New business announcements top $6 billion mark for 2017, report finds

The Tulsa area could see more than 1,100 jobs and $151 million as a result of new investments announced in 2017.The largest Tulsa-area investment was $77 million by Burlington Northern Santa Fe for an expansion to its Cherokee Rail Yard, according to a report from the state Commerce Department.The largest job expansion was DISH Network’s announcement of 250 new jobs in the Tulsa area.“2017 was by many measures a very good year for the Tulsa region,” said Bill Murphy, vice president of economic development with the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.New and existing companies in Oklahoma announced a total of more than $6 billion in new investments last year. Of the 83 public announcements made, 23 were from new companies moving into the state.The investments are expected to eventually lead to 3,500 new jobs, according to the 2017 New and Expanded Businesses Report.In comparison, 66 announcements were made statewide in 2016, which totaled $2.2 billion in investments with 14 coming from companies new to Oklahoma. More than 5,200 jobs are expected from those announcements, according to the report.The largest investment in the state this past year was Invenergy’s announcement on a $4.5 billion wind farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle.MedXM’s plan to hire more than 400 was the state’s largest expansion in employment, according to the report.The report only contains companies making public announcements and does not include retail-only companies, bank branch offices or hospitals.Murphy said the Tulsa chamber’s five-year goal is to generate $1.1 billion in new investments through expansions and new businesses and 22,500 jobs by the end of 2020, with 10,000 of those jobs having salaries below $50,000 a year and 12,500 jobs with salaries above $50,000 per year.He added that between 80 and 90 percent of new investments in the Tulsa area come from existing businesses.“A lot of times the out-of-state announcements get a lot of press, Continue Reading

Agee and Treacy: Transforming Southwest Virginia: Higher education must lead

By Nancy Howell Agee and Dennis Treacy Agee is President and CEO of the Carilion Clinic. Treacy is immediate Past Chairman of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. The secret is out. The road to Virginia’s economic transformation begins right here in Southwest Virginia. There is a palpable sense of optimism for a better future for our region, with signs of progress visible everywhere from Wise County to Roanoke and many places in between. Our region’s localities are showing the rest of the Commonwealth how to build economic alliances and utilize our natural assets to create exciting job opportunities in our region. The region’s natural beauty, innovations and sophisticated health care and an overall quality of life that is second to none are each part of the story of our Southwest Virginia renaissance. And, Southwest Virginia has one other clear asset that can be leveraged even more effectively for real, meaningful and positive change: public and private higher education institutions which serve our citizens from the Cumberland Gap to the Roanoke Valley. Higher education is one of our region’s top economic engines. According to a comprehensive recent study of the economic impact of Virginia’s public colleges and universities, our region’s six Community Colleges, UVa-Wise, Radford University and Virginia Tech are huge economic engines, contributing over $5 billion annually in economic activity which directly supports more than 20,000 jobs. That’s only part of the story! Innovative higher educational leaders in our region are already re-writing the narrative about the role that colleges, universities and community colleges must play in the 21st century economy. UVa-Wise is transforming itself and its corner of our region at the same time. The former “small liberal arts college” is now bringing high-paying cybersecurity jobs to the region and providing internships to Continue Reading

Food co-op’s new director leads with humility, humanity

Colorado’s mountains, as majestic as they are, can’t rival the peaks Tsewang “Sherpa” Sherpalama grew up with in Nepal.Born and raised in the foothills around Mount Everest, Sherpa left his homeland as a young adult to study in England. On a trip back to Nepal he spent a week in the U.S. as a transit passenger. That was more than three decades ago. Today, he is a permanent resident and one of Fort Collins’ newest residents.Now 54, with a wife and three grown children, and a long career in the natural food business, Sherpa was hired two months ago to lead the Fort Collins Food co-operative, 250 E. Mountain Ave.“As a sherpa, Colorado is where I belong,” he said during an interview in the cramped backroom of the co-op, where co-workers bustled around him placing orders, building employee schedules and printing daily specials. “The mountains are smaller than I am used to, but I believe the people here are more relaxed,” he said.Sherpa’s road to Fort Collins goes through New York and Maine, where he worked for Whole Foods, Healthy Pleasure and Mrs. Green’s Natural Markets for decades.It wasn’t until his kids went to college as first generation immigrants “that something popped into my mind,” Sherpa said.“This country has given us so much, probably more than we could get anywhere else. I started to realize I had not given anything back for 30-plus years. Everything I did was for my family. The thought of giving back to the country that gave us so much never crossed my mind.”The epiphany led to a decision to devote his remaining work life to a career that benefited his adopted country via individual communities.A brief stint as director of a food co-op in northern Maine didn’t work out, which led him to Fort Collins. “That is the reason I came to the co-op, to give back what little I can to the community.”As one of the oldest co-ops in the country, Fort Collins Continue Reading

