Richmond gets extra time on ballpark (Times-Dispatch)
The developers pitching a minor-league ballpark for Shockoe Bottom are giving Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones an extra five months to swing.
Region’s new homebuilding hits lowest point since 1984 (Virginian-Pilot)
New home construction and sales in Hampton Roads last year fell to their lowest point in more than two decades, according to a report released Wednesday by Residential Data Bank, a Suffolk-based housing market research firm.
Wachovia’s new owners to cut back on staff (Roanoke Times)
Wells Fargo is cutting its retail loan servicing staff and will eliminate 35 jobs in the Roanoke Valley.
Data scams have kicked into high gear as markets tumble (USA Today)
Cybercriminals have launched a massive new wave of Internet-based schemes to steal personal data and carry out financial scams in an effort to take advantage of the fear and confusion created by tumbling financial markets, security specialists say.
What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses (NY Times)
Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.
Scenes From a Layoff: Tears Flow Among the Kilns at a Tile Maker (WSJ)
Huddled around half-century-old kilns for warmth, some workers masked their anxiety with nervous optimism. “I’ll go back to hang drywall,” said Dustin Bourne, a lanky 22-year-old, chatting with three high-school buddies. Of course, they all knew the truth: Mr. Bourne took a job here last year because drywall work had disappeared.
Opportunity for Sale (Slate)
Great Read, although I doubt it’s happening in Richmond: Inevitably, the internship-selling racket has slipped the surly bonds of philanthropy and entered the for-profit marketplace. An outfit called the University of Dreams guarantees placement or your money back. Summer-internship fees (the University of Dreams prefers to call it “tuition”) range from $5,499 to $9,499. For 3 percent extra, you can pay on an installment plan. The interns have been placed with firms like Hill and Knowlton and Smith Barney (did a rich, dumb intern start the credit crunch?) in Barcelona, Chicago, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Sydney, and Washington, D.C. For-profit consultants like Fast Track Internships are extending the principle of SAT prep to internships by teaching marginally literate students how to polish their résumés and cover letters and by guiding them to potential summer employers.
Top Secret: Get Your E-mail Opened (Entrepreneur)
When it comes to e-mail marketing, it’s all about the subject line. Make the most of your email.
How to Manage Your Team in a Downturn (and Come Out on Top) (BNET)
From the manager’s perspective, getting the most out of employees in this kind of environment can seem like a Sisyphean task. In fact, it’s a perfect opportunity to rejigger processes and fix what’s broken — and managers are uniquely positioned to do just that. Here’s how being candid with your employees, rewarding them in creative ways, and enlisting them to help make hard decisions can not only keep your team motivated but pull your company out of its slump.
RIC bucks passenger trend (Times-Dispatch)
Passenger traffic at Richmond International was down 4 percent last year compared with 2007, which was the airport’s best year, the Capital Region Airport Commission said.
Norfolk Southern Corp. delivers 13 percent profit (Virginian-Pilot)
Despite the sluggish global economy, Norfolk Southern Corp. rolled to a strong finish in 2008 as its income grew 13 percent to $452 million in the fourth quarter compared with 2007, the Norfolk-based railroad announced Tuesday.
Stimulus uncertainty: How fast will the impact be? (USA Today)
The goal of President Obama’s $825 billion economic stimulus plan is to spend money fast. Some of his favorite proposals, however, will take years to have full impact.
Turning Around a Struggling Business (Business Week)
From increasing your selling efforts to minimizing layoffs, business experts offer 11 practical tips to counteract economic uncertainty.
4 Mistakes Young Salespeople Make (Inc.)
They offer too much information, They don’t show deference, They immerse themselves in the wrong information, and they lose sight of the goal.
Richmond-area home sales at 10-year low (Times-Dispatch)
In all, 9,287 houses were sold in this area, lower than the 9,526 for all of 1998. Sales here tumbled 22.8 percent in 2008 from the previous year, according to the housing report. The average price fell 14.3 percent in the fourth quarter to $250,181 from the same period a year ago — below where it was in 2005.
Housing downturn hits Southwest Virginia (Roanoke Times)
Last year, foreclosure filings increased 262 percent for the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based online service that tracks and monitors foreclosures. There were 301 foreclosure filings in the Roanoke MSA, up from 83 in 2007. The increase was largest in December, when 115 foreclosures were filed in the Roanoke metro area.
Virginian-Pilot forces workers to take unpaid days off to cut costs (Virginian-Pilot)
The Virginian-Pilot, seeking to pare costs further to weather the recession, told its employees today that they would have five unpaid days off this year. The action will eliminate one week of pay, reducing annual salaries by about 2 percent. It will not affect daily publication of the newspaper.
Market Losses Tighten Screws On Colleges (Washington Post)
American colleges and universities lost an average of 23 percent on their endowment investments last semester, according to a national survey to be released today, a drop that is hurting the bottom line across the board, from major state institutions to the Ivy League
Layoffs Spread to More Sectors of the Economy (NY Times)
A year into this recession, companies across the board are resorting to mass job cuts. Home Depot, Caterpillar, Sprint Nextel and at least eight other companies announced on Monday they would cut more than 75,000 jobs in the United States and around the world — a gloomy start to the workweek for employees anxious about holding their own as the economy sinks. Caterpillar, the maker of heavy equipment, is slashing its payrolls by 16 percent. Texas Instruments said late in the day that it would eliminate 3,400 jobs, or 12 percent of its work force.
