Friday, January 29, 2010

U.S. Economy Distancing Itself from Great Recession - BMO Economics

/PRNewswire/ -- U.S. real GDP rose a much stronger-than-expected 5.7 per cent annualized in Q4, building on a modest 2.2 per cent advance in Q3, and a far cry from the 5.4 per cent slide of a year ago.

"The advance in exports, personal consumption and business capital spending points to some positive momentum in the economy," said Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "First-quarter GDP growth should top 3 per cent, further distancing the economy from the Great Recession, and encouraging firms to resume hiring."

More than half of the quarterly increase reflected inventory rebuilding, with an assist from net exports. Exports soared 18.1 per cent, even topping the prior quarter's sharp gain, amid support from an upswing in global demand and a weak dollar. Final sales (GDP ex-inventories) strengthened to 2.2 per cent, though final domestic demand weakened a bit to 1.7 per cent. The latter reflected a moderation in consumer spending (2.0 per cent), after the cash-for-clunkers auto program boosted sales in Q3. However, the underlying rate of consumer spending, though still soft, looks to have picked up.

Government spending was also weak due to ongoing retrenchment at the state level and a pullback in defense spending. Non-residential construction remained in the dumps, sliding 15.4 per cent. The main upward surprise in the report came from a 13.3 per cent surge in business equipment spending, the fastest in nearly four years. Recent strength in capital goods orders, coupled with the President's proposal to provide investment tax credits, point to ongoing strength ahead. Residential construction also advanced further in Q4, despite a recent pullback in housing starts.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Senate Approves Extension of SBA Programs

/PRNewswire/ -- The United States Senate today approved an extension of several of the Small Business Administration's (SBA) programs through April 30, 2010. This includes the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which without the extension would expire. Upon passage of the extension, Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., issued the following statement:

"A three-month extension of the SBA and its programs, including important programs to spur innovation and research, ensures that these programs will persist while we continue negotiations with the House to reach a strong compromise on the future of the SBIR and STTR programs. These research initiatives are vital to our country's competitiveness and to job creation, as about 20 percent of SBIR participants say they started their company in part because of a prospective SBIR award. As we seek to improve the economy and create jobs, now is not the time to let these job-creating programs slip by the wayside.

"This is a good opportunity for the agencies and the states to work together to promote the programs and encourage entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists looking for jobs to apply for these research and development projects - putting them back to work and helping our country tap new talent to create cutting-edge innovations for our military and new advances in health care and alternative energy."

Small firms employ 41 percent of the nation's high-tech workers and generate 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large firms. The SBIR program alone has generated more than 84,000 patents and millions of jobs. Eleven federal agencies participate in the SBIR program - including the Department of Defense and National Science Foundation - allocating 2.5 percent of their extramural research and development dollars for the program.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Toyota Temporarily Suspends Sales of Selected Vehicles

/PRNewswire/ -- Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today announced that it is instructing Toyota dealers to temporarily suspend sales of eight models involved in the recall for sticking accelerator pedal, announced on January 21, 2010.

"Helping ensure the safety of our customers and restoring confidence in Toyota are very important to our company," said Group Vice President and Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter. "This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized. We're making every effort to address this situation for our customers as quickly as possible."

Toyota announced it would recall approximately 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals on specific Toyota Division models. Toyota has investigated isolated reports of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms in certain vehicles without the presence of floor mats. There is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position.

Toyota's accelerator pedal recall and suspension of sales is confined to the following Toyota Division vehicles:

2009-2010 RAV4,
2009-2010 Corolla,
2009-2010 Matrix,
2005-2010 Avalon,
Certain 2007-2010 Camry,
2010 Highlander,
2007-2010 Tundra,
2008-2010 Sequoia


No Lexus Division or Scion vehicles are affected by these actions. Also not affected are Toyota Prius, Tacoma, Sienna, Venza, Solara, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser and select Camry models, including all Camry hybrids, which will remain for sale.

Due to the sales suspension, Toyota is expected to stop producing vehicles on the following production lines for the week of February 1 to assess and coordinate activities. The North America vehicle production facilities affected are:

-- Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Canada (Corolla, Matrix, and RAV4)
-- Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (Sequoia and Highlander)
-- Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky - Line 1 (Camry and Avalon)
-- Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (Camry)
-- Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas (Tundra)



No other North American Toyota vehicle production facilities are affected by the decision to stop production.

