Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Will W.C. Bradley Return Manufacturing to Columbus?

January 22, 2015
Marc Olivie', CEO W.C. Bradley Company, and Matt Swift, COO W.C. Bradley Real Estate Division and Rotarian

Marc Olivie’, CEO W.C. Bradley Company, and Matt Swift, COO W.C. Bradley Real Estate Division and Rotarian

“I don’t foresee it anytime soon,” W.C. Bradley Company CEO Marc Olivie’ told members of the Rotary Club of Columbus.

He went on to explain that Wal-Mart is planning to spend more than 50-billion-dollars on American manufactured goods and that it would continue to buy Char-Broil grills if manufacturing returns from China to America if the price remains the same.  A company sponsored survey of consumers asked if they would be willing to pay five dollars more for a grill if it were made in America. The answer was an unequivical “no.”

The question was raised during a question and answer session held after Olivie’ had spoken on the status of W.C. Bradley Company.   The company, which had a very good year,  is selling millions of grills, Zebco fishing reels, and Tiki outdoor torches. None is made in America.  Zebco operates out of Tulsa and Tiki Torches out of the Milwaukee area.

While those products are sold globally, the company’s real estate business focuses on the Columbus area. It has extensive holdings in downtown Columbus and Olivie’ says he finds the revitalization of downtown very exciting, that it is truly a plus for the area.

Matt Swift, fellow  Rotarian and President and COO of the W.C. Bradley Company Real Estate Division, said, “We would not have been able to attract this Belgian and his wife to Columbus if downtown and Columbus in general was not attractive to them.”  This day and age a city has to have the arts, quality educational facilities and other attractions to entice talent, and that attracting talent is the name of the game in business.

Olivie’ also pointed out how valuable Columbus State University  is to the Columbus area.  Cities with good universities attract management talent. CSU has already played a big role in revitalizing downtown with its transfer of its arts schools and is about to play an even larger one when it also moves its College of Education and Health Professions downtown.

W.C. Bradley Company owns 25 buildings, which occupy about a million square feet, in downtown.  Except for the condos sold at Eagle and Phenix Mill No. 3,  it rents its downtown buildings to occupants,  Swift said.

Mark Cuban’s Sartorial Example

August 26, 2014

As I observed Mark Cuban’s dress for his appearance before about a thousand business leaders last night at the opening of this year’s Jim Blanchard Leadership Conference,  I had to reflect on the example he was setting.  The billionaire, who stated that one thing a leader has to be able to do to succeed is lead by example,  sets an example sartorially that is not good for manufacturers of  dressy clothing.  Remember what Clark Gable reportedly did in the 1934 Frank Capra movie “It Happened  One Night?” He took his shirt off and was not wearing an undershirt. Millions of men stopped wearing undershirts, devastating the undershirt business. 

Cuban, whose audience, with a few exceptions, were dressed in expensive business suits and ties, wore his trademark black tee shirt , blue jeans, and tennis shoes.  It seems just about all of the billionaire computer and Internet leaders wear casual clothing. Steve Jobs did, and Bill Gates still does. 

During the Great Recession  of 2008 , I was shopping in an upscale haberdashery  one day, and I asked one of the store’s managers if the Recession was hurting their business.  He said the economy was not a problem. The problem was “People don’t ‘dress’ any more.”  Well, they’re following examples of some super-rich successful types.  

T’ain’t What-cha Pay

November 3, 2013

The lyrics of a 1939 popular music hit said that “T’aint what you do, it’s the way how you do it” also apply to paying people for the work they do, according to a group  of Harvard professors.  A study they conducted showed that simply paying people more did not increase their productivity.  The best results came when employees percieved the increase to be an unexpected gift with no strings attached. They felt they were being payed more simply because their employer chose to do it. They reciprocated by increasing productivity.

You can read the Harvard Gazette story by going to this  link.

HOPE for Georgians Seeking Work?

December 7, 2011

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler

  There is a labor shortage in Georgia. Really. There is. But, what about the more than 9 percent unemployment rate?  Georgia has that, too.  You see, the problem is a lot of people could have good jobs if they had the skills in demand.  And if Georgia doesn’t get off the pot and start re-training workers for the skills in demand, the state will fall behind those that are doing that.  That was the picture painted by Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark  Butler, who spoke to the Rotary Club of Columbus today. One solution is to change the HOPE scholarship program to make tuition available  to Georgia laborers who need to retrain. He plans to try to get the Georgia Legislature to do just that.

You Don’t Need to Go Anywhere Else to Get Great Live Entertainment, but You Might Need to in Order to Afford It

September 25, 2011

Bill Bullock, Executive Director, River Center

No, you don’t have to go to Atlanta or New York to get first-rate live entertainment anymore. With the River Center, the Springer, the Schwob School of Music and Drama Departments at Columbus State University in full swing, you can get it right here and right now.  And a lot of people are doing just that.  Those who can afford it. And a lot can’t because Columbus is a low-pay, high- unemployment and poverty-rate town.