Auto Dealerships Prepare for a Major Shakeout (WSJ)
As Sales Plunge and Big Three Face an Uncertain Future, Closures and Consolidation Loom for Many Franchisees.
Four million jobs in two years? FDR did it in two months (Slate)
A great read for historical perspective. Roosevelt diverted not quite one-third of Ickes’ PWA budget to Hopkins’ CWA with the goal of putting to work 4 million people. As a percentage of the population, that would be the equivalent of putting 10 million people to work today. In his first weekly radio address, Obama pledged that the stimulus package would “save or create 3 to 4 million jobs over the next few years.” (His budget director estimates that 75 percent of the money will be spent within 18 months.) Hopkins got there within two months.
You Never Know Who “They” Know (Entrepreneur)
Pretty obvious, but good for a reminder: Don’t think a gardener can be a referral source to the rich? Think again. Discounting even one potential networking opportunity can be disastrous.
The final moments of Circuit City (Times-Dispatch)
A great article: time was of the essence: A court order unsealed the next day in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond gave them just a week, until Jan. 16, to make a deal. The meetings in Las Vegas — and then later the following week in New York City — were among the last-ditch efforts executives made to sell Circuit City after the nation’s No. 2 consumer-electronics retailer filed for bankruptcy protection in early November.
Nearly all wrapped up (Times-Dispatch)
For most of the 20th century, Chesapeake was a well-known player in the paper industry in Virginia. Founded here in 1918, the company owned about 300,000 acres of acres of timberland and a massive paperboard mill in West Point that remains the town’s top employer. By the mid-1980s, however, Chesapeake’s managers were looking for new ways to expand the company. A relatively small player in a commodity industry that suffered from severe price volatility, the company started looking for opportunities in new businesses.
Bank: Executive bonuses weren’t funded by bailout (Virginian-Pilot)
When Hampton Roads Bankshares Inc. reported this month that it paid $925,000 to two former executives of Gateway Financial Holdings Inc. in the midst of a merger, it was thrust under a national spotlight.
Pfizer reaches agreement to acquire Wyeth in $68 billion deal (AP)
Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has reached an agreement to acquire Wyeth in deal valued at $68 billion. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported Sunday evening that Pfizer (PFE), the maker of Lipitor and Viagra, is working to finish financing for the acquisition. Wyeth employs thousands in Richmond.
Nationalization Gets a New, Serious Look (NY Times)
Only five days into the Obama presidency, members of the new administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are already dancing around one of the most politically delicate questions about the financial bailout: Is the president prepared to nationalize a huge swath of the nation’s banking system?
Selling Virtue (Slate)
When I go shopping for moral instruction, I don’t drive the family van to corporate America’s front door. Their job is to make good stuff for me to buy at a good price, not lecture me on the virtuous life. Yet that’s the tack a slew of companies have been taking with ad campaigns that march up to my front door like an army of Mormon missionaries and bang loudly.
The Ultimate Business Tune-up for Times Like These (Inc.)
Some helpful ideas: In a tough economy with credit extremely tight, big investments are not an option for most companies. Yet no business can afford to stand still. We asked our favorite entrepreneurs for the tips and tricks they have used to pilot their businesses through difficult times. The result: 23 things you can do right now to energize your employees, wow your customers, and get your business back on track.
Drop in new car sales has ripple effect (Roanoke Times)
The state auto dealers association recently released data confirming what its membership already knew: Sales of new cars and trucks fell dramatically in 2008 in Virginia, just like elsewhere. Automotive sales dropped 21 percent statewide. The drop was 18 percent in the Roanoke Valley, the same as for the nation, which saw auto sales fall to 13.2 million vehicles, the lowest level since 1992.
Downturn catches up with tech (USA Today)
Despite predictions — wishful thinking? — by some financial analysts that it would remain relatively unscathed, Silicon Valley and the rest of the industry buckled under distressing news Thursday. Microsoft announced 5,000 layoffs — its biggest cutback ever — and Sony said it will report an operating loss for the first time in 14 years: $1.65 billion. A day earlier, Intel said it will close several older factories, displacing 5,000 to 6,000 workers.
100 Best Companies to Work For (Fortune)
Even in this economy, some companies are going out of their way to please employees. This year, there’s a new no. 1, as Google slips to no. 4. See detailed profiles of the top 100 employers, including interactive maps, key perks, contact information, and more
Real-World Cost-Cutting Practices (Entrepreneur)
These 4 companies are saving money in day-to-day operations. And they’re doing it without affecting the customer experience.
Retail group chooses leader (Times-Dispatch)
Nancy Thomas yesterday was named president and chief executive officer of the Retail Merchants Association. She is the first woman to hold the position in the Richmond-based trade group’s 100-year history. Thomas, who was interim president since her predecessor retired, is a former chairwoman of the Retail Merchants board and was co-owner of Turn Key Interiors, a Richmond-based design firm.
Shockoe baseball’s sales pitch (Times-Dispatch)
Paul W. Kreckman, a vice president with Highwoods Properties, is making the rounds to community groups to solicit support for Shockoe Center, a proposed $363 million development for Shockoe Bottom.
