlanta skyrocketed to 10.5 percent in June, from a revised 9.7 percent in May, the state labor department said Thursday.

The jobless rate is now higher than a year ago, when it was in 10.3 percent.

“The increase was caused primarily by two seasonal factors,” Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. (Metro Atlanta’s rate is not seasonally adjusted.) “There were layoffs among non-contract public school employees, such as bus drivers and janitorial workers, and an increase in the labor force, as students began looking for permanent or part-time jobs.”

Metro Atlanta had a net loss of 4,600 jobs, with additional layoffs in manufacturing, trade, administrative and support services, health care and social assistance, the labor department said.

Among the core metro counties, Clayton had the highest unemployment rate at 13 percent. Fulton posted 11 percent, followed by DeKalb (10.8 percent), Cobb (9.8) percent and Gwinnett (9.4 percent).

In …

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Power Breakfast: Cobb and Clayton property taxes to rise, transportation list, SunTrust, post office, AT&T, debt

Property taxes are rising in Cobb and Clayton.

Following long-winded debate, much of it opposition from residents, Cobb commissioners Tuesday night approved a 15.7-percent millage increase, AJC reporter Janel Davis writes.

That means a $105 increase on a tax bill for a home valued between $190,000 and $210,000, Davis reports.

Meanwhile, Clayton commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday night to raise their property taxes 34 percent, despite plenty of resident opposition, AJC reporter Tammy Joyner writes.

The three commissioners who voted for the tax hike — Wole Ralph, Sonna Singleton and Gail Hambrick — quickly left the room following the meeting as residents moved toward them to ask questions, Joyner reports. Chairman Eldrin Bell and Commissioner Michael Edmondson, who opposed the increase, stayed to field inquiries from many of the more than 150 people in attendance.

An increase of 5 mills to offset a $22-million budget deficit was approved, Joyner reports.

Also in the …

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Cobb and Clayton property taxes to rise, transportation list, SunTrust, post office, AT&T, debt »

Turning rain into cash flow

Worried about metro Atlanta’s future water supply? Higher water rates?

Two local entrepreneurs have teamed up to do something about it — and make money in the process.

Randy Kauk

Randy Kauk

Randy Kauk and Bob Drew are collecting and distributing one of Mother Nature’s most precious gifts — rainwater.

Kauk’s Cumming-based firm, RainHarvest Systems, sells the necessary equipment to businesses and homeowners. Drew’s Atlanta-based company, Ecovie, engineers and installs the systems.

Both have seen explosive growth, which they believe is just the beginning for an industry in its infancy.

“We started as a result of the drought,” Kauk, 49, said. “I think we can be a solution to the water crisis.”

Instead of letting rainwater escape after it hits roofs, roads and other hard surfaces, the systems capture, treat and distribute it to reduce usage costs and conserve water.

One customer, the Atlanta Braves, is trying to reduce its $1 million-plus annual water bill.

Bob Drew

Bob Drew

“It makes financial sense …

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Power Breakfast: International travel to Atlanta and Georgia rising, schools, Delta, Aaron’s, Clayton, debt talks

With some much depressing news out there, especially on the going-nowhere debt talks, let’s focus on some good news today.

Efforts to make Atlanta and Georgia an international destination are paying off, both in visits to the metro area and the state, AJC reporter Leon Stafford writes.

In 2010, the number of international travelers to Georgia increased 19 percent while foreigners coming to Atlanta grew a whopping 25 percent, according to figures recently released from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, Stafford reports.

The increase in international visitation is welcome news because tourism is one of the biggest industries in the metro area and the state, employing more than 233,000 in related jobs, including at hotels, restaurants and attractions, Stafford writes.

It also may be a sign of a turnaround for metro Atlanta, which saw visitor spending drop 11 percent in 2009 to $9.8 billion dollars. It had been as high as $11.4 billion …

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Want a no surprises credit card?

Is this new credit card for you?

Citigroup on Monday plans to launch a credit card that combines a trio of perks — no late fees, no penalty rate and a single interest rate for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances, Associated Press reports.

The revamped Simplicity card will be marketed to those who are juggling busy schedules and want a credit card with simple terms, AP writes.

But — and there are always buts when you talk about credit cards — there are a few reasons to think twice, AP reports.

For example, the card’s 16.99 percent interest rate is higher than the average rate, AP writes.

The Simplicity card also doesn’t offer any rewards, AP writes. And you may not qualify for the card because of the relatively high credit scores required.

What do you think of this idea? Will you apply or not? Why or why not?

Should other card issuers adopt the idea?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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