The Shops at Nanuet adding new businesses

It's been nearly a year since The Shops at Nanuet officially opened, but the construction continues as additional businesses prepare to launch – even as a similar project just over the state line moves forward.For Rockland County and its municipalities, the success of The Shops has added up to additional sales tax revenue, according to county Finance Commissioner Stephen Degroat.The increase, seen consistently throughout the year, Degroat said, appears to be attributable to The Shops. He also thinks rising auto sales are playing a role.The Shops at Nanuet is 750,000 square feet of mixed shopping, slightly smaller than the 765,000-square-foot Paramus Park in nearby Bergen County and slightly larger than the proposed 600,000-square-foot Crossroads in nearby Mahwah, N.J., just over the Suffern border.PF Chang's just opened a 7,400 square-foot China Bistro at The Shops, Patsy's Pizza is set to open Wednesday and work is continuing on BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, with an opening targeted for early 2015.The Shops is just one of Rockland's major shopping destinations, with the Palisades Center down the road in West Nyack also a source of thousands of annual visitors and millions of dollars in sales tax revenues.And while the taxes generated by clothing and footwear sales at boutiques like Banana Republic and Lucky Brands are boosting Rockland's economic recovery, the lack of sales tax in New Jersey may lure some of that money away.New Jersey exempts most clothing and footwear from its 7 percent sales tax and Bergen County has no county sales tax. Shoppers in Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties pay anywhere from 33/8 to 43/8 although New York state exempts most clothing and footwear sales under $110 from its 4 percent state sales tax.For Rockland, sales tax has played a central role in the county's budget for years, even contributing to its fiscal woes after the revenue fell off during the recession.Between 1991 and 2007, Rockland's sales tax revenue grew at Continue Reading

Casinos embraced to fight economic slump, with New York leading the way

NEW YORK — A Malaysian company’s plan to build a $4 billion convention center and big-time casino on the outskirts of New York City could be the biggest shot fired yet in a tourism arms race that has seen a growing number of Eastern states embrace gambling as a way to lure visitors and drum up revenue. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he would work with the Genting Group, one of the world’s largest and most successful gambling companies, to transform the storied, but sleepy, Aqueduct horse track into a megaplex that would eventually include the nation’s largest convention center, 3,000 hotel rooms, and a major expansion of a casino that began operating at the site in October. The proposal came less than two months after once-puritanical Massachusetts passed a law allowing up to three resort casinos, plus a slot machine parlor, at locations around the state. Ohio is poised to see its first commercial casinos open this year, after voters approved up to four gambling halls in 2009. Maryland’s first casino opened last year, with more on the way. Pennsylvania’s first casinos opened in 2006, and already the state is threatening to surpass Atlantic City as the nation’s second-largest gambling market. And in Florida, lawmakers are hotly debating a whopper of a bill that would allow up to three multibillion-dollar casinos, plus additional slot machines at dog and horse tracks. Genting appears confident the law will pass. It has already spent around $450 million to acquire waterfront property in Miami, where it wants to build a $3.8 billion complex that would include a casino, dozens of restaurants and a shopping mall. States have embraced casinos, after years of trepidation about their societal costs, for two simple reasons: a promise of a rich new revenue source, plus the possibility of stimulating tourism. “They are faced with tough decisions. They are in recession ... And we pay taxes far Continue Reading