S-A-T-I-R-E Internal Investigation Reveals No Chinese Food At Chop Suey (Tobacco Avenue)
Results of a five-minute probe of local store Chop Suey have revealed not a single portion of Chinese food, a Richmond man confirmed today. Instead, Virginia Commonwealth University sophomore Sean Tully reported only finding “a bunch” of eclectic, slightly-worn used books inside.
Chesapeake begins rehab for blighted properties (Virginian-Pilot)
The Chesapeake City Council in May appropriated $860,000 for the housing authority, which would identify and purchase “properties of concern,” said Mark Woodward, the city’s former housing coordinator.
House Urges Tighter Rules For Bailout Beneficiaries (Washington Post)
The House yesterday overwhelmingly approved a plan to place strict new requirements on banks and other financial institutions that accept government assistance under the Treasury Department’s $700 billion financial rescue program.
How Obama’s SBA Chief May Change the Agency (Business Week)
As the President’s pick to head the Small Business Administration, Karen Mills could transform the agency’s approach to funding
To Help Collect the Bills, Firms Try the Soft Touch (WSJ)
A must-read for small biz owners: Small businesses, hit by a wave of customers postponing payments because of the recession, are struggling to find ways to come up with enough cash to stay alive. The companies are hugely dependent on their cash flows. But if they push their slow payers too hard, they risk losing customers. Hiring collection attorneys is also expensive, and if late payers are pushed into bankruptcy, their small-business creditors may find themselves empty-handed, waiting at the end of a long queue. That’s why many businesses that are owed money are relying on cooperation rather than strong-arm tactics.
Richmond assessments stay fairly flat (Times-Dispatch)
The assessments that help determine Richmond real estate tax bills will be barely changed, on average, this year.
Judge sets auction date for Chesapeake (Times-Dispatch)
Richmond-based packaging company Chesapeake Corp. will close on a sale of its business units April 3, under a plan approved by a bankruptcy court judge yesterday.
Rail car maker to idle 40 percent of workers (Roanoke Times)
FreightCar America Inc., which last week released a plan to slash its Roanoke work force, reported losses for much of 2008 but a backlog of orders for more than $300 million of the company’s freight rail cars. The company, which began manufacturing in the former Norfolk Southern Corp. shops in downtown Roanoke in 2005, notified the state Jan. 14 of plans to lay off 120 workers there on or before March 14.
In 2009, Layoffs Is the Business to Be In (NY Times)
As companies across the country eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, one field is hiring: the layoff industry. Businesses that specialize in “career transition” can barely keep up with the demand as corporate America cuts staff.
In ‘interesting alliance,’ Chrysler fills hole with Fiat (USA Today)
At first it doesn’t seem to make sense — Italian automaker Fiat Group, known in the U.S. for unreliable but sporty cars, acquires 35% of Chrysler in exchange for a promise to share its car designs, but no cash.But the experts think there could be something to the deal announced Tuesday.
Stimulus Projects May Be Slow, CBO Says (Washington Post)
Less than half the money dedicated to highways, school construction and other infrastructure projects in a massive economic stimulus package unveiled by House Democrats is likely to be spent within the next two years, according to congressional budget analysts, meaning most of the spending would come too late to lift the nation out of recession.
Obama’s message of confidence (Fortune)
The new president strives to assure Americans that, yes, they can. But reviving America’s economy will mean hard work and ‘unpleasant decisions.’
After the Honeymoon… (Entrepreneur)
You’ve built a successful startup–now everyone lives happily ever after, right? Guess again. Here’s what to do when the honeymoon is over and the shiitake hits the fan.
Media General suspends its 401(k) match program (Times-Dispatch)
The company, owner of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, said yesterday that it will stop matching employee contributions starting April 1, at least through the end of the year. The step is a cost-saving measure to deal with the economic recession and a slump in advertising revenue, the company said. The contribution will be reinstated when business conditions improve, President and CEO Marshall N. Morton said in a letter to employees yesterday.
Shuttering Circuit City is a big job (Times-Dispatch)
In the next several weeks, the liquidators will take over store management. They will hang banners, post displays and run ads to draw customers to Circuit City stores nationwide. Large-scale liquidations are not new territory for the companies involved. Together, they’ve worked on dissolving Linens’n Things, Steve & Barry’s, Mervyns and Shoe Pavilion chains in the past year.a
Banks Foreclose on Builders With Perfect Records (NY Times)
Although the housing crisis is nearly two years old, many banks had refrained from cracking down on small home builders. They are starting to do so, and a wide swath of the industry could be forced out of business in the next few years. Not only have new-home sales stagnated, but builders confront a rising wave of foreclosed properties coming to market at prices below the cost of building a new home. To move houses, they have to mark them down to less than the cost of construction. The convergence of these problems is bringing many small and medium-size builders — who account for about 70 percent of new-home construction in the United States — to their knees.
Many employers say inauguration now, work later (USA Today)
Employers are bracing for a major slowdown as employees take time off work to scroll the Internet, watch TV news and otherwise participate in Inauguration Day events. But because of the special historic significance of Barack Obama’s swearing-in, some employers accept that Tuesday won’t be business as usual. About 5% of businesses are closing altogether, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. That is more than those that close on Election Day and about the same as those closed the day before Thanksgiving.
