Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

Your morning jolt: Georgia jumps to national lead in foreclosure rates

The buried lede – at least as far as this state is concerned – in the new housing report by RealtyTrac:

Georgia leapfrogged past Arizona, Florida, California and Nevada to post the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate in May, the first time since February 2006 that Georgia’s foreclosure rate has ranked highest among the states.

Banks have opened foreclosure actions on one in every 300 homes here. If you’re looking for impact, cast your eyes no further than the DeKalb County school board, which is still struggling with plummeting property taxes. More context from the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES — Lenders initiated foreclosure proceedings against more U.S. homeowners in May, setting the stage for increases in home repossessions and short sales – scenarios that could further weigh down home values in coming months.

Default or scheduled-home-auction notices were filed for the first time against 109,051 homes last month. That’s an increase of 12 percent from April …

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Report: Callaway Gardens has its back against a wall

Tony Adams of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer this morning has an eye-opener about a botanical icon built by one of Georgia’s founding Republican families: Callaway Gardens, which once drew nearly 1 million visitors annually, has seen attendance drop by nearly two-thirds:

Its back now against the wall because of heavy debt, Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, the Pine Mountain, Ga., resort’s nonprofit parent organization, has made the dramatic decision to sell roughly 4,000 acres of the 13,000 acres it owns to wipe away that debt and start anew. A prospective buyer is waiting in the wings.

“I can tell you the operations, the resort, has been suffering for a long time,” Edward Callaway, chief executive officer and chairman of the foundation’s board, said …. “The first major dip where our revenues really dropped was after 9/11. It just stopped and people quit traveling.”

Management has been sliced by more than half, and roughly 300 jobs have been lost since 2004, when full-time …

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Preparing for a conversation about pain and fairness

Outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, and President-elect Francois Hollande observe a minute of silence at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during last week’s commemorations at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. AP/Francois Mori

Outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, and President-elect Francois Hollande observe a minute of silence at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during last week’s commemorations at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. AP/Francois Mori

Last week provided two important political tutorials, spaced more than 4,000 miles apart. Neither of them has anything to do with gay marriage.

Lesson No. 1: The defeat of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana on Tuesday is proof that the tea party still exists and remains a potent force in determining who will carry the Republican message and what that message will be. U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., already expects that a GOP primary challenge will be part of his 2014 bid for re-election.

Lesson No. 2: Last weekend’s defeat of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, punished for his work on the conservative side of the European fiscal crisis, is evidence that Republicans and their tea party allies in the U.S. will have to do a much better job …

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Company owned by ex-DOT commissioner, lawmaker-son files for bankruptcy

A real estate management firm owned by the former head of the state transportation department and his two sons – one a state lawmaker from Columbus — has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing $1.7 million in debt.

Click here to read the April 30 application to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Middle District of Georgia.

The three members of the Dallas Chipley Group LLC are identified as Vance Smith Jr., a former state House member who served who resigned as state DOT commissioner in 2011; his son Vance Smith III; and his son John A. “Kip” Smith, who took his father’s place in the Legislature in 2009.

Efforts to reach Kip Smith and Vance Smith Jr. were unsuccessful on Monday.

The top creditor listed in the filing is Georgia Commerce Bank In Atlanta, which is owed more than $1.4 million. The company also owes $76,211 to the Muscogee County Tax Commission.

Kip Smith was unopposed in 2010, but has already picked up opposition for this year’s July 31 GOP primary. …

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Baxter incentive package could exceed $210 million

My AJC colleague Chris Quinn reports that the price of luring Baxter International to Georgia could be more than double last week’s estimate:

Incentives for luring a new pharmaceutical manufacturing plant and its 1,500 promised jobs to a location 40 miles east of Atlanta could exceed $210 million.

When Gov. Nathan Deal announced last week that Georgia had successfully landed the high-tech factory, the state Department of Economic Development estimated the state would give the company $80 million in incentives.

Alison Tyrer, the department’s spokeswoman, said she based the initial estimate on incentives that were specially crafted for Baxter. She did not include tax breaks and incentives every company can take advantage of, such as Baxter’s estimated $1.3 million in energy sales tax exemptions, or items such as $14 million training facility the state will build on Baxter’s site near Covington, which the state will own and potentially use for other training.

