Tag Archives: government

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ASU Cancels Study Abroad Program In Egypt

On January 25th, Egyptian citizens erupted in violent revolution against corruption, extensive poverty, enormous national unemployment and numerous governance problems of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak — and two Arizona State students were caught in its crossfire.

The students were studying abroad in Cairo at the time political unrest hit its threshold in late January; and with ASU’s Study Abroad Office’s help, they were pulled out of the area.

Image Provided by FlickrASU has had a long-standing relationship with the American University of Cairo (AUC) where the previously mentioned students had been studying, but as CNN reported attacks on American journalists in the area, concerns arose from families of the students involved.

“We feel confident that both students will be back in the U.S. by this weekend, weather permitting”, said Amy Shenberger, director of the Study Abroad Office at ASU.

Their decision in the cancellation was met with widespread agreement by both the U.S. government agencies involved and university partners in Cairo.

In result from years of political turmoil, Egypt reached its tipping point of strong government rhetoric from Mubarak.  Headlines of bloodied civilians and anti-riot police have scattered newspapers nationwide, giving American news affiliates reason for concern.

According to the Washington Post, the White House is aiding in the extraction of news reporters in the area, as many have been savagely beaten or detained by the Egyptian government.Image Provided by Flickr

iJet, a travel intelligence that monitors international activity for ASU’s study abroad office, has maintained communication with Shenberger to give live updates on the situation.

Shenberger also strongly advocates the continuation of its program in Egypt in future years but believes the current political atmosphere presents a clear and present danger to the students.

“We have had a partnership with AUC since 2004, and it’s our intention to maintain that going forward,” said Shenberger.

The program plans to resume once the dust settles in Egypt, according to Shenberger, and ASU will continue to monitor the situation with the students’ best interests.

“The safety and security of all of our students is our primary concern, [and] any time the danger in a location outweighs the benefits of the academic program, we take the steps necessary to ensure our students’ safety,” said Shenberger.

Many Arizona Small Businesses And Banks Say A Federal Loan Program Isn’t Needed - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Many Arizona Small Businesses And Banks Say A Federal Loan Program Isn’t Needed

President Barack Obama has signed a bill that aims to increase small business lending. But it’s not exactly popular among Arizona’s small companies and community banks. They question whether a multibillion-dollar loan fund created by the legislation will achieve its goal.

The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 will establish a $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund within the U.S. Treasury. The Treasury will use that money to purchase preferred shares in small- to medium-size banks that voluntarily participate in the program, injecting new capital that the banks would be encouraged to lend to small businesses. The more loans the banks make, the lower the dividend rate they pay the Treasury.

“As a small business owner, I am allergic to government intervention,” says Charlie O’Dowd, president of Westcap Solar, a Tucson company that sells and installs solar photovoltaic and solar hot-water systems. “I don’t think that this legislation is going to be any more effective than the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) legislation. In this economy, it’s not that there isn’t money to be borrowed. It’s qualifying for the loan that’s the problem.”

The new law also gives John P. Lewis a bad taste in his mouth. Lewis is president and CEO of Southern Arizona Community Bank in Tucson, and a member of the FDIC’s Advisory Committee On Community Banking.

“Last January, the committee had a robust discussion (on the legislation),” Lewis says. “The committee said, ‘We don’t want to be a part of this.’ Community banks don’t need the additional capital. I have more money than I know what to do with. I need qualified borrowers.”

O’Dowd and Lewis describe a situation that is frustrating for both and that neither believes government policy will resolve. O’Dowd says small businesses’ sales are slow, impacting their ability to qualify for loans. Lewis says his loan demand is flat because there are fewer qualified borrowers.

The Arizona Small Business Association points to a wary small business community that’s in no mood to take on more debt. Earlier in the recession, small businesses tried in vain to obtain bank loans, but now they are in survival mode, says Donna Davis, the association’s CEO.