Small Businesses Cut Costs by Renegotiation (WSJ)
Small companies are finding that almost everything is renegotiable these days. The economic downturn is prompting business owners — by necessity or by opportunity — to re-examine contracts with suppliers, vendors or landlords and come up with creative deals. And in many cases, they are saving a substantial sum of money.One thing that certainly helps is having the cash to pay your bills on time.
Caroline’s home decline (Times-Dispatch)
The rural county about halfway between Richmond and Fredericksburg has been hit hard by foreclosures, which are driving down prices for all homes. In Caroline, 18.6 percent of all home sales in the first 11 months of 2008 were foreclosed houses, the largest percentage in the Richmond region, according to an analysis by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Caroline recorded 217 foreclosures in the first 11 months of 2008, up nearly 113 percent from all of 2007. By comparison, foreclosures in the Richmond region, which includes Caroline and 19 other localities, rose 84 percent in the 2008 period from the previous year.
Global footprint for the Richmond area (Times-Dispatch)
Since 2003, the Richmond area has seen 37 expansions or openings by foreign-affiliated companies. They amounted to about $1.9 billion in investments and created about 3,500 jobs, according to Virginia Economic Development Partnership records.
For Businesses Big and Small, It’s Lights Out (Washington Post)
The number of business bankruptcy filings rose sharply in 2008, with 31 percent more companies looking to liquidate — instead of just restructure their debt — in the third quarter than in the first. They have little choice. Many companies are loaded down with debt amassed in the days of easy money. Servicing that debt is harder because of falling revenue. Lenders, facing their own troubles, are not as eager to refinance. And the buyers that can afford an acquisition right now are few and far between.
Cost of Borrowing Zooms Up for Corporations (NY Times)
This year alone, more than $700 billion in corporate loans will come due, according to Standard & Poor’s. That is the size of the federal bailout of the financial sector. Many companies were counting on being able to borrow more money to meet those obligations and kick their debt further down the road.
The Obama Economy (Portfolio)
A back-of-the-spreadsheet estimate of just how much the rush to sell—and buy—all things Obama may be injecting into the troubled economy.
Planning a Start-Up? Help and Advice Abound (WSJ)
There’s no shortage of advice and resources for fledgling entrepreneurs. In fact, the biggest problem is figuring out whom to trust and what resources will be most useful. That involves scouting out what’s available and judging what is worth pursuing. Yes, it’s time-consuming. But one good piece of advice or personal connection can make or break your chance at success. Here’s a look at some possible places for new entrepreneurs to turn.
Beware the Business Saboteur (Entrepreneur)
Read the cautionary tales of 3 entrepreneurs who were duped into bad business decisions but continued to thrive.
LandAmerica victims sue executives and SunTrust (Times-Dispatch)
A $330 million class-action lawsuit accuses LandAmerica 1031 Exchange Services and SunTrust Banks Inc. of defrauding clients by using their money to pay off other clients.The lawsuit, filed Wednesday characterizes the companies’ actions as a Ponzi scheme.
MeadWestvaco will cut 2,000 jobs worldwide(Times-Dispatch)
MeadWestvaco Corp., a Fortune 500 packaging and paper-products company, announced yesterday that it would cut 2,000 jobs — 10 percent of its worldwide work force — by the end of the year to save money as it contends with the recession. About 800 of the cuts will come in the first quarter.
About 75 jobs of the total will be eliminated at the company’s headquarters on West Broad Street in Henrico County.
Economy casts shadow on hotel’s plans (Roanoke Times)
The plan for a major expansion at the historic Hotel Roanoke is progressing, but the state of the economy will determine how soon it happens.
Minneapolis’ ‘Star Tribune’ newspaper files Chapter 11 (USA Today)
ess than two years after it was bought by a private equity group, the Star Tribune has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
A New Menace to the Economy: ‘Zombie’ Debtors (Business Week)
Call them “zombie” companies. Many more has-been companies will be feeding off taxpayers, investors, and workers—sapping the lifeblood of healthier rivals.
Confessions of Serial Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur)
It takes a special kind of person to delve into the wilds of business startup. It takes an even more driven person to start business after business. Why do serial entrepreneurs do what they do?
Va. foreclosures tripled in 2008 (Times-Dispatch)
Last year, 49,011 households in Virginia were in danger of losing their homes, up 201 percent from a year earlier, according to a report released today by RealtyTrac. Nationally, 3.2 million filings were reported on 2.3 million properties last year, an increase of 81 percent from 2007. In the Richmond area, filings rose 468 percent last year from 2007, with 5,159 households receiving notices. That means 1.03 percent were delinquent with mortgage payments.
Circuit City on the block (Times-Dispatch)
Circuit City Stores Inc. lawyers and potential buyers worked into the night yesterday as an auction of the nation’s No. 2 consumer electronics chain ran well beyond schedule. Last night, a company attorney said negotiations with bidders would continue and that an announcement could come as early as 10 a.m. today.
Shoppers ‘Sidelined’ In Long Retail Slump (Washington Post)
Americans drastically curtailed their shopping last month, according to government data released yesterday, and consumers who have come to expect big price cuts are unlikely to increase their spending anytime soon, analysts said, causing trouble for retailers in the months ahead
Bank of America May Receive More Bailout Money (NY Times)
In a sign of deepening fragility among the nation’s largest banks, the government is preparing to throw a new multibillion-dollar lifeline to Bank of America, several people briefed on the talks said Wednesday, the latest effort to stem a tide of growing losses in the financial system.
