Archive for August, 2012

Bobby Cox using baseball savvy in banking world

At 71, Bobby Cox just signed up for a challenge that may be more daunting than managing the Braves from worst to first. Cox is the new chairman of Adairsville-based NorthSide Bank, which has performance numbers way below what he would have tolerated from any of his former players.

Bobby Cox

Bobby Cox

The small community bank, with $129 million in assets and three branches, has been a victim of the real estate crash, struggling with serious losses and a lack of capital to cover them. It’s been under a regulatory order for more than three years to improve its condition, highlighted by losses of $3.2 million in 2008, $4.7 million in 2009, $1.2 million in 2010 and $501,000 last year.

Cox never thought he’d be dealing with such numbers when he became one of the original investors and board members in 2005. In his new role as chairman, he thinks he can help attract the capital to give the bank more breathing room as it tries to turn around. Cox said the bank is close to raising $2.3 million …

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Should airlines dictate what not to wear?

(Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com)

(Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com)

While you might think your revealing outfit or T-shirt expressing your social and political views shouldn’t be a problem, airlines might not agree, and they’re prepared to show you just how much if it comes to that, according to an Associated Press report.

Arizona State University graduate student Arijit Guha found that out from Delta Air Lines last week when he was blocked from a flight in Buffalo, N.Y., because he wore a T-shirt that said “Terrists gonna kill us all [sic].” Guha, who was mocking federal security agents and criticizing what he called racial profiling, told the AP he was exercising his free-speech rights and thought “it was a very American idea” to do so.

Delta, however, is a private company and while the First Amendment prevents the government from limiting free-speech rights, private companies aren’t held to the same standard, according to Houston law expert Joe Larson, who observed that it was a Delta pilot who …

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Family Dollar meets opposition in southwest Atlanta

(John Spink, jspink@ajc.com)

(John Spink, jspink@ajc.com)

Several hundred protesters (photos) turned out Friday to demand that Family Dollar abandon plans to build a store in the Cascade area of southwest Atlanta.

Protesters argue that the discount general merchandise chain already has several stores in the area and that it is targeting predominantly black communities for its locations. The new store is being built at Fairburn Road and Benjamin E. Mays Drive.

Protesters say the concentration of such stores lowers nearby residential property values and attracts crime. They also say the store will be near retirement complexes, a health care center, and nearby neighborhoods.

“We are not anti-business,” Audraine Jackson, an area resident and owner of Jackson Communication, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution during the protest Friday near the construction site for the new store. “The issue here is the aggressive marketing tactics of Family Dollar that disproportionately targets the …

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Household income down 4.8 percent since “economic recovery” began

A new report shows that real median household income, while improved since the end last year, is still down by 4.8 percent since the “economic recovery” began in June 2009.

That’s actually larger than the 2.6 percent decline in income that occurred during the official recession period from December 2007 to June 2009, and means that median household income is now 7.2 percent below the December 2007 level.

The findings are contained in Sentier Research’s report, “Changes in Household Income During the Economic Recovery: June 2009 to June 2012.

Median annual household income declined during the recession from $54,916 in December 2007 to $53,508 in June 2009. During the so-called recovery, it continued to fall, to $50,964.

“Based on our data, almost every group is worse off now than it was three years ago, with the exception of households with householders 65 years old and over,” said Gordon Green of Sentier Research. “For some groups of households _ Blacks, men living alone, …

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Facebook page targets Atlanta’s property code violators

Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

At 1727 S. Gordon St. in a southwest Atlanta, large sections of the brick home’s roof are caved in and noticeably rotted out.

At 750 Cascade Place also in southwest Atlanta, the abandoned apartment complex is now nearly hidden from the street due to overgrowth. On a new Facebook page dedicated to highlighting properties in violation of the city’s code compliance ordinances, one commenter called the building “a drug den and crash pad” for the homeless. Another asked, “Can somebody explain to me how this is allowed to continue…?”

The Facebook page, Atlanta Code Enforcement Problems, states upfront that it is “unofficial” and not connected with the city, but its purpose is clear: to give Atlantans a place to post photos and information about code enforcement violations and problem absentee property owners.

It’s not as if the city doesn’t know it has a problem, which has been made worse by a flood of foreclosures and absentee owners who …

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Middle class America losing its grip, study shows

This hasn’t been a very good century for the middle class.

