Archive for July, 2011

Does new light bulb standard encroach on freedom?

Some lawmakers believe requiring consumers to buy fluorescent light bulbs is an affront to personal freedom, Associated Press reports.

House Republicans are pushing legislation that would overturn measures in a 2007 energy act requiring efficiency upgrades in the old-fashioned incandescent light bulb, AP writes. They say the new standards, signed into law by President George W. Bush, are a symbol of an overreaching federal government and people should have the right to buy the traditional, cheap and reliable incandescent bulbs, AP writes.

The Obama administration and environmentalists say the new bulbs on the market will save American households billions of dollars in energy costs, AP reports.

What do you say? Is this an issue of personal freedom or a wise way to save energy?

Should the government get rid of incandescent bulbs?

What kind of bulbs do you use?

Are you stocking up on traditional bulbs?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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ICE sticking to acquisition game despite unsuccessful bid for NYSE

Some CEOs might shy away from acquisitions after striking out with two high-profile failures.

Not Jeff Sprecher.

Jeff Sprecher

Jeff Sprecher

As head of Atlanta-based IntercontinentalExchange (ICE), which operates electronic trading exchanges for investors around the world, Sprecher spends little time lamenting what could have been.

That goes for his recent unsuccessful bid (along with Nasdaq) for the New York Stock Exchange, as well as a failed attempt to buy the Chicago Board of Trade four years ago.

“We have a bizarre culture. We never celebrate our successes and we never mourn our losses,” Sprecher, 56, said during a recent interview. “I’m an even-keel person. The whole company has a similar personality.”

It’s a good thing it does. Sprecher has built ICE into a growth company that’s always itching to take calculated risks. Every two weeks, in fact, Sprecher said about a dozen execs meet about potential acquisition targets.

“We discuss deals that might be good for us, deals that …

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Power Breakfast: New game plan for old Sears building, Atlanta schools, NCR deal, Atlantic Station, Georgia Power

Will the latest plan for the old Sears building work?

The new owners of City Hall East, a historic structure near Midtown, are planning an organic garden, a “green” roof top and a foodie market akin to the Ferry Building in San Francisco or Pike Place Market in Seattle, AJC writer Rachel Tobin reports.

They also plan to shed the names the building has been called, as far back as 1926, to rebrand it as Ponce City Market, Tobin writes.

Plans call for hundreds of residential units, 2,000 internal parking spaces, loft-style, upscale offices, retailers — possibly national chains — and a foodie destination with “farm to table” vendors and local restaurants, Tobin reports. The North Avenue side of the building could have an organic farm to supply the market.

Still, no new tenants were announced Monday when Mayor Kasim Reed and executives with Jamestown Properties celebrated the long-awaited sale at a news conference atop the brick building, Tobin writes.

Nonetheless, if …

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Power Breakfast: Mall quality key to leasing success, metro foreclosure notices rise, Medicaid, schools, gas prices

One landlord’s gain is another’s loss.

Some local malls are reporting increased leasing activity, as retailers take advantage of the recession to move from strip centers, AJC writer Arielle Kass reports.

But experts said there is a growing disconnect between the better-performing malls and the worse ones, Kass writes.

The best properties attract tenants that are new to the market, while regional malls that have struggled continue to have more difficulty filling empty spaces, Kass reports.

“It’s a long, tough slog out of a pretty deep abyss,” Craig Johnson, president of retail research firm Customer Growth Partners, told Kass. “Although things are better, it’s still not four or five years ago.”

The improvements began in 2010, Johnson said, but the recovery has been uneven. It depends on the geography, mall operator and the quality of a mall, Kass writes.

Also in the AJC:

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July foreclosure notices up 16 percent in metro Atlanta

Foreclosure notices in metro Atlanta rose 16 percent from a 30-month low set in June, according to data released Monday by Equity Depot.

Barry Bramlett

Barry Bramlett

The 8,579 notices in the 13-county metro area represented a 4 percent increase from July 2010, Kennesaw-based Equity Depot said.

