Friday, January 30, 2009

Chick-fil-A Chain Celebrates 41st Consecutive Year of Positive Sales

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Despite the struggling economy, Chick-fil-A® enjoyed an unprecedented year of sales growth in 2008. The Atlanta-based restaurant chain yesterday reported 2008 system-wide sales of $2,962,253,976, representing a 12.17 percent increase over the chain’s 2007 overall sales performance and a strong same-store sales increase of 4.59 percent.

Chick-fil-A’s record sales performance marked the chain’s 41st consecutive year of system-wide sales gains – a streak that the chain has sustained since its inception in 1967 – and its 16th straight year of double-digit sales growth.

“Of all of our years of sales growth, we are truly grateful for our customers’ support as reflected in our 2008 sales. Chick-fil-A was able to endure a number of challenges that could have been detrimental to any other chain, including targeted product competition among our quick-service rivals and a challenging economic environment, but our restaurant Operators and team members remained committed to excellence which resulted in another solid sales year,” said Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Dan T. Cathy. “While we by no means are immune to the economic challenges our country is facing, we do believe we will continue to remain healthy as long as we stay committed to the qualities that have shaped the Chick-fil-A brand thus far: providing exceptional customer service and unmatched product quality to every customer on every visit. God has truly blessed our business and we pray that He will continue to keep His hand upon us.”

The chain’s 2008 sales performance complemented a number of business highlights, including:

* Continued restaurant expansion with 83 new locations.
* While the competition was imitating many of Chick-fil-A’s signature menu items, the chain conducted the most aggressive product rollout year in its history, introducing a Chargrilled Chicken and Fruit Salad, a new Chick-fil-A Chick-n-Strips® product that is 50-percent larger than the chain’s previous strips offering, and an enhanced Chick-fil-A® Chicken Salad Sandwich, which tripled in sales upon rollout.
* In fall 2008, Chick-fil-A eliminated artificial trans fat from its entire menu, becoming one of the first national quick-service restaurant chains to offer a complete menu – from entrĂ©es down to condiments – with zero grams of trans fat.

* Chick-fil-A was recognized with a number of prominent industry awards, including:
o Business Week named Chick-fil-A as one of 25 national Customer Service Champs in 2008.
o Men’s Health recognized Chick-fil-A as America’s Healthiest Chain Restaurant for Kids.
o Chick-fil-A topped QSR magazine’s 2008 Best Drive-Thru in America survey for the fifth time.
o Restaurants & Institutions magazine named Chick-fil-A as its Platinum winner for “Choice in Chains” award in the chicken category.

* In August, the chain hosted the inaugural Chick-fil-A College Kickoff football game between the University of Alabama and Clemson University at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. Alabama will return to face Virginia Tech for the 2009 event.
* Chick-fil-A awarded 48 franchise Operators new cars as part of the chain’s Symbol of Success sales incentive program. Through the program, franchisees are awarded a new Ford vehicle of their choice for meeting their annual sales goals.

Philanthropy also continued to be a major focus in 2008 for the entire chain, a tradition set by its 87-year-old Founder and CEO S. Truett Cathy. Truett Cathy received the President’s Call to Service Award for lifetime volunteer service achievement in 2008 and became the first recipient to receive the award in the Oval Office. Other significant charitable endowments for the chain included continued support for WinShape® Foundation, a non-profit organization and charitable foundation established by the Cathy Family, and the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl™, which led all college football bowl games by contributing more than $1.2 million to charities and scholarships. Chick-fil-A also celebrated the 35th anniversary of its Leadership Scholarship Program by donating more than $1.4 million in college scholarships to its restaurant team members in 2008, and will exceed the $25 million mark in total scholarships later this year.

Dan Cathy also noted that restaurant growth will continue to be an integral factor in sustaining sales momentum this year. Chick-fil-A will continue its steady restaurant growth with 76 new locations planned for 2009, including 64 stand-alone restaurants, two mall/retail locations and 10 licensed outlets. Additionally, the chain feels it also is critical to reinvest in some of its existing restaurant sites. The chain will renovate 65 restaurants throughout the year in a reinvestment effort to extend the life cycle of each location and introduce new efficiencies that will help Chick-fil-A’s franchise Operators attract and accommodate greater sales volumes.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama Dropped Small Business Stimulus Plan Days Before the Election

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Just days before the election, President Barack Obama dropped a comprehensive plan to stimulate the middle class economy by stopping the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants. The plan was drafted over the course of three months by dozens of small business experts around the country who had been invited to serve on President Obama's small business advisory panel.

The plan included a number of policies that would have redirected up to $100 billion a year in federal small business contracts back to legitimate middle class firms around the country.

Since 2003, a series of over 15 federal investigations found Bush Administration officials allowed billions of dollars in federal small business contracts to be diverted to Fortune 500 firms, their subsidiaries and thousands of large businesses in the United States and Europe.

A report issued by the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) referred to the diversion of federal small business contracts to large businesses as, "One of the most important challenges facing the Small Business Administration and the entire Federal government today." (http://www.sba.gov/IG/05-15.pdf)

President Obama responded to the investigations in February of 2008 with the statement, "It is time to end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants." (http://www.barackobama.com/2008/02/26/the_american_small_business_le.php)

The plan included support for a new piece of draft legislation written by the American Small Business League (ASBL) titled the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act. The new legislation would prevent government contracting officials from awarding small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms and other large businesses. The ASBL estimates the new legislation would provide a dramatic boost to the nation's failing economy by redirecting up to $100 billion a year in federal infrastructure funds to middle class firms.

As opposed to other stimulus plans that could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act would be virtually free to taxpayers.

In December President Obama's transition team stated that up to 40,000 jobs could be created with every billion dollars spent on federal infrastructure projects. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/us/politics/07radio.html?_r=1) If calculations by President Obama and the ASBL are correct, the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act could create over 4 million new jobs at virtually no expense to taxpayers.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Target Corporation Announces Workforce Reduction

(BUSINESS WIRE)--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.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

NADA Chairman Says Next Two Months Are Critical to the Future of Auto Industry

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With 2009 expected to be one of the toughest years yet for auto retailing, the incoming chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association issued a call-to-action Monday, urging dealers to make their voices heard in the debate over how to return the industry to economic viability and how new emission standards should be implemented.

"The nation's new car dealers have already made strides in communicating the importance of the franchise network, the need for federal bridge loans and the necessity of stable credit markets, but the work must continue," said 2009 NADA Chairman John McEleney and Iowa dealer.

"The next two months are critical to the future of our industry as we know it - the future of GM and Chrysler, availability of credit and the return of stability to our economy," he said.

"In a 17-million-sales year, it may be enough for us to share that we sponsor Little League teams or that we helped to fund the new wing at the local hospital," McEleney said. "In a 12-million-sales year, we've got to tell how we contribute to our community's bottom line."

-- "Tell how many of our employees' kids we helped send to college."
-- "Tell how many people were able to get healthcare through us."
-- "Tell how many people picked up lifelong skills - technical skills,
people skills and management skills in the time they've worked for
us."


"The unprecedented nature of the times we find ourselves living in has been both a blessing and a curse," he said. "It's drawn the kind of attention to our industry that we haven't encountered in years."

McEleney said some pundits characterized dealers as a drain on the books of automakers and suggested it was time to do away with the franchise system.

"...we had to inform people about the model of our business," he said. "...it's our money we invest in buildings and staff and training, not the manufacturers. It's our investments that are on the line to get their products distributed to buyers."

With much attention being paid to the industry, it's incumbent upon dealers to inform the public about auto retailing's impact on local, state and national economies. Sales taxes collected at auto dealerships nationwide total in the billions of dollars each year. And auto sales make up nearly 20 percent of all retail spending in the U.S.

Today, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to review whether to authorize state efforts to regulate vehicle emissions. NADA welcomes that review, McEleney said, but is urging the administration to carefully examine how those rules would actually be implemented. That kind of review will reveal that the California Air Resources Board's rule is in direct competition with the federal CAFE program, he said.

"We hope that the president and the EPA administrator will realize that a single national fuel-economy standard is smarter than a patchwork of state regulations that will only further endanger our industry," McEleney said.

With the auto industry undergoing drastic changes, the coming year could be one of the most challenging ever. But the auto industry is cyclical, and dealers will continue to succeed if they focus on things they can control, he said.

"Our job is to protect and strengthen our dealerships so that as the cycle turns upward, we are in a position to thrive," McEleney said.

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The Home Depot Exits EXPO Business, Streamlines Support Functions and Reaffirms Previous Fiscal 2008 Sales and Earnings Guidance

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Home Depot(R), the world's largest home improvement retailer, today announced it will exit its EXPO business. The Company is also taking steps to streamline its support functions. These decisions will impact 7,000 associates, or approximately two percent of the Company's total workforce. Finally, the Company today reaffirmed its previous guidance on earnings for the 2008 fiscal year, excluding the charge associated with the actions announced today and the store rationalization charge recognized earlier in the year.

