Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chrysler LLC and Fiat Group Announce Global Strategic Alliance to Form a Vibrant New Company

/PRNewswire/ -- Chrysler LLC today announced that, as a result of the comprehensive restructuring plan agreed to by many of its stakeholders, it has reached an agreement in principle to establish a global strategic alliance with Fiat SpA to form a vibrant new company. It will allow Chrysler and Fiat to fully optimize their respective manufacturing footprints and the global supplier base, while providing each with access to additional markets. Fiat powertrains and components will also be produced at Chrysler manufacturing sites.

"This partnership transforms Chrysler into a vibrant new company with a wealth of strategic advantages," said Bob Nardelli, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler. "It enables us to better serve our customers and dealers with a broader and more competitive line-up of environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient high-quality vehicles. Benefits to the new company include access to exciting products that complement our current portfolio, technology cooperation and stronger global distribution."

Chrysler initiated discussions with Fiat more than a year ago to develop plans for a global product alliance. Over the past several months, these discussions have evolved and expanded. Chrysler and many of its stakeholders worked tirelessly to agree upon concessions that will result in a significantly lower cost base and enable fulfillment of a broader strategic alliance.

"We want to personally assure everyone that the new company will produce and support quality vehicles under the Jeep(R), Dodge and Chrysler brands as well as parts under the Mopar(R) brand. Chrysler employees will become employees of the new company. Chrysler dealerships remain open for business serving our customers. All vehicle warranties will be honored without interruption and consumers can continue to purchase our vehicles with complete confidence," explained Nardelli.

Despite substantial progress on many fronts, Chrysler was not able to obtain the necessary concessions from all of its lenders, which would have avoided the need for a bankruptcy proceeding. As a result, under the direction of the U.S. Treasury, Chrysler LLC and 24 of its wholly owned U.S. subsidiaries today filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

"Even though total agreement was not possible, I am truly grateful for all that has been sacrificed, on the part of many of Chrysler's stakeholders to reach an agreement in principle with Fiat," said Nardelli. "My number one priority has been to preserve Chrysler and the thousands of people who depend on its success. While I am excited about the creation of the global alliance, I am personally disappointed that today Chrysler has filed for Chapter 11. This was not my first choice. "

Chrysler also will file a motion under Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code requesting the swift approval by the Court of the agreement with Fiat and the sale of Chrysler's principal assets to the new company. The benefit of this type of filing is speed. It should allow a leaner new company to emerge in a matter of 30 to 60 days, well positioned for long-term viability.

Nardelli, who has been leading Chrysler since August 2007, also announced to Chrysler LLC's Board of Management and the U.S. Treasury his plan to leave the company following the emergence of the new company from Chapter 11 and the completion of the alliance with Fiat. He will return to Cerberus Capital Management LP as an advisor. "Now is an appropriate time to let others take the lead in the transformation of Chrysler with Fiat," said Nardelli. "I will work closely with all of our stakeholders to see that this new company swiftly emerges with a successful closing of the alliance."

During the restructuring process, the government will provide sufficient debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing to allow continuation of "business as usual." The company will seamlessly honor warranty claims, pay suppliers and keep our dealer body operating to continue to serve our valued customers.

"To create this vibrant new company, we are using this structured bankruptcy to rapidly implement tough but necessary changes, including: the agreed upon wage and benefit structure for active and retired employees that is competitive with those of transplant manufacturers; a reduction of debt and interest expense; the disposition of idle assets; a rationalized and more efficient dealer network; and sound agreements with our suppliers," said Nardelli.

Chrysler's Mexican, Canadian and other international operations are not part of any bankruptcy filing.

As part of the restructuring and with the backing of the U.S. Treasury, we have reached an agreement in principle with GMAC to become the preferred lender for Chrysler dealer and consumer business. GMAC will be able to offer the best long-term finance options for Chrysler dealers and customers with standard rate installment products.

When the transaction is completed, the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) will own 55 percent of the new company and the U.S. and Canadian governments will own proportionate shares of a 10 percent stake. Fiat will initially hold a 20 percent ownership stake in Chrysler. Fiat will have the right to increase its ownership stake an additional 15 percent in three increments as it meets the following criteria: 5 percent for bringing a 40 mpg vehicle platform to Chrysler to be produced in the U.S.; 5 percent for providing a fuel-efficient engine family to be produced in the U.S. for use in Chrysler vehicles; and 5 percent for providing Chrysler access to its vast global distribution network to facilitate the export of Chrysler vehicles. Fiat cannot become a majority owner until after all U.S. government loans have been completely repaid.

As a part of the restructuring, most manufacturing operations will be temporarily idled effective Monday, May 4, 2009. Normal production schedules will resume when the transaction is completed, which is anticipated within 30 to 60 days.

"We want to recognize the Administration, the U.S. Treasury, President's Auto Task Force, as well as Members of Congress and representatives at the state and community level and Canadian Federal and Ontario Provincial governments for their energy and efforts in helping to move this new company forward," Nardelli said. "It is also important to acknowledge Cerberus and Daimler, which provided the foundation for the alliance as well as Chrysler's many other stakeholders including the UAW and CAW leadership, employees, dealers and suppliers. Without their deep sacrifices, unstinting loyalty and enduring belief in Chrysler, the alliance would not have been possible. We look forward to our new partnership with Fiat. To be sure, there will be many changes as we move forward to implement our plans. But today, from many great parts, we begin to build a vibrant new company with less debt, a stronger balance sheet, richer product portfolio, supported by a well-positioned finance company."

