Today, as you probably know, Gov. Pawlenty is going to reveal his budget plan for Minnesota. On MPR's Midday yesterday, the governor talked about cutting corporate taxes and making Minnesota a more business-friendly state. I asked on yesterday's post why a corporation would move here to do business and fell into an old trap -- thinking of the 3Ms and the Cargills rather than the small business. If I had, I'd already have my answer: Minnesota is where they already live.
An article in today's Wall St. Journal about an Ohio tile company reaffirmed the notion.
Big corporations aren't the source of new jobs. In fact, 60-80% of new jobs are created by small firms, the newspaper indicated. Half of the jobs in the country are at companies of fewer than 500 people.
Small business is also the place where the boss also has a better -- if not entirely complete -- clue about the lives of the employees.
Let's hear from those of you who either own a small business in the state or work for a small firm. Check in and describe your biggest challenges.(3 Comments)
There's been plenty of outrage in the last 24 hours since the NY Daily News reported that CitiGroup, a recipient of about $45 billion in bailout money from the taxpayers, has ordered a spiffy $50 million jet to haul its execs around.
"To permit Citigroup to purchase a plush plane -- foreign-built no less -- while domestic auto companies are being required to sell off their jets is a ridiculous double standard," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, yesterday.
Who's responsible for allowing companies that receive taxpayer-funded bailouts to spend it on luxury business jets? The U.S. Senate.
Two weeks ago, the Senate removed a provision that would bar companies receiving bailout cash from buying new jets, and the reason shows the left-hand-doesn't-know-what-the-right-hand-is-doing nature of economic stimulus.
Kansas is the center of the domestic general aviation industry. It, too, is hurting. If the companies there don't sell business jets, people lose jobs. Cessna, for example, cut 2,200 people last week. The Kansas senatorial legislation lobbied -- hard -- to get the provision removed from the TARP package.
This morning, Citi announced it would not buy the French-made jet afterall.
Granted the foreign-made component of the issue is part of the outrage, but in general it's based on buying a jet at all. So on the one end, economic stimulus is intended to help businesses build business jets, and on the other end, other companies -- also receiving taxpayers funds -- are criticized for buying the product the other soon-to-be-government-subsidized business sells. It's not in the best interest of taxpayers, they say.(3 Comments)
The Case-Schiller housing price index has just been released. The survey tracks repeat sales of the same houses. Eleven of 20 metros areas continue to show record decline in housing prices.
"The numbers (for November) didn't completely fall off a cliff (from October)," said David Blitzer, the chairman of Standard & Poor's Index Committee, in what passes for a sliver lining these days. "Before you go up, you've got to stop going down."
The prices in the Minneapolis area dropped 2.1%, a much shallower decline than October's 3.4% decline, which was only worse in Detroit and San Francisco.
We're a little farther down the list this month:
Las Vegas -3.40%
San Francisco -3.10%
Los Angeles -2.30%
San Diego -2.30%
New York -1.60%
In Minneapolis, the housing price index is at its lowest level since July 2002. In the last year, the price index has tumbled 16.2% here, which puts us in the middle of the pack. Phoenix had the biggest drop (-32.9%)(1 Comments)
I'm going to go on a "find the fee" hunt when the governor releases his budget proposal this afternoon. With cutting alone not enough to plug the gap, fee increases -- not taxes -- are usually part of the mix.
Given the reality that fees will go up, what fees would you consider raising?
One of the top of my head: Vanity plates. I've never really understood the allure of vanity plates, but apparently they're quite important for those who can afford them. The initial cost is $100 (with an $8.50 filing fee) in this state with a $14 renewal charge. Should it be more?
Divorce fee - The current filing fee is about $250. If $500 were enough to discourage someone from filing for divorce, is the marriage really over?
Manicurist fee - Currently, it's $60. Raising it would bring in some revenue, or perhaps limit the number of "nail" salons in strip malls.
Scale fee -- Currently, there is no fee to test whether a gas station's pump is actually delivering a gallon of gas. But there is a fee -- $10 -- to check the accuracy of the scale at a grocery store to be sure a pound of hamburger is really a pound of hamburger.
You're on.(20 Comments)
This morning's MPR Midmorning's discussion about forgetting and memory was fascinating in a this-is-the-day-I-figure-out-time-travel sort of way.
You have to give host Kerri Miller credit for pluckiness and persistence because it started out the way too many math classes started when I was in school: Too hard. Checking out.