EXPO

The EXPO business has not performed well financially and is not expected to anytime soon. Even during the recent housing boom, it was not a strong business. It has weakened significantly as the demand for big ticket design and decor projects has declined in the current economic environment. Continuing this business would divert focus and resources from the Company's core "orange box" stores. Therefore, over the next two months, the Company will be closing 34 EXPO Design Center stores, five YardBIRDS stores, two Design Center stores and a bath remodeling business known as HD Bath, with seven locations. These steps will impact approximately 5,000 associates in those locations, their support functions and their distribution centers.

"Exiting our EXPO business is a difficult decision, particularly given the hard work and dedication of our associates in that business and the support of our loyal customers," said Frank Blake, Chairman and CEO. "At the same time, it is a necessary decision that will strengthen our core Home Depot business."

Support Reductions

The Company also announced that it is restructuring support functions to better align the Company's cost structure with the current economic environment. This includes continuing its shift to a region- and district- based support model in various field functions and reducing headcount in administrative functions in the Company's store support centers. These support reductions will impact approximately 2,000 associates and will result in a 10% reduction in the Company's officer ranks. They will not impact any customer-facing positions in Home Depot stores.

The Company is also initiating a salary freeze among all officers. But, it will continue to offer merit increases to non-officer associates, as well as earned bonuses and the Company's existing 401k matching contribution for all associates, including officers. The Company will offer severance, earned bonuses and other benefits to all impacted associates.

"We're very fortunate that the soundness of our company lets us live our value of taking care of our people, even in this time of unprecedented economic hardship," Blake said. "These changes will make us a stronger company and will allow us to continue to grow associate employment over the long term to benefit our customers."

Charges Related to Restructuring

The Company anticipates taking a total pre-tax charge due to these actions of approximately $532 million, of which approximately $390 million will be recognized in the fourth quarter and the remaining $142 million will be recognized in 2009 and beyond. The charge consists primarily of fixed asset write-offs, lease reserves on closed stores, severance and store closing costs. The cash component related to severance and store closing costs is projected to be approximately $153 million over the next twelve months, and is expected to be offset by cash received for liquidated inventory.

These actions should benefit fiscal 2009 earnings before interest and tax by approximately $305 million. The benefit to earnings is primarily a result of payroll savings and operational improvements from the business exit.

HD Supply

The Company announced that it will take two charges in the fourth quarter related to its sale of HD Supply in 2007 and its ongoing equity interest in that business. First, it will record a charge of approximately $55 million, net of tax, to be reflected in discontinued operations primarily related to the working capital dispute related to the sale of the business. The cash component of the HD Supply charge is $22 million. Second, it will record a pre-tax charge of $163 million that will be reflected in other expense for a write-down of the Company's investment in HD Supply.

Updated 2008 Sales and EPS Guidance

The Company confirmed that it expects fiscal 2008 sales and earnings per share from continuing operations to decline by 8% and 24% respectively before the charge associated with today's announcement and the store rationalization charge recognized earlier in the year.

Fiscal 2009 Outlook

Looking forward, the Company anticipates continued weakness in sales related to the broader economic downturn, but will continue to invest in customer service in its core Home Depot stores, while optimizing its capital allocation. The Company plans to reduce capital expenditures to approximately $1 billion in fiscal 2009 and will open 12 stores. Fiscal 2009 sales and earnings per share guidance will be provided during the Company's fourth quarter earnings call on February 24, 2009.

The Home Depot will conduct a conference call today at 11 a.m. ET to discuss information included in this news release and related matters. The conference call will be available in its entirety through a webcast and replay at homedepot.com in the Investor Relations section.

Special Note to EXPO Customers

Throughout the process of closing its EXPO stores, The Home Depot is committed to meeting the needs of its customers. The Company will complete any construction projects that have been started. In cases where product has been ordered but the construction project hasn't been started, the Company will refund the price of installation and the design retainer. The customer can then arrange for their own installation. In cases where a design retainer has been paid but product has not yet been ordered, the customer will receive a full refund of the design retainer, as well as a 10% off coupon that can be used for a product and services discount at a local Home Depot store. All special orders will be completed. Any back orders will be refunded to the customer. Customers with questions should contact their local EXPO or one of the Company's call centers at 1-800-259-1042 or 1-800-797-1745.

Certain statements contained herein are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements may relate to, among other things, the demand for our products and services, net sales growth, comparable store sales, store openings and closures, state of the economy, state of the construction, housing and home improvement markets, reinvestment plans, net earnings performance, earnings per share, capital allocation and expenditures, liquidity, the effect of adopting certain accounting standards, and the effect of charges and impairments. Such forward-looking statements are based on currently available information and current assumptions, expectations and projections about future events. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements. Such statements are subject to future events, risks and uncertainties - many of which are beyond our control or are currently unknown to us - as well as potentially inaccurate assumptions that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations and projections. Such risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to: economic conditions in North America and in other countries where we operate; changes in our cost structure; and conditions affecting customer transactions and average ticket, including, but not limited to, improving and streamlining operations. Material risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations and projections are described in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for our fiscal year ended February 3, 2008. Such risks and uncertainties include the considerable risks associated with the current economic environment and possible adverse effects on our results of operations and financial condition. Such risks and uncertainties are also described in the Form 10-Q for our fiscal quarter ended November 2, 2008. We note such factors that could cause actual results and outcomes to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements as permitted by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. There also may be other factors that we cannot anticipate or that are not described herein because we do not perceive them to be material. Such factors could cause results to differ materially from our expectations. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and we do not undertake to update such statements other than as required by law.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Governor Perdue Announces New Work Ready Regions Grants

Governor Sonny Perdue today announced $1.6 million in federally-funded grants to four Georgia regions working toward earning Work Ready Region status. These regions bring together their assets and leaders to create regional talent pools targeting existing strategic industries and to increase economic development opportunities.

“By aligning our assets and working collaboratively to attract and grow jobs in our state’s strategic industries, Georgia Work Ready Regions are making our state a more attractive destination for companies,” said Governor Perdue. “This effort is reaping great rewards and I am happy to be able to add the four new regions.”

The four new Work Ready Regions grant recipients include South Georgia for bioscience, East Central Georgia for energy, Metro-Atlanta (Western Innovation Crescent) for bioscience and South Central Georgia for advanced manufacturing. Additional counties may be added to some regions as the Work Ready Region process proceeds. The counties include Atkinson, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Burke, Clayton, Cobb, Coffee, Colquitt, Columbia, Cook, Echols, Fulton, Glascock, Hancock, Irwin, Jefferson, Jenkins, Lanier, Lincoln, Lowndes, McDuffie, Richmond, Screven, Taliaferro, Warren, Wilcox and Worth.

The potential Work Ready Regions will each receive a $400,000 grant to assist in increasing the skill level of its workforce. Specifically, increasing the number of individuals in the workforce holding a Work Ready Certificate, ensuring each county in the region earns Certified Work Ready Community status, encouraging local employers to complete Work Ready job profiles and developing industry specific career pathways for the emerging, transitioning and existing workforce. An important component of their work will be aligning regional available workforce work readiness skill levels to those needed to fill strategic industry jobs.

“By developing a pipeline of qualified workers, Georgia can ensure that companies will have one of their most important resources for continued growth and innovation,” said Governor Perdue. “Our Work Ready Regions are establishing career pathways that lead to life-long learning among our citizens and a bright future for our employers.”

Each regional effort is being led by a local businessperson associated with the strategic industry, according to Debra Lyons, director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development (GOWD). This leader will work closely with GOWD through the Work Ready Region academy to ensure continuity of efforts among the various regions, and will assemble an industry network to ensure the region’s work plan meets the needs of the industry, both current and future.

Georgia’s first Work Ready Regions were established in January 2008 and include:

§ Chattahoochee Valley Aerospace Work Ready Region

(Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Quitman Stewart and Taylor counties)

§ East Central Georgia Logistics Work Ready Region

(Bryan, Bulloch, Candler, Emanuel and Liberty counties)

§ Heart of Georgia Advanced Manufacturing Work Ready Region

(Bleckly, Dodge, Johnson, Laurens, Telfair, Treutlen, Wheeler and Wilkinson counties)

§ Metro Atlanta-Athens Bioscience (Eastern Innovation Crescent) Work Ready Region

(Barrow, Clarke, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Jackson, Madison, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties)
§ Middle Georgia Aerospace Work Ready Region

(Bibb, Houston, Peach and Pulaski counties)

§ Northwest Georgia Advanced Manufacturing (Auto Alley) Work Ready Region

(Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker counties)

§ West Georgia Advanced Manufacturing Work Ready Region

(Coweta, Heard, Meriwether, Talbot, Troup and Upson counties)

Through a U.S. Department of Labor Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) workforce development grant, three additional Work Ready Regions have been added:

§ Chattahoochee Valley Advanced Communications Work Ready Region

(Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Quitman Stewart and Taylor counties)

§ Chattahoochee Valley Advanced Manufacturing (Defense Maintenance) Work Ready Region

(Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Quitman Stewart and Taylor counties)

§ Chattahoochee Valley Energy (Sustainable Construction) Work Ready Region

(Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Quitman Stewart and Taylor counties)

Georgia’s Work Ready initiative is based upon a skills assessment and certification for job seekers and a job profiling system for businesses. By identifying both the needs of business and the available skills of Georgia’s workforce, the state can more effectively generate the right talent for the right jobs.