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NOPA Calls on Georgia, Michigan and Other State Attorneys General to Investigate Whistleblower’s Allegations against Office Depot

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today the National Office Products Alliance (NOPA) called upon Attorneys General in Georgia, Michigan and other states to open investigations into allegations of fraudulent pricing and overcharging by Office Depot on government contracts for office and classroom supplies. NOPA applauds the Attorneys General of Florida, Missouri and Texas for launching formal investigations into similar allegations, as well as the newly appointed Inspector General for the Detroit public schools system, who recently launched an investigation.

NOPA now calls on the Attorneys General of Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Michigan to follow the leads of other states and formally launch investigations into complaints filed by whistleblower David Sherwin alleging fraudulent pricing and overcharging in their respective states.

Through an expanding number of state and local government and school district audits and investigations of national "piggyback" contracts such as the Office Depot/U.S. Communities national agreement for office and classroom supplies, public officials have found evidence of allegations contained in Sherwin’s complaints.

Of particular concern, these agreements remove local officials from direct oversight of office and school supplies contracts and stifle local bidding and competition, which is a key to ensuring best value for government purchasers and contract compliance. NOPA believes the lack of ongoing competition produced the conditions in which the alleged practices under the Office Depot/U.S. Communities agreement occurred, and contributed to higher prices for office and classroom supplies in the affected local jurisdictions.

Local media have played an instrumental role in bringing allegations of fraud and overcharging to public attention. Major stories on alleged serious abuses in sole-source state and local government contracts for office products were broken by Leisa Zigman KSDK-TV, St. Louis; Allison Ross, Palm Beach Post; Bill Frogameni, South Florida Business Journal; J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley, CA; and PĂ©ralte C. Paul, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It is essential for the credibility of the office products industry that states’ attorneys general now fully investigate allegations of contract fraud and overcharging.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

IBHS Cautions Businesses to Prepare for Flu Pandemic; Provides Free Self-Assessment Tool to Rate Readiness

/PRNewswire/ -- The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is cautioning businesses and nonprofit organizations to examine their ability to operate in the event of a flu pandemic.

With the federal government declaring Swine Flu a public-health emergency, IBHS says it would be wise to prepare now for the possibility of closures or other impacts a pandemic could have on operations.

"Evaluating specific risks and planning well beforehand for a variety of potential emergencies that could disrupt day-to-day business is critical, no matter how big or small a company may be," states IBHS President and CEO Julie Rochman. "Fortunately, most catastrophes can be managed with advance, effective preparation - and that means having a well-thought out action plan with specific, appropriate policies, resources and contingencies."

The Top 5 IBHS pandemic preparedness steps include:

1. Determine when to curtail employee travel, domestically and
internationally.
2. Develop business continuity policies that provide work-at-home options.
3. Address sick leave policies, since people with swine flu or those
attending to relatives may need to be on leave longer that the current
policy allows.
4. Consider the impact a shutdown of public transportation or the loss of
basic utilities would have.
5. Determine at what point the organization would need to close its doors.


IBHS has created a self-assessment tool for business owners and managers who can rate their readiness for a flu pandemic by answering nine basic questions. http://www.disastersafety.org/resource/resmgr/pdfs/pandemic_flu.pdf.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

West Central Technical College President to Speak at Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce

Will Speak at Early Bird Forum on the Role of Post -Secondary Education

The Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce will feature Dr. Skip Sullivan of West Central Technical College at its Economic Engagement Series Early Bird Forum Tuesday, April 28, at 7:30 a.m. April’s Early Bird Forum sponsor is Pattillo and will be emceed by Caryn Broome. The Forum cost is $15 for Chamber members and $20 for nonmembers and includes breakfast.

Dr. Sullivan has over twenty years of prior business and industry experience and has been the President of West Central Technical College for six years. Dr. Sullivan’s passions include developing programs that emphasize the importance of access to education for all, improving the educational opportunities for students in the College district, and highlighting the value of assisting students to get their GED.

The Early Bird Forum is a monthly Chamber networking event that provides information about key economic drivers in our community and the roles they play in helping keep Coweta’s economy strong. Reservations are required; contact the Chamber at 770-253-2270 or info@newnancowetachamber.org.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Governor Perdue Participates in Board Cutting for Lowndes County Home Depot Distribution Center

Governor Perdue, CEO Frank Blake Tour State-of-the-Art Facility Thursday

Governor Sonny Perdue joined The Home Depot CEO Frank Blake at the opening of the company’s 657,000 sq. ft. Rapid Deployment Center in Lowndes County. Governor Perdue and Mr. Blake toured the facility Thursday and joined local officials in a unique Home Depot board-cutting ceremony. The world’s largest home improvement retailer will create several hundred jobs in office and warehouse positions over the next few years at the site.

“I’m proud to have one of Georgia’s largest and most admired companies invest in our state. It shows that we’re not just a great place to get started, but also a great place to grow,” said Governor Perdue. “Our strong business climate and strength in logistics continues to attract top-tier retailers like The Home Depot.”

The distribution center is located on 89 acres in the Lake Park Industrial Park and will serve approximately 150 Home Depot retail stores throughout the southeast.

Commissioner Ken Stewart of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and other state and local officials joined the Lowndes County Industrial Authority and officials of The Home Depot at the facility for the grand opening.

“The Home Depot is pleased to create additional jobs in our home state of Georgia,” said Chris Falcon, General Manager of The Home Depot Rapid Deployment Center. “I’ve been impressed with the quality of talent that we have found in this region, which has helped us get this facility up and running on time.”

The Home Depot offers a comprehensive benefits package, including medical, dental and vision insurance, 401k, a discounted stock purchase plan, and its Success Sharing bonus program for eligible full- and part-time associates.

This site is part of a larger program to transform the Home Depot supply chain, making it easier for Home Depot stores to keep the right products in stock when consumers need them.