“Bank loans are not at the top of their list now,” Davis says. “Some businesses have lending fatigue. They just gave up (trying to get loans). Now they are focused on lack of sales. If sales don’t pick up, if work doesn’t pick up, they won’t seek credit. If they can boost sales and profits, then they can justify hiring and expanding.”

One outside observer sees a triumvirate of doubt that the legislation will not mitigate. Dennis Hoffman, professor of economics at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, says this recession has caused consumers, businesses and banks to lose their confidence. Lacking the good credit risk they saw five years ago, banks have “pulled in their oars,” Hoffman says. Creditworthy businesses fret so much over the economy, they don’t even apply for loans. Recession-scarred consumers remain stingy.

“We need to climb this wall of worry to get out of this morass,” Hoffman says. “This is a market-based, private-sector issue that will have to work itself out.”

Gail Grace, president and CEO of Sunrise Bank of Arizona headquartered in Phoenix, doesn’t sense much support for the legislation among Arizona’s banks, and wonders how many community banks would be able to participate.

“Community banks in Arizona are stressed and many may not even qualify for this program,” Grace says. “You will still have to have a fairly healthy bank to qualify for this.”

Not everyone has a dim view of the law. Robert Blaney, Arizona’s Small Business Administration district director, notes that the law will increase the SBA’s loan guarantee from 75 percent to 90 percent, easing banks’ risk on those loans. The law also will lower fees and raise the SBA’s maximum loan amount from $2 million to $5 million. There are thousands of small business owners nationwide that were waiting for the lending bill to become law, Blaney says.

One of those is Benefits By Design, a Tempe company that sets up health benefit plans for small businesses. The company’s president, Kristine Kassel, says there is a need for loans and it would be helpful if just two community banks expanded their small business lending. She adds that any amount of new credit that can be extended to small businesses is a good thing.

Banks interested in acquiring low-cost capital might be attracted to the Treasury fund and they might be enticed by the built-in incentives to direct new-found capital into small business lending, says Dan Stewart, Arizona market president for Mutual of Omaha.

But then he echoes what others say: “The (law) doesn’t encourage banks to take on more credit risk, so qualified borrowers are the key.”

    By the Numbers
    The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010



  • Establishes a $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund within the U.S. Treasury
  • Treasury will use money to purchase preferred shares in small- to medium-size banks that voluntarily participate in the program
  • SBA’s loan guarantee would increase from 75 percent to 90 percent
  • The SBA’s maximum loan amount would increase from $2 million to $5 million

Arizona Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

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Arizona’s Unemployment Rate Climbs In August

Despite some gains in the governmental sector, the state’s unemployment rate for August rose one-tenth of a percent to 9.7 percent as private sector hiring was flat, according to the Arizona Department of Commerce. Usually, Arizona’s economy generates jobs in August, but last month only 28,000 jobs were created. That was still better than August of 2009.

Most of the seasonal job gains were the result of local schools bringing on 26,000 positions for the start of the academic year. State education added 7,000 jobs, with losses in other government agencies offsetting some of the gains.

The private sector posted gains in five sectors and losses in five sectors for a net decline of 800 jobs. Of the state’s 11 industry sectors, government posted the largest job gains at 29,000. Educational and health services followed government, adding 3,000 jobs. Construction continued to add jobs in August, generating 1,900 and giving the industry a net gain through the first eight months of the year.

The Commerce Department reports that, “Construction employment trends in 2010 indicate stabilization in the industry after 28 months of continuous losses.”

Other sectors creating jobs in August were: professional and business services (1,800); trade, transportation and utilities (1,100); and natural resources and mining (100). The sectors that lost jobs last month were: information (500); financial activities (800); manufacturing (1,400); and other services (2,000).

Leisure and hospitality lost 4,000 jobs last month, which the Commerce Department called “unusual.” With the winter tourism season generally starting after Labor Day, hotels and resorts in the state traditionally tend to ramp up hiring in August.