The sticking accelerator pedal recall is separate from the on-going recall of Toyota and Lexus vehicles to reduce the risk of pedal entrapment by incorrect or out of place accessory floor mats. Approximately 1.7 million Toyota Division vehicles are subject to both separate recall actions.

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Online Auction of Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment from a Failed Georgia Bank

/PRNewswire/ -- Penny Worley Auctioneers (www.worleyauctioneers.com) announces the online auction of furniture, fixtures and equipment from a failed bank in Alpharetta, Ga., according to Jerry Jenkins.

"All items will sell to the highest bidders," Jenkins said. "We have computers, very nice solid wood executive office furniture, office equipment, storage and shelving, and much more."

Items in this online bank auction include: computers, solid wood executive office furniture, leather chairs by Paoli, Herman Miller office chairs, IT equipment, copier/printers, solid wood home furnishings like Jessica McClintock Home, office equipment, framed art, storage and shelving, workstations, flat panel televisions, Nortel phone systems, kitchen appliances, as well as bank equipment like check scanners, coin counters, currency counters, fireproof file cabinets, encoders, validators, safes, and more.

The online auction is open to the public. Bidding closes February 19. Bidders must register prior to bidding. For more information, visit www.WorleyAuctioneers.com, or call Jerry Jenkins at (513) 313-9178.

Penny Worley Auctioneers conducts auctions throughout the United States. The company is a member of the National Auctioneers Association, the Ohio Auctioneers Association and the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, National Association of Realtors & Ohio Association of Realtors and Members of the Cincinnati and Dayton Home Builders Association.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Delta to Invest in Customer Experience, Fleet Efficiency

/PRNewswire/ -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) will invest $1 billion, or about $300 million per year, through mid-2013 to improve the customer experience in the air and on the ground. The capital investment will improve the consistency and level of service provided to Delta's BusinessElite, First Class and elite-level flyers, as well as increasing the efficiency of the airline's fleet. Planned enhancements include:

-- Installing full flat-bed seats in BusinessElite on 90 trans-oceanic
aircraft, including 14 Boeing 767-400ERs, 52 Boeing 767-300ERs, 16
Boeing 747-400s and eight Boeing 777-200ERs. Upon completion, each of
these fleets will have full flat bed seats on all aircraft.
-- Adding in-seat audio and video on demand throughout Economy Class on
16 Boeing 747-400 and 52 Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. With these
additions, Delta will offer personal, in-seat entertainment for both
BusinessElite and Economy class customers on all wide-body aircraft.
-- Adding First Class cabins to 66 CRJ-700 aircraft operated by Delta
Connection carriers ASA, Comair and SkyWest, bringing to 219 the
number of regional aircraft with First Class seating.
-- Completing the modification of 269 pre-merger Northwest aircraft to
feature Delta's signature blue leather seats, updated lighting and
enhanced cabin amenities such as increased overhead bin space on
pre-merger Northwest 757-200s.
-- Installing winglets on more than 170 Boeing 767-300ER, 757-200 and
737-800 aircraft to extend aircraft range and improve fuel efficiency
by as much as five percent.
-- Renovating and expanding Delta's Los Angeles Sky Club lounge, and
introducing new Sky Club locations in Seattle, Philadelphia and
Indianapolis.


"Delta's planned fleet and product investments mark the most significant investment we have made in our customers in more than a decade," said Delta CEO Richard Anderson. "Our premium travelers tell us that the comfort of a flat bed seat with direct aisle access, a first class experience on regional jets and in-flight entertainment are important factors in their choice of carrier."

"This investment will be made while staying well within the level of our historical capital expenditures," said Ed Bastian, Delta's president. "Rather than invest in new aircraft, Delta will be spending its capital to improve the quality and consistency of the on-board product and efficiency of the aircraft we already own."

Delta currently offers the most on-demand entertainment among U.S. carriers with more than 100 domestic aircraft equipped with in-seat audio and video on demand. Delta also continues to rapidly expand in-flight Wi-Fi service, which is available on more than 340 aircraft and more than 1,200 flights each day. Delta, the largest operator of Wi-Fi enabled aircraft in the world, plans to have more than 530 aircraft equipped with Wi-Fi by mid-2010.