The Valdosta/Lowndes County region has been awarded a top three designation as a location for new industry by Site Selection Magazine. The site is convenient to several major highways and is backed by tremendous government and development support.

Thriving Business Owner to Share Tips and Advice During SBA’s April 30th Web Chat

In recognition of National Small Business Week, SBA’s Web chat series will feature 2009 Kentucky Small Business Person of the Year Thomas E. Masterson, owner of T.E.M. Electric, Inc. of Lexington. Masterson started his business 10 years ago, branching out on his own after more than 30 years in the electrical industry. Since then, the company has experienced success and growth, with the help of the SBA and its resource partners.

Masterson at first ran the company from his living room, using business management skills he received through the SBA’s Small Business Development Center Program. T.E.M. later became 8(a) and HUBZone-certified as a minority-owned business, which opened the doors to government contracting opportunities. Masterson has built a solid reputation in the government contracting arena as a subcontractor, and today is a prime contractor on federal contracts.

National Small Business Week will take place in Washington, D.C, May 17-23. The National Small Business Person of the Year and runners-up will be selected from among the 53 state small business winners, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. More than 100 outstanding small business owners will be honored. For more information, including a schedule and registration information, visit www.NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com.

WHO: Small business owner Thomas E. Masterson will host the April 30 Web chat on “Entrepreneur's Spotlight: Maintaining Business Success,” to share his story of success, and provide helpful insights on the successes and challenges of entrepreneurship. Chat participants can receive helpful tips and advice on how to maintain business success.

WHAT: SBA’s Web chat series, provides small business owners an opportunity to chat about relevant business issues online with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs. Chat participants have direct, real-time access to the Web chats via questions they submit online, both in advance and during the live session.

WHEN: April 30, 2009, 1 – 2 p.m. ET

HOW: Participants can join the live Web chat by visiting www.sba.gov, and clicking the
“Online Business Chat” icon. Web chat participants may post questions for Masterson before the April 30th chat at http://app1.sba.gov/livemeeting/apr09/.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cbeyond Recognized by Atlanta Business Chronicle as One of Georgia’s 25 Fastest-Growing Publicly Traded Companies for Second Consecutive Year

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cbeyond, Inc. (NASDAQ: CBEY), a leading IP-based managed service provider to small businesses, has been named one of Atlanta’s fastest growing public companies by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Cbeyond has been ranked number 21 on the list of rapidly-growing Georgia companies. In terms of annual revenue growth, Cbeyond is ranked fourth*.

“Cbeyond’s consistent growth and stability continues to be validated in the market and we are pleased to be recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the fastest- growing companies in Georgia,” said Jim Geiger, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Cbeyond. “We will continue to focus on our business model and proven expertise in delivering the communications and IT services small businesses need.”

This achievement comes on the heels of several additional industry honors including being ranked the sixth fastest-growing technology company on Forbes Fast Tech list, and recently named as a 2009 Member’s Choice Award winner for being a “Top 10 Integrated Access Solutions Provider” as voted by 3,200 national resellers by the Telecom Association of Channel Partners.

Innovative Solutions that Small Businesses Need Fuel Growth

Cbeyond continues to provide innovative solutions that small businesses require to manage and grow their business. Offering more than 30 productivity enhancing solutions in the Cbeyond portfolio, customers benefit from customized and easy-to-use communications packages all managed over a private, high-quality IP network.

Mobile voice and data, T-1 Internet access, local and long-distance voice, broadband laptop access, web hosting, data backup, secure desktop, file-sharing and virtual private networking are some of Cbeyond’s product set that provides extensive benefits for today’s small businesses.

One of this year’s product highlights has been the introduction of Cbeyond’s Mobile Workforce Manager, a mobile application that allows customers to track and route field service personnel via their smartphones. Named “Best of Show, Editor’s Choice” at the 2009 IT Expo Conference earlier this year, Mobile Workforce Manager is making rapid headway in the industry and more importantly, providing value and bottom line improvement to small businesses.

*About Georgia’s 25 Fastest-Growing Public Companies List

To complete the list of fast-growing Georgia companies, the Atlanta Business Chronicle collected the past three years’ annual revenue and employment figures from Georgia public companies’ annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2007, 2008, and as of March 16, 2009.

Companies were ranked by a growth index formula which is used to even the playing field among companies of different sizes. The revenue and employee growth indexes are the percentage change from 2006 through 2008 multiplied by the absolute change for the same years. A company’s average employee or revenue growth index is the growth index divided by the average growth of companies that qualify for the ranking. Companies must be at least $100 million in revenue to be considered for the top 25 fastest-growing list.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Industry Analysts Rate Aflac's Investor Relations Best in the Insurance/Life Category

/PRNewswire/ -- Aflac announced today that Institutional Investor has named the Georgia-based insurance company as the best in the Insurance/Life category for investor relations (IR). Aflac received the top selection among publicly traded U.S. companies, chosen by more than 1,000 industry analysts representing both the sell-side and the buy-side of investment professionals.

According to Institutional Investor, both the buy-side and sell-side agree that the quality and transparency of companies' financial reporting and disclosure are paramount, but there are differences too. Buy siders -- with whom IR professionals concentrate much of their efforts -- care most about the quality and depth of the answers to their inquiries, while sell-siders want increased access to senior management.

"This honor speaks directly to the philosophy, accessibility and leadership of Aflac management," Sr. Vice President of Investor Relations Kenneth S. Janke Jr. said. "Our reputation is built upon providing information with openness and transparency regardless of the audience or economic situation. I am proud of our team and thankful for the validation of our efforts from more than 1,000 industry analysts."