Year-over-year, the jobless situation in Arizona continues to show improvement. Total nonfarm employment last month was down 0.1 percent. In August 2009, it was down 8.3 percent. Compared to August of last year, four sectors registered year-over-year job gains last month. The professional and business services sector was up 8,200 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities was up 7,700 jobs; educational and health services had a gain of 7,100 jobs: and natural resources and mining posted gains of 1,000.

Around the state, only the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas held steady with their unemployment rates. Other major metro areas in the state posted increases in joblessness. Here’s a look at unemployment around the state:

Phoenix Metro: 8.8%
Tucson Metro: 8.7%
Yuma Metro:    23.7%
Flagstaff Metro:   8.0%
Prescott Metro:   10.2%
LHC-Kingman Metro: 10.9%

Immigration

We Need Immigration Reform, Not Immigration Hype

SB 1070. It has been a few months since it passed, making Arizona the focus of so much national attention. As I have listened to Arizona, the entire country, and even some international Latina singers debate the issue, I have found ironies on both sides.

First, on the pro-SB 1070 side: Republicans (especially Arizona Republicans in state government) hate federal mandates being imposed on states. It’s a fundamental belief in conservative circles that we should have fewer unfunded mandates and more local control. Republican-sponsored SB 1070 flies in the face of these principles. Here’s one way to look at it. The Arizona Legislature was so frustrated that the federal government wasn’t stepping up and dealing with illegal immigration that it passed a law MANDATING that local jurisdictions had to do it. The state didn’t offer cities and counties any money to accomplish this, nor did the state step forward and offer its own resources, such as the National Guard. Local governing bodies were not just told that they could enforce immigration laws but also that they had to, or they could be sued. By any definition, this is an unfunded mandate that supersedes local control. Chalk it up to the ends justifying the means.

On the anti-SB 1070 side, I was surprised at how out of touch opponents were with the average Arizonan’s view on the issue. Polls started reporting that 70 percent of Arizonans supported the new law even in the face of national criticism and boycotts. Most opponents to SB 1070 chalked this up to bad polling and inaccurate data. Everybody must have gotten it wrong though, because those numbers have pretty much held up for the last few months. In fact, a number of other states report similar support, and we can expect more states passing this type of legislation. People are frustrated.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too fond of SB 1070 when it passed. But one morning while watching CNN, President Obama helped me to become frustrated. In light of his opposition to Arizona’s new law and the understanding that the federal government was negligent in dealing with the issue, he claimed that U.S. immigration policy was not a pressing current national priority. This was just after SB 1070 passed! What I heard him saying was, “Ask not what your country can do for you. And don’t ask what you can do for your country either!”

Then there is the question of why the federal government has never protested when other local jurisdictions in America have declared themselves “safe-harbor” areas for illegal immigrants. It seems they are establishing national immigration policy in the opposite direction, and yet, the federal government has failed to protest these policies or voice any public opposition.

I don’t believe that SB 1070 is really worth the national hype it has received. The courts have struck down the portion that local jurisdictions opposed most. If the courts hadn’t, would this really have been the solution to the illegal immigration problem in our country? It seems we need to establish a stronger, more practical border policy before much of any immigration policy reform is going to help.

Battling Urban Sprawl by Creating Parks

Green News Roundup – Recycling, Oil Spill, Climate Change & More

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about stylish ways to recycle your paper, climate change regulation, urban sprawl and more.

Please feel free to send along any stories you’d like to see in the roundup by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com. Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

Two-in-One Design
The talented folks over at Pigeontail Design have come up with a way to recycle all that junk mail and decorate your living room at the same time. How you may ask? Answer: The Papervore. This versatile piece of furniture doubles as a coffee table AND a paper shredder. Just crank it and be rid of all those pesky flyers. On that note, here are some quick links about recycling paper here in the Valley: phoenix.gov and www.recyclearizona.net.