You Have No Friends (Slate)
A provocative and well-written piece that may get me to sign up on Facebook: There is no longer any good reason to avoid Facebook. The site has crossed a threshold—it is now so widely trafficked that it’s fast becoming a routine aide to social interaction, like e-mail and antiperspirant. It’s only the most recent of many new technologies that have crossed over this stage. For a long while—from about the late ’80s to the late-middle ’90s, Wall Street to Jerry Maguire—carrying a mobile phone seemed like a haughty affectation. But as more people got phones, they became more useful for everyone—and then one day enough people had cell phones that everyone began to assume that you did, too.Everyone else is on Facebook. Why aren’t you?
3 Weeks to Startup (Entrepreneur)
Starting a business doesn’t have to take weeks or years.
How Hard Could It Be?: Thanks or No Thanks (Inc.)
An interesting small biz dilemma from the newest issue of Inc. Magazine: A young employee came up with an idea that added a million dollars to our bottom line. How do we reward him for the contribution? Do we even have to?
S-A-T-I-R-E CarMax CEO Deems Damn DVR Not Max Worthy (Tobacco Avenue)
A very funny post that gently pokes fun. Unable to get the damn stupid thing to record last night’s episode of The Office, CarMax CEO Tom Folliard told reporters that his home digital-video recorder is definitely not Max Worthy, the used-car retailer’s standard rating system for its automobiles.
Circuit City auction adjusted (Times-Dispatch)
The auction of Circuit City Stores Inc. as an ongoing consumer electronics retailer — a going concern — was moved from noon yesterday to 3 p.m. today. In a court filing posted on its bankruptcy Web site Monday night, the Henrico County-based chain said it was making the change because it had received “expressions of interest for going concern transactions and continue[s] to explore various financing alternatives.”Circuit City will take the best offer — whether it’s a combination that sells the company piecemeal or whole — to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond at 10 a.m. Friday. BizSense is looking at what this might mean for the scores of small businesses owed money.
Richmond’s Most Hideous Buildings (Style Weekly)
Richmond is handsome and distinctive architecturally with tremendous natural beauty in the surrounding countryside. These are assets that, like any investment, should be guarded jealously and enhanced intelligently. And while we boast buildings, parks and neighborhoods of aesthetic significance, there’s also considerable underwhelming architecture. Some buildings are just eyesores. Here are seven exasperating buildings that offer ideas in how not to build as we approach the second decade of the 21st century.
The Price is right (Daily Progress)
Bob Barker, longtime host of “The Price is Right,” has given the School of Law $1 million to create an animal law program. The Bob Barker Animal Rights Program will include an animal law class starting in 2009-10, guest speakers and independent study and externship opportunities. The program also will create a writing competition that may be open to all of UVa’s graduate students.
Complaint: Amazon.com should charge tax for sales in Va.(Virginian-Pilot)
When Amazon.com sells a book for $10 or a television set for $1,200 to Virginia consumers, the retailer charges no sales tax. Amazon.com Inc., based in Seattle, operates a fulfillment center and a data center in Virginia. According to federal and Virginia law, a company with a physical presence or “nexus” in the state must collect sales tax on purchases there, even if the business has headquarters outside the state. Sarah Pishko, owner of Prince Books in downtown Norfolk, said that means Amazon should have to collect the 5 percent state sales tax, as she does. She discovered Amazon’s operations in the state late last year and has asked state authorities why Amazon isn’t paying.
Banks in Need of Even More Bailout Money (NY Times)
Industry analysts estimate rising unemployment and business failures will lead to another $500 billion to $750 billion of losses in coming months. That could bring total losses from the credit crisis to $1.5 trillion to $1.8 trillion, twice as high as earlier estimates.
Autopsy of an Indie Bookseller (Business Week)
The rise and fall of Cody’s tells the story of the book business as a whole and offers a cautionary tale to independent retailers
Circuit City bankruptcy auction to begin today (Times-Dispatch)
Potential buyers will bid on the consumer electronics company as a whole, per store or on individual assets. The auction, being carried out in the Manhattan offices of Circuit City Stores Inc.’s attorneys, is scheduled to finish tomorrow.
Mortgage giant offers relief in Va. to buyers on brink (Virginian-Pilot)
Countrywide Financial Corp. has agreed to cut interest rates and provide relief to more than 8,900 troubled Virginia homeowners to help prevent them from going into foreclosure, the state attorney general’s office announced Monday.
Business of teaching business thrives in recession (Daily Progress)
business school officials say that recent events make this one of the best times to study the fundamentals of business, but the same environment also could create one of the toughest job markets in years for b-school graduates.
America Hunkers Down: A Nation of Savers? (Washington Post)
In ordinary times, Bill Rattner would be better off than most. The 50-year-old Richmond resident, however, is also the creative director for the e-commerce group at Circuit City, which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. So Rattner, with three children — two of them in college — has started acting like a man making up for years of financial profligacy. He and his wife have cut their expenses by 15 percent. They’ve trimmed $70 to $80 from their monthly grocery budget. They switched car insurance companies to get a lower rate. They are staying home for dinner more often and are buying fewer clothes. Whatever they save, they stash in a high-yield money-market account.
