Archive for July, 2011

Power Breakfast: Borders shutting down, Atlanta schools, camera surveillance, debt talks, Murdoch

Another chain of book stores is calling it quits.

Borders Group, which had shuttered six metro Atlanta book stores, will shut down its remaining seven locations as part of a company-wide liquidation announced Monday, AJC writer Arielle Kass reports.

The Ann Arbor, Mich., bookseller once operated more than 1,000 stores nationally and had 399 when the move was made to end all operations and lay off 10,700 employees, Kass writes.

Two liquidation firms, Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group, will dissolve the company, Kass reports.

The move came after a bid fell through from private equity firm Najafi Cos, Kass writes.Creditors and landlords said liquidation was a better deal.

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Americans keep delaying retirement

American workers keep moving the goal line for retirement farther out.

Shifting and uncertain target dates for retirement are becoming the norm — making it harder for employees to establish meaningful financial plans, according to a recent MetLife survey.

In the last year alone, four out of ten employees have changed their predicted retirement date — with 30 percent raising their expected retirement age, according to MetLife’s 9th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study.

Fifty-nine percent of workers in the study expect to work beyond age 65. That jumped from 52 percent a year ago, MetLife said in a news release.

Also, the study said, many employees lack confidence in their ability to prepare for retirement.

Only 39 percent felt assured about managing the funds in their employer-sponsored retirement plan, the study said. And 54 percent have not calculated how much annual household income they will need in their retirement.

The MetLife research is similar to other studies that …

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Power Breakfast: Georgia continues to lead in bank failures, cheating scandal, Jim Donnan, Murdoch

Georgia continues to lead the nation in bank failures.

Regulators seized and sold two more struggling metro Atlanta banks late Friday — the 15th and 16th failures in Georgia this year, AJC writer Scott Trubey reports.

Stockbridge-based High Trust Bank and Atlanta-based One Georgia Bank were seized and sold to Ameris Bank of Moultrie, Trubey writes. The banks will reopen under the new flag during normal business hours, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said.

Georgia leads the nation with 67 failures since mid-2008, Trubey reports.

High Trust had total assets of $192.5 million and deposits of $189.5 million, and One Georgia had total assets of $186.3 million and deposits of $162.1 million, according to the latest FDIC data.

The regulator estimates the failures will result in a $110.4 million combined loss to its insurance fund, which protects depositors, Trubey writes.

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Would monthly fee drive you away from debit cards?

Upcoming changes in the industry may prompt banks to start charging a monthly fee for you to use your debit card.

In a new Associated Press-GfK poll, 61 percent said they would find another way to pay if they were charged a $3 monthly fee. If the fee was $5, two-thirds said they would do the same. If the fee was $7, the figure rises to 81 percent, AP reports.

Would you be willing to pay a fee for the convenience of debit cards?

Would you switch to your credit cards instead? (By the way, some banks are already reducing their debit card rewards programs.)

Would you use cash more?

Write more checks?

– Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Regulators sue former execs over Duluth bank failure, Atlanta schools, license plates, debt talks

Federal bank regulators have sued 15 former directors and officers of a failed Duluth bank, accusing the officials of gross negligence and other breaches of their duties, AJC writer Scott Trubey reports.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. alleges improper lending practices and is seeking to recover nearly $40 million in losses to Haven Trust Bank, Trubey writes. The bank failed in December 2008.

It is just the second liability suit filed by the FDIC against insiders of a failed Georgia bank, Trubey reports.

Georgia leads the nation in bank failures with 65 since mid-2008, Trubey writes. Haven Trust’s failure resulted in a loss of $248 million to the FDIC’s insurance fund, the backstop that protects depositors.

A lawyer for all 15 defendants, in a statement, denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the case in court, Trubey reports.

Also in the AJC:

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Knowledge of math and science key for future jobs

Here’s more evidence that kids should focus on math and science for future jobs.

Jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM) pay an average 26 percent more than other occupations and grew three times faster during the past decade, according to a USA Today story, which cites a Commerce Department study scheduled for release today.

From 2000 to 2010, STEM jobs grew 7.9 percent to 7.6 million — three times the rate of other fields, USA Today writes, referring to the study.

They’re expected to swell 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared with 9.8 percent for other jobs, USA Today reports.

The Obama administration is citing the report to push for investing in more training for the STEM occupations because many employers lament a dire shortage of highly skilled workers despite the high unemployment rate, USA Today reports.

Commerce officials say STEM skills also are vital for the U.S. to compete in a global marketplace that places a growing premium on …

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Power Breakfast: 500 new health jobs, cost of Atlanta schools cheating, airport, green jobs, Tara Field

There’s good news on the metro jobs front today.

WellStar Health System – one of metro Atlanta’s largest medical providers – plans to replace its aging Paulding County hospital with a new 112-bed, $125 million facility to help meet the need of a rapidly growing population, AJC writer Misty Williams reports.

The 226,000-square-foot facility will be located in Hiram and create an estimated 300 new jobs in Paulding, one of the fastest growing counties in the state, said Mark Haney, WellStar’s senior vice president of real estate and construction, Williams writes.

Also, a new medical office building — totaling 80,000 square feet — is in the works and will bring an additional 200 jobs, Williams reports.

“There’s a tremendous need for a new facility,” Haney said.

Paulding County’s population has jumped nearly 75 percent to more than 140,000 in the past decade, William reports, citing U.S. Census Bureau data. It’s expected to climb an additional nearly 19 percent by 2016, …

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Will a healthier kids’ menu draw your family’s business?

At least 19 large restaurant chains — including Burger King, Chili’s, IHOP and Friendly’s — plan to announce Wednesday that they will include healthier options on their children’s menus, Associated Press is reporting.

At least 15,000 restaurant locations will focus on increasing servings of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, AP writes. The items will have less fats, sugars and sodium.

Will this affect where you and your family eat?

Who makes the decision — you or your kids?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Will you stick with the higher prices at Netflix or bolt?

Netflix is raising its prices by as much as 60 percent for those who want to rent DVDs by mail and watch video on the Internet, Associated Press reports.

The company is separating the two options so that its 23 million subscribers who want both will have to buy separate plans totaling at least $16 per month, AP writes. Netflix had been bundling both options in a single package, available for as low as $10 per month.

New subscribers will have to pay the new prices immediately, AP writes. The changes take effect Sept. 1 for Netflix’s current customers.

Netflix isn’t changing the $8 monthly price for an Internet streaming-only option, which the company began offering late last year, AP reports. But instead of charging $2 more for a plan that also offers one DVD at a time by mail, the company will charge $8 for a comparable DVD-only plan. That brings the total to $16.

What will you do — stay or leave?

If you’re sticking, will you cut back and just go with the streaming-only …

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Power Breakfast: DeKalb raises property taxes, Atlanta schools, boomers, Toyo Tire, Waffle House, debt talks

DeKalb is raising property taxes 26 percent as part of its 2011 budget, AJC writer April Hunt reports.

Tuesday’s 4-3 county commission vote means a 4.35 millage increase for the 2011 budget — and also money into savings to help the county improve its credit rating, Hunt writes. The move will generate about $50 million more in revenue, $5 million of it into reserves.

The tax hike adds $93 a year to the tax bill on the average home, which dropped in value since last year, Hunt reports.

But tax bills increase far more where home values have remained the same, with a $420 increase, for instance, on a home that remained at $300,000, Hunt writes.

Even commission supporters of the tax hike criticized the management of Chief Executive Burrell Ellis, who proposed the tax hike in May saying that falling housing prices would create a $37 million shortfall in the $529 million budget, Hunt writes.

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Continue reading Power Breakfast: DeKalb raises property taxes, Atlanta schools, boomers, Toyo Tire, Waffle House, debt talks »