Monthly Archives: May 2010

Sunsphere saga continues

Since it was built, the Sunsphere has made headlines here and around the country. Bart Simpson knocked it over in a famous episode of the Simpsons. Virtually every photo of the Knoxville skyline shot in nearly 30 years features the golden dome.

It is, in short, one of Knoxville’s most important cultural icons. The current controversy won’t be the last time the big ball is in the news.

Read business writer Carly Harrington’s story in today’s News Sentinel here.

For your consideration here are a few other Sunsphere links to browse this holiday weekend.

More on the Simpsons episode


Construction details

Sunsphere videos on YouTube

Too old to Google?

The California Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in an age discrimination suit filed by a former Google manager who was fired in 2004.

The ex-Googler, now 60, says younger Googlers called him an “old fuddy-duddy,” among other things. Google says the worker was fired for performance issues, not his age.

What’s going on? I thought 60 was the new 40.

More about the case here and here.

Recovery continues: Consumer spending, corporate profits up

Word from the Commerce Department today is that the economy didn’t grow quite as fast in the first quarter as originally estimated. But that’s no reason to panic. The key word here is “grow.” The economy continues to recover, albeit slowly.

Several bits of good news can be found in the news release from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

— Automobile manufacturing and computer sales both were up from the fourth quarter.

— Consumer spending rose 3.5 percent, slightly less than originally estimated, but up from 1.6 percent in the 4Q and the strongest showing in three years.

— Corporate America is still making money. Corporate profits increased $81.4 billion, compared to a 4Q increase of $108.7 billion. Still a tidy increase, any way you cut it.

Read the full BEA press release here.

Economic forecast better than expected

A year into the recovery, the U.S. economy is getting stronger and is poised for better-than-expected growth in the next couple of years.

That’s the updated forecast released earlier this week by the National Association for Business Economics.

The forecast is upbeat in its overall tone, although NABE forecasters remain concerned about the federal deficit and economic troubles in other parts of the world.

If you are anti stimulus and determined to be pessimistic, stop reading. If you’re more open minded here are some highlights from the NABE forecast:

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IdleAire come back? Really?

The envelope, please. The winner of the 2010 Back From The Dead Award is … IdleAire Inc.!

Yuo remember IdleAire, previous winner of the Bad Timing Award.

Perhaps it’s premature to pick the comeback company of the year, but you have to give IdleAire CEO Mike Fielden and unnamed investors credit for having massive quantities of chutzpah.

Check out News Sentinel business writer Ed Marcum’s story here.

Will a scaled back version of the eco-friendly business be successful this time? I try to be optimistic in this things, but this is asking a lot of my good nature. Let’s check back at the end of the year.


Rising consumer confidence trumps falling Dow

The Dow has lost more than 1,300 points in the last few weeks, plunging below 10,000 today as investors respond to Europe’s continuing economic troubles and other global headlines.

And, yet, U.S. consumers are blissfully happy.

The Conference Board said on Tuesday the Consumer Confidence Index rose to 63.3 from a revised 57.7 in April. The index measure how consumers feel about current economic conditions and how they view the next six months.

There seems to be a disconnect here. Why, I wondered, are consumers so happy while investors are running in fear? I called University of Tennessee economist Bill Fox for an explanation.

Fox said …

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No Midway decision, no surprise

Knox County Commission’s vote to table a Midway Business Park decision wasn’t a surprise. Politicians at every level would much rather let someone else take the heat for a controversial decision.

Sadly, the delay means it will be longer before work starts on the business park. I should say, hopefully starts. When the new, smaller commission takes office in a few months there is no guarantee the park will be approved. Opposition is vocal and well organized.

Here’s hoping the new commission sees fit to approve the park. The regional economy needs the jobs and the tax revenue the park will generate as this year’s county budget troubles show.

Have you been counted?

As of today, the national participation rate in the 2010 Census is 72 percent. Knox County and Tennessee are doing a little better, at 77 percent and 74 percent, respectively.

Drilling down a little further Farragut is at 85 percent and some East Knoxville communities are in the high 40s.

I visited last weekend with a long-time friend who is doing door-to-door work for the Census Bureau in the Knoxville area. He has heard some, shall we say, interesting comments from folks who aren’t thrilled with the government and have no intention whatsoever of participating in the census.

So far, no one has threatened him with bodily harm.

I get that some people are distrustful of the government, but not participating in the census is short-sighted. Tax dollars that benefit individuals and businesses are allocated, in part, based on census data.

Here’s more info on the census.

Click here for an interactive map sowing census participation rates nationwide.

Financial reform: Too many lobbyists?

Now that the Senate has passed a financial overhaul bill, House and Senate negotiators must get together to merge their versions of the bill. Negotiations could be tough, but lawmakers undoubtedly will get a lot of help from lobbyists.

Businesses already have hired five financial lobbyists for every member of congress and spent at least $1.3 billion to influence lawmakers on financial reform, according to The Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism organization.

With that many lobbyists yammering away on just one issue, it’s a wonder congress gets anything done.

Read the Center for Public Integrity report here.

Credit crunch hurts biz park development

On Sunday, the News Sentinel and, take a look at how the credit crunch has slowed development of Pellissippi Place, a technology business park being developed by Knox and Blount counties and the cities of Alcoa and Maryville.

Access to capital is hurting commercial development across the country. Both small businesses and public-private groups like the Industrial Development Board of Blount County, which owns Pellissippi Place, are having trouble getting loans.

Help could be on the way. But politics could get in the way. Now there’s a surprise.

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