Tyrer also did not …

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Something new to worry about: ‘Mortgage rage’

Because metro Atlanta is what it is, you have a good grasp of what road rage is.

But consider that – again, because metro Atlanta is what it is — we may need to add another syndrome to our list of social ills:

Call it mortgage rage.

Several days ago, Jean-Joseph Kalonji and his wife Angelica drove to a Newton County home just purchased by their grown son. The couple was in the midst of changing the locks on the doors when they were surprised by two strangers clutching semi-automatic rifles.

Robert Canoles and his teenaged son Branden figured the Kalonji’s for trespassers and ordered the unarmed, middle-aged pair to freeze. Deputies were summoned – and rather than listen to the Kalonjis, locked the newcomers up.

In the end, the Canoles were the ones who ended up being charged with aggravated assault, false imprisonment – and trespass. The judgment of the Newton County deputies is under formal review.

It isn’t premature to declare that this single event probably …

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Georgia chopstick factory goes into receivership

Remember that feel-good story of the little plant in Americus, Ga., that was to send 2 million sets of chopsticks a day to China — and became a something of a symbol of outside-the-box thinking in a tough economy?

The Americus Times-Recorder reports this:

Georgia Chopsticks LLC, 102 Brady Road, Americus was closed Thursday just after 2 p.m. when lawyers descended and the company went into receivership. A temporary restraining order was also in effect so that evidence could not be be destroyed or removed. The court order was signed on April 18 by a Bleckley County judge.

A dozen employees onsite were asked to leave the premises, the newspaper reported. Here’s a taste of the AJC piece on the enterprise from last June:

Let it be known that when China needed more chopsticks, the country of 1.3 billion people turned to the south-central Georgia city of Americus.

It may seem strange that for all the products that China exports to this country, it should need to look outside its …

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Nathan Deal: ‘I could support drug tests for unemployment benefits’

I ran into Gov. Nathan Deal at a gathering of State Farm agents at the Capitol a few minutes ago.

They haven’t been dropped yet, but several bills about to raise the issue of whether those who receive unemployment benefits should be required to pass a drug test.

Tipped off by my friend Austin Rhodes in Augusta, I asked the governor whether he favored the idea. Deal answered with a nuanced “yes.”

Said Deal:

”It is something that I certainly would entertain. I think the problem that you have is making sure that they are administered fairly and you don’t have political overtones.”

The governor reminded me that he’d supported similar requirements on the federal level for welfare benefits, and added:

”I don’t think it’s ever been statutorily addressed with regard to unemployment, and there obviously would be some potential challenges if that’s the case.

“You obviously have to address who’s going to pay for it, and obviously you don’t want repeated …

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Your morning jolt: Mitt Romney super PAC drops $132k in TV ads — half in metro Atlanta

Restore Our Future, the super PAC affiliated with Mitt Romney, brings its TV ad campaign to Georgia on Wednesday with a $132,090 statewide buy, we’re told. That’s light, but a significant challenge to other campaigns – home-boy Newt Gingrich in particular.

Slightly more than half of the money will be spent in metro Atlanta, where Romney was strongest in the 2008 GOP race for president. The details:

– $77,140 in metro Atlanta: $12,940 at WXIA-TV; $7,400 at WGCL-TV; $35,800 at WSB-TV; and $21,000 at WAGA-TV.

– $12,585 in the Augusta market; $240 in Chattanooga, all on WDSI-TV; $9,075 in Savannah; $5,525 in Macon; $4,475 in Albany; $19,475 in Columbus; and $3,575 in the Greenwood-Greenville, S.C. market.

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Newt Gingrich’s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, will be in the campaign’s Atlanta headquarters from 11a.m. to 1 p.m., greeting volunteers and supporters working the phone banks. Address is 3110 Maple Drive, Atlanta 30305.

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Newt Gingrich will apparently be …

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Your morning jolt: Mitt Romney’s testy take on ‘the very poor’

Remember the thin-skinned Mitt Romney who objected to his “grilling” from Fox News’ Bret Baier back in November? Florida may have brought him back.

In a morning interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, the topic was the economy:

A partial transcript:

Romney: This is a time people are worried. They’re frightened. They want someone who they have confidence in. And I believe I will be able to instill that confidence in the American people. And, by the way, I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.

I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.

O’Brien: All right. So I know I said last question, but I’ve got to ask you. You just said I’m not concerned about the …

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