"Although companies may be tempted to withdraw from shareholders during tough times, the best IR teams in the U.S. are actively engaging with their investors," said Tom Buerkle, Institutional Investor's executive editor. "Now more than ever, shareholders are looking for clear, up-to-date information from corporate executives."

To determine the leading companies for investor relations in the U.S., Institutional Investor surveyed two distinct audiences: (1) Sell-side analysts, and 2) Buy-side analysts and portfolio managers. This year's rankings were based on the opinions of 417 sell-side analysts and 656 buy-side individuals. Individuals were asked to nominate up to four companies for each attribute used to evaluate the effectiveness of investor relations communications -- six for the buy-side and 15 for the sell-side. They were also asked to nominate companies with the most improved IR communications over the past year. All voting was conducted on an unprompted basis.

For a more detailed look at the survey, including its methodology, please visit www.iimagazine.com.

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Cities of Lithonia, Chamblee and Norcross Partner with SAFEbuilt, Georgia’s Largest Provider of Building Department Services

The Cities of Lithonia, Chamblee and Norcross have recently contracted with SAFEbuilt Georgia to provide all building department services for their communities. SAFEbuilt Georgia is the state’s leading contract provider of building department services for public agencies. Services include plan reviews, permit applications and inspections for both residential and commercial projects.

Lithonia and Chamblee are both located in Dekalb County. The City of Lithonia formerly utilized building services from the County, while Chamblee used a variety of vendors to facilitate their building department needs. The City of Norcross has expanded their relationship with SAFEbuilt, previously utilizing supplemental services to support an in-house department.

Outsourcing building department services is an option for communities to more closely align revenues with associated costs. SAFEbuilt assumes the expense of staffing and provides a wider range of expertise and professional certifications than most in-house departments can offer.

SAFEbuilt Georgia also partners with 15 other communities throughout the greater Atlanta area to provide a full-service building department. Additionally, SAFEbuilt provides supplemental support services for the new KIA facilities in the City of West Point and the residence hall at Young Harris College.

SAFEbuilt Georgia provide options to government agencies that allow them to provide a continuously superior level of service during peak building periods as well as in low volume times like the current recession. To find out how the SAFEbuilt Georgia team can customize a building department program to benefit your community, contact Jon Walker at Jon.Walker@SAFEbuilt.com, or call (770) 809-4714. Jon is a former city manager and understands the challenges and needs facing today’s public agencies.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Aflac Dedicates New Information Technology Center

Expansion Illustrates Company’s Commitment to Columbus and Georgia

Governor Sonny Perdue joined Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos and Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington, yesterday to dedicate the company’s newest facility on the Paul S. Amos (PSA) campus at Corporate Ridge in Columbus. The 161,000 square foot building will host the Columbus-based insurance giant’s Information Technology (IT) Center.

“Aflac is fortunate to be in a state and a community with economic and educational programs that enable our company to accomplish so much here in Columbus," said Dan Amos. “I want to thank Governor Perdue, Commissioner Ken Stewart, Mayor Wetherington, and all of the local development leaders who worked so hard to make this new building a reality.”

The new building will accommodate 850 workers with 550 IT employees who will begin moving in on April 20. The IT unit is responsible for maintaining a reliable infrastructure and ensuring that technology systems are available to support internal and external electronic communications and the more than 870 servers and 6,000 desktops and laptops used by Aflac employees and sales personnel.

“Aflac has been an outstanding Georgia company for more than 50 years,” said Governor Perdue. “Here in Georgia, we work hard to nurture our homegrown companies and provide them a business-friendly environment that allows innovative companies to succeed and thrive.”

“We are excited about the opening of Aflac’s newest facility in Corporate Ridge Business Park. It is evident that Aflac has a strong commitment to Columbus and the region with the opening of a second building on the Paul S. Amos Campus in two years,” Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington said. “We appreciate the support and confidence that Aflac shows by its continuing to increase its capacity to bring more jobs and capital investment in the future. Aflac and the City of Columbus have a strong public-private partnership and we look forward to working with Aflac as the company grows.”

Construction of the new IT Center began in 2007. The $41 million building brings the total work space at the PSA campus to 504,000 square feet, capable of accommodating 3,300 employees. It includes a fitness center for employee health and wellness, as well as a full-service cafeteria called the Mega-Bytes Cafe. The expansion includes preferential parking for carpoolers and preserves more than 2,000 feet of green space. More than 70 video monitors throughout the IT Center will help facilitate communication for employees and visitors. Local architectural firm Hecht Burdeshaw Architects Inc. was responsible for the design of the new building. As the general contractor, Batson-Cook was responsible for the IT Center’s construction.

About Aflac
For more than 50 years, Aflac products have given policyholders the opportunity to direct cash where it is needed most when a life-interrupting medical event causes financial challenges. Aflac is the number one provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance in the United States and the number one insurance company in terms of individual insurance policies in force in Japan. Our insurance products provide protection to more than 40 million people worldwide. Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere magazine as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for two consecutive years and was also named by the Reputation Institute as the Most Respected Company in the Global Insurance Industry in 2008. In 2009 Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for the eleventh consecutive year. Aflac appears on Hispanic Enterprise magazine's list of the 50 Best Companies for Supplier Diversity and on Black Enterprise magazine's list of the 40 Best Companies for Diversity. Aflac was also named by Forbes magazine as America's Best-Managed Company in the insurance category. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac, visit aflac.com .

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Can You Really Get a Job Using Twitter? One Job Seeker Gives a Resounding YES

(BUSINESS WIRE)--There are many articles and stories about people posting and searching for jobs via Twitter. The big question is does this type of approach work? For one job seeker, the answer is a resounding yes.