Bill Bullock,  Executive director of the River Center told Columbus Rotarians that during its just-completed season , the  River Center attracted 99,000 patrons. “Over, 5,000 performers, technicians, ushers, and other participants attended the needs of those patrons. About 3 million dollars was spent in the process.”

Since its opening in 2002, almost a million patrons were entertained, with 50 thousand participants at a cost of over 37 million dollars.

People who  go to plays and concerts and other cultural events also spend money eating out, staying in hotels and doing other things. Bullock says a survey of the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley taken in 2009 shows that annually “local arts and culture groups generate 51 million dollars of revenue and almost 5 million dollars in taxes; spend 21 million dollars directly and leverage another 30 million dollars of expenditures in local businesses; and employ 1500 workers.”

Just look at some of the nationally successful performers and plays and musicals that have graced the stages of the River Center over the past 9 years:

Bill Cosby, Anne Murray, Loretta Lyn, Frankie Valli, Wynton Marsalis, Mannheim Steamroller, BB King, Travis Trit, Lilly Tomlin, The Smothers Brothers, Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, The Russian National Ballet, The Music Man, Camelot, Cats, 42nd Street, Annie, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Rent, Miss Saigon, Chicago, Stomp, David Copperfield, and a live NPR broadcast of A Prarie Home Companion, to  mention a few.

Then, of course, there are those great local performances by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Schwob School of Music concerts featuring the world-class Schwob School of Music Philharmonic Orchestra, Wind Ensemble,  and other groups and individual performers including faculty who have performed with some of the world’s most prestigious music groups.  And the plays and musicals at the Springer compare favorably with the best regional theaters in the country.

At one time Columbus may have been a sleepy Southern cotton mill and Army town with little to offer in the way of first-class live entertainment, but it is certainly not that any more.  It’s definitely still an Army town, one that’s proud of it, but, with one exception, is no longer a cotton mill town.  Virtually all of those jobs were shipped overseas where pay is even lower than in Columbus.

The city is on the Interstate now – kept off for decades by the politically powerful locals afraid of higher wages and retail competition in Atlanta  – and it has a growing and respected public University,  and just about all of the first-rate live entertainment that most of us can afford.  Admittedly, there is a problem in the number of people who can afford it, because the city is notorious for low pay; poverty is a critical problem, and unemployment is higher than the national average, but just below the state average.

Bottom line, yes we do have need for improvement when it comes to the city’s declining middle class and the poor, but when it comes to entertainment, we can compete with just  about any metropolitan area.

Columbus Charitable Giving is Down, but Not as Much as Expected

May 30, 2010

Commenting on the effects of the current recession , a stockbroker friend of mine said that stocks losing their value causes philanthropic giving to lessen dramatically.   “When it takes giving twice as many shares this year to make the same monetary contribution that you made last year, there is a good chance the giver is not going to want to do that.” 

The big problem is that with unemployment hitting a disastrous ten percent, the need for assistance becomes greater at a time when giving drops dramatically.

Fortunately, though, the situation in the Columbus area, while problematic, is not as bad as it could be.  Last year, after a meeting with 100 CEOs about what their companies could be expected to contribute in this down economy,  United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley lowered its goal from the previous year by $400 thousand.   Scott Ferguson, president and CEO of UWCV told me that a lot of people stepped up to the plate and increased their giving to help make up the difference, and that generosity has caused the goal of $6.45 million goal to be exceeded by $200 thousand.  It will be interesting to see what the 100 CEOs have to say this year when that meeting is held.


While UWCV depends mainly on corporate giving, which relies on the contributions of individual employees,  individual members of the Tocqueville Society increased their contributions. The Tocqueville Society is made up of people who contribute $10 thousand or more.  The UWCV was recognized nationally for having the highest percentage of members, in an area of 300,000 to 500,000 people, increasing their giving. 

It’s thanks to Columbus area philanthropists who joined in partnership with the city government that we have the world-class RiverCenter with its three state-of-the-art theaters,  and the River Walk, and the Columbus Civic Center.   It’s thanks to philanthropists that the Springer Opera House,  Georgia’s State Theater, a historic gem,  was beautifully restored and renovated.  These things have made our city quite attractive. 

Now, we have to make sure that our citizens can afford to go to those theaters.  With the build up at Fort Benning,  that situation should be improving soon.

Should a University be Operated Like a Business?

April 23, 2010


A retired Columbus State University professor had an interesting observation about why he believes CSU President Tim Mescon clashed with the school’s established faculty.  He said he thinks it is a case of a business administration educator becoming a university president and thinking he could run it like a business. He said, “It’s not a business.”

