7 years ago
From the Desk of the Editor in Chief
Yesterday, I received a press release from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announcing the new certification bodies for the LEED Green Building Rating System. These organizations are: ABS Quality Evaluations, Inc. BSI Management Systems American, Inc. Bureau Veritas North America, Inc. DNV Certification Interek KEMA-Registered Quality, Inc. Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance, Inc. NSF-International Strategic Registrations SRI Quality System Registrar, Inc. Underwriters Laboratories-DQS, Inc. This evolution in the certification process is part of a major update to the technical rating system which will debut in January 2009. Currently, all LEED project submissions are assessed by the USGBC and a panel of independently contracted reviewers. But the addition of the above certification bodies has ushered in a new, improved means of awarding green standards that is able to grow with the enviro-friendly movement. Speaking of this said movement, I read a recent article online that discussed how ‘going green’ is turning into a fading trend in the United States. Some environmentalists warned that all of the eco-minded ad campaigns, media coverage, documentaries etc. would inundate the public consciousness in a good way, but eventually may “go out of style.” Are we really as fickle about important issues (i.e., global warming) as we are about, say a tacky fashion trend or a pop song? In such a consumer culture, probably so. But I sure hope not.
When we last left Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil, the $479 billion fossil fuel empire he commands was proudly announcing a 29 percent increase in his annual compensation package. Well, Rex must have finished counting all that moolah, because he took the time last week to submit to a Q & A from The New York Times. In the interview, published in Sunday’s Business section and adorned with a smiling photo of Rex, the Exxon Mobil chief put to rest all of this nonsense we’ve been hearing about the awl bidness going the way of the dinosaurs. ”Chief Says Exxon Will Keep Doing What It’s Doing,” the headline announced. Rex was asked to comment on the absurd suggestion from some radical political quarters that the United States can’t drill its way out of the energy crisis, and that perhaps, maybe, it is time for America to think about a real alternative energy policy. ”The reason the United States has never had an energy policy is because an energy policy needs to be left alone for 15 to 20 years to take effect,” Rex declared. ”The answer is you can’t fix it right now.” Rex then boldly told us that the first thing the U.S. needs to do to meet its energy needs is ”to look in the mirror.” While we are busy looking in the mirror, Rex indicated, the second thing we need to do is let Exxon Mobil rip into the coastal waters of California and Florida and pull some more oil out of the good, old U.S. bedrock. Those rude fellows at the Times had the audacity to interrupt this important message and ask Rex why Exxon Mobil did not invest in new oil supplies when prices were low in the 1990s. ”You could say the industry paid a big price for overinvesting in the 1970s and 1980s,” responded the man who presides over a company that reported more than $40 billion in revenue in the first quarter of this year. The editors plowed on, asking the Exxon Mobil potentate to give the average American some advice on what to do about the hideous price of a gallon of gasoline. Displaying his common touch, Rex helpfully suggested that his fellow citizens ”use mass transportation and economize the trips they take.” Rex tastefully did not mention the hefty stipend he is receiving from Exxon Mobil this year to pay for his personal use of corporate aircraft. No point in rubbing it in. Finally, the Times editors lobbed […]
A rather bizarre sight greeted tax attorney Mark Vulcan when he arrived for work at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) in Baltimore earlier this month. Stretched out in front of the DBED office were a bunch of rumpled executives, several of whom had slept on the sidewalk all night, waiting for Vulcan to arrive. No, they weren’t trying to purchase seats on the 50-yard-line for the Ravens’ upcoming NFL season. The folks in the wrinkled suits were investors queuing up for a chance to apply for a piece of Maryland’s $6 million Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit. Vulcan is the fellow who accepts the applications. Maryland’s biotech incentive program already has leveraged more than $24 million in private investment since its inception in 2006. The program provides tax credits equal to 50% of an eligible investment (investors make an equal match). To qualify, companies must be less than 12 years old; be headquartered in Maryland; employ fewer than 50 people; and have a valid certificate from the state DBED. DBED reviews the applications and issues its initial credit certifications within 30 calendar days. During the first two years of the program, the $6 million credit allocation was not exhausted for several months. This year, Maryland upped the ante, opening the program to a larger number of investors and giving out larger shares of the credit—up to $250,000 per investor—on a first-come, first-serve basis. The enhanced incentive program had biotech investors flocking to the DBED office like, well, ravens. If a recent proposal from Gov. Martin O’Malley is enacted, the ravenous appetite of investors for the popular biotech incentives may expand dramatically, and next year’s pre-dawn gathering at the DBED office could resemble a well-dressed version of a signature scene from another famous vehicle for ravens—Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Gov. O’Malley recently announced the Bio 2020 Intitiative, a $1.1 billion program that would quadruple funding for the Biotechnology Investment Tax Credit by 2013, leveraging an estimated $50 million annually to biotech start-ups in Maryland. Our guess is that the biotech incentive bonanza will spur at least one related economic development: somewhere in Baltimore, a very shrewd street vendor is preparing to ask city hall for a license to sell hot dogs in front of the DBED office.
