Posts Tagged ‘Business’

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.

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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.

Gaming the System

August 4, 2013

So-called Washington gridlock appears to work for the top one percent of America.  The economy is improving, and CEOs, top management, and professionals are raking it in.  Not so, for most others. That’s probably why it continues, and there is no end in sight.

The average American has seen his income decline over the past few decades, while the affluent American has seen his income dramatically increase.   The income gap between rich and poor is about as great as it was in the Gilded Age when the Robber Barons ran things.  After an anarchist assassinated President McKinley, his successor, President Theodore Roosevelt, became concerned about a revolution and started reforms, things like anti-trust laws to break up the monopolies.  The idea was to save American capitalism by reforming it.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who admired and wanted to emulate his cousin Teddy, took the same tact during the Great Depression, and for the same reason some historians report, to save American capitalism.   While the Russian revolution of 1917 brought on the communist state and the dictatorship of the murderous Joseph Stalin,  and the Great Depression set the stage for ruthless dictators Hitler and Mussolini to come into power in Germany and Italy,  the United States elected a president that promised it a New Deal. He is the only president in American history to  be elected four times to the office.

From about 1937 to 1947 income inequality dropped dramatically. This was brought about  by highly progressive taxation and the strengthening of unions, according to an article in Wikipedia. “And,,” the article says,”regulation of the National War Labor Board during World War II raised the income of the poor and working class and lowered that of top earners.” The middle class was at its peak and a “relatively low level of inequality remained fairly steady for about three decades ending in early 1970s.”

No doubt, the one percent leaders understand the lessons of those times.  When things get bad enough for the masses, they will revolt, maybe not violently in every case, but they will revolt.  There are ways to keep and increase the income gap while preventing revolt, and at the same time funnel tax dollars into their enterprises. They have figured out how to game the system.

Conservatives, including the American Medical Association, fought  the creation of Medicare with everything they had.  President Lyndon Johnson was a master at getting Congress to do what he wanted and he pushed through Medicare.  It was and is a very popular program and costs a lot less to administer – compare 3 percent to 20 percent – than private healthcare insurance. 

Recognizing this fact,  the healthcare industry’s leaders, for instance, obviously now understand that the majority of Americans want the government involved in providing healthcare.  Why not give them tax supported programs, but under the healthcare industry’s terms?

A good example is Congress passing of the Medicare “B” drug plan.   That plan doesn’t  allow Medicare to negotiate prices, which could lower them, but it does help senior Americans pay for their drugs, which means that billions in tax dollars are funneled into the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies. The CEO’s of the top eleven global pharmaceutical companies were paid  a total of $1.58 billion last year.  The top salary was $40 million.  Tax dollars paid a great deal of that.

Now, in spite of all the anti-Affordable Healthcare Act or “Obamacare” propaganda, guess who is not going to lose in that scenario?  The program calls for mandatory insurance for all Americans.  The lobbyists were successful in keeping out a government option healthcare insurance plan,  That was the one sure way of lowering premiums.  Only private healthcare providers will sell that mandatory insurance.  Do the math. 

Yes, the system can be gamed.

 

    

NCR Brings More Jobs Home to America as it Moves into a Second Plant in Columbus

March 28, 2012

My iPhone shot of Rick Marquardt, NCR VP of Global Operations, spewkaing to members of the Rotary Club of Columbus

What stood out was seeing a powerful corporate executive become emotional when he told of how plant employees came up smiling to shake his hand, some even crying, as they thanked him for providing them jobs.  “That’s what it’s all about,” said Rick Marquardt, Vice President of Global Operations for NCR, who spoke to Columbus Rotarians today, the day he came back to town to announce the opening of a second plant in Columbus. NCR has leased the new building that Cessna was going to use but decided against it when the economy went sour.

Columbus is NCR’s only manufacturing facility in the United States. Since opening in Columbus, the plant has manufactured 25,000 ATM machines and also makes other business machines here. The corporation’s decision to bring some manufacturing jobs back to America got national attention, but he cautioned that we shouldn’t expect a lot of firms to do that. That’s sad. Still, we can be thankful that some are doing it and one as large and as successful as NCR  picked Columbus to do it. Marquardt said Columbus was chosen because of the enthusiastic and broad support it got by Columbus business leaders when deciding on which city to start making things in the U.S.A. again.

The Fruits of Ignoring the Economic Lessons of the Past

September 18, 2008

    Now we are staring the big green monster in the eye and seeing what Mr. Greed can do to us…again. Mr. Greed has been very successful in transferring billions of our tax dollars into his coffers, and he continues to get away with it.

  He took big lending risks in order to rake in big profits, and he did. Now his risky practices have come a cropper and he is being bailed out with our tax dollars. Some of his mammoth financial institutions are now nationalized, but what does he care? He’s already transferred the billions he has made, including golden parachute millions, into Swiss bank accounts.

  How did this happen? Simple. Deregulation. He was able to change the government’s rules in order to take big chances with other people’s money.

  Yes, history does repeat itself, mainly because some do not take heed of what happened in the past. What happened in 1929 is happening right now. Easy credit and risky loans encouraged consumers to go deeply into debt.  When consumers stopped buying in order to make payments on their loans, demand plumeted, businesses failed, out of work consumers defaulted on debts and financial  institutions went under.

  This Great Depression caused a rebirth of government regulations to prevent this disaster from happening again. But, the deregulators took  power again, and here we go again.

  I said the rebirth of regulations because they really started in earnest in 1906 when Republican President Teddy Roosevelt decided to take on big business, breaking up a lot of monopolies. The pro-monoply crowd regained power and we’ve had a lot of mergers in the last few decades. So, in that area, here we go again, also.

  The powers that  be are now trying to prevent another depression by having the  government step in and bail out the banks and those who insure loans. Let’s hope it works. This didn’t have to happen, though. Poper regulation could have prevented it.