Gulf oil spill figures may be double earlier estimates
Unfortunately the oil spill disaster isn’t getting better any time soon. According to government scientists, as many as 40,000 barrels of oil per day have been gushing into the gulf. And even more bad news, BP has said that the blown-out well won’t be plugged before August.

Preventing Urban Sprawl with Parks
Phoenix has mastered urban sprawl, however, what if we could conserve land by creating more parks? This blog suggests that urban sprawl could be reduced if cities simply provided citizens with more park space. Parks provide citizens with the same open, natural space that yards do, but parks do it in a more space-conscious way.

Senate Rejects Republican Effort to Thwart Carbon Limits
This article from The New York Times details how a Senate vote could effect potential climate change legislation in the future. On Thursday, June 10, the Senate rejected an attempted block on new EPA carbon emissions limits. The EPA released findings in 2009 that showed that carbon emissions were a threat to human health and the environment. Limiting carbon emissions is a contentious debate on both sides of the aisle.

Green World

Green News Roundup-Sustainable Haiti, Economic Development & More

The catastrophic events that have stricken the people of Haiti demonstrate — quite lamentably — that in a world of nanotechnology, Google-enabled mobile phones, double tall soy lattes, and proposed universal healthcare, there remain societies on the brink of social, economic, and environmental collapse. For comparison sake, recall the 1989 earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area; a 7.0 geological shift took the lives of 63 people. The same magnitude befell the people of Haiti on Jan. 12; while estimates vary, 100,000 could be dead. That is half of the population of the City of Tempe.

International aid organizations have begun to alleviate immediate suffering; there has been a nationally televised charity concert where people could “text-message” help from the comfort of their own home; myriad countries have sent physical and monetary support. However, there remains a normative question that should be on our minds:

What should we do to ensure a more sustainable Haiti, in the future?

Consider these:

Expand education efforts:

In a nation where 38 percent of the population is under the age of 14, developing intellectual capital will allow good ideas to originate, blossom, and be implemented in a country that is in dire need of them.

Economic development and investment:

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. By advancing an equitable combination of foreign direct investment, NGO/nonprofit work, and domestic revenue producing opportunities we can ensure that Haitians are placed on a path of economic self sufficiency;

Further micro-lending networks and opportunities to allow access to entrepreneurial capital and development. Jobs starting from bottom up will empower individuals and reduce the economic stratification that is rampant in the country.

Establish legitimate governance systems:

Haiti’s government has utilized 8,000 U.N. peacekeepers to maintain some semblance of order and control since 2004. While a future government does not have to be a veritable paragon of representative democracy and efficiency, the people of Haiti deserve a government that will work — vigorously and in earnest — to advance their well-being. Imagine there were a comprehensive and enforced modern building code prior to the earthquake; would Haiti have fared more like San Francisco?

The world is not a mutually exclusive place anymore. We, a global people, are connected to one another in innumerable ways. As such, we need to demonstrate our solidarity and resolute commitment to creating a more sustainable Haiti. I challenge you to ask what else you, your business, organization, or nonprofit can contribute towards the economic, social, and environmental revitalization of Haiti.

Let’s start a thoughtful and innovative conversation about how businesses, organizations, and nonprofits can move beyond status-quo assistance and be truly entrepreneurial and ground-breaking in their aid. I look forward to making positive change happen, together.

West Valley Industry Turnover

WESTMARC Unveils The Results Of A Work Force Labor Market Study

What started as an initiative from the city of Surprise Economic Development Department quickly turned into an unprecedented work force study on the entire West Valley spearheaded by WESTMARC. The study came about through a collaboration of communities, corporations, government entities and educational institutions that contributed more than $150,000 to fund the report.

“West Valley communities have experienced tremendous growth since the 2000 Census. They were having difficulty addressing questions from business prospects concerning the size and skill levels of the regional work force,” says Surprise Economic Development Coordinator Megan Griego, who sits on WESTMARC’s economic development committee and was chair of the Workforce Labor Study of the West Valley. “The communities of the West Valley formed a consortium to better understand their region’s work force and to better promote its growth and development.”