P. Downes of Staatsburg, New York, needed a new job. After posting his resume on several job sites, spending money on creating a better resume, and even using professional career coaching, nothing was working. “Then I found TweetMyJOBS.com (http://www.tweetmyjobs.com),” says Downes. “Instant Karma.” He received notification of an open position, called the hiring company, got a meeting, and was quickly hired.

TweetMyJOBS.com is the idea of Gary Zukowski, an entrepreneur located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Users can search jobs for free by signing up for various job channels in for cities across America. Companies, in turn, can post jobs on the site as well. When a job becomes available on a job channel for which a person has subscribed, the person instantly receives a text message on his or her cell phone notifying them of the opportunity.

“Job seekers and recruiters are all rushing to use social media such as a way to find and post jobs,” says Zukowski. “However, since this process is so new, people want to know if this approach truly works. Because of the functionality we offer we are confident that we have built a service that will produce results.”

How much has this experience with TweetMyJOBS.com affected Mr. Downes and his career? “In addition to my normal day to day sales responsibilities part of my new job is Social Media Guru!”

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Imperial Sugar Updates Port Wentworth Rebuild Project

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Imperial Sugar Company (NASDAQ:IPSU) updated the status of its project to rebuild its Port Wentworth, Georgia, refinery which was extensively damaged in an industrial accident in February 2008. The Company reported that through March 31, 2009, it had spent approximately $54 million of the estimated $200 million to $220 million construction costs. The Company’s property insurance policy provides coverage for construction replacement cost, as well as business interruption and certain payroll and other costs. The Company received an additional $35 million advance under the property insurance policy in March 2009.

Advances, which total $160 million to date, are not identified with any specific coverage under the policy. Imperial expects to begin producing granulated bulk sugar at the facility in late May of 2009 and complete restoration of the packaging capabilities by the fall of 2009. The Company also reported that as of March 31, 2009, it had cash balances of $79 million and available, undrawn revolving credit capacity of $55 million, after deducting $30 million of outstanding borrowings under that facility.

John Sheptor, Imperial’s President and CEO, said, “The rebuild project continues to progress nicely and we are on track to begin bulk sugar production in late May. Our employees are enthusiastic about the project and we are working closely with our customers and suppliers to coordinate the restart of the refinery. Discussions with representatives of our insurance companies continue productively, and an additional $35 million of advances were received in March.”

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Pilgrim's Pride to Close Processing Facility in Dalton, Ga., as Part of Reorganization

/PRNewswire / -- Pilgrim's Pride Corporation (Pink Sheets: PGPDQ) today announced plans to close its chicken processing plant in Dalton, Ga., within 60 days and consolidate production at the company's processing facility in Chattanooga, Tenn. These actions are aimed at improving the company's capacity utilization and reducing its costs.

Approximately 280 employees who work at the Dalton plant will be affected by the closing. Pilgrim's Pride will provide transition programs to employees whose positions are eliminated to assist them in securing new employment, filing for unemployment and obtaining other applicable benefits. The hatchery in Cohutta, Ga., will continue to operate. Other live production operations will also continue to function, but as a part of the Chattanooga complex or other nearby operations. Approximately 120 independent contract growers who currently supply birds to the Dalton processing plant will be transitioned to begin supplying the company's Chattanooga plant or other nearby company facilities within approximately 90 days.

There will not be any disruption in the supply of product to retail, foodservice and industrial customers as a result of closing the Dalton facility.

"The closing of the Dalton plant is part of our plan to maximize our capacity utilization and operate more efficiently as a market-driven company," said Don Jackson, president and chief executive officer. "We will continue to look for opportunities to improve our cost structure as we reorganize the company. While the decision to eliminate jobs is always painful, we are taking decisive steps now to protect the greatest number of jobs in order to restructure our business and ultimately emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger, more efficient competitor."

As previously announced, the Company filed voluntary Chapter 11 petitions on December 1, 2008. The Chapter 11 cases are being jointly administered under case number 08-45664. The Company's operations in Mexico and certain operations in the United States were not included in the filing and continue to operate as usual outside of the Chapter 11 process.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Perma-Fix Commences Treatment of Characteristic Hazardous Waste Utilizing New Treatment Unit at its South Georgia Facility

/PRNewswire/ -- Perma-Fix Environmental Services, Inc. (NASDAQ:PESI) announced today that it has completed construction and permitting activities related to installation of its proprietary treatment process for characteristic hazardous wastes at its South Georgia facility. Characteristic hazardous wastes are defined as wastes that exhibit one or more of the following characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity. The new system designed around the Perma-Fix I process eliminates the hazardous components within the waste using a chemical treatment process. The resulting materials meet all federal and state standards for non-hazardous materials, reducing the costs and risks normally associated with characteristic hazardous waste.

Dr. Louis F. Centofanti, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, stated, "Our Perma-Fix I process has been used successfully throughout the Company for over 15 years. Installing this process at our South Georgia facility provides companies in the Southeast a lower-cost, as well as a "green" and RCRA compliant solution to many of their hazardous waste problems. Treatment to eliminate hazardous constituents within the waste stream means fewer hazards going into the ground, as would be the case for companies sending these wastes to either a hazardous waste landfill or a hazardous deepwell. Further, because this new treatment process at the South Georgia facility is centrally located within the Southeast, it provides regional customers with a local solution that reduces transportation and disposal costs."

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sallie Mae to Create 2,000 Jobs, Return Its Overseas Operations to U.S.

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sallie Mae, the nation’s leading provider of saving- and paying-for-college programs, today announced that it will create 2,000 jobs by returning its overseas operations to the U.S. Specifically, Sallie Mae will hire call center, information technology, and operations support positions in various communities across the country.