As panicked depositors lined up in sweltering heat out West to bang on the doors of the shuttered IndyMac banking giant, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission emerged over the weekend to announce a major crackdown. The SEC usually doesn’t work on weekends, because they are so tired from doing almost nothing during the work week, at least for the past seven years. So this figured to be a momentous announcement. We envisioned a line of Armani-clad bank presidents and hedge-fund managers chained together, perp-marching into Guantanemo. We picked up the remote and clicked away from live coverage of the Tour de France, where the pelaton was maneuvering en masse around some dog droppings, switching to our favorite 24-hour news channel. ”This just in,” the news presenter breathlessly told us, ”The SEC has announced an immediate and massive crackdown on………..rumors.” Rumors. So the catastrophic implosion of the global financial system in the wake of an unregulated, decade-long orgy of speculation isn’t the real problem, after all. The problem is all the insidious characters whispering about the catastrophic implosion of the global financial system. What a relief! Now we can stop making all those trips ferrying cash from the local ATM to the mattress in the upstairs bedroom. We were about to break open a bottle of flat ginger ale and celebrate, when those spoilsports at ABC News rained on our parade. In a shocking display of defiance of the new government edict banning rumors, ABC revealed that it has obtained a privately-prepared list of the most troubled banks in the United States. The list apparently has been circulating on Wall Street and in Washington. According to ABC, the list was formulated using the so-called ”Texas ratio,” which compares a bank’s assets and reserves to its non-performing loans, based on financial data made public by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) in March. Banks with a ratio over 100 percent would be most likely to fail, based on what happened to Texas savings and loan outfits in the 1980s. The rumormongers at ABC weren’t content just to tell us they had this private list. No, they had to go and tell us that a whole slew of banks in Colorado, Maryland, Georgia and California are about as stable as the average protruding Arctic ice shelf. Then they started naming names. We won’t repeat that information here, because the SEC warned us that they’re not going to tolerate that kind of stuff. But if you go to ABC’s web site, you can […]
Back in May, Business Facilities ran a special advertising article on the retail industry, which highlighted a couple of U.S. retail hot spots. It also discussed the resilience of the industry, as it struggles to cope with and rebound from a shaky economy. Fortunately, the retail realm got a long-awaited boost thanks to the first round of federal economic stimulus checks reaching millions of Americans eager to hit the shops they’ve been too wallet-shy to visit. An article from today’s edition of the Chicago Tribune claims great gains for both our economy and the retail industry. The industry saw a 1% increase from last month, which is the largest jump since November. This windfall is double what most economists had predicted the stimulus checks’ effect would have. As more checks reach consumers throughout the summer, it seems hopeful that the industry’s mini-boom will continue, and that the U.S. economy will recover slightly from its “recessive tendencies,” if not its full-blown recession. Let’s just hope that once the economic stimulus payments run dry, that our beloved retail industry can avoid another drastic dip in consumer activity. The Christmas shopping season never comes soon enough…
As I posted in April, Native Americans continue to push past stereotypes that peg their economic development efforts as nothing more than roulette wheels on reservation land. In fact, such casinos don’t always find success, as was the case with the Crow Indians’ Res-a-Vegas in south-central Montana. Fortunately, with an emphasis on fortune, the struggling Crow tribe has announced a new vision that will shift its focus on the coal industry in an effort to create alternative energy and revenue. Tribe members, nearly half of whom are unemployed and garner a per capita income of $7,600, plan to tap a potential multi-billion dollar mineral layer on its reservation, and then build a coal-to-liquids plant. A successful operation would mean an opportunity to transform the lives of tribe members and the infrastructure of the community. In 2005, federal laws regarding energy development were revised to give, rightfully, Native Americans more control over their natural resources. While some tribes complain that wait times for government approval still linger, the laws will hopefully allow the Crow tribe to move forward more expeditiously. “There’s a misconception about Indian tribes that they all have big gaming revenues,” says tribal Chairman Carl Venne. “We don’t have that, but we do have vast resources.” And as far as I’m concerned, let them get every single red cent from their resources. American history is still being written, and it can look a lot kinder to our indigenous people.