For more information on the Work Ready initiative please visit the Web site at www.gaworkready.org
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Garden City, Ga. Officially Announces Ambitious Plans for New Town Center, Dean Forest Beautification and Other Important Projects

(BUSINESS WIRE)--At a special press conference today, Garden City officials made a series of important announcements that promise to shape the future of Chatham County.

"We're delighted to announce the fact that we are moving our city center, with the unanimous support of Garden City residents, to an area of Chatham County where we can grow," said Brian Johnson, City Administrator for Garden City. "The city realized that the growth of the port and its ancillary industrial influence required a move. We decided to take matters into our own hands and shape our own destiny."

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue attended the event, praising Garden City's vision for the future. He said Garden City stands apart as a model of "entrepreneurial public leadership."

"I applaud the courage of local leadership to create the beginning of the future of the next Garden City," enthused Governor Perdue. "This is good news for Georgia, good news for Savannah and good news for Garden City. Everything is in place for a very prosperous and bright future for Garden City."

Here are specific details about each of the major Garden City announcements:

TOWN CENTER MIXED-USE PROJECT - Garden City officials unveiled plans for an exciting new mixed-use Town Center, located on Dean Forest Road near Southbridge. The project, which recently won a Georgia Planning Association Award, promises to breathe new life into a previously undeveloped area of Garden City. The 40-acre Town Center offers easy access to downtown Savannah as well as the "megasite" located at I-16 and I-95. At build-out, the site will accommodate more than 800,000 square feet of commercial, residential and retail development; will serve as the new "heart and soul" of downtown Garden City; and provide a new gateway to historic Savannah.

A true destination location, the Town Center will offer a wide range of boutique shops and restaurants. City officials are working in partnership with private developers for the mixed-use portion of the new Town Center and are currently in discussions with a number of prospective commercial tenants. Garden City officials expect to make a number of tenant announcements in the coming months.

"The location of the new Town Center is key," Johnson said. "We're going to build a new downtown and create a destination location for residents and visitors alike. We want to give people a great first impression on their way to Savannah. We want to support tourism and economic development in the area as a whole."

NEW CITY HALL – Garden City will officially move into its new City Hall, which anchors the Town Center site, in late August 2009. The 33,000-square-foot building will include the Garden City Police Department headquarters, Municipal Court, Council chambers and administrative offices for Garden City employees. The new City Hall marks a dramatic expansion from its current 19,000-square-foot building at 100 Main Street. The old City Hall was built in the 1950's and was recently acquired by Georgia Ports Authority as part of its ongoing expansion efforts. The new City Hall will host a grand opening in early September.

NEW CITY SEAL – As part of Garden City's re-branding efforts, the municipality has worked closely with Titan Advertising Group, an award-winning local marketing firm, to design a new city seal that reflects the city's multi-faceted identity. The colorful new seal symbolizes Garden City's progressive nature, combining images of family, business, industry and nature into a glorious celebration of the past, present and future.

NEW REGIONAL POLICE ACADEMY – The new Georgia Public Safety Training Center Regional Police Academy, which serves as a training center for area law enforcement officers, will be built at the Town Center site. The 10,500-square-foot building, which will replace the current training facility that is leased at Armstrong Atlantic State University, plans to open in late 2010. The Southeast Georgia Police Academy provides required certification training for law enforcement officers for a 19-county region.

NEW VISITORS CENTER – The Dotson House, the oldest home in Garden City, has been relocated to the Town Center site and will serve as the headquarters for the Garden City Visitors Bureau. This late eighteenth-century building once served as the overseer's house at historic Brampton Plantation. In late 2009, the Dotson House will officially re-open to the public and feature area visitor information, meeting rooms and history exhibits.

PROPOSED DEAN FOREST BEAUTIFICATION – Garden City is currently in talks with Chatham County officials to allocate funds to beautify Dean Forest Road when the Department of Transportation widens the street. In an effort to create a more attractive environment that appeals to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists, Dean Forest Road will feature a scenic landscaped boulevard, tree-lined streets, sidewalks and bike paths from Southbridge Blvd. to

Sunshine Rd. Garden City officials are hopeful that construction will begin in 2010.

PROPOSED SOUTHSIDE FIRE ADMINISTRATION BUILDING – The Southside Fire Department is interested in building a new Fire Administration Building across the street from the Town Center and is considering construction of a new fire station on-site. The 20,000-square-foot administrative building is currently in the engineering stage. Garden City officials are hopeful that construction will begin in 2010.

PROPOSED WEST CHATHAM LIBRARY – Live Oak Public Libraries, which serves residents in Chatham, Effingham and Liberty Counties, is currently in discussion with Garden City officials about constructing a new West Chatham library branch at the Town Center site. The new branch would be the first library facility in West Chatham and serve residents throughout the area.

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SBA’s Deadline For Disaster Loans For Private Non-Profit Organizations Is February 23

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The U.S. Small Business Administration reminds certain Private Non-Profit Organizations (PNPs) that do not provide critical services of a governmental nature of the deadline to submit disaster loan applications for economic losses caused by severe storms and flooding on May 11 – 12, 2008. The deadline to file an application for an economic injury disaster loan is February 23, 2009.

PNPs located in Bibb, Carroll, Crawford, Douglas, Emanuel, Glynn, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Laurens, McIntosh, Treutlen, Twiggs and Wilkinson counties in the State of Georgia are eligible to apply to SBA. Examples of eligible non-critical PNP organizations include, but are not limited to, food kitchens, homeless shelters, museums, libraries, community centers, schools and colleges.

“PNP organizations are urged to contact their county emergency managers to obtain information about local briefings. At the meeting, PNP representatives will provide information about their organization,” said Frank Skaggs, Director of SBA Field Operations Center East.

This information will be used to submit a “Request for Public Assistance” which FEMA uses to determine if the PNP provides an essential governmental service and meets the definition of a “critical facility.” Based upon that conclusion, FEMA will either refer the PNP to SBA for disaster loan assistance or possibly provide a “Public Assistance” reimbursement grant for eligible costs.

Disaster loan information and application forms may be obtained by calling the SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (for the hearing-impaired 1-800-877-8339) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST or by emailing our customer service center at disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Applications can also be downloaded from www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The deadline to apply for these loans is February 23, 2009.

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Georgia's Economic Recovery Depends on Small Business

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Georgia's economic recovery will depend on small business. That message is driven home in the newly updated Georgia Small Business Profile released today by the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The most recent data show that the state has 177,445 small employers, and they employ 97.9% of the state’s workforce.

“Georgia depends on small business for jobs and economic growth,” said Shawne McGibbon, Acting Chief Counsel for Advocacy. “During this time of financial stress and economic instability, policymakers need to remember that the state’s small businesses provide the economic base for its families and communities.”

To further highlight the importance of small business, the updated profile notes that small businesses created all of the state's net new jobs from 2004 to 2005 (latest available data).

Not only does the state’s economy depend on the health of its small businesses, so too does the economy of the United States.

The U.S. has slightly more than 6 million small employers, or 99.7% of all employer firms, and they provide 50.4% of its private sector employment. These firms created 78.9% of the nation’s net new jobs from 2004 to 2005, and they generated more than half of the private non-farm gross domestic product.

The Office of Advocacy, the “small business watchdog” of the federal government, examines the role and status of small business in the economy and independently represents the views of small business to federal agencies, Congress, and the President. It is the source for small business statistics presented in user-friendly formats, and it funds research into small business issues.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

EAU Technologies Receives Patent for Empowered Water(TM)

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- EAU Technologies, Inc. ("EAU" or "Company") (OTC:EAUI) (BULLETIN BOARD: EAUI) , a leading provider of electrolyzed oxidative water, announced today its receipt of Patent #US7,445,800 B2, from the United States Patent Office, to use Empowered Water(TM) Primacide A and C for mold remediation.

Empowered Water(TM) Primacide A and Primacide C are produced by EAU's state-of-the-science generators using a unique combination of cell technology, salt and electricity to alter the molecular structure of water to create a non-toxic, oxidized antimicrobial solution. Empowered Water(TM) Primacide solutions are disinfecting fluids that kill a variety of pathogens including bacteria, viruses, molds and spores, within seconds of contact.

EAU conducted successful protocol studies for the use of Empowered Water(TM) in mold remediation with an industry-leading research firm. Results demonstrated dramatic reductions of mold counts on contaminated surfaces without the use of toxic chemicals.

"In entering any new channel, we first must conduct extensive research to prove the application. Following that, we protect it as best as we can while we develop a realistic business model and find an industry partner to assist with rolling out the technology," said Wade Bradley, CEO of EAU Technologies, Inc. "Mold remediation proved very effective early on. As mold is a major cause of asthma and respiratory problems, especially in children, we are confident that the use of our non-toxic solutions will contribute to a shift in how the industry approaches remediation in this area."