  Santayana and Anonymous got it right when they said:

  “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana 
 

  “History repeats itself  because no one was listening the first time.”
Anonymous 

Mirabeau Is Up to His Mischief Again

August 22, 2008

  Richard Hyatt has some thought-provoking tidbits in his Mirabeau column on his Richard Hyatt’s Columbus website. This one stood out.

Mirabeau learned something the other day. Sifting through a school board agenda Mirabeau discovered the school district gives $50,000 a year to the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce for the Partners in Education program.”

I have always been impressed with that program, businesses and other organizations providing tutoring and other programs as a way of supporting the schools.  It’s a great public service. But, the District has to pay the Chamber for it? Go figure.

The Poverty Business

August 17, 2008

  Interesting how one thing leads to another in life. I posted an article on Columbus’ biggest problem, poverty. Then I learned that it’s not only a problem but a business opportunity, because poverty can be profitable. In fact, according to what I heard on Bill Moyers Journal, it is a 600 billion dollar a year industry. That’s right; the lowest 25 percent of the American socioeconomic sector provides that much money.

 

  An article in Business Week, “The Poverty Business,” points out how the poor are paying so much more for loans than higher income people.

 

 Federal Reserve data show that in relative terms, that debt is getting more expensive. In 1989 households earning $30,000 or less a year paid an average annual interest rate on auto loans that was 16.8% higher than what households earning more than $90,000 a year paid. By 2004 the discrepancy had soared to 56.1%. Roughly the same thing happened with mortgage loans: a leap from a 6.4% gap to one of 25.5%. “It’s not only that the poor are paying more; the poor are paying a lot more,” says Sheila C. Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

 

  Moyer says loan sharks have always been around. The loan-shark industry justifies the usurious interest rates on the grounds that lower income people are a higher risk. However, the industry has put on a new face in some instances.

 

  There are used car lots that cash in on the poor. One such lot was featured on the Journal. You don’t see any prices displayed on the cars. That’s because price is not even discussed until a profile on the customer is recorded. It goes into a software program which quickly tells the salesperson the max that the buyer can pay. Once the deal is made, the odds are good that the buyer will not be able to afford the payments very long. The car will be repossessed and sold again. Bottom line: a good bottom line.

 

  Emergency rooms have to treat people whether they can pay or not, but they have the right to try to collect. Some hospitals are turning this over to loan companies. The companies buy the accounts and collect the money at high interest rates. So many American don’t have health insurance that there is money to be made this way.

 

  So you could say there is a bright side to poverty. You just have to know how to exploit it. Instead of being considered a problem, it could be considered an opportunity. After all we are talking about a 600 billion dollar industry. Of course, it means you can’t afford the luxury of a conscience, or of “doing the right thing” by your fellow human beings. Wait a minute, some might say, those who lend money to the poor are helping them.  But then, there is the argument that when you charge predatory rates what you are doing is helping them do it stay poor and even become poorer.

 

Is Now A Good Time to Buy A House?

July 7, 2008

   When I called Sandi Green to get a state of the state of real estate in the Columbus area, I was prepared to hear her say that business is great. Sandi is president of the Columbus Board of Realtors. She also sells for Waddell Realty Company. The reason I was prepared to hear that business is great is that over the years I have come to the conclusion that no matter how business really is a sales person will say it’s great. I figured it was simply a matter of sales psychology. You could say that I have become cynical, but I like the term skeptical better. After all, I was in the news business for more than half a century and you had better be skeptical if you want to be a decent reporter.

 

Sandi Green
Columbus Board of Realtors President
  Refreshingly, I have come across some car sales people who admitted that business is lousy right now. Sandi didn’t, to her credit, say business is great, but she made it clear that she was doing fine, as well as most of the old established real estate agents. They, she says, have built up a large enough loyal client base to keep them busy. It’s the newer agents who are having a tougher time right now. 

 

  Are prices down, I asked her. “No,” she said, but qualified that statement with, “but some people are accepting less than the appraised value to sell their home. Let’s say you got a job in New York and you can’t afford to pay rent there and a house payment in Columbus; you’ll take less.”

 

  “Now,” she said, “this will cause the comp price to come down in the future.” I asked her to translate the real estate jargon phrase “comp price” for ordinary folks like me. “That means comparable price. You sell your house for less and that brings down the appraised price in the future. That also can help bring down the appraised value of other houses in the same neighborhood.”

 

  While saying the older established agents are still selling well, she did admit that the inventory of homes for sale is large right now. “People are hearing these stories in the media about the national housing slump and become frightened and that affects their decisions to buy or sell. Like, I always say, like politics, all real estate is local. The Columbus economy is not like the national economy. It’s good, and it’s going to get even better with all of those people coming in here because of Fort Benning getting more troops and the big Kia plant being built at West Point.”

 

  What about all of those foreclosures?

 

 “Well, there has been a lot of that for those people who had those sub-prime loans.”

 

  How well are those homes reselling?

 

“Some are selling, but sometimes less than appraised value. I know of one home that was first sold for 490 thousand dollars and was resold for 265 thousand. There is some problem with selling those, because when people see a bunch of them up for sale on one street in a neighborhood, they become a little afraid to buy them.”

 

 

  In summary:

 

 – There are a lot of homes for sale right now and a lot of people are taking less than the asking price.

 

– That could bring down prices in the future.

 

– News about the national economy and home sales slump has affected the Columbus market irrationally because the Columbus economy is good and promises to get better. 

 

– Bottom line: it’s a good time to buy a home. (I get the feeling that real estate agents always say that, and, for them, that’s true.) But, if you wait a little, it could be an even better time because people taking less than the appraised value now will possibly bring down appraisals in the future.