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Worst Idea of the Week: Recession on FOX?

Worst Idea of the Week: Recession on FOX?

Here’s my nomination for the Worst Idea of the Week—and yes, it’s only Wednesday but I’m confident this gem will not lose its luster before next Monday. You probably know this: the recessed U.S. economy is plagued by layoffs; a staggering 663,000 jobs were shaved away by employers in March alone, bumping the national unemployment rate to 8.5%. Many projections forecast that 1 in 10 people will be without work in the U.S. by the end of 2009. But you may not know this: the Fox network acknowledged today that it is making a reality show out of the troubled economy. An upcoming series titled “Someone’s Gotta Go” lets employees of a small business decide which one of its colleagues will be laid off. Each week, a different company lays off an employee. Fox says it has no air date yet for the series, which is being developed by the production company behind reality borefest “Big Brother” and the no-talent-or-skill-required game show, “Deal or No Deal.” Fox also wouldn’t reveal the new show’s host, which it says is a business consultant who will offer advice to participating companies. So, as millions of Americans worry about their job security or are unable to find employment, TV execs expect us to tune in weekly to a reality show that will glorify layoffs? Are we supposed to find suspense or humor in watching fellow citizens not only receive their pink slips, but do so while being humiliated by coworkers voting them out of their offices? Or wait, maybe Fox will put some heartfelt spin on this show and turn it into a sappy, corporate version of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Even if the network finds a way to not make the tone of this show so appalling, the very basis still is exploitive and mean-spirited, no? Here’s what I’m curious to see: no, not “Someone’s Gotta Go.” Rather, what companies are going to buy commercial airtime during this series?! Are struggling car makers going to advertise their new hybrids in between cliffhanging segments? Retail chains in foreclosure are going to announce their everything-must-go liquidation sales? Chain restaurants are going to offer 2-for-1 appetizers to families that can’t afford to go out to eat? I certainly hope that companies have the foresight to dodge advertisements that would support this show. And I hope that, if the show makes it to prime time, a hard-hit, weary American workforce collectively turns off its television sets.




Just another word for nothin’ left to lose

Just another word for nothin’ left to lose

Mike Bloomberg grew up in Boston, but he pretends to be a New Yorker. The mayor of New York lives in a ritzy townhouse on the upper east side of Manhattan, but he pretends to be a man of the people and rides the subway down to City Hall every day. Bloomberg pretended to put his financial information empire into a blind trust when he became mayor, but then he put a deputy mayor in charge of it so he could keep a close eye on his billions. The mayor told us that maintaining law and order in the nation’s largest city was one of his biggest priorities, then he financed a clumsy amendment to the city charter so he could run for a third term. Most of the people who were planning to run for the position dropped out when Mike started rattling his awesome money belt. Mike has palatial estates in several countries, including Bermuda and Switzerland, but as far as we know he still is an American citizen. Last week, Bloomberg put his imprimatur on the city’s latest scheme to bail out the embarrassing mess it has made of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. For almost eight years now, since Osama bin Laden dispatched his suicide pilots to murder nearly 3,000 people in New York City, the 16-acre site in lower Manhattan has been an empty hole, a gaping wound in the national psyche. Within a few months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Bloomberg unveiled a grand design for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. It included a bevy of modern skyscrapers, a soaring billion-dollar train station designed by Santiago Calatrava, and a somber memorial to the victims of the terrorist attack. The centerpiece of the planned WTC rebirth was a majestic, gleaming spire of a building that would rise a symbolic 1,776 feet, making it the tallest structure in New York. We were told it would be called the Freedom Tower. Last week, the city announced it finally has found a primary tenant for the Freedom Tower, for which about 10 stories of steel foundation work has been completed thus far. Some business entities controlled by the People’s Republic of China will move into the new skyscraper, assuming it is completed on schedule on or about the tenth anniversary of the September 11 atrocities. An outfit called the Beijing Vantone Real Estate Company plans to build the ”China Center”, a combination chamber of commerce and cultural center, on floors […]


It’s Kentucky Calling

It’s Kentucky Calling

Thoroughbred Research Group, the City of Paducah, McCracken County, and the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council today announced the location of a Thoroughbred Research Group call center operation in the city of Paducah, KY. The company is leasing 6,000 square feet in the Village Business Center. The company expects to be fully operational on April 1st. Thoroughbred Research Group (formerly known as Wilkerson & Associates) is based in Louisville, KY and is a survey research firm with national accounts. The most recent expansion was in Mayfield in 2008. In addition to the new Paducah facility, Thoroughbred Research Group operates call centers in Henderson, Hopkinsville and Madisonville. Current clients include Duke Energy, Gannett Newspapers, Columbia Gas, National Football League, and the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services of the U.S. Government. CEO Steve Alsbury projects employment peaking at 100. Most of the jobs are part-time. Starting wages is 7.50 per hour, topping out at $9.00 per hour. Alsbury projects a 15 percent annual growth for 2009. Alsbury stated “This call center operation center in Paducah will improve our overall efficiency and allow us to handle additional contracts we recently secured. Paducah works because of the quality of employees we are attracting, the central time zone location, and the location of our facility in the Village Business Center. This facility gives our employees immediate access to numerous amenities. This is very helpful given that we run two shifts 5 days per week.” Alsbury went on further to express his gratitude to the City of Paducah, McCracken County, GPEDC, and the local Kentucky Employment Services office for their support for a new business location. “This is our 5th call center operation in Kentucky. The business climate in Paducah and the Commonwealth of Kentucky is positive.” Thoroughbred Research Group’s announcement continues to draw attention on the efforts to diversify the local economic base. Mayor Bill Paxton welcomed the new project to Paducah by saying that “Thoroughbred Research Group is an excellent example of a Kentucky firm continuing on the path of success. The decision by Thoroughbred Research Group and Steve Alsbury to lease space in the Village Business Center is evidence of the importance of our large labor pool and the added advantage we offer due to our central location. The Paducah City Commission welcomes Thoroughbred Research Group to the community.” McCracken County Judge Executive Van Newberry added “Thoroughbred Research Group is a Kentucky based company servicing national accounts and Fortune 500 companies. The firm had several options for this call center. In the […]