There is a classic scene in the Simpsons movie when Homer and his family—arriving in Alaska to hide out from the EPA after Homer slimes Springfield by dumping a container of pig dung into the local lake—pull up at a toll booth and immediately are handed a $1,000 share of Alaskan oil revenue. The scene typifies the stereotype of Alaska as a state that sold its environmental soul to the oil industry in exchange for some ready cash. This stereotype recently has been reinforced by the renewed debate about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a move which apparently would be welcomed by Alaska’s representatives in Washington. A quick glance at some news coming from the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., however, makes it clear that this perception is not necessarily reality. Here’s a sampling of the latest announcements from AEDC: Alternative energy heats up Alaska ”The Alaska legislature recently created a $250 million, five-year renewable energy program. The Renewable Energy Alaska Project ranks the state second behind California among 16 states and the District of Columbia that put money toward renewable energy, said Chris Rose, executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project. The program’s goal is to offset fossil fuel used for power generation and includes a combination of wind power, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy projects. Additionally, state legislators approved $25 million to fund submarine cables that would connect a 50-megawatt wind power project on Fire Island, in Cook Inlet just off the shore of Anchorage’s airport. Developers of the Fire Island wind project say it can be doubled to 100 megawatts. The project could also provide a foundation for other wind projects that the developers are considering in the state’s Railbelt area.” Anchorage energy projects cut costs ”The Municipality of Anchorage is stimulating new economic development by reducing waste and using recyclable commodities. Over the past two years, the city has saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars while reducing Anchorage’s contribution to global climate change. The city appointed a renewable resources coordinator and has implemented initiatives to replace Anchorage street lights with energy-saving, long-lasting LED (light-emitting diode) and induction lighting — saving an initial estimated $3 million in energy costs. Other initiatives include retrofitting City Hall for energy efficiency; installing a methane gas recovery system at the city landfill; and, encouraging new buildings to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The city is working with local architects and developers to introduce an ordinance making all city-owned buildings LEED certified, with development […]
Combining back-office or service center operations may be an attractive way to reduce costs, but a number of key factors must be weighed before picking a location.
Does all the talk about the coming wave of electric cars have you thinking about extension cords? Or, to be more specific, do you toss and turn at night and wonder how you are going to maneuver the lawn mower around the extension cord while your new electric car is charging itself on the driveway? Not to worry. The great minds at Toyota already have given a lot of thought to these concerns, and they have a solution: The world’s largest automaker wants to build your next house. According to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal, the people who brought us Camry and Corolla are ramping up their home construction business, known as ToyotaHome. Toyota’s home-building unit actually has been in business since 1975, providing a cost-efficient steel-frame alternative to the traditional wooden house in Japan, which on average gets torn down and rebuilt every 30 years or so. ToyotaHome currently accounts for less than 1% of Toyota’s $262 billion in annual sales, but the Japanese auto giant believes the impending era of the electric car will give it an opportunity to dramatically expand its home-building activities. Toyota and General Motors both are planning to launch gas-electric hybrid vehicles in 2010, equipped with potent lithium batteries. ToyotaHome’s engineers are busy designing a new version of their standard offering specifically configured to accommodate the special needs of an electric vehicle. For example, the company is testing an electricity-monitoring system for its houses that will charge the electric car during off-peak hours to keep utility bills down. According to the Journal report, the electric car battery also will be deployed as a backup electric power source for the house, keeping the lights on during a blackout. It certainly seems like our friends at Toyota have thought of everything. Everything, that is, except the average American teenager. Picture this: It’s a hot summer night in 2015 in Anytown, U.S. A. The temperature has been 115 degrees every night this week (yes, global warming turned out to be real). Mom and Dad are sitting comfortably in the air-conditioned living room of their new three-bedroom, split-level ToyotaHome. One wall of the living room is covered by a 1-inch-thick Ultra High Definition Liquid Plasma Nano-pixel Holographic television. Mom and Dad are watching the latest episode of American Idol Gladiators. They are preparing to give the screen a voice command which will cast their vote for two of the five singing contestants. The two winners will engage in a three-dimensional laser-sword fight that will be beamed […]