Bradley added that EAU is actively involved in commercializing industrial applications for Clean-in-Place (CIP), Poultry Processing and in Dairy applications.

"Safe Harbor" Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995

Statements in this press release relating to plans, strategies, economic performance and trends, projections of results of specific activities or investments, and other statements that are not descriptions of historical facts may be forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Such forward-looking statements may include without limitation, our expectations about the growth and the potential for the company, and Mr. Bradley's abilities to lead the company in that growth. Forward-looking information is inherently subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results could differ materially from those currently anticipated due to a number of factors, which include, but are not limited to, risk associated with successfully developing our business in evolving markets, our need for additional capital, our continuing operating losses, the ability of our management to conduct distribution activities and sell products, possible failure to successfully develop new products, vulnerability to competitors due to lack of patents on our products, and other risk factors listed in our annual report on Form 10-KSB for the year ended December 31, 2007 and our other SEC reports. Forward-looking statements may be identified by terms such as "may," "will," "should," "could," "expects," "plans," "intends," "anticipates," "believes," "estimates," "predicts," "forecasts," "potential," or "continue," or similar terms or the negative of these terms. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. The company has no obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

SBA Holding Veterans Forum on February 12th At the Agency’s Georgia District Office in Downtown Atlanta

The U.S. Small Business Administration will present a forum for veterans on February 12th in Atlanta which will cover agency programs and services for both active and retired military personnel who are starting or expanding small businesses.

The free forum will run from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the SBA Georgia District Office, 233 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30303. The office is on the 19th floor in Harris Tower. The forum will focus on loan programs and other assistance available from the SBA and its resource partners including the agency’s SCORE Program, the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network and the Georgia Institute of Technology Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC).

Attendees will also be given information on the SBA Patriot Express Loan Initiative. This program offers guaranteed business loans of up to $500,000. It can be used by:

  • Veterans, service-connected disabled veterans, active duty military personnel within 24 months of retirement or 12 months to transition into civilian society,
  • National Guard and Reservists and the current spouse of all the aforementioned,
  • The widowed spouse of a service member or veteran who died during service, or of a service-connected disability.
The forum will also discuss service-connected disabled veteran-owned small business concerns and unique contracting opportunities with the Federal Government.

Pre-registration is mandatory. To register, contact Jorge Valentin-Stone by email at Jorge.valentin-stone@sba.gov. You can register by fax at 202/481-5239. To register online, go to www.sba.gov/ga and select Public Training and Seminars, “Register Now,” in the Spotlight section of the web site’s main page. Please include your name, telephone number and/or email address.

For additional information on SBA programs for veterans, go to www.sba.gov/vets
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

DIRTT adds new assembly plant in Savannah, GA

/PRNewswire/ -- DIRTT stands for Doing It Right This Time. That now includes setting up a new assembly plant in Savannah, Georgia to build the company's modular, movable walls. The new 81,000-square-foot DIRTT Environmental Solutions (www.dirtt.net) assembly plant is located at 155 Knowlton Way in the Crossroads Business Center. DIRTT will be the first tenant in this state-of-the-art industrial facility. The new plant is slated to open in the spring of 2009. Job fairs will be held in the Savannah area in the meantime.

DIRTT Walls are used for office interiors as an alternative to conventional studs and drywall construction. The walls support furniture and can be tilted down and moved to a new location when change occurs in the office, providing a more sustainable solution than building on-site, then demolishing walls only to build them again. DIRTT is the recipient of several environmental and design awards, and is in thousands of projects because of the walls' function, aesthetics and custom abilities.

The choice of Savannah for their second plant (the first being in Calgary, Canada) is a logical progression of the company's mandate. "We have the word 'Environmental' in our name," says CEO Mogens Smed from DIRTT Environmental Solutions in Calgary. "By setting up in Savannah we are much closer to our key eastern markets, and we can take advantage of existing rail lines and shipping lanes for delivery. It is an important component of our business' environmental leadership."

The proximity to clients is also helpful in DIRTT's mission of hospitality. As an immigrant from Denmark, Smed believes in the tradition of getting to know a client personally. "We host our potential clients in Calgary so they understand who we really are and how we will respond to their needs," explains Smed. "But a long flight with a passport check can be daunting. By having a Client Center in Savannah we'll make it an easier trip for them."

DIRTT is looking forward to hiring employees in a region where manufacturing is a typical industry. Already there are 226 manufacturing plants in the Savannah area and a labor force of over 161,000 in the county. Due to the design nature of their products, DIRTT is also enthusiastic about the city's culture and nearby Savannah College of Art & Design.

"SEDA (Savannah Economic Development Authority) and The Creative Coast Alliance would like to be the first to welcome DIRTT as Savannah's newest innovative and environmentally conscious member of our community," says SEDA President Rick Winger. "DIRTT represents the future - in terms of their industry and the direction Savannah's economy is headed."

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Lawsuit Filed in Nationwide Outbreak of Salmonella in Peanut Butter

(BUSINESS WIRE)--A lawsuit stemming from the national outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium in peanut butter was filed yesterday against the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) in the US District Court, Middle District of Georgia. The complaint was filed on behalf of Vermont residents Gabrielle and Daryl Meunier, whose son was sickened in the outbreak. The minor and his parents are represented by Seattle lawyer William Marler and foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, and by Patrick Flynn of Flynn, Peeler & Phillips of Albany, GA.

The outbreak, which began in September, has sickened more that 475 people, hospitalized over 90, and contributed to six deaths. The illnesses were first linked to peanut butter on January 9, and later traced to a PCA processing plant in Blakely, GA. Many companies who purchased peanut butter or peanut paste from the plant have begun recalling products. One of the first was Kellogg’s, who recalled Keebler brand peanut butter cracker sandwiches, but it was too late for the Meunier family, whose son consumed the crackers and fell ill on November 25.

The 7-year-old’s symptoms were fever, vomiting, and frequent bouts of diarrhea, which turned bloody. When he did not improve, his family took him to the emergency room, where he was admitted to the hospital. He remained hospitalized until December 4. During that time, he tested positive for what would later be revealed as the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. He is still recovering from his illness, experiencing recurring diarrhea, painful stomach cramps, and body aches and pains.

“Today (January 20) is a tremendous day in America,” said Marler. “We are inaugurating a President who campaigned on a platform of change, hope, and justice. I sincerely hope that Mr. Obama will be able to effect change in our food safety agencies and policies. In the meantime, hundreds of Americans are ill, and six families are mourning. All of those families have medical bills, some have lost time at work, and we all know what a strain that is. Something has to be done about it.”

Marler, who called for more action from the FDA earlier in the outbreak, also represented many of the compensated victims of the ConAgra peanut butter outbreak of 2007.

“We learned a lot in the last peanut butter outbreak, and it’s sad that we have to put that knowledge to use,” continued Marler. “But what we know is that we have to make sure all possibly contaminated product is promptly recalled, and that the responsible companies step up to pay the medical bills of the victims as well as the cost of government investigations. In addition, the public needs to know what safety precautions the Peanut Corporation of America was taking, especially after the 2007 outbreak. Finally, they need to show the public what will be done to prevent the next outbreak.”

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reputation

“A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was” - Joseph Hall

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chambliss, Isakson Applaud Navy’s Decision to Base Aircraft Carrier at Naval Station Mayport

.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today announced that the U.S. Navy has signed the official Record of Decision to base the next aircraft carrier to be commissioned at Naval Station Mayport located near Jacksonville, Florida. The move will benefit Georgia’s Coastal communities by creating growth and jobs at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Camden County, which would likely provide repair and maintenance capability as well as training opportunities for the Navy in the local fleet operating area.

“I applaud the Navy’s decision to base its next carrier at Mayport,” said Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I have been privileged to see firsthand the excellent work our personnel at Kings Bay do in maintaining nuclear submarines, and the Navy can capitalize on the skill and knowledge offered by our professionals at the base.”

“The Navy has made an excellent decision in choosing Mayport,” said Isakson. “The resources at Kings Bay are unmatched and this decision will save the Navy time and money in the long term.”

On November 21, 2008, Chambliss and Isakson sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Defense to base the next aircraft carrier at Naval Station Mayport.
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Is Your Business Ready for the COBRA Premium Subsidy?

/PRNewswire/ -- As the unemployment rate grows, so do the numbers of unemployed workers and their families who are coping with the loss of health insurance. COBRA continuation coverage can offer critical (albeit small) peace of mind, but while many workers have the right to purchase such coverage, only about 20% actually opt in because the cost is often prohibitively high. A November 2008 study by non-profit advocacy group Families USA reports that COBRA premiums average $388 per month for individuals, and $1,069 for family coverage (view the whole report at http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/cobra-2009.pdf ).

As if there weren't enough administrative duties associated with COBRA administration, hold on to your business hats: As part of the $825 billion economic recovery bill unveiled last week by House Democrats, people who lost their jobs after September 1, 2008 could have the government pay almost two- thirds of their health insurance premiums. The length of the subsidy would be 18 months, equal to the maximum amount of time employees can carry COBRA from their former employers. With events such as divorce, separation, or death, the time period is extended to 36 months. In effect, this offers a second chance to people who may have passed on the offer the first time. It appears that President-Elect Obama backs the idea, so it looks like the bill will pass.