The man who saw the future

The man who saw the future

Ten years ago, before the collapse of the tech bubble and the inflation of the housing bubble, nearly everyone in Washington was convinced that Wall Street could do no wrong. The movers and shakers believed that if the government would just get out of the way of the men with the Midas touch, America’s domination of the global economy would continue uninterrupted well into the new century. So said Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, who authored a sweeping deregulation of the banking industry in 1999 that tore down the wall between banks and non-bank investment outfits that specialized in exotic speculative instruments. Gramm’s bill was enthusiastically endorsed by the Clinton Administration, with then-Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers leading the cheerleading. It passed the Senate by an overwhelming 92-8 vote and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in a celebration of the ”freedom” embodied by an open-ended commitment to an unfettered financial marketplace. The 1999 bill put the government’s stamp of approval on the creation of monstrous financial entities like AIG and a shadow banking system built on a hollow foundation of speculative greed. It eviscerated the protections of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, written at the nadir of the Great Depression. Glass-Steagall was designed to prevent such an economic catastrophe from ever afflicting us again; it created the FDIC and host of other agencies and regulations to keep the greedmeisters from running the banks into the ground. In the forefront of the lonely opposition to Gramm’s bill stood Sen. Byron Dorgan, a plain-spoken and little-known lawmaker from North Dakota. Dorgan warned that deregulation would spur bank consolidation and facilitate greed-driven derivatives trading. ”What does it mean if we have all this concentration?” Dorgan asked in his 1999 floor speech opposing bank deregulation. ”The bigger they are, the less likely this government can allow them to fail.” Dorgan also raised a red flag about a coming surge in high-risk derivatives: ”Federally insured banks in this country are trading in derivatives out of their own proprietary accounts. You could just as well put a roulette wheel in the bank lobby,” he said. Dorgan introduced an amendment to ban banks from using proprietary accounts for derivative speculation and a plan to regulate hedge funds under the Investment Company Act of 1940. ”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” Dorgan said at the conclusion of his eerily prescient 1999 speech in front of the Senate. ”With respect to the regulation of risky hedge funds and derivatives in this country — […]




New Jersey, New Jobs, New Vista

New Jersey, New Jobs, New Vista

The Capital Real Estate Group and architects RMJM today unveiled the design for Vista Center, a new LEED-Platinum office tower in Trenton, NJ, which will be the city’s largest commercial development in decades. At a time of economic crisis, this major investment will bring new jobs, revenue and an iconic tower to New Jersey’s capital city. Trenton’s Planning Board unanimously approved the preliminary site plan in late 2008. Vista Center will be a major catalyst in Trenton’s revitalization, with 300 jobs during construction phases and 2,800 permanent new jobs on build out, according to developer David Brenna. “The City will realize more than $35 million in estimated real estate taxes from Vista Center over 30 years as well as increased demand for housing and retail services,” he said. In addition, estimates from real estate advisors BBPC & Associates indicate the potential for new office workers to spend more than $18 million annually at local businesses. Urban Land Institute studies show that urban center jobs create significant housing demand. The development of Vista Center could spur more than $100 million in new residential construction Vista Center is a 25-story, 700,000-square-foot Class A office building planned directly adjacent to the Trenton Transit Center, the second busiest train station on New Jersey’s Northeast Corridor, which runs from Boston to Washington. The transit-oriented development will include 12,000-square-feet of ground-level retail, a parking garage for more than 1,140 cars and two public art components—a plaza with a signature sculpture and lobby with a video art installation. “Vista Center signals a new future for Trenton that will bring new jobs and economic opportunity in a spectacular ‘green’ tower,” Brenna. “The project will enable corporations and partnerships to upgrade to the best workspace available, enjoy incredible rail and highway access for employees, increase worker productivity and reduce occupancy costs to zero as a result of available financial incentives. This is the only project of its kind for companies that qualify.” The project is targeting a LEED Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council—the highest sustainability rating offered—which would make it the first Platinum office tower located directly at a Northeast Corridor Hub. The Trenton Transit Center, which is the final phase of a $75 million renovation program, is a major hub along the Northeast Corridor, served by NJ Transit, AMTRAK, SEPTA and the NJ Riverline. The combination of four train lines and a location seconds from U.S. Route 1 provide exceptional connectivity to the region’s workforce. Trenton native Daniel Brenna assembled a world-class development team for […]