Delta's upcoming fleet and product investments build on recently announced improvements including the re-launch of the Red Coat program at Delta's international hub at JFK and subsequently at all domestic hubs; the addition of BusinessElite service on Delta's transcontinental routes between New York-JFK and Los Angeles and San Francisco; the introduction of the full flat bed seats on all flights between the United States and London-Heathrow; and the announcement of plans to create a domestic hub at Delta's No. 1 business airport - New York-LaGuardia, subject to government approvals.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Sawtimber Prices Expected to Recover in 2010-2011 for US South, yet Results Vary by State

/PRNewswire/ -- Turbulent times characterized by plummeting pine sawtimber prices could soon be over for timber sellers. A new stumpage price forecast published by Forisk signals climbing prices for pine sawtimber in the US South beginning in 2010. The ForiskFORECAST pine sawtimber price forecast and "Forecasting Timber Prices" workshop provide insights for timberland owners, investors, and wood procurement managers in planning future pricing and management strategies as lumber and plywood markets recover.

Despite positive indications for the US South as a region, results vary across the 11 states covered in Forisk's models. For example, between 2010 and 2011, Georgia pine sawtimber prices rebound 17% while prices in North Carolina increase less than 1% over the same timeframe according to the ForiskFORECAST. "The key is understanding the local, state-specific relationship - the elasticity - between wood demand and prices," explains Dr. Tim Sydor, Forisk's Forest Economist. "Pine sawtimber demand declined 32.6% South-wide between 2006 and 2009. Yet these declines varied by state. In the next few years, as lumber demand recovers, our historic wood demand and price analysis suggests a strong stumpage price recovery in several Southern states, while others will take longer to respond."

"Timber markets are uniquely local," says Brooks Mendell, President of Forisk. "Our clients are less concerned about national prices, and directly focused on their local options. South Georgia differs from North Alabama which differs from East Texas. Our basin studies, workshops and the ForiskFORECAST focus on the idea that successful investments in forestry or wood-using facilities rely on detailed knowledge of localized markets."

The ForiskFORECAST-Pine Sawtimber predicts annual pine sawtimber stumpage prices across the US South through 2020. It is available as an interactive Excel model or as individual forecasts for 11 states. For more information, visit www.foriskstore.com and click "Stumpage Price Forecasts."

In addition, two upcoming short courses on February 10th from Forisk - "Timber Market Analysis" and "Forecasting Timber Prices" - teach specific skills and strategies for forestry, procurement, bioenergy, investment and appraisal professionals who must evaluate pricing and demand in specific local wood markets today and looking forward. To learn more about these Atlanta-based courses, visit www.forisk.com and click on "Continuing Education."

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

RWE to Locate New Bioenergy Production Facility in Ware County

One of Europe’s largest energy firms to create 75 jobs and invest $150 million

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue today announced that RWE Innogy of Germany and BMC of Sweden will locate a bioenergy production plant in Waycross in Ware County, creating approximately 75 direct jobs and investing nearly $150 million. The facility will operate as a wood pellet production plant, and is expected to produce 750,000 tons of wood products annually. RWE will serve as an investor in this project, while BMC will carry out the development of the new facility.

“The plentiful resources in Ware County, such as its abundant forest assets and strategic railroad and highway access to Georgia’s deepwater ports, make it an ideal location for this renewable energy facility,” said Governor Perdue. “We welcome RWE and BMC to Georgia and look forward to the positive impact the Waycross plant will have for the state’s forestry sector, this community and the surrounding region.”

RWE, a leading energy production utility in Europe, is working with BMC to develop the production facility to export wood pellets to Europe. RWE and BMC plan to create the world’s largest renewable energy capacity of wood pellets produced at the new facility. Once they are shipped to Europe, RWE will use the wood pellets to meet the growing European demand for renewable energy.

“With its vast forest lands, Georgia is the ideal partner for us in respect to biomass,” said Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt, CEO of RWE Innogy. “What has convinced us in particular is the high standard of sustainability applied by the state in planting and harvesting forests. This is fully in line with our own criteria. These conditions certainly helped the decision to go ahead with the construction of the pellet factory and to create about 75 jobs."

Operating as Georgia BioMass, LLC, the new production facility will be built on a 300-acre parcel of land donated by the Okefenokee Area Development Authority. Production at the Waycross plant is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2011. Future job opportunities will be coordinated through the Georgia Department of Labor’s Waycross office.