Except for federal and certain religious organizations, all employers with 20 or more employees are required by law to offer COBRA. Not only must they must send notices within 90 days to any employee beginning coverage or within 44 days within ending health benefits, you must be able to prove it. There are stiff penalties for failing to comply, and the DOL makes changes regularly. An estimated 80% of companies are already not in compliance with Federal COBRA regulations. Are you?

Mangrove's full-service benefits administration is streamlining HR departments across the country. Organization of all sizes are taking advantage of our flexible, personalized affordable offerings for COBRA, keeping them compliant and aware of the various ever-changing regulations. In light of this new subsidy, more companies than ever will be looking to outsource their COBRA administration to be compliant. Aside from a low price, the peace of mind is priceless. Avoid the rush; talk to a Benefits Specialist at Mangrove today to see how we can help you, or visit us at http://www.emangrove.com/cobraadmin.aspx to check out our full service offering.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Statement by John Baumstark, CEO of Suniva, on Being Recognized by Governor Perdue in the State of the State Address

(BUSINESS WIRE)--“Over the past year, Suniva has had a great relationship with the state and Governor Perdue's office. We were honored to be recognized in the Governor's speech as a stand out in the renewable energy sector, bringing new technology and industry to Georgia.

“As the governor stated, Suniva was born in the labs of Georgia Tech. Our Georgian heritage is a major part of our success, and we plan to continue our relationship with Georgia Tech as we lead the world in the pursuit of low cost, high efficiency solar technology here at home.

“With the help of sound economic policies from the Governor, we plan to build upon our many early successes and continue creating jobs here in Georgia in 2009 and beyond.”

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

MyCoupons Releases New and Easier to Use Web Site

/PRNewswire/ -- MyCoupons, LLC unveiled the latest evolution of their leading coupon code and community site today. The new site is the result of user extensive user testing and based upon feedback from many of the sites thousands of daily visitors. "Ensuring that our site can be easily used, both by the first time visitor and by our thousands of regular visitors is vital to our continued growth. This new design helps expose the depth of features. Our redesigned search integrates our vast database of coupon codes with millions of products from thousands of stores," explains Gregory Stoltz, President of MyCoupons, LLC. "MyCoupons.com is one of Wolfe.com's fastest growing companies. I believe MyCoupons will grow even more in 2009 based on the investment from Wolfe.com, the economic climate, and having over achieving employees which are all important to our growth," stated Jason Wolfe, CEO of Wolfe.com LLC.

During the current challenging economic client consumers are working harder to maximize their family budgets. This is clearly evident by the rapid growth in traffic to the site. On a monthly visitor basis, the site experience greater than 400% growth during 2008. The company's cost-per-redeem coupon code publication system provides a cost effective advertising channel for online retailers while simultaneously providing consumers with more valuable discounts. MyCoupons has driven substantial sales volumes for many of the most well known Internet retailers.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sanford Rose Associates(R) Relocates Its Corporate Headquarters to Atlanta

/PRNewswire/ -- SRA International, Inc. (SRAI), parent company of the Sanford Rose Associates Executive Search Network, announced today it has successfully relocated its headquarters from Akron, Ohio to the Atlanta area. The Sanford Rose Associates(R) Network is globally recognized as a leader in the recruitment of executive, managerial and professional talent.

Says President and CEO of SRA International, Inc., Richard J. Carter, "The new SRAI corporate facility and location not only provides more capabilities and flexibility for future growth and expansion, but it also gives our trainees, clients and franchised owners a convenient and economical 'hub location' to meet clients and candidates."

SRAI's new offices will be located at Mill Creek Forest, 1305 Mall of Georgia Blvd., Suite 160, Buford, GA 30519.

Sanford Rose Associates has been in continuous operation for 50 years, since its founding in 1959 by pioneer and innovator Sanford Rose. Today the SRA Network consists of more than 65 offices in the United States, Asia and Europe.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

North America Leads World in Economic Freedom, 2009 Index Finds

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- North America is the world leader in economic freedom, boasting two of the 10 freest countries in the 2009 "Index of Economic Freedom," published annually by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation.

The United States enjoyed the highest ranking within the region and finished sixth in the world, followed immediately by Canada.

One reason the region does so well is the North America Free Trade Agreement. "NAFTA has been a positive force enhancing economic freedom," the Index authors wrote, "connecting more than 400 million people in an economic area with about one-third of the world's total GDP."

Mexico still has a way to go to catch up with its northern neighbors, and could begin doing so by improving its investment freedom and freedom from corruption, the authors noted.

In a first for the Index, Canada, Mexico and the United States are split off from the rest of the Americas and graded as a separate region.

To compile the Index, the authors measured 183 countries across 10 specific factors of economic freedom: The higher the score, the lower the level of government interference. All countries were graded on a scale of zero to 100.

The 10 freedoms measured are: business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labor freedom. Ratings in each category were averaged to produce the overall Index score.

This year's Index aims to be the most precise measure of economic freedom ever published. The authors fine-tuned their methodology. For example, they fine-tuned the "labor" component, analyzing six labor freedom factors instead of the four studied in previous Indexes.

Worldwide, the average rating for economic freedom held essentially steady this year. However, "there is a real possibility that the economic freedom scores in this edition might represent the historical high point for economic freedom in the world," the authors warned. As governments attempt to stave off a global recession, their meddling could threaten economic freedom and long-term economic prosperity.

Of the 183 countries ranked (the most ever), only seven were classified as "free" (a score of 80 or higher). Another 23 were rated as "mostly free" (70-79.9). The bulk of countries -- 120 economies -- were rated either "moderately free" (60-60.9) or "mostly unfree" (50-50.9). The remaining 29 countries were rated "repressed" economies, with total freedom scores below 50.

This is the 15th consecutive year The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal have published the Index. The 2009 edition was edited by Kim Holmes, Heritage's vice president for foreign affairs, and Ambassador Terry Miller, head of Heritage's Center for International trade and Economics.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Flowers Foods Named 'Best-Managed' Food Company Among the 400 Best Big Companies in America

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Flowers Foods (NYSE: FLO) has been named the "best-managed" food company among the 400 best big companies in America by Forbes Magazine. Forbes editors selected Flowers Foods as the best among the 17 companies in the food, drink, and tobacco category that made it on to Forbes' annual Platinum 400 list. This is Flowers Foods' fifth time on the list and the second time the company has been named "best" in its category.

To create the list, the magazine looked at more than 1,000 publicly traded companies with at least $1 billion in revenue and then chose 400 based on financial metrics, earnings forecasts, corporate governance ratings, and other public company information. From that list, Forbes editors picked one best-managed company from each of the 26 industries represented. Forbes selected these companies not just for their financial performance, but also for leadership, innovation, and execution.

In addition, Flowers Foods' stock was one of 15 noted by Forbes as holding up well during recession. Editors looked through the Platinum 400 to see which stocks performed best in 2008 and during the last recession in 2001.

"We're honored to once again be selected as 'best of the best' among our peers by Forbes," said George E. Deese, chairman of the board, CEO, and president. "The entire organization takes pride in our ongoing dedication to executing on our long-term strategy that continues to build value for our shareholders."

"America's Best Big Companies" appears in the January 12, 2009 issue of Forbes and online at www.forbes.com/platinum.

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2008 Tax Changes Include Self-Employment Tax Modification

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Prior to preparation of the 2008 tax forms, micro-business and the self-employed should be aware of a few tax law changes, including an increase in retirement savings opportunities and self-employment tax modifications.

"Don't let the 2008 filing season sneak up on you," said Keith Hall, national tax advisor for the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE). "There are many online resources available to micro-businesses to help them get prepared, including the NASE and the Internal Revenue Service."

The following tax law changes relate to 2008 returns:
-- First-Time Homebuyer Credit -- Offices located inside a first-time
home purchase may qualify for additional tax incentives if the
purchase was made from April 9, 2008, to June 30, 2009. The $7,500
credit is very similar to a 15-year interest-free loan.

-- Standard Mileage Rates Adjusted for 2008 -- The standard mileage rate
for business use of a car, van, pick-up or panel truck is 50.5 cents
per mile from Jan. 1, 2008, to June 30, 2008. The rate is 58.5 cents
for each mile driven during the remainder of the year.

-- Talk to the IRS -- The IRS is reaching out to taxpayers who are unable
to meet their obligations during this economic slump with tax credits,
deductions and additional outreach. Please visit www.IRS.gov for more
information on how the agency is working to help financially
distressed business owners.

-- Contribution Limits for IRAs and Other Retirement Plans -- Where an
IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan is
married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the
couple's income is between $159,000 and $169,000.

-- Self-Employment Tax Changes -- For those who receive Social Security
Retirement or disability benefits, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
payments are now exempt from the 15.3-percent social security
self-employment tax. The income thresholds increase for the 2008
filing season and are indexed for inflation.

-- AMT Exemption Increased for 2008 -- For tax-year 2008 only, the
exemption for a married couple filing a joint return is $69,950, up
from $66,250 in 2007; $34,975 for a married person filing separately,
up from $33,125 and $46,200 for singles and heads of household, up
from $44,350.


