Archive for August, 2011

UPS chief: D.C. politics gets in way of job creation

I’ve been confused lately about what “business uncertainty” means.

We heard the term during the health-reform debate. And the banking-regulation debate. And the Bush tax-cut debate. And the debt-ceiling debate.

Scott Davis

Scott Davis

What’s next?

Is it uncertainty that’s causing our economic problems? Is that the main reason companies are sitting on more than $2 trillion in cash instead of hiring workers?

Or is it simpler than that, namely the lack of demand from scared consumers, who make up 70 percent of the economy?

To try to find out, I sat down with someone who has a unique vantage point — a CEO of a Sandy Springs company that operates in 220 countries.

I know Scott Davis of UPS to be a plain-talking, reasonable man. That must be why President Obama asked him and three other CEOs to lunch at the White House recently to discuss how to create more jobs.

So, Mr. Davis, is uncertainty standing in the way of putting people back to work, or is insufficient demand the …

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Metro Atlanta unemployment slips to 10.4 percent in July

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 10.4 percent in July, from 10.5 percent in June, the state labor department said Thursday.

There has been no improvement in the jobless rate from a year ago, when it also was 10.4 percent.

The July rate dipped because there were 14,000 more people employed, the labor department said. And there were fewer layoffs in health care and social assistance, educational services, and accommodations and food services.

Among the core metro counties, Clayton posted the highest jobless rate at 13 percent. It was followed by Fulton (10.9 percent), DeKalb (10.7 percent), Cobb (9.5 percent) and Gwinnett (9.2 percent).

Unemployment in the city of Atlanta was 11.6 percent in July, down from 11.7 percent in June.

Last week, the labor department reported that Georgia’s unemployment rate rose to 10.1 percent in July, from 9.9 percent in June.

The July increase was due primarily to the traditional seasonal layoffs, with about 80 percent of them …

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Local media exec replaces TV legend

It’s not easy to negotiate a $4 billion deal. It’s even harder to replace an industry legend.

But Mark Lazarus had to do both at the same time during a whirlwind 19 days after the Atlanta resident was named chairman of NBC Sports Group.

Mark Lazarus

Mark Lazarus

Lazarus, 48, was picked to replace TV heavyweight Dick Ebersol, who abruptly resigned in a contract dispute with new owner Comcast on May 19 after 22 years at the helm.

Talk about getting thrown into the fire. On June 7, the International Olympic Committee was scheduled to decide if NBC would win the rights to broadcast the Games until 2020 — or get dislodged by ESPN or Fox.

It was Ebersol who made NBC home of the Games since 1988. (He also co-created “Saturday Night Live.”) Would Lazarus be the guy who lost them?

“I’ve been through a lot of transitions in my career,” Lazarus told me recently, shortly before the movers came to empty his Buckhead home and take his furniture to Connecticut. “The key is to manage …

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Georgia unemployment rate rises to 10.1 percent in July

Georgia’s unemployment rate rose to 10.1 percent in July, from 9.9 percent in June, the state labor department said Thursday.

There has been no improvement from a year ago, when the state’s jobless rate was also 10.1 percent.

July marked the 48th consecutive month Georgia has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is currently 9.1 percent.

The July increase was due primarily to traditional seasonal layoffs, with about 80 percent of them in state and local education, the labor department said.

Georgia lost 30,200 jobs in July. In addition to 24,500 jobs lost in government and education, business services lost 2,200, while construction lost 1,800. Overall, the number of jobs declined seven-tenths of a percentage point from a year ago.

On the positive side, manufacturing gained 1,400 jobs — the first July increase in manufacturing in 18 years, the labor department said.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler blamed the political environment in Washington for hurting …

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Tech entrepreneur taps overseas talent, markets for success

Mizan Rahman is not your typical entrepreneur.

Most of the small businesspeople I’ve talked with over the years limit their operations and vision geographically. They believe it’s easier and cheaper to survive locally when you have limited resources. By default, the rest of the world is left to the large, public companies.

Mizan Rahman

Mizan Rahman

But Rahman, a software engineer and Georgia Tech graduate student, built his small but growing Dunwoody biometrics firm by embracing the global economy – first for R&D and then for sales in 90 countries. In fact, his company, which has grown to $5 million in annual revenue, would not be thriving had he not thought big, even though he’s small.