A new survey by Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of middle-class adults who responded said it would take them no less than five years to fully recover financially to where they were before the recession, with eight percent saying they’ll never get back to where they were.

It is, Pew said, a “lost decade” for middle-class Americans who’ve been slammed by job losses, falling wages, housing value declines and a bumpy stock market.

Nearly two in three people said they’ve responded to the ongoing downturn by reducing their spending, and nearly one in three said they are still finding it hard to pay off their bills. The vast majority said it’s a lot harder to keep up the lifestyle they enjoyed pre-recession.

Pew noted that both median household income and median household net worth have declined, the latter by 28 percent.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of people considered middle class is down, from 61 percent in …

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Metro Atlanta 2nd worst in underwater homeowners

The percentage of homeowners in metro Atlanta who are underwater on their mortgages declined in the second quarter to 54.4 percent from 55.2 percent in the first quarter, but that’s still much higher than the national average of 30.9 percent, said Zillow, the real estate market information service.

Atlanta ranked 2nd-worst in the U.S. in the percentage of homeowners with mortgages in negative equity in the top 30 markets, Zillow said, besting only Las Vegas which was at 68.5 percent in the second quarter. Pittsburgh was  best in the nation with only 15.6 percent of homeowners underwater.

Some other alarming statistics for metro Atlanta:

– The Atlanta area had 573,016 homes with negative equity, with cumulative negative equity totaling $38.2 billion.

– Among homeowners with with negative equity, 22.2 percent _ one in five _ owe twice what their home is worth.

– The 90-day delinquency rate for all homes with mortgages here is 7.8 percent  (which is lower than the national rate …

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Metro Atlanta’s jobless rate rises to 9.3 percent in July

Layoffs in manufacturing, construction and education helped push metro Atlanta’s jobless rate to 9.3 percent in July from 9.2 percent in June, the state labor department said Thursday.

The number of jobs in metro Atlanta dropped by 8,400 in July, partly because of 2,157 new layoffs in construction, education, manufacturing and administrative and support services.

The job picture has improved from a year ago when metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate hit 10.1 percent. There were 31,900 more jobs in July than in July 2011.

Still, metro Atlanta’s rate is now a full percentage point above the national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent.

In the core metro counties, Clayton posted the highest rate at 11.8 percent. It was followed by Fulton at 10.2 percent, DeKalb (9.6 percent), Cobb (8.6 percent) and Gwinnett (8.3 percent).

Statewide, metro Athens had the lowest area jobless rate at 7.4 percent, while metro Dalton had the highest at 12.5 percent.

Last week, the labor department reported …

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Feds seize websites selling illegal apps

Federal authorities seized three websites this week that they say were illegally selling thousands of copies of Android cellphone apps, the first copyright crackdown of its kind, prosecutors said.

The websites were identified as applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com, according to the Justice Department, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Atlanta and the FBI in Atlanta, which jointly made the announcement Wednesday, a day after the sites were seized.

Prosecutors said FBI agents downloaded thousands of copies of popular copyrighted apps from the websites, which were selling them without permission from software developers. The sites were supported by servers hosted in other countries. Dutch and French authorities assisted U.S. agents, and federal prosecutors in Mississippi, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Rhode Island and Texas also were involved.

“Criminal copyright laws apply to apps for cellphones and tablets, just as they do to other software, music and …

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T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Sprint offer new unlimited data plans

(Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

(Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

The battle for customers seeking unlimited data plans intensified this week with T-Mobile, MetroPCS and Sprint announcing they will offer them with few strings attached as larger rivals move away from the plans.

T-Mobile’s new Unlimited Nationwide 4G plan comes without data caps or the threat of throttling, or slowing connection speeds for users who gobble up data unmercifully. Starting Sept. 5, customers can get unlimited text, talk and data for $89.99 a month with a subsidized smartphone, or $69.99 without the subsidy.

Unlike new, and more expensive, “shared plans” from Verizon and AT&T, however, T-Mobile’s plan doesn’t come with a mobile hotspot option that allows you to share the phone data connection with other devices.

MetroPCS’ unlimited data plan offers a better price for talk, text and data on prepaid phones for $55 a month for a single line and $50 for additional lines (up to three). MetroPCS, however, is only in 14 …

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