“For 37 years, we have been dedicated to helping America’s students enhance their lives through an investment in higher education,” said Albert L. Lord, Chief Executive Officer. “We also contribute economically to the many communities where we operate our business. The current economic environment has caused our communities to struggle with job losses. They need jobs, and we will put 2,000 of them into U.S. facilities as soon as we possibly can.”

Sallie Mae expects to hire these employees over the next 18 months. The company currently has operations in 20 communities in the U.S., including Lynn Haven, Fla.; Fishers, Ind.; Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Killeen, Texas; and the company’s newest facility in Newark, Del. Today, Sallie Mae employs more than 8,000 people nationwide.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

International Dignitaries to Tour Northeast Georgia

23rd Annual VIP Tour brings diplomats, business officials to Georgia’s communities

A cadre of top diplomatic and business officials representing close to 20 countries will tour Northeast Georgia as part of the 23rd annual VIP Tour. The tour, which runs from April 15 – 17, will showcase destinations, businesses, educational institutions and economic development partnerships in Flowery Branch, Gainesville, Clayton, Young Harris, Dahlonega, Helen, Dawsonville and Cumming.

The tour combines travel destinations with significant economic development projects and local business leaders and enables Georgia’s diplomatic corps to meet local Georgians in their own communities.

“Each year, the VIP Tour gives Georgia a unique opportunity to highlight business, cultural, tourism and educational assets of different regions of our state,” said Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Georgia’s diplomatic corps will be able to witness first-hand Northeast Georgia’s unmatched beauty as well as its economic development capabilities. It is our belief that our distinguished diplomatic corps will, in turn, become advocates for the value this region of Georgia can bring to their home-country companies.”

The International VIP Tour is a unique program that benefits its participants and host regions. Each year, tour participants visit a part of the state they might not otherwise experience in order to enhance their understanding of Georgia’s amenities and culture. The tour also offers communities the opportunity to establish relationships with international business representatives.

This year’s VIP Tour will include representatives from Albania, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Nigeria, Philippines, Slovenia, Switzerland and Taiwan.

“Every year, Georgia’s consular corps looks forward to getting to know more of Georgia by way of the VIP Tour,” said Amanda Hodges, Consul General and Trade Commissioner of Australia. “It’s an excellent way for us to reinforce our social, political, economic and cultural ties with Georgia’s communities.”

The VIP Tour will visit sites highlighting Northeast Georgia’s diversity of manufacturing, educational, tourism, entertainment and cultural industries. The first stop on Wednesday, April 15 is the Falcons Team Headquarters in Flowery Branch. The rest of the day, the VIPs will visit the Kubota plant in Gainesville and Tallulah Gorge State Park, with an overnight stay in Clayton.

Thursday, April 16 the group will enjoy a presentation at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School and then head to Young Harris College for a program. In the afternoon, the VIPs will visit several sites in Dahlonega and spend the night at the Unicoi State Lodge in Helen.

On Friday, April 17, the VIPs will visit the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawsonville and complete their trip with a tour of Hansgrohe’s facility in Cumming.

The Atlanta Consular Corps consists of consuls general, consuls, honorary consuls and trade commissioners representing 61 countries. Career officers are members of their country’s foreign services while honorary officials are local residents appointed by foreign governments to perform consular duties. Each consulate offers diplomatic and business assistance to nationals from its respective country.

Currently, 53 countries operate more than 2,500 internationally owned facilities in Georgia. In fiscal 2008, international companies accounted for $1.08 billion in investment and the creation of 7,001 jobs.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is the state's sales and marketing arm, the lead agency for attracting new business investment, encouraging the expansion of existing industry and small businesses, locating new markets for Georgia products, attracting tourists to Georgia, and promoting the state as a location for film, music and digital entertainment projects, as well as planning and mobilizing state resources for economic development.
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Ford Completes Debt Restructuring Initiatives; Reduces Debt by $9.9 Billion and Lowers Annual Interest Expense by More Than $500 Million

- In total, Ford and Ford Credit will use $2.4 billion in cash plus 468 million shares of Ford common stock to reduce Ford's outstanding Automotive debt by $9.9 billion from $25.8 billion at Dec. 31, 2008. This will reduce Ford's annual cash interest expense by more than $500 million based on current interest rates

- This successful debt restructuring, together with previously announced agreements with the United Auto Workers, will substantially strengthen Ford's balance sheet

- Approximately $4.3 billion principal amount of Ford Motor Company's 4.25% Senior Convertible Notes due December 15, 2036 were validly tendered and accepted for purchase pursuant to Ford's conversion offer. Ford will use $344 million to pay a cash premium to convertible note holders who validly tendered

- Ford Motor Credit Company today separately announced the final results of its previously announced $1.3 billion cash tender offer for Ford's unsecured, non-convertible debt securities. Based on the tenders received, Ford Credit will use $1.1 billion in cash to purchase $3.4 billion principal amount of Ford's unsecured notes

- As previously announced, Ford Credit used $1 billion to purchase $2.2 billion principal amount of Ford's term loan debt at a price of 47 percent of par.

/PRNewswire / -- Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) announced today the successful completion of debt restructuring initiatives that will reduce Ford's Automotive debt by $9.9 billion from $25.8 billion at December 31, 2008, and lower Ford's annual cash interest expense by more than $500 million based on current interest rates.

"By substantially reducing our debt, Ford is taking another step toward creating an exciting, viable enterprise," said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. "As with our recent agreements with the UAW, Ford continues to lead the industry in taking the decisive actions necessary to weather the current downturn and deliver long-term profitable growth."