“We are very excited about having formed this close cooperation with RWE, to develop a world-class biomass facility to provide the power industry with a tailored pellet with ‘coal like’ characteristics for efficient conversion to electricity,” said BMC founder and managing partner Mats Lindstrand. “The location in Waycross Georgia is perfect for us and we feel very welcomed in the local community.”

Waycross was selected as the site of the new RWE facility in part due to the area’s abundance of forests necessary to sustain wood pellet production.

“Our region is attractive to companies in the renewable energy industry as a result of the area’s accessibility to shipping ports and railways, existing infrastructure, and low-cost operating levels,” said Regina Morgan, Executive Director of the Okefenokee Area Development Authority. “This community proudly welcomes Georgia BioMass, and looks forward to a fruitful relationship for years to come.”

Identified as one of Georgia’s strategic industries, the renewable energy sector is poised for significant growth in the state. Businesses in this industry can leverage competitive assets offered by the Georgia Center of Innovation for Energy, a vital and central resource for companies seeking an advantage in the production of renewable energy and alternative fuels in Georgia.

“Businesses in the bioenergy sector are poised for great success in Georgia,” said Jill Stuckey, director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Energy. “The state’s logistical advantages, wealth of forest resources and the innovative research being done at Georgia’s universities and prime research facilities make Georgia a strategic location for bioenergy projects.”

Tom Croteau, Director of Energy for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, managed this project.

About RWE Innogy
RWE Innogy pools the renewable energy expertise and generating plants of the RWE Group. The company plans, builds and operates renewable power generation facilities, and aims to vigorously grow its renewable energy capacity. The expansion of onshore and offshore wind power capacities will remain the driver for RWE Innogy’s growth in the future, however, biomass and hydroelectric power will also be vigorously expanded. Innovation is another key focus area for RWE Innogy, not only pursuing classical research and development, but also investing in selected emerging technology companies.

About BMC
BMC (BioMass Capital Management AB with subsidiaries) is a Swedish-based project and technology development company , specialized in wood based biomass to replace fossil fuels. BMC has a highly specialized staff with long experience from the wood products and biomass industries and has offices in Stockholm, Sweden and Savannah, Georgia.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Suniva Awarded $5.7 Million in Clean Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Suniva®, Inc., a U.S. based high-efficiency solar manufacturer, today announced it received $5.7 million in Recovery Act Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credits to expand its solar cell manufacturing facility in Norcross, GA.

“In little more than a year, Suniva built the capacity to produce hundreds of millions of dollars worth of solar technology, and we’ve created over 130 green jobs in the process”

Suniva started producing monocrystalline solar cells at its Norcross facility in October 2008 and now operates two solar cell production lines with an annual capacity of 100 MW. Currently, Suniva is preparing to construct its third manufacturing line in Norcross, which will increase production capacity by 75 percent and create more than 50 manufacturing jobs in 2010.

“In little more than a year, Suniva built the capacity to produce hundreds of millions of dollars worth of solar technology, and we’ve created over 130 green jobs in the process,” said Suniva CEO John Baumstark. “These tax credits enable us to continue expanding and supplying the rapidly growing American solar market with products developed in American laboratories and made by American workers.”

Suniva’s technology was developed through research conducted by Suniva founder and CTO Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi at the University Center for Excellence in Photovoltaics (UCEP), a U.S. Department of Energy-funded laboratory. Suniva’s solar cells and modules are installed globally in solar systems in the United States, Europe and Asia, including India’s first large-scale solar project located in West Bengal.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Georgia-Pacific Announces Interest in Acquisition of Certain Grant Forest Products Facilities

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia-Pacific announced today that it has signed an agreement to acquire Grant Forest Products' oriented strand board (OSB) facility at Englehart, Ontario and the associated facility at Earlton, Ontario, as well as its OSB facilities at Allendale and Clarendon, S.C., for approximately $400 million.

Grant Forest Products intends to seek approval of the agreement in the near future from the Canadian Court overseeing Grant's Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act case and a United States Bankruptcy Court.

"These are world-class facilities that fit strategically with our current wood products operations and we are pleased with this opportunity to grow our OSB business in Canada and the U.S.," said Mark Luetters, president - Georgia-Pacific Wood Products. "We look forward to closing this deal and having these facilities, and the employees who operate them, join the Georgia-Pacific family."