Alternative-Energy Companies Grow Even as Others Falter (WSJ)
Alternative-energy firms are reporting an influx of inquiries and business from a wide range of companies looking to increase their energy efficiency, especially from those that believe the Obama administration will impose stricter regulations requiring them to conserve energy. President-elect Obama has spoken often of the importance of alternative energy, also known as clean technology, and his federal stimulus package is expected to include plans to beef up alternative-energy infrastructure and improve energy efficiency in government buildings. In a speech last week, he called for the U.S. to double the production of alternative energy in three years.
And the Money Comes Rolling In (Inc.)
This Inc. cover story is a must-read for anyone who works in a web-based business. It’s long, though. Markus Frind works one hour a day and brings in $10 million a year. How does he do it? He keeps things simple.
Kaine to offer green-jobs plan (Times-Dispatch)
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will call today for state tax incentives and grants to promote environmentally friendly businesses and jobs. Kaine will lay out his proposals, which require General Assembly approval, this morning in Virginia Beach.
Genworth: Lays off 1,000; 400 of them at Henrico HQ (Times-Dispatch)
The 400 layoffs at headquarters came out of a work force there of more than 1,700.
Farm Fresh will close two markets, in Va. Beach and N.C. (Virginian-Pilot)
Farm Fresh is closing two of its 44 supermarkets, one on Kempsville Road in Virginia Beach and the other in Wilson, N.C.
Handful of New River Valley high-tech firms are growing and hiring (Roanoke Times)
Some companies are finding fortunes on the Internet. Others are bringing out products and services in support of other, innovative technologies. All while the economy is in a recession.
Economic downturn pounds commercial real estate market (USA Today)
Commercial property sales plunged 73% last year, according to Real Capital Analytics. Vacancy rates are rising, and hundreds of large properties are in default. The American Institute of Architects’ billing index, a leading indicator of construction six months ahead, is at a record low. Unemployment in the construction industry is 15.3%, well above the average 7.2% jobless rate.
Sorry Doc, the recession is going to be painful for you, too (Slate)
The health care industry was supposed to be recession-proof. So why is it in trouble? BizSense has been hearing from local physicians that business is slowing.
Financial scoundrels have little to fear from the law (LA Times)
Execs collected otherworldly salaries and bonuses for years on the grounds that their institutions could scarcely survive a week absent their wisdom and judgment. We know better now, but they haven’t given the money back.
Eight Mistakes That Doom Startups (Business Week)
A neat Podcast: Lots of people may be thinking about starting businesses in 2009, but the process can be fraught with mistakes. Ed Hess, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, offers advice on avoiding the eight mistakes that doom startups.
Circuit City will meet today with creditors (Times-Dispatch)
Creditors of Circuit City Stores Inc. will sit down with the company at the federal courthouse in Richmond this morning to discuss options on settling outstanding debt.
Home sales in area fall 24 percent in 2008 (Daily Progress)
Home sales in the Charlottesville region fell by 23.7 percent in 2008, marking the slowest real estate market in a decade, according to a year-end report to be released today by the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors.
New homes being built smaller (USA Today)
The American dream is shrinking. For the first time in at least a decade, builders are substantially reducing the size of new houses.
Holiday Sales Were Dismal, Data Shows (NY Times)
Judgment day is at hand for American retailers. On Thursday, many chains reported the worst holiday shopping season in decades, and the stores are entering the new year so weakened that some might not survive. A wave of corporate failures that has already taken out stores like Sharper Image and Linens ’n Things is expected to grow substantially worse in coming months, sending some of the well-known names of American retailing into bankruptcy.
What Obama’s Proposed Tax Cuts Mean for Small Businesses (Business Week)
Here’s a welcome report for entrepreneurs this new year: President-elect Barack Obama’s massive stimulus plan is expected to include three key tax breaks for small-business owners.
How to manage your business in a recession (Fortune)
There’s no script for running a company in this historic downturn. So what the heck do you do? Here are ten ways to weather the storm.
Smartbox acquires Calif. company (Times-Dispatch)
Smartbox, a Richmond-based portable-storage company known for its big, red boxes, is expanding its geographic reach with an acquisition. The company said yesterday that it has acquired San Diego-based Big Box Storage Inc. The deal will give Smartbox a stronger West Coast presence and expand its reach to 43 markets nationwide served by 26 franchises. It will also create as many as 20 new jobs in the Richmond area.
Owner of Richmond’s WTVR will trade station (Times-Dispatch)
WTVR is finally changing hands. Raycom Media Inc. will swap the Richmond CBS affiliate with Local TV LLC, which will give Raycom the Birmingham, Ala., Fox affiliate, WBRC. The exchange should bring Raycom into compliance with a Federal Communications Commission rule forbidding a television company from owning two stations in the same market.
Harnessing methane gas: Startup hopes to make cash from trash (Roanoke Times)
A green energy company believes it can make a little money for itself and help local government and the environment by making electricity from landfill gas. The lease has been signed for Green KW Energy to install a generator fueled only by the gas rising from within the Mid-County Landfill off Cinnabar Road in Christiansburg.