Entrepreneurs preparing to meet the filing deadline can turn to Hall and other qualified CPAs for help through NASE's TaxTalk program at http://taxtalk.nase.org/taxtalk.asp. While there, they can submit a tax question, watch or download tax advice from Keith Hall and browse the TaxTalk resource library.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nordson Swainsboro and Dawsonville, Georgia, Facilities Recognized as Winner and Finalist in Industry Week Magazine’s 2008 Best Manufacturing Plants C

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Two of Nordson Corporation’s (NASDAQ - NDSN) manufacturing facilities have been named among North America’s Best Plants for 2008 by Industry Week magazine. Nordson’s Swainsboro, Georgia, facility has been selected as a winner, one of the ten best plants, in the annual competition. Nordson’s Dawsonville, Georgia, facility was named as a finalist, one of the 20 best plants in 2008.

The Nordson Swainsboro facility, which was a finalist in the 2007 Industry Week Best Plants competition, manufactures ProBlue® adhesive melters, the world’s leading hot melt adhesive dispensing systems, as well as ProBlue® Fulfill™ integrated fill systems, Classic™ XIV melters, Blue Series™ dispensing guns and modules and Saturn® nozzles and solenoids. These products and systems are used in the packaging of consumer products and in a wide variety of industrial and consumer durable goods assembly applications. The Nordson Dawsonville facility produces Universal™, Signature™, SureWrap™, CF®, Summit™ and PatternJet™ applicators, guns, modules and nozzles. These products are used in the manufacture of baby diapers and disposable hygienic products and in food, beverage and consumer product labeling.

Established in 1990, Industry Week’s annual competition salutes plants that are on the leading edge of efforts to increase competitiveness, enhance customer satisfaction and create stimulating and rewarding work environments. The competition encourages manufacturing managers and work teams to emulate the honorees by adopting world-class practices, technologies and improvement strategies.

Entrants are judged on criteria including: proactive environmental and safety practices; operational improvements; agile production systems; supplier partnerships; customer focus; employee empowerment; quality systems; management practices; and manufacturing capability.

In 2007, while implementing lean manufacturing and continuous improvement programs, the Swainsboro facility entered the Industry Week competition in order to benchmark itself against other leading North American manufacturing plants. Now, only two years later, the facility has exceeded its original lean manufacturing goals and has been recognized as one of the top ten plants in North America.

“The Swainsboro Team is extremely pleased to be recognized by Industry Week magazine as one of its Best Plants,” says Scott Rosenau, production manager at the Swainsboro facility. “This is a goal we’ve pursued over two years, and we're thrilled to reach this level of performance. I'm extremely proud of the team here and want to thank the outlying Nordson groups that helped contribute to our success.”

“Our Swainsboro and Dawsonville facilities have been able to enhance and tighten every aspect of our production, improve our global competitiveness and increase our levels of community service and involvement,” says John Keane, senior vice president, Nordson Adhesive Systems division. “We’re excited to have not one, but two of our plants recognized by Industry Week, and feel confident as the culture of continuous improvement is proliferating throughout all of our manufacturing facilities.”

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Invest in America Offers Incentive for Credit Union Members’ Car Purchase

(BUSINESS WIRE)--On Wednesday, January 7, representatives of General Motors and Chrysler Corporations announced the expansion of the “Invest in America” pilot discount purchase programs to credit union members. These programs are being made available to the members of the nation’s 7,900 credit unions. GM’s “Credit Union Member Discount Program” extends to March 31, 2009, and Chrysler’s “Credit Union Member Cash” rebate program extends through June 30, 2009.

With a certificate and proof of membership, a credit union member can receive a discount of 4.5% off the MSRP in addition to other available discounts on most General Motors products. With proof of credit union financing, a member can receive a rebate of $500 to $1,000 as specified for most vehicles from Chrysler (dealer participation is optional). The details of both these programs can be found at www.lovemycreditunion.org.

Although obviously impacted by levels of employment and general economic conditions, credit unions remain well capitalized and ready to lend to their members. Credit unions have continued to make automobile loans, mortgage loans, and loans for many other purposes to members throughout the recent economic struggles. Credit unions continue to be an available source of low-cost loans and capital, as well as providing the opportunity for members to participate in these discount auto purchase programs.

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Thanks to the Tennessee Credit Union League for the heads up on this great news.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Two Major Nonprofit Credit Counseling Agencies Announce Merger

/PRNewswire/ -- Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Greater Atlanta and Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Central Florida & The Florida Gulf Coast today announced that their two organizations have merged.

Together these agencies provided credit, housing and bankruptcy counseling and education services, as well as debt repayment plans, to an estimated 550,000 consumers during 2008. The combined organization will have approximately 300 certified counselors and 33 counseling offices in four states.

The merger enables CCCS of Greater Atlanta to significantly expand its service area. While the Atlanta-based agency already has offices in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Stuart and Port St. Lucie, after the merger it will reach an additional 8 million Florida residents in Orlando, Tampa, Tallahassee, Fort Myers, Naples, Clearwater, Daytona Beach and several other Florida communities.

Clients of CCCS of Central Florida & The Florida Gulf Coast, now served by 15 offices, gain access to the 24-hour toll-free telephone and sophisticated internet counseling that is offered by CCCS of Greater Atlanta around the clock, 365 days a year.

"The merger will enable us to take advantage of CCCS of Greater Atlanta's large base of counselors that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," said Rick Skaggs, chief executive officer of CCCS of Central Florida & The Florida Gulf Coast. "Having more counselors available around the clock means financially distressed Floridians can get the help they need in a more timely manner."

"This combination will help Floridians gain more convenient access to certified, nonprofit credit counselors who can help them find solutions for their financial problems," said Suzanne Boas, president of CCCS of Greater Atlanta. "The merger will also bring our Atlanta operation more depth in bilingual and reverse mortgage counseling, which are strengths of the Central Florida agency.

Both agencies are certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, help staff the national foreclosure prevention hotline (888-995-HOPE), and provide reverse mortgage counseling. In addition, both organizations are certified by the Executive Office of the United States Trustees for pre-filing bankruptcy counseling and pre-discharge debtor education.

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Circuit City Stores, Inc. Provides Update

/PRNewswire/ -- Circuit City Stores, Inc. today provided an update on developments in its United States Bankruptcy Court proceedings, its restructuring activities and its operations.

On January 5, 2009, the company filed a motion with the Bankruptcy Court that seeks approval of procedures that would formally put the company up for sale, as a going concern, as separate business units or as individual assets - including the sale of inventory.

Presently, the company is engaged in significant discussions, meetings and negotiations with two highly motivated and interested parties concerning the terms of a going concern transaction. These interested parties are considering providing additional financing to allow the company to sustain operations and move forward with a subsequent restructuring through a stand-alone plan and/or purchasing the company or all or substantially all of the company's assets. The parties have substantially completed due diligence and now are in negotiations with the company and the company's major stakeholders in order to finalize such a transaction. While the company is optimistic that a transaction can be successfully finalized, no assurance can be given that this will occur.

The motion was originally filed under seal and is being "unsealed," or made public, by the Bankruptcy Court today in order to conduct a hearing on the motion on Friday, January 9, 2009. The company was required to file the motion pursuant to an amendment to the company's debtor-in-possession (DIP) credit agreement, which was approved under seal by the Bankruptcy Court on December 23, 2008. The motion currently provides that an auction of the company and its assets would commence on January 13, 2009, and a sale hearing would occur on January 16, 2009.

The company's discussions with the interested parties could result in a sale agreement, or the company and the lenders could further amend the DIP credit agreement prior to the January 16, 2009, sale hearing. If no agreement is approved with a party interested in a going concern transaction by January 16, 2009, and the auction does not result in a sale of the company's assets, the motion provides that the company may enter into a transaction that will result in an asset liquidation process commencing soon after the sale hearing scheduled for January 16, 2009, absent any further amendment to the DIP credit agreement deadlines.

Restructuring and Operations Update

The company has continued to operate its business without interruption, and management is focused on developing and executing a comprehensive corporate restructuring plan. Initial successes toward restructuring the company's business and operations include the following:

-- As planned, in the months of November and December, the company
completed liquidation sales in and subsequently closed 155 domestic
stores that were underperforming or were no longer a strategic fit for
the company.
-- The company has achieved significant selling, general and
administrative expense reductions as it restructures it business to
align operations with its smaller national store base and has
implemented more stringent expense controls.
-- The company has retained DJM Realty Services, Inc. to negotiate
reduced rent for leased properties and to sell owned properties.
-- The company's sales trends improved significantly during the last two
weeks of December, and the combination of the improvement in sales and
focus on gross margin has enabled the company to continue to operate
well within the operating budget required by the amended DIP credit
agreement.

The case number for Circuit City's Chapter 11 filing in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia is 08-35653. Additional information on the filing can be found by visiting the company's investor information home page at http://investor.circuitcity.com/ and clicking on "Breaking News" and at the Claims Agent's Web site at www.kccllc.net/circuitcity.