Georgia-Pacific intends to operate the OSB manufacturing facilities that employ more than 300 people in Ontario and at Allendale, S.C. At the Clarendon plant, Georgia-Pacific plans to complete the unfinished construction and begin operations as soon as market conditions allow, which will entail employing more than 100 people in Clarendon County. In addition, Georgia-Pacific plans to make capital investments worth several million dollars to improve facilities and deliver enhanced reliability and efficiencies.

The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2010, following appropriate Canadian and U.S. regulatory review and court approval.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

U.K.-based Metal Products Supplier to Open Facility in Liberty County

Company’s Georgia expansion to create more than 200 jobs

Governor Sonny Perdue today announced the expansion of Firth Rixson Limited, a United Kingdom-based provider of highly engineered forged metal products, to Midway in Liberty County. The 200,000-square-foot facility will serve as a closed die forging operation providing components for the aerospace industry. Once fully operational, the company’s Georgia facility will create at least 200 local jobs.

“The aerospace sector is a targeted industry for Georgia,” said Governor Perdue. “With the opening of its new operation in Liberty County, Firth Rixson Limited strengthens our leadership position in the sector and brings welcome news to the county and state as we begin the new year.”

Firth Rixson’s Midway operation will be known as Firth Rixson Forgings LLC, and will represent the company’s largest greenfield investment. The new facility will also become Firth Rixson’s fourth closed die forging facility. The majority of the more than 200 anticipated jobs will be hired from the local workforce, with hiring for human resources positions beginning immediately.

“Firth Rixson Forgings LLC represents the continuation of Firth Rixson’s strategic initiatives and growth plans. Our management and technical development approach consistently results in products that provide satisfaction to our customers, and operational results that satisfy our owners,” said David C. Mortimer, CEO of Firth Rixson. “We will leverage the synergy with our current closed die operations in the United Kingdom to offer our products and service to a broadened market. We are extremely pleased to expand our business in the United States.”

With its new Midway location in close proximity to Savannah, Firth Rixon Forgings will have convenient access to the pipeline of talent at Georgia Tech’s Savannah campus. As one of the nation’s leading engineering schools, Georgia Tech is an active partner to aerospace and other industries, and has a record of being a key factor to the success of companies in Georgia by providing industry expertise and helping them compete in the global marketplace.

“We are very pleased Firth Rixson has selected our environmentally sensitive and well designed Tradeport East Business Center as the location for its new facility,” stated Allen Brown, chairman of the Liberty County Development Authority. “Firth Rixson joins an already robust existing industry base in Liberty County where approximately 70 percent of our current employment is tied to companies headquartered abroad. Companies like Firth Rixson have found Liberty County to be a place where they can grow globally.”

The aerospace industry plays a significant role in Georgia’s economy, and provides more than 80,000 jobs for aircraft manufacturers and aerospace suppliers. Companies in this industry in Georgia can take advantage of the state’s well-trained workforce through the nationally recognized Georgia Quick Start workforce training program.

“As a global leader in manufacturing components for the aerospace industry, Firth Rixson will be in good company among other leaders in this industry that successfully do business in Georgia,” said Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Georgia is pleased to be a part of Firth Rixson’s expanded operations in North America.”

About Firth Rixson Limited
Headquartered in Sheffield, UK, Firth Rixson serves customers worldwide in market sectors such as aerospace, defense, power generation, transportation, petrochemical, medical and general industrial. Firth Rixson owns 11 operating facilities in North America, Europe and Asia. Firth Rixson Limited (www.firthrixson.com) is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners (www.oakhillcapital.com).

About GDEcD
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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Firth Rixson Limited Announces the Construction of a Closed Die Manufacturing Facility in Georgia

/PRNewswire/ -- Firth Rixson Limited, a major provider of highly engineered forged and specialty metal products, announced today the most significant expansion in the Company's history, with the construction of a 200,000 square foot closed die forging operation in Liberty County, GA. The new site, Firth Rixson Forgings LLC, will become the Company's fourth closed die forging facility.

In announcing the construction of the facility, David C. Mortimer, CEO of Firth Rixson, said, "Firth Rixson Forgings LLC represents the continuation of Firth Rixson's strategic initiatives and growth plans. Our management and technical development approach consistently results in products that provide satisfaction to our customers, and operational results that satisfy our owners. We will leverage the synergy with our current closed die operations in the United Kingdom to offer our products and service to a broadened market. We are extremely pleased to expand our business in the United States."

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