Google news (Fortune)
Metaphorically speaking, Google is killing the newspaper industry. Online news is quickly hollowing out the traditional paper – the Christian Science Monitor eliminates its print edition, Tribune Co. declares bankruptcy, Detroit’s two dailies slash home delivery to three days a week – while Google rakes in advertising profits. Turns out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt professes a passionate desire to lend a hand. In an interview with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, he shares some thoughts on how newspapers might yet survive – and how Google might help.
The Trials of the Auto Dealer (WSJ)
Long a Road to Wealth in Towns Across America, Selling Cars Has Turned Into a Struggle to Survive, Not Always Successful.
Jobless rate rises statewide (Times-Dispatch)
The statewide unemployment rate rose to 4.6 percent in November, the latest figures available, up 0.4 percentage point from October.In the Richmond area, the jump in the jobless rate was more dramatic, rising from 4.5 percent to 5 percent. That rate will rise when 1,200 Qimonda workers leave the company in coming weeks.
Pearson gets OK on Chrysler Jeep auto dealership (Times-Dispatch)
Haynes is selling its Chrysler Jeep franchise to Pearson. When finalized, Haynes will close its dealership at 9520 W. Broad St. The Chrysler Jeep franchise will be transferred to Pearson’s property at 8250 W. Broad St. It is not known how much inventory or how many employees will make the move.
Software venture radiates success (Virginia Gazette)
Solertium epitomizes the new wave of enterprise for the county. The small software company is lean and green. Each of its young designers has connections to the College of William & Mary. And the owners, Alison and Rob Heittman, settled on New Town for its proximity to public transit and pedestrian-friendly design.
Alcoa to cut 13,500 jobs, about 13% of its workforce (USA Today)
The Pittsburgh-based company also said 1,700 contractors will be cut as part of a broad-based plan to reduce costs that includes the planned sale of four business units and a global salary and hiring freeze.
Recession creates a load of problems for truckers (LA Times)
Tens of thousands of drivers who had been on company payrolls are now out to compete for slices of the smaller cargo pie with the nation’s independent owner-operator drivers, who were already struggling. It’s the reason for the desperately low bids facing many operations.
Why Wall Street could go to jail (Fortune)
Corporate officers were making reassuring statements about financial prospects just days before Armageddon hit their companies — and investors’ portfolios. Here’s some prominent cases. more
What’s Your New Year’s Resolution? (Entrepreneur)
In the face of layoffs, low consumer confidence and the sluggish economy, it pays to count your blessings of the last year and mark your goals for 2009. In light of the tough times ahead, we asked our community of entrepreneurs what their resolutions are for the New Year. Here’s what they had to say:
Magnolia Green developers are sued (Times-Dispatch)
Timmons Group Inc., a local engineering firm, is suing the developers of Chesterfield County’s Magnolia Green development and an affiliate company for more than $1 million, claiming unpaid services and fees.
Mall overhaul begins: Some business owners anxious (Daily Progress)
The four-month, $7.5 million restoration that the city says will lead to unbroken bricks, more benches and fully functional fountains has started without a hitch, with workers saying Monday morning that they were “making pretty good progress right now.”
Less supercenter, more supermarket (Virginian-Pilot)
The state’s first Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, a grocery concept focused on convenience and low prices, is scheduled to open Wednesday morning on East Little Creek Road.
Company cost cuts put limits on business travelers (USA Today)
With the economy in full swoon, more corporate travel departments are requiring cost-saving measures. Employees are increasingly pressured by travel managers to book tickets further in advance, opt for limited-service hotels, take public transportation and refrain from paying for others’ meals. To be sure, revenue-generating trips, such as meeting new clients or appeasing repeat customers, are still high priorities at many companies. But others deemed less critical — internal meetings, trade shows and training sessions — are being shelved.
2009: The forecast for entrepreneurs (Fortune)
A helpful if overly general guide: Small companies ended 2008 with a laundry list of troubles, with sales slow, bank lending frozen, and health care and credit-card costs soaring. Here’s what to expect in 2009 on 7 key issues.
Recession Cost-Cutting No-Nos (Entrepreneur)
n a sluggish economy, running leaner is a must, but not every money-saving measure is a good one. These experts discuss the moves you shouldn’t make during tough times, even if they seem like easy ways to cut costs.
Chesterfield business carted off (Times-Dispatch)
Great business reporting from David Ress that explains how Chesterfield shopping cart manufacter Rehrig went under: At Rehrig International Inc., the slide started with something tens of millions of shoppers saw but few probably noticed. About three years ago, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, decided to switch back to shopping carts made of metal … Two days before Christmas, the 33-year-old company closed its doors and put more than 100 employees out of work.
Coping with a layoff (Times-Dispatch)
Job losses during the past year have shown no mercy, striking all levels, from data-entry clerks to department managers, from new hires to senior employees. What happens after a loss depends on attitude as well as aptitude. Some see an opportunity to start a business; others spend months looking for a new job. A solid story that looks at how a handful of women are coping with their lob losses.
For retailers, naughty or nice holiday season? (Times-Dispatch)
“It was the worst Christmas I’ve seen in 16 years,” said Jeff Hamilton, owner of Hamilton’s Pro Shop, a golf shop on Jefferson Davis Highway in Colonial Heights. He was one of three merchants the newspaper tracked during the holiday season to see how their strategies to bring in sales worked. The other stores were Moss House in Powhatan County and Saxon Shoes in western Henrico County.