Forward-Looking Statements

Statements made in this release may be considered forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and are subject to risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements include, without limitation, statements regarding the company's expectations concerning the bankruptcy process and the company's restructuring activities and operations. Actual results may differ materially from those included in the forward-looking statements due to a number of factors, including, without limitation, the following: (1) the impact of today's announcement on the company's restructuring activities and operations; (2) the ability of the company to continue as a going concern; (3) the ability of the company to negotiate successfully with one or more interested parties for a sale of all or substantially all of the company's assets; (4) the nature and amounts of the bids in any auction for the sale of all or substantially all of the company's assets; (5) the ability of the company to obtain approval of any necessary modifications to the DIP credit facility and operate pursuant to the terms of that facility; (6) the ability of the company to obtain Court approval of motions pursued by it from time to time in the Chapter 11 proceeding, including motions to extend deadlines currently in place in the bankruptcy proceeding; (7) the ability of the company to develop, pursue, confirm and consummate one or more plans of reorganization with respect to the Chapter 11 proceeding; (8) risks associated with third parties seeking and obtaining Court approval to propose and confirm one or more plans of reorganization, for the appointment of a Chapter 11 trustee or to convert the proceeding to a Chapter 7 proceeding; (9) the ability of the company to obtain and maintain normal terms with vendors and service providers; (10) the ability of the company to maintain contracts that are critical to its operations; (11) potential adverse developments with respect to the company's liquidity or results of operations; (12) the ability of the company to fund and execute its business plan; (13) the ability of the company to attract and retain customers; and (14) any further deterioration in the macroeconomic environment or consumer confidence. Discussion of additional factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from management's projections, forecasts, estimates and expectations is set forth under Management's Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition in the Circuit City Stores, Inc. annual report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended February 29, 2008, the quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended August 31, 2008, and in the company's other SEC filings. A copy of the annual report is available on the company's investor information Web site at http://investor.circuitcity.com/.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wildlands Speeds Delivery of Federal Stimulus Projects

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Georgia is at risk of losing millions of dollars from a proposed federal public works stimulus package if these projects lack environmental permits. Wildlands, Inc. can help by offering wetland and stream mitigation credits to city, county and state agencies needing rapid permitting of public projects.

The incoming Obama Administration has asked Congress to assemble a stimulus package that includes massive spending on a variety of public projects including highway and bridge repairs and maintenance, new and upgraded schools, water supply reservoirs, and energy-efficient government buildings, among other projects. However, candidate projects for stimulus funding must be “shovel ready” and have all necessary permits within 180 days of package approval.

Public works projects impacting wetlands and streams are often required to offset project impacts through compensatory mitigation and habitat replacement. Wildlands’ mitigation credits provide a quick, efficient and cost-effective solution to this requirement.

“Wildlands stands ready to assist government agencies with fulfilling mitigation requirements with quality habitat replacement as quickly as possible,” says Wildlands’ CEO Steve Morgan.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Consumer Interest in Larger Autos Continues to Rise as Gas Prices Fall

/PRNewswire/ -- Larger vehicles continued to see increases in views across AutoTrader.com as gas prices fell to around $1.60 nationally. The new Ford F-150 led the way with the most overall views of any new vehicle on AutoTrader.com during the month of December, enjoying an increase of 23.03% from December 2007. The new Dodge Ram also gained in consumer interest, with an increase of views of 43.16% year-over-year. This rise in interest for these two full-size pick-ups came partially at the expense of their chief competitors, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which were down 12.64% and 2.73% year-over-year, respectively.

Consumers also researched dealership inventories on other large SUVs and minivans such as the Honda Pilot and Honda Odyssey, which saw increases in views of 129.63% and 60.46%, respectively, as well as large family sedans including the Chevrolet Impala and Honda Accord, which were up 32.11% and 27.13%.

Asking prices for most new vehicles on AutoTrader.com generally rose during the month of December, which at first seems counterintuitive considering the sluggish economy and rising manufacturer incentives. However, among consumers who are shopping for a new vehicle, many are opting for less- expensive, less well-optioned cars and trucks, leaving dealerships with better-optioned, more expensive inventory. With most manufacturers now scheduling production stoppages to better match the overall supply of vehicles available with consumer demand, dealers are not as quickly replenishing their inventories of these lower-priced vehicles.

"Consumers have reached new levels of concern about the current state of the economy, a fact reflected in the sales numbers we have seen since October," said AutoTrader.com President and CEO Chip Perry. "At the same time, we are seeing new-car shoppers making every dollar count by spending increased time on-line looking at a larger selection of vehicles to find the right car or truck at the right price."

Used Vehicles Continue Price Drops

Used vehicle prices and research levels showed drops across the board, in line with the current economic mood of the nation. Bright spots included the Chevrolet Tahoe, which saw a fraction of a percentage point increase in views year over year; the Jeep Wrangler, which saw a 6.34% jump compared to December 2007, and the Toyota Tundra, which recorded a 10.42% increase.

"Just as with new cars, used vehicles are also suffering due to consumers' economic fears," said Perry. "However, just as with those new vehicles, great deals are available for the asking for shoppers looking to buy a used vehicle in the New Year."

Perry remains optimistic that automobile sales will begin to revive in 2009. In the short term, Federal bailout money flowing into the financial sector should make credit more available. Tight credit has been a major impediment for those buyers who were in-market for a new or used vehicle, limiting vehicle sales to buyers with the highest credit scores or significant down payments. Aggressive moves in pricing and incentives by manufacturers and dealers looking to move existing inventory off of lots, combined with increased access to financing, should help sales into 2009.

In the longer-term, Federal bailout money will allow the Detroit manufacturers to retool their factories and balance sheets, with an eye towards future development.

"Shoppers considering a vehicle purchase in 2009 need to know that credit is available," said Perry. "And for many people who put off a vehicle purchase because of economic uncertainty or because of tight credit, there is pent up demand. This is illustrated by the fact that our unique visitor traffic was up about 20% in December of this year compared to December of last year. So people are definitely on-line looking at vehicles, considering their options, building their consideration sets and figuring out what they can afford. I do believe with a new year, easier access to financing and this pent up demand, we should start seeing some positive movement in auto sales in 2009."

AutoTrader.com is the ultimate automotive marketplace with over 3.5 million vehicle listings. Using research gathered by studying the shopping habits of over 14 million unique monthly visitors to the site, many of whom are in-market shoppers looking to complete a vehicle purchase within the next 90 days, AutoTrader.com regularly compiles this data to offer insight into current and emerging sales trends in the automobile industry.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Specialists On Call Expands Access to Emergency Neurology On-Call Services in Georgia

/PRNewswire/ -- Specialists On Call, Inc. (SOC) announced today that it is expanding the states in which it provides service, including Georgia. SOC is the country's largest provider of emergency neurology on-call services to hospitals, having already managed more than 5,500 emergency neurology consultations to date.

Dr. Joe Peterson, CEO, described the company's ongoing expansion, "We are pleased that our model for providing hospitals with immediate 24/7 access to neurology on-call coverage is generating demand in new states and facilities. Our model delivers clinical and financial benefits to our hospital clients and their patients. At the same time, we relieve local neurologists of the burden of call, while not taking referrals or procedures from them. In fact, our partners consistently expand their acute neurology volumes in our model creating a win for all participants, which is accelerating the growth of our business. We are looking forward to working with hospitals in Georgia in 2009. SOC will expand the emergency neurology resources available to hospitals in Georgia in the year ahead."

SOC is a private provider of emergency neurology consultations by telemedical link, and is accredited by the Joint Commission as an ambulatory care organization. Karen Deli, SVP for Operations explained, "Our successful offering is built upon a track record of clinical excellence that has our team of affiliated neurologists as its foundation. Because our affiliated neurologists must be licensed in each state in which we operate in order to be credentialed at each of our clients, our expansion requires substantial investments of time and money. Our 2008 investment in licensing will add more than ten states to our coverage area in 2009."

Dr. Peterson summarized, "With every chance we get to expand our service, we get the chance to extend access to state-of-the-art neurology care to emergency patients that otherwise have to do without. In many emergencies, but especially in acute strokes, our ability to intervene in minutes can have remarkable impact upon the patient's recovery, dramatically bettering the lives of patients and their families."

Specialists On Call, Inc., is a private, national, professionally managed, physician led telemedicine company that provides access to the clinical expertise of a team of university and private practice specialists through a consolidated teleconferencing, PACS and EMR system. With offices in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, SOC is committed to extending access to professional on-call specialty physician support to patients in all settings and geographies, with special expertise in urban and suburban hospitals and hospital systems.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Women For Hire's Work From Home Expo

Whether you're a stay-at-home mom looking to supplement your family's income, a retiree whose savings have fallen short of the monthly minimum, or someone who's eager to find an alternative to the cubicle and the commute, Women For Hire's Work From Home Expo is a must-attend for you.

On Saturday, April 4, 2009 at Cobb Galleria we'll bring together a wide range of opportunities for you to make money from home. In addition to visiting directly with exhibitors, attendees will benefit from workshops and special speakers throughout the day.