Early on, one of the guests Dr. Gayatri Devi, director of New York Memory and Healthy Aging Services, tried to differentiate between forgetting and memory, when Kerri asked why we're able to consciously remember something, but we can't consciously forget something?
"Forgetting has to occur constantly and if we had to consciously remember what we forget, we would not be able to function. It would overwhelm our mental capacity."
Like, umm, now.
But James McGaugh, a neuroscientist and founding director of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California-Irvine, took another tack in explaining why the brain forgets things. Otherwise, it would be a curse, as in the case of Jill Price.
"She's a prisoner of her memories," McGaugh acknowledged. "She can remember her 13th birthday but when she remembers it, she'll also remember that someone there insulted her... She is able to call up all sorts of good information, in doing so she unearths a lot of unpleasant things."
Give the show a listen:
If you could remember everything, would you want to?
It wasn't too long ago that Target was eating WalMart's lunch. Those days are over. WalMart is now doing spectacularly well, given the poor economy. Target is not.
"Like many other companies, Target is taking actions to manage payroll and non-payroll expense in the current economic environment," Target said in a statement. "We believe the decisions we are making, though difficult, represent appropriate actions to manage our business and maintain our competitive advantage going forward."
In 2007, the company said it had 366,000 employees.
Update - A person commenting below, who was one of those let go, says 1,063 employees are affected.
Update 4:30 p.m. Here's Target's press release:
Target (NYSE:TGT) today announced a workforce reduction at our headquarters locations which affects 9 percent of our headquarters population. This includes the elimination of approximately 600 employees and 400 open positions, primarily in the Twin Cities area. The majority of these changes are effective today. In addition, the company announced it will close its Little Rock, Ark. distribution center, which currently employs 500 people, later this year.
The company has recently undertaken other actions to manage expense and capital investment and minimize the number of affected employees. These actions include suspending salary increases for senior management, suspending share repurchase activity, tightening credit card underwriting and credit granting, implementing initiatives to improve store productivity, reducing planned new store openings, and cutting outside contractor support, travel, entertainment and other headquarters operating expenses.
"We are clearly operating in an unprecedented economic environment that requires us to make some extremely difficult decisions to ensure Target remains competitive over the long-term," said Gregg Steinhafel, President and CEO of Target Corporation.
In recent months, Target has experienced weaker-than-expected sales, which is pressuring earnings performance. Combined with the outlook for continued difficult economic conditions well into 2009, the company is taking a more conservative approach to business planning.
Headquarters employees affected by the announcement will continue to receive their full pay and benefits through April 1, after which they will receive a comprehensive separation package based on their years of service. As part of that package, Target also will provide these employees with 12 months of continued Target health care benefits in addition to 12 months COBRA benefit, and outplacement support to assist them in transitioning to their next position. Little Rock distribution center employees will be offered positions at other Target distribution centers, or will receive comparable severance.
As a result of these actions, the company expects to record a charge of approximately 3 cents per diluted share, the majority of which will occur in the company's 2008 fourth quarter. The company believes the annualized benefit resulting from these actions will exceed the charge.
Target Corporation's retail segment includes large general merchandise and food discount stores and Target.com, a fully integrated online business. In addition, the company operates a credit card segment that offers branded proprietary and Visa credit card products. The company currently operates 1,682 stores in 48 states, 34 distribution centers and employs approximately 350,000 people worldwide.
Update 5:38 p.m. - This blog, written by a Target employee, has the details of an understandably somber meeting.(4 Comments)
The governor has unveiled his budget proposals to close the large state deficit. A couple of things stand out.
The repeals on MinnesotaCare are most interesting (at least to me). Said the governor:
Several enhancements to health care programs have been enacted in the last three years and are simply unaffordable in today's financial climate. The Governor's package repeals recent coverage expansions and premium reductions, some of which have yet to be implemented, in Medical Assistance (MA) and MinnesotaCare.
As indicated before, MinnesotaCare is funded by the Health Care Access Fund (the tax on providers). In recent years, however, the fund's surplus has been used to offset other areas.
There are about a half-dozen MPR reporters working on the story. You can examine some of the budget documents here.
From the exotic land of Wisconsin comes today's lawsuit highlight. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that cheerleading is a contact sport. It's a case that is being watched closely in the cheerleading community, we're told.
The court ruled a high school cheerleader cannot sue a teammate who failed to catch her while practicing a stunt.
Says the Associated Press: "The National Cheer Safety Foundation said the decision is the first of its kind in the nation and a victory for Wisconsin cheerleaders who will no longer have to worry about getting sued."
That should give them more time to worry about catching their teammates.