Landmark sues over dispute with Cox about publications (Virginian-Pilot)
Landmark Media Enterprises LLC, parent of The Virginian-Pilot, filed suit last month against a unit of Cox Enterprises Inc., contending that its Cox Auto Trader Inc. violated an agreement to distribute certain publications featuring classified advertising.
College Degree No Shield As More Jobs Are Slashed (Washington Post)
College-educated workers have steadily become more vulnerable to economic downturns since the 1980s, as employers have resorted to cutting middle managers and older workers who may be more expensive. Older and more educated workers lost their jobs at a higher rate during the recession of the early ’90s than in the recession of the early ’80s, although younger, less-educated workers still had the highest rates of job losses, according to research by Princeton University economics professor Henry Farber.
As Vacant Office Space Grows, So Does Lenders’ Crisis (NY Times)
Vacancy rates in office buildings exceed 10 percent in virtually every major city in the country and are rising rapidly, a sign of economic distress that could lead to yet another wave of problems for troubled lenders.
The Rebranding Game (Inc.)
Many entrepreneurs find that their moniker becomes too limited and outdated as the business evolves and enters new markets. The problem is that changing names early in the life of a company can confuse customers. And the whole process is made more complicated these days by the need for a rebranded company to switch Web addresses. New dot-coms and dot-nets are being registered at a rate of 2.5 million a month, according to VeriSign (see “How to Buy a URL”).
In the Dumps (Style Weekly)
A must-read story: After one of the worst retail holidays in memory, the search for economic clues starts — and ends — in the garbage truck. Lambert says the guys in suits with the fancy academic titles couldn’t spot a recession if it hit them like a garbage truck. Maybe — just maybe — he suggests, those guys would have a better chance of offering insight before it’s too late to help if they were riding his truck.
Layoffs overload jobless system (Times-Dispatch)
In the first week of December, the commission paid out $14 million in unemployment benefits, compared with $8 million during the same time period of the previous year, Fogg said. “We have just been overloaded with phone calls.”
Colleges Profit as Banks Market Credit Cards to Students (NY Times)
Hundreds of colleges have contracts with lenders. But at a time of rising concern about student debt — and overall consumer debt — the arrangements have sounded alarm bells, and some student groups are starting to push back. The relationships are reminiscent of those uncovered two years ago between student loan companies and universities. In those, some lenders offered universities an incentive to steer potential borrowers their way.
Secondhand stores shine in weak retail market (Fortune)
As thrifty customers turn to secondhand goods, resale stores are profiting from the recession.
The Hope Indicators (Portfolio)
When will we ever see signs of a recovery? Here are 10 things to start watching for in 2009.
S-A-T-I-R-E Davis & Main Geographically Unable To Open New Location (Tobacco Avenue)
Though he sees enough demand to open a second Davis & Main location, restaurant manager Robert Noland said today that, without another appropriately-named local intersection, he is geographically unable to do so.Though the business could replicate its large mirrors, dark wood paneling, and “antique feel” in other parts of the city, Noland said he would have to choose from such names as Broad & Fifth, Allen & Main, or branch into the volatile Chamberlayne & Azalea intersections.
Security costs for Carytown New Year’s party (Times-Dispatch)
Doubling the number of Richmond police for Carytown’s New Year’s Eve party and making an emergency lane down the middle of the street have driven up security expenses. The festival will charge admission for the first time as it faces what organizers say is a more than three-fold increase in security expenses, which will exceed the security cost for the three-day Richmond Folk Festival. That even draws nine times as many people.
Ukrop’s closing supermarket in Lightfoot (Virginia Gazette)
Blaming slower than anticipated residential growth in the Lightfoot corridor, Ukrop’s announced Tuesday that it will close its new supermarket on Mooretown Road at the end of January. CEO Bobby Ukrop and local manager Dean Sculthorpe broke the news to employees at both stores Tuesday morning.
Local vodka distiller plans expansion outside mid-Atlantic (Times-Dispatch)
The economic downturn has been changing how much consumers want to spend on alcoholic beverages. But not all spirits are down in the industry. Take Paul McCann. More than two years after introducing a brand of vodka, he isn’t about to let an economic recession halt his plans to put Virginia-made vodka on the map.
Developers tangle as local land heads to auction (Daily Progress)
A Charlottesville homebuilder is facing foreclosure on 26 townhouse sites in Albemarle County — but the company says another prominent local developer is at fault. Weather Hill Development is losing to foreclosure a total of 27 properties, which were slated to become five rows of townhouses as part of the second phase of the Poplar Glen project off U.S. 250 just west of Charlottesville.
In 2009, Economy Will Depend on Unlocking Credit (New York Times)
The financial crisis began in the credit markets, and eventually it will end there. But as the financial industry rounds out one of the most wrenching years in its history, bankers and policy makers are struggling to see the way out of this mess. Despite triage by Washington and trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, credit is not flowing nearly as much as many had hoped.
Business Blunders (Portfolio)
The trillion-dollar mulligan and other embarrassing escapades of the year. Portfolio.com’s annual list of our favorite missteps.
The dumbest products of 2008 (Inc.)
A few fun ones in here, including the a portable urinal and a key for that office coffee cup.
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