Now entering its 10th year, Women For Hire has built a stellar reputation for empowering professional women in their traditional corporate careers. In recent years, however, the desire for more flexibility, the demands of childcare and eldercare, the fluctuating cost of gas and just about everything else, we've heard from thousands of women nationwide who want us to guide them to opportunities that will allow them to work from home. This event is a direct response to their calls for help.

Attendees to this free expo will benefit from:
.. Exceptional exhibitors who'll talk to you one-on-one about their range of home-based opportunities to determine what may be an ideal fit for you
.. Phenomenal speakers who'll inspire and empower you to follow your dreams of making money on your terms
.. Expert advice on avoiding those maddening scams that prey on people who are eager to work at home
.. Giveaways throughout the day

You'll get ideas on the ways you can make money at home, financial guidance on meeting your family's goals, advice on how to succeed while working on your own, and access to stellar resources that support women today.

Saturday, April 4, 2009
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Cobb Galleria
Two Galleria Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30339

Admission: Free
Parking: Free
Attire: Business casual
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Delta Community Credit Union Shares Earnings with Customers

/PRNewswire/ -- Delta Community Credit Union, Georgia's largest credit union, believes in sharing its financial successes with its customers. A strong capital base and solid financial results in 2008 enabled the credit union to give back approximately $5.0 million to its members as a Patronage Reward and to further strengthen its capital position, which remains significantly above the regulatory target for well-capitalized status.

Under the Patronage Reward, customers earned additional deposit dividends or loan rate rebates based on the amount of business they conducted with the credit union last year. Customers who maintained positive balances in checking, savings, money market and IRAs received a bonus equal to 4.50 percent of the total dividends they earned on those accounts during 2008. Borrowers in good standing received a rebate equal to 2.50 percent of the interest they paid on their loans during the same period.

"The Patronage Reward is just one of the many ways Delta Community gives back to our customers and the communities we serve," said Rick Foley, President and CEO. "In 2008, we opened six new branches and introduced several new products, including the well received 4.50 percent APY StandingStrong CD. We also awarded three scholarships to high school seniors, honored ten young 'Hometown Heroes' for their contributions to the community and gave more than $200,000 to Children's Miracle Network."

"Sharing our earnings with our members is one important difference between Delta Community Credit Union and other financial institutions," Foley continued. "In light of the current economic climate, we believe it's a difference that is more important than ever."

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Grubb & Ellis Predicts a Challenging 2009 for Commercial Real Estate as Economy Weathers Recession

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Grubb & Ellis Company (NYSE:GBE) , a leading real estate services and investment firm, today released its 2009 Global Real Estate Forecast, which indicates that 2009 will be a challenging year for commercial real estate with the economy starting the year 13 months into what may become the longest recession since the 1930s.

"The economy will struggle in 2009, which will dampen demand for all product types, resulting in negative absorption and increased vacancy," said Robert Bach, senior vice president, chief economist of Grubb & Ellis. "We expect total payroll job losses in the range of 1 to 2 million in 2009 on top of the 2+ million in 2008. GDP is likely to shrink by 1 percent in 2009, compared with growth of 1.3 percent and 2 percent in 2008 and 2007, respectively."

The investment market, which saw transaction volume plummet in 2008 as the financial markets collapsed and the credit markets froze, is expected to see a 15 percent increase in sales volume in 2009 as distressed properties are brought to market, particularly those acquired in the past couple of years with floating rate debt. Loan delinquencies and foreclosures will increase with more properties returning to lenders, who will be anxious to sell them. Debt capital will remain expensive and tight in 2009, but more of it will be available than in 2008, and there will be a slow increase in equity capital flowing into the market from private, institutional and offshore investors waiting on the sidelines. The coming year should be more active as the gap between buyers and sellers gradually narrows, with sellers making up most of that difference.

Debt will be the hot investment type in 2009. Investments could be made in CMBS, collateralized debt obligations or funds investing in these assets. Or debt investments could be made at the property level with owners seeking to refinance their properties. More equity investments will be made as well in 2009 as investors holding an estimated $300 to $400 billion in institutional, private and offshore equity begin to deploy their capital in response to falling prices.

The outlook is equally challenging for global markets, both developed and emerging. The previous contention that emerging markets would largely escape the financial crises in North America and Europe looks to be overly optimistic. This will not be an ordinary downturn, but rather a structural correction in global capital markets that will impact every sector of the economy and real estate market.

One benefit of the global market correction has been the rapid evaporation of inflationary pressures in most key economies. The decline in inflation has left governments less reticent in using interest rates as a weapon in the battle to stave off sharp economic and commercial decline.

Office Tenants Will Have the Upper Hand in 2009

The office construction pipeline contained 90 million square feet at year-end 2008, the lion's share of which will be delivered in 2009. This combined with a projected 45 million square feet of negative absorption, including a big jump in sublease space, will push vacancy up by two percentage points to end 2009 at 16.5 percent. Tenants will have greater negotiating leverage in 2009 with concession packages becoming more generous as the year progresses. The growing inventory of sublease space will put downward pressure on asking rental rates for direct lease space, which are expected to decline in the range of 4 to 5 percent for both Class A and B space by year-end.

"Employment growth drives demand for office space and the labor market will be shrinking in 2009," said Bach. "Government and health care will be among the few sectors with growing demand for office space."

In this difficult market, Washington, D.C. should be at the top of office investors' buy list, according to Grubb & Ellis' Investment Opportunity Monitor, a proprietary market ranking in which Grubb & Ellis annually measures 60 office, 53 retail, 56 apartment and 55 industrial markets against 13 to 17 criteria important to the performance of real estate investments. Washington, D.C., is the one market that will benefit from the credit crisis as the government expands to implement its economic recovery plan.

Following Washington, D.C., on the top 10 list are Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Boston; and Oakland, Calif. The Texas markets offer strong population growth, while the others offer strong population growth as well as natural barriers to entry.

Industrial Users Strive to Reduce Costs

Businesses look at industrial space as a productivity enhancer, an integral part of their supply chain strategies. Their relentless quest for cost-saving efficiencies should sustain demand for industrial space in 2009, despite the weak economy. However, supply is expected to outpace demand with absorption dipping into the red and the vacancy rate rising by 60 basis points to end the year at 9.4 percent as the construction pipeline delivers space still underway.

"The industrial market will recover more quickly than the office market because the construction pipeline is set to thin out sooner," said Bach.

For the third consecutive year, the logistics business is driving demand for space in Grubb & Ellis' Investment Opportunity Monitor's 2009 rankings. Los Angeles retained the top spot on the list, with its proximity to the busiest ports in the U.S., negligible vacant space and little developable land. Also making the list were other cities with nearby port facilities including Houston (No. 2), Oakland, Calif., and Seattle (tied for No. 4), Miami (No. 8), Portland, Ore. (No. 9) and New Jersey (No. 10). Inland distributions hubs Atlanta (No. 3), Dallas (No. 6) and Chicago (No. 7) rounded out the list.

Will Consumer Spending Rebound in 2009?

Consumer spending hit a 28-year low in 2008 with retailers in the crosshairs of the downturn. Grocery store-anchored centers in mature trade areas will hold their ground in 2009, while centers on the urban fringe, where housing construction has stalled will suffer. Retailers will be even more conservative with their expansion plans in 2009, with more store closings and fewer openings. Expect higher vacancies and softer rental rates by year-end.

"Value retailers are garnering the majority of consumers' dollars in this challenging economic climate," said Bach. "Even the luxury retailers, which are usually immune to downturns, are feeling the pain."

According to Grubb & Ellis' Investment Opportunity Monitor, no retail market will escape the effects of the recession entirely, but some offer more protection due to factors such as strong population growth, a high median income and/or limited land for further development. Los Angeles topped the list for retail investment followed by Washington, D.C. California had an additional three cities in the top 10 with Orange County (No. 6), San Francisco (No. 7) and San Diego (No. 9). Texas appeared three times with Houston (No. 3), Dallas (No. 4) and Austin, Texas (No. 8). Also making the list were Atlanta (No. 5) and Portland, Ore. (No. 10).

Multi Housing Will See Vacancy Rising as Well

The housing slump and recession have produced countervailing forces that will both help and hurt the multifamily market in 2009. Apartments are seeing some new renters who have lost their homes to foreclosure, while landlords are able to maintain existing renters who are waiting for prices and mortgage rates to fall further. However, new graduates who can't find jobs are doubling up with a roommate or moving in with a relative to conserve cash. At the same time, the apartment market faces competition from an increasing supply of unsold condos and foreclosed homes returning to the market as rentals. The negative forces are expected to have a slight edge in 2009 resulting in slowly rising vacancies for the multi housing market this year.

Of the top 10 apartment markets in Grubb & Ellis' Investment Opportunity Monitor, seven are on the West Coast and three are on the East Coast. All offer barriers to entry, good economic prospects and high home prices. Los Angeles ranks first followed by San Francisco; Orange County and Oakland, Calif.; Washington D.C.; San Diego; New York City; San Jose, Calif.; Long Island, N.Y.; and Portland, Ore.

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