Previously Announced Debt Restructuring Initiatives

On March 4, 2009, Ford and Ford Credit announced the major components of a comprehensive debt restructuring: (1) a conversion offer in which Ford offered to pay a premium in cash to induce the holders of any and all of the $4.88 billion principal amount outstanding of its 4.25% Senior Convertible Notes due December 15, 2036 (the "Convertible Notes") to convert the Convertible Notes into shares of Ford's common stock (the "Conversion Offer"); (2) a $500 million cash tender offer by Ford Credit (the "Term Loan Offer") for Ford's senior secured term loan debt (the "Term Loan Debt"); and (3) a $1.3 billion cash tender offer (the "Notes Tender Offer") by Ford Credit for certain of Ford's unsecured, non-convertible debt securities (the "Notes").

Results of Conversion Offer

The Conversion Offer expired at 9:00 a.m., New York City time, on April 3, 2009 (the "Expiration Date"). As of the Expiration Date, approximately $4.3 billion principal amount of Convertible Notes were validly tendered and accepted for purchase, according to information provided by Computershare, Inc., the Exchange Agent with respect to the Conversion Offer. This will result in the issuance of an aggregate of approximately 468 million shares of Ford's common stock and the payment of an aggregate of $344 million in cash ($80 in cash per $1,000 principal amount of Convertible Notes converted), plus the applicable accrued and unpaid interest on such Convertible Notes, on the expected settlement date of April 8, 2009. Upon settlement of the Conversion Offer, approximately $579 million aggregate principal amount of Convertible Notes will remain outstanding.

Holders who validly tendered and did not withdraw their Convertible Notes by 9:00 a.m., New York City time, on the Expiration Date and whose Convertible Notes were accepted for purchase will receive, for each $1,000 principal amount of the Convertible Notes converted, 108.6957 shares of Ford's common stock plus $80 in cash and the applicable accrued and unpaid interest.

Previously Announced Results of Term Loan Offer

On March 23, 2009, Ford Credit announced that the Term Loan Offer, which expired at 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on March 19, 2009, had been over-subscribed. Based on the tenders received, Ford Credit increased the amount of cash used from $500 million to $1 billion to purchase $2.2 billion principal amount of Ford's Term Loan Debt at a price of 47 percent of par. This transaction settled on March 27, 2009, following which Ford Credit distributed the Term Loan Debt to its immediate parent, Ford Holdings LLC. The distribution of the Term Loan Debt is consistent with Ford Credit's previously announced plans to pay distributions to Ford of about $2 billion through 2010.

Approximately $4.6 billion aggregate principal amount of Term Loan Debt remains outstanding.

Results of Notes Tender Offer

Concurrent with this announcement, Ford Credit separately announced today by press release the results of its previously announced $1.3 billion cash tender offer for Ford's unsecured, non-convertible debt securities. As of the April 3, 2009 expiration date of the Notes Tender Offer, approximately $3.4 billion principal amount of Notes were validly tendered and accepted for purchase, according to information provided by Global Bondholder Services Corporation, the Depositary and Information Agent with respect to the Notes Tender Offer. This will result in an aggregate purchase price for the Notes of approximately $1.1 billion, to be paid by Ford Credit on the expected settlement date of April 8, 2009. Upon settlement of the Notes Tender Offer, such Notes will be transferred from Ford Credit to Ford in satisfaction of certain of Ford Credit's tax liabilities to Ford. After settlement of the Notes Tender Offer, approximately $5.5 billion aggregate principal amount of the Notes will remain outstanding.

In addition, as Ford previously announced, it has elected to defer future interest payments related to the 6.50% Cumulative Convertible Trust Preferred Securities of Ford Motor Company Capital Trust II (the "Trust Preferred Securities"), which will result in the deferral of $184 million in interest on the Trust Preferred Securities annually.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Karen Gordon Mills Confirmed By Senate as SBA Administrator

The U.S. Senate confirmed by unanimous consent President Barack Obama’s nomination of Karen Gordon Mills as the 23rd Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration on Friday.

“Small business is the backbone of the American economy,” Mills said upon her confirmation. “The SBA has a vital role to play in supporting our nation’s small businesses so that they can be the key driver in getting our economy moving again. I look forward to leading this critical agency at this important time.

“I want to thank President Obama for this opportunity to serve as a voice for our nation’s small business owners and entrepreneurs,” Mills said. “I would also like to express my appreciation to Darryl Hairston for his leadership as Acting Administrator during this transition, along with everyone at the SBA for the hard work they are doing to implement the important programs of the Recovery Act.”

In testimony on April 1 before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Mills discussed her hands-on experience managing and helping to grow small businesses.

“I was there on the factory floor in Arkansas and Ohio working to weather the recession of the early ‘90s,” she said. “Those experiences give me a deep understanding of what our small businesses need today to survive this downturn and to prosper in the years ahead. Since then, I have helped grow companies in organic food, and women’s media, and spent time in rural Maine working with our boat builders and composite technology to help them compete throughout the globe.

“The sum of my experience is this: I am a believer in American small business. I am a believer in America’s ability to manufacture goods and services that are world class, and I am a believer in America’s spirit of entrepreneurship. This spirit is one of our country’s greatest assets and we need to cultivate it today, more than ever.”

As Administrator of the SBA, Mills will direct a federal agency with more than 2,000 full-time employees, with a leading role in helping small business owners and entrepreneurs secure financing, technical assistance and training, and federal contracts. SBA also plays a leading role in disaster recovery by making low interest loans.

Mills, of Brunswick, Maine, was president of MMP Group and has a 25-year career of investing in and growing small businesses. In 2007, she was appointed by Maine Gov. John Baldacci as chair of the state’s Council on Competitiveness and the Economy, where she focused on attracting investment in rural and regional development initiatives. She also co-authored a Brookings Institute paper on competitive clusters.