Still, there was a silver lining in this year’s numbers, said Barry Bramlett, president of Equity Depot. Over the first seven months of the year, notices were down 6 percent compared with last year, which set a record. And over the past 24 months, July had the fifth lowest number of foreclosures, despite the hefty increase from June.

It is unclear how much of an impact the highly-publicized problems with mortgage documents are still having on the figures. Are processing delays keeping the numbers artificially low or is the paperwork beginning to flow more normally again?

Foreclosure notices published this month are for auctions on the courthouse steps set for next month. Until then, lenders and …

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Atlantic Station temporarily backs off requiring purchase for free parking

Visitors to Atlantic Station will not have to make a purchase starting Monday to park for free.

The mixed-use center issued a statement late Friday saying it is rethinking the idea. There were many critical comments posted by readers of this blog Thursday after AJC writer Arielle Kass reported Atlantic Station’s intention to eliminate two hours of free parking unless a purchase is made.

“We are listening to our local community and neighbors’ feedback, suggestions and concerns regarding the new Atlantic Station parking program,” the statement said. “We recognize there are areas we would like to further evaluate and more clearly communicate to ensure this new transition will be as smooth as possible for our retailers and guests.

“A revised plan for the new parking program, which will offer two hours of free parking with validation from shops restaurants, gyms, food trucks and Regal Cinemas, will be shared pending further review.”

The statement did not say how long the review …

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Georgia ties California for worst teen jobless rates

Georgia is tied with California for the states with the worst teen unemployment rates, according to a new study released Friday.

Georgia and California both had average annual jobless rates for 16-19-year-olds of 34.6 percent, the nonprofit Employment Policies Institute said. The figures cover the period from June 2010 to May 2011.

“Young people are facing more competition for fewer jobs, a lingering consequence of the recession and wage mandates that have eliminated entry-level opportunities,” Michael Saltsman, EPI research fellow, said in a statement. “The consequences for this generation of young people missing out on their first job are severe, including an increased risk of earning low wages and being unemployed again in future years.”

States with worst teen jobless rates from June 2010 to May 2011

1. Georgia and California — 34.6 percent

2. Nevada — 34.3 percent

3. Washington — 33.2 percent

4. North Carolina — 32.1 percent

5. Idaho — 31.8 percent

6. West Virginia — 30.2 …

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How do you see the job market?

Economists today were expecting a better U.S. jobs report for June, but it’s considerably worse than May’s.

Only 18,000 payroll jobs were created, far less than the 100,000 or more economists had been predicting.

Also, the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent in June from 9.1 percent in May, the labor department said. It was down to 8.8 percent in March.

Two years after the recession allegedly ended, it seems to be getting tougher out there. In response, the stock market could turn ugly today.

What are you experiencing searching for work?

If you have a job, is your employer talking about hiring, cutting or standing pat?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Power Breakfast: Homeowner associations hurt by foreclosures, Cobb EMC, Atlanta schools, Kia

The unintended consequences of foreclosures are far and wide, and AJC writer Christopher Quinn reports on one of them.

Homeowners across metro Atlanta are paying hidden costs of neighbors’ foreclosures as their homeowner associations get stuck with maintaining abandoned properties until the lender or a new buyer takes over, Quinn writes.

If HOAs don’t maintain them, the empty properties drag down values of other homes and turn off prospective buyers, Quinn writes.

At the same time the associations are spending more money on maintenance and repairs, they are suffering the loss of monthly dues from foreclosed homes in their neighborhoods, Quinn reports.

That causes them to have to raise the dues on those who do pay, Quinn writes.

Is it fair?

Also in the AJC:

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Do you support Social Security, Medicare cuts to reduce deficit?

President Barack Obama sat down with leaders of Congress at a crucial deficit-reduction negotiating session Thursday as the White House signaled a willingness to reduce costs for major benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare while Republicans indicated they might consider new steps to raise revenue, Associated Press reports.

While discussions on trimming the costs of entitlement programs had centered on Medicare, the White House is revisiting a proposal raised earlier in the negotiations to change the inflation measurement used to calculate Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, AP writes. That would reduce annual increases.

Is this the right thing to do?

Should both Social Security and Medicare be on the chopping block or just one of the programs? If just one, which one and why?

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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