Meet Lacey schools’ new business administrator

LACEY - A Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District administrator will take over business operations in the Lacey Township School District.Patrick DeGeorge was hired by the Lacey Board of Education in a unanimous vote Monday. He'll oversee the district's accounts, purchasing and day-to-day financial transactions when he begins his new position in January.Here are three things Lacey residents should know about the new business administrator. 1. He's a local with varied work experience.DeGeorge, who lives in Barnegat, has worked in schools in Matawan-Aberdeen's district, Freehold and Bass River."I'm very excited to contribute to the county where I live," DeGeorge said.Superintendent Sandra Anthony said he has in-depth auditing experience."We went through an extensive process, and we drew outstanding candidates from Monmouth and Ocean County," Anthony said. "His passion for the role that he plays as a school business administrator in making sure that students always come first ... really resonated with the (hiring) committee." 2. He will earn less money than Lacey's current administrator.DeGeorge will earn $160,691 in his new position. That's $40,506 less than the salary of outgoing Business Administrator James Savage, who is retiring at the end of December. 3. He has three primary goals ahead of him.District officials are already preparing next year's budget, which supports the education of 4,300 students and six schools. DeGeorge will play the lead role in preparing that plan.He will also likely be tasked with trying to expand Lacey's One-on-One initiative, a program that pairs high school students with laptops, said Board of Education President Maureen Tirella.She hopes DeGeorge will help find money within Lacey's $75.6 million budget to purchase more electronic devices for middle school and elementary students."That's a big hurdle," Tirella said.Third, the Board of Continue Reading

‘Annuity’ firm in the business of misleading senior citizens

Lynne Mulhall was surprised by a postcard that warned her about a potential issue with some of her annuities. "As far as I know, I don't have any annuities. But you never know," the New Jersey woman wrote."Dear Annuity Holder," it began. "This notice is to inform you that you may have an annuity that has reached the end of its surrender period." It instructed her to call a toll-free number to discuss her options.Mulhall is uncertain how to proceed. "Should I respond to this request?" she asked. "So far, I have not."That was a smart decision. The solicitation is from a Medina, Ohio-based company that calls itself the Annuity Service Center. Contrary to its name, the company doesn't actually service annuities. Participating insurance agents just pay it to generate new business leads.If you respond to the postcard, the company will offer you a free in-home asset review. In other words, it will send an insurance agent to your home to review your existing annuities - all in the hope you'll buy a new one.The company reportedly sends out more than 6 million postcards nationally to anyone who meets the profile of an annuity policyholder, which generally means senior citizens.The company has come under fire for its alleged deceptive marketing by regulators in at least six states - Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, Utah, Missouri and Delaware. This summer, the Ohio Department of Insurance announced the company agreed to pay a $15,000 fee to the state to settle charges of unfair and deceptive insurance trade practices in soliciting annuity businesses from consumers there.The Better Business Bureau in Akron, Ohio, has received complaints from consumers nationwide who find the Annuity Service Center postcard misleading and deceptive. As a result, the company has an unsatisfactory rating with the bureau.If you have concerns about your annuities or insurance, contact the company or insurance agent that issued the policy. There's no need to respond to solicitations from the Annuity Service Continue Reading