Mills is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served as vice chairman of the Harvard Overseers. She holds a degree in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar. Mills and her husband Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, have three sons.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Employers More Focused on Keeping Current Staff Levels Than Hiring, According to Quarterly Job Forecast from CareerBuilder and USA TODAY

/PRNewswire/ -- Following a loss of 2.6 million jobs in the last four months*, U.S. employers are holding off on staff expansions and focusing efforts on keeping current headcount as they navigate through a tough economy. This is according to the latest quarterly survey from CareerBuilder and USA TODAY, conducted by Harris Interactive(R), tracking projected employment trends. The survey, titled "Q2 2009 Job Forecast," was conducted from February 20 through March 11, 2009 among 2,500 hiring managers and human resource professionals and over 4,400 workers in private sector companies.

"We'll be looking for the market to stabilize over the next three to six months, when you'll hopefully see job losses below 100,000 and eventually closer to zero," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.com. "Employers want to hold on to their talent and are taking measures to contain costs and bring in new revenue streams, so they can maintain their staff levels. Sixty-four percent of employers expect there will be no change in their number of full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter."

Hiring in Q1 2009

Thirteen percent of employers said they increased their number of full-time, permanent employees in the first quarter - down from 31 percent this time last year - while 60 percent reported their staff levels remained the same. Twenty-six percent reported a reduction in headcount, up from 13 percent this time last year. One percent were undecided.

Hiring in Q2 2009

Fourteen percent of employers expect to add full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter, relatively unchanged from the first quarter of 2009 and down from 29 percent in the second quarter of 2008. Fourteen percent anticipate there will be a decrease in headcount in the second quarter while 64 percent expect no change and 7 percent are undecided.

Layoffs

Twenty-two percent of hiring managers reported there were layoffs at their locations in the first quarter of 2009, up from 11 percent this time last year. Twelve percent anticipate there will be layoffs in the next three months while 16 percent are unsure. Seventy-two percent expect no change.

Looking at a subset of managers specializing in human resources, nearly half (48 percent) believe their organizations will benefit from the economic stimulus in terms of getting more business. Twenty-three percent said their companies are planning to bring back workers who were laid off once the economy turns around.

Six Employment Trends for Employers and Job Seekers

No. 1 - Trimming Perks and Benefits - Companies are taking interim measures to free up funds to weather the economic storm. Forty-two percent of employers reported they experienced a cut in perks and benefits at their organizations in the first quarter of 2009; 31 percent expect there will be cuts in the second quarter of 2009. The top three areas that will be impacted are bonuses, 401K matching and healthcare coverage, according to the survey.

No. 2 - Upgrading Talent Rosters - Twenty-three percent of employers said they are taking this time, when hiring has slowed, to replace lower-performing employees with top talent that may not have been available in a healthier economy. Job seekers who stand to benefit the most include those operating in sales, accounting/finance, retail and customer service.

No. 3 - Postponing Retirement - Six-in-ten workers (60 percent) over the age of 60 said, in a separate survey, they are putting off their retirement due to the impact of the U.S. financial crisis on their long-term savings. The majority (73 percent) anticipate it will take them up to six years to recoup lost savings while one-in-ten fear they may never be able to retire.

No. 4 - Transferring Skills - Seventy-one percent of workers who were laid off and have not found work said they are looking for jobs outside of their chosen profession either because they're ready for a change or there are no available jobs in their field. Hiring managers are amenable with 69 percent stating they would hire someone who didn't have experience in their profession, but had transferable skills.

No. 5 - Relocating - Thirty-nine percent of workers who were laid off and have not found work said they would consider relocating to another city or state for a job. Employers are open to recruiting candidates from other cities with 28 percent of hiring managers stating they would pay to relocate a good job candidate.

No. 6 - Going Back to the Classroom - Twenty-one percent of all workers surveyed are going back to school for formal degrees, certifications and refresher courses to make themselves more marketable to employers.

Hourly Workers in Q1 2009

When asked if hours had changed, on average, for hourly workers in Q1 2009 year over year, 53 percent of hiring managers reported no change in the number of hours offered while 25 percent reported hours were cut. Five percent stated that hours had increased while another 5 percent were unsure.

Hiring By Region in Q2 2009

The South continues to perform better than other regions in terms of hiring, seeing the benefits of growth in healthcare and energy. Sixteen percent of hiring managers in the South plan to increase their full-time staff, compared to a 14 percent average among other regions. The Northeast, plagued by losses in banking and financial jobs, is expecting the largest decrease in headcount among the regions. Nineteen percent of hiring managers expect to trim staffs compared to 14 percent in the Midwest and West and 12 percent in the South.

Compensation in Q2 2009

Tightened budgets are restricting pay increases and, in some cases, resulting in pay reductions. Forty-two percent of employers expect to increase salaries for full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter, down from 70 percent this time last year. Twenty-nine percent estimate the average raise to range between 1 and 3 percent, 12 percent expect an average raise of 4 to 10 percent while 1 percent expect raises to be 11 percent or more. Forty-six percent of employers anticipate no change in compensation levels, 7 percent expect a decrease and 5 percent are unsure.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2009 Employment Situation Summary

Note: Totals may not equal 100 percent due to rounding.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder and USA TODAY among 2,543 hiring managers and human resource professionals (employed full-time; not self-employed; with at least significant involvement in hiring decisions; non government); and 4,435 U.S. employees (employed full-time; not self-employed; non government); and 361 respondents who have been laid off in the past 12 months from a full time position and have not found a new job; ages 18 and over between February 20 and March 11, 2009 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset of U.S. employers or employees, based on their responses to certain questions). With a pure probability sample of 2,543, 4,435, and 361, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.94 percentage points, +/- 1.47 percentage points, and +/- 5.16 percentage points, respectively. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

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