Yes, it takes a lot of money to operate a university, and it costs a lot of money to go to one.  But there is a key business element missing.  Universities don’t operate for a monetary profit.   The bottom line at a university is educating people, getting them ready to earn a decent living,  and providing a broad intellectual background that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

It appears to me that most businesses are basically not concerned with an employee’s independent thinking when it comes to company policy.  Being a “team member” is what counts, but who would want a college professor who wasn’t an independent thinker?  University students are supposed to be exposed to all sorts of philosophies and ideas, and the best teachers, some believe, are the ones who provoke students to question just about all concepts, philosophies, and ideas, and not to accept what they are told just because some authority figure tells it.  In other words,  they are encouraged to think for themselves.  Unfortunately, not all teachers are good teachers, and some don’t encourage individual thinking. If you want to get a good grade, you had better give the impression that you think the way they do.  Let’s hope they are in the minority.

Business management techniques are no doubt helpful in the financial concerns of a university,  but on the academic side,  it’s a different ball game.  That doesn’t mean a business administration specialist can’t adapt and be a good university president.  Which, according to what he says,  is Dr. Mescon’s goal.

What the National Debt and Deficit are Costing You

February 8, 2010

 Back when I was working in TV news, being cognizant of the importance that local newscasts should provide local news,  when we decided to use a national story, we would always try to “localize” it.  With that in mind, when I decided that I was beginning to feel so concerned about the national budget mess we are in right now that I wanted to do a blog post on it, I tried to figure out how to “localize” it. 

When we say the national debt is now more than $12 trillion,  that’s the big picture.  Maybe to bring it home to each of us, our share is more than $40 thousand each, according to the U.S. National Debt Clock.

 A large share of that debt is generated by defense spending.  That hits home. The Columbus area economy relies heavily on Fort Benning which pumps millions into the stores,  real estate businesses,  and just about everything else.  The annual payroll at Fort Benning is $1.1 billion.  The monthly payroll is $87 million.  Sure, we have to pay our part of the taxes that go into the Defense Department treasury, but we probably get a lot more back than we pay.  The point is that the defense budget directly impacts on us big time. 

Nationally, the proposed defense budget for Fiscal Year 2011 is $708.2 billion.  The base budget, which does not include overseas “contingency operations,” which I suppose means Afghanistan and Iraq, is $548.9 billion, which is $18 billion more than the 2010 budget.

 According to the National Priorities Project Cost of War  Counters, so far, since 2001,  the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars  have cost America a little more than a trillion dollars.  Bringing  that to the local level, folks in Georgia have paid more than $27.6 billion.  The counters don’t list Columbus, so I’ll have to go to a city of about the same size, Augusta, where the cost of the wars has been more than $512 million

Can we afford that?  That opens up a huge can of worms, but just on the fiscal basis,  let’s just ask, can we pay for itNot with our own money.  Incredibly, we lowered taxes when we went to war 8 years ago.  You spend more than you take in, you have to borrow, which leads us to our next post on the fiscal crisis we face. Stay tuned

The Landings Sets a Fine Example for Other Shopping Centers to Follow

December 22, 2009


Not only the Christmas decorations impress me, but the whole artistic, and creative approach of The Landings.  It’s more than just concrete, asphalt and stores.   It’s trees, and shrubbery, and sculptures…and, for Christmas…

the Budweiser Clydesdales in person!

And a real, working carousel.

Of course, the best example of what can be done with shrubbery, trees, sculpture, sidewalks, streets, fountains is downtown Columbus; however, that’s a different ball game.  Tax dollars are involved in that show.

TSYS CEO and Chair Phil Tomlinson Updates Rotarians on the Fortunes of TSYS

July 8, 2009
Philip Tomlinson, CEO, Chair, TSYS, Columbus, GA  (Courtesy of TSYS, unauthorized usage not permitted)

Philip Tomlinson, CEO, Chair, TSYS, Columbus, GA (Courtesy of TSYS, unauthorized usage not permitted)

TSYS CEO and Chairman of the Board Phil Tomlinson told Columbus Rotarians today that while the company has a lost a big customer, Washington Mutual,  and could lose another one, Bank of America merchant services,  things, over all, are going well.  He did say that TSYS customers are mainly banks and banks are having big problems.  But, he made it clear that TSYS was not in the loan making business.

He admitted that there have been significant credit card abuses by some banks,  but thinks the new regulations being put in place by the Obama administration will cause problems,  mainly an increase in costs. 

He also said credit card companies are an easy target for politicians.

He told me that TSYS has not laid off any employees – he calls them “team members” –  and that the company is working to see that does not happen, and has high hopes that it will not.