Small business loans are specialty for

A couple of years into operating Whisk Culinary, Zak Groh liked what was happening with his business.Sales were rising and major Milwaukee corporations were being added to the list of firms ordering in-flight fare from Whisk Culinary, a caterer that makes meals and snacks for private jet passengers who appreciate fresh food, presentation and eco-friendly packaging.Groh, a chef and founder of Whisk Culinary, didn’t need a huge loan — only $20,000 in working capital to add staff and expand his kitchen operation in West Allis. However, because the company is in the food industry and the loan amount was small, it wasn’t attractive to banks, which prefer financing less-risky businesses and making larger loans.“I had been doing my best to put something together with traditional lenders, but being a food business, pretty much no one wants to touch you because you fall into the category of a restaurant,” Groh said.An accountant suggested he try, a young Milwaukee-based financial technology company that works with banks by handling the smaller business loans banks typically avoid.Groh applied at the website for a loan and soon was talking with co-founder Michael Adam, a former M&I Bank and Associated Bank lender, who wanted to know more about Whisk Culinary and the private aviation in-flight cuisine business.“It was an interview in the sense of what you’re doing, where you’re at and a little bit of my background,” Groh said.Whisk Culinary got a $20,000 loan, and since then, the company has seen annual sales quadruple to about $800,000, Groh said.Although it was the kind of loan banks eschew, it was right in the wheelhouse of at the end of 2013 by Adam,'s goal is to be the No. 1 referral partner that banks turn to when an existing customer or potential new business borrower needs a small loan that doesn’t fit Continue Reading

THE BIONIC HORSE. Racing moves toward new medical frontier

Even people who don't know horses like horses. Few sights are as beautiful as a thoroughbred in full flight. Few sights are as appalling as that same magnificent creature in distress. Americans who can't tell a forelock from a fetlock or a bay from a chestnut were swept up in the drama of the potentially fatal broken leg suffered by Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro shortly after the start of the Preakness at Pimlico a week ago yesterday, and may have wondered, "They shoot horses, don't they? But, why? " Racehorses aren't shot - at least not in the grisly "Old Yeller" shotgun sense - but the depressing reality is that a veterinarian may have to humanely put down a horse via injection, an unavoidable choice once a horse has badly broken a leg or dislocated a joint. "If I know there's no salvaging the injury, it's cruel to delay euthanizing a horse," says Dr. Anthony Verderosa, the chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association. "I know what's repairable and what isn't. There are a lot of criteria involved, but for me, if something is compound, and it's through the skin, things fall apart from there. Once your horse has an open fracture, it is impossible to stave off infection. " Cold, hard, economic reality also enters into decisions whether to save or euthanize a horse. Racehorses are insured - Barbaro for an estimated $25 million in case of death or the loss of breeding services, but he doesn't have Blue Cross. Owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson are bearing all of the medical costs themselves. Although some companies offer medical insurance for small pets like dogs and cats, equine health insurance is virtually nonexistent. Even minor leg surgery on a racehorse can run anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000. "I would think it would be very hard to get health insurance on a racehorse," says Dr. Michelle Congelosi, a private veterinarian who practices at major tracks. "They all have wear and tear. Usually it's not a matter of if something's going Continue Reading

Why the UK is writing new laws to help Uber, Airbnb and other sharing-economy businesses compete — and why New York should follow suit

London and New York have always enjoyed a special relationship, in part because we have so much in common. We are the world’s capitals of commerce, not to mention two of its top tourist destinations. Both are centres of high-tech innovation and pioneering industries of the future — and both are adapting to ways that these innovations are reshaping our economies. The sharing economy, it seems, appeared almost overnight, and it has raised big questions for our cities. In the blink of an eye, some of the world’s traditionally most professionalised services began to be provided by anyone and everyone. OneFineStay wants us to stay in each other’s homes; GoCarShare wants us to share rides to Glastonbury. Taskrabbit wants us to pay our neighbors to mow our lawns. This is unsettling incumbents and upsetting the status quo. It is challenging — but it’s exciting too. In the UK, we are embracing it. This morning, new rules in the UK were signed into law making it easier to share homes on platforms like Airbnb, without the need for a permit. As part of the British government’s annual budget statement, we also announced a series of measures to boost the UK sharing economy, including rewriting lease agreements to allow home sharing by default and encouraging civil servants and government ministers to use sharing economy platforms like Airbnb and Uber when travelling on official business, saving taxpayers money. These forward-thinking measures will help to write sharing into the fabric of the UK economy and bring laws up to speed with modern behaviour and consumer preferences. This is all about increasing competition, driving innovation and offering new products and experiences to consumers. And it’s about ensuring consumers get the very best deal. I am an Airbnb customer myself and I use Uber regularly. I hugely value these innovations and the way they improve travel and transport. Many people I’ve Continue Reading