After selling an online business, Rahman, 38, invested $1.5 million of the proceeds to launch a software firm, M2SYS Technology. (The M2 in this intimidating moniker is because he and his wife, Mohu, have first names starting with that initial. The SYS, of course, is for systems.)

While he and a few …

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Power Breakfast: Metro transportation list OK’d, gas prices, Lowe’s, Atlanta schools, immigration, Google, Buffett

Finally, there’s a transportation project list.

Five mayors and county commissioners from across the Atlanta region made history on Monday, agreeing unanimously on a $6.14 billion list of transportation projects to be built across 10 counties, and paid for by the region as a whole if approved in a 2012 referendum, AJC writer Ariel Hart reports.

The list is a first draft, and can be changed over the next two months, Hart writes. There will be opportunities for the public to be heard.

If the projects are built, in just over a decade passengers could be riding trains from Atlanta to Cobb County or to Emory University, or traveling new, swifter ramps through the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange, or finding countless arterial roads wider and less clogged, from Henry County to Cherokee County, Hart writes.

The projects will get built only if voters approve a 1 percent sales tax to pay for them in a referendum next year. A final draft of the list must be approved by Oct. 15, Hart …

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Metro foreclosure notices rise in August, but down from year ago

Foreclosure notices in metro Atlanta rose 16 percent in August from July, according to Equity Depot data released Monday. But notices in the 13-county metro area were down 24 percent from a year ago.

Barry Bramlett

Barry Bramlett

A “remarkable percentage” of the August notices — 68 percent — affect repeat properties that were advertised previously, but then pulled back from foreclosure, said Barry Bramlett, president of Kennesaw-based Equity Depot. Sometimes, homeowners get a reprieve from lenders, but then become delinquent again.

Bramlett said that aside from the poor economy and job market, many properties in the process of foreclosure are worth less than the value of the outstanding mortgage. For example, of the 5,386 properties advertised for foreclosure this month in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton, the mortgage is greater than the tax appraised value on 65 percent of them, Bramlett said.

In such a situation, some homeowners apparently conclude it does not make sense for them to …

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Power Breakfast: Combating the recession, new Hawks owner, Georgia banks, gold on eBay

What should be done about the economy now?

In this no-nonsense story, AJC reporter Michael Kanell writes about six possible ideas from the experts — with their arguments and the counter-arguments.

The ideas for boosting growth range from tax cuts, stimulus and more Federal Reserve action, to foreclosure action, a Resolution Trust idea and “something smart” with leadership behind it.

Kanell clarifies the options quite well.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

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Power Breakfast: Metro area scoring jobs, transit, Tech and UGA, Delta, stocks, Postal Service

There are two good-news stories on the local jobs front today.

Coca-Cola is planning a construction and redesign project to update its headquarters campus, AJC writer Jeremiah McWilliams reports.

It’s a major commercial real estate project at a time when that sector is slow in Atlanta, McWilliams writes. Coke estimates that 350-400 construction jobs will be created in the project’s first phase, which is expected to take about two years.

In Cobb County, meanwhile, Osmotica Pharmaceutical Corporation is beginning operations in Marietta and plans to bringing 156 jobs over five years, AJC writer Janel Davis reports.

While that’s less then the 400 people the previous business tenant at the site employed, state and local leaders called the announcement an economic development coup, Davis writes.

Osmotica moved into the former Solvay Pharmaceuticals campus about nine days ago, opening its first research and development manufacturing facility in North America, Davis …

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Power Breakfast: Metro transportation list due, more jobs, volatile stocks, Delta, Apple, Google

Forget the stock market for a second. We have a transportation problem to take care of.

A group of local elected officials from throughout the Atlanta region is on a mission Thursday to do something historic — agree with one another on how to remedy congestion, AJC writer Ariel Hart reports.

Five mayors and county commissioners are scheduled Thursday to approve a draft list of transportation projects for the 10 Atlanta region counties, totaling $6.14 billion, to be considered in a referendum, Hart writes. Given their history so far, there’s no guarantee that they will.

If they can’t, they’ve blown their self-imposed deadline, and have only till midnight Monday to make it happen, as outlined by state law, Hart reports.

“This is a very difficult process, probably one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my political career,” said Tom Worthan, chairman of the Douglas County Commission, and a member of the group. However, he said, he was hopeful …

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