Russ Ullinger, senior project manager of economic development for SRP, and WESTMARC co-chair and member of the economic development committee, adds that the concept for the study developed out of necessity.

“Numerous surveys and studies have identified work force as one of the most important assets when national site selection consultants consider different regions and locations for businesses,” he says.

“This is relevant in good economic times, as well as poor economic times. This study truly drills and provides specific labor information unique to the West Valley.”

Harry Paxton, economic development director for the city of Goodyear, who also acted as co-chair of the study, credits WESTMARC’s partnerships with the Maricopa Work Force Connection, as well as Maricopa Community College in the development and funding of the study. He also praises WESTMARC for bringing together work force professionals to get their input on what the study should entail.

In May 2008, WESTMARC enlisted California-based ERISS Corporation to prepare the comprehensive labor market analysis.

“That analysis involved a survey of all businesses in the West Valley with 20 or more employees — all such businesses were contracted and 1,100 completed the survey — and a detailed review of newly available government information,” Griego says.

The detailed data developed by the survey and the analysis of various government data sources is also available through www.usworks.com/westmarc, which presents the comprehensive information and data relevant to businesses, site selectors, economic development professionals, work force development professionals and educators into convenient and customizable reports.

The results of the study can now help the 15 West Valley communities represented in the report to identify their specific needs when it comes to work force issues, transportation and industry growth, and demand. For example, Glendale encompasses more than 6,000 firms, according to the report. Health care accounts for more than 12 percent of total employment in Glendale, which is higher than the Metro Phoenix area as a whole (9.1 percent), but is on par with other West Valley cities. The results also show that 19.6 percent of Glendale workers live and work in the city. The majority of other Glendale employees travel from Metro Phoenix (35.3 percent) and as many as 1.3 percent commute from Tucson.

In general, the study found there are more than 450,000 workers available to fill jobs for the right offer. In addition, there are growth and expansion opportunities in the industries of transportation, wholesale trade, traditional and non-store retail, as well as education. Regarding industry growth, health care leads the trend with a 6 percent growth rate. Construction and transportation/utilities follow closely with a 5 percent growth rate each, and retail in the West Valley has a 4 percent growth rate.

As part of the study, businesses were asked to rate their own work forces on a scale of one to seven, one representing the lowest productivity rating and seven the highest.Sixty-six percent of the area’s employers ranked their employees in one of the two highest categories.

Absenteeism is also a non-issue when it comes to West Valley workers as a whole. The majority of employers, 63 percent, reported that absenteeism is “not a significant problem” at their firms, and when absences do occur, 61 percent of employers reported that the cause is a legitimate illness with childcare.
Jack Lunsford, WESTMARC’s president and CEO, says ERISS Corporation did an excellent job with the study and the results have given them a course of action.



“We found that we have in the West Valley, even in this economy, a very large and qualified labor supply, and we still have some industries that are currently growing and that anticipate growth,” he says, adding that results also show West Valley communities need to implement a live/work/play strategy to avoid the problems with transportation issues.

Landis Elliott, business development director for House of Elliott, says the benefits of the study are numerous. “The study is a tool that the West Valley cities can use while working with potential locates to validate the high-quality employees we have in this region,” she says.

solar_prop

$467 Million For Geothermal And Solar Energy Projects

Sustainability is an ongoing movement that requires commitment from all — from politicians to regular citizens and everyone in between. In my ongoing quest of educating myself about news and events going on in the world of “green” I came across this release from the U.S. Department of Energy.

During the 2008 presidential campaign President Obama spoke of an amibitious energy plan and the first steps have been made to make the plan a reality.

President Obama announced that “…over $467 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to expand and accelerate the development, deployment, and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the United States.”

The fact that this much money has been set aside in the name of creating a sustainable future for the United States is a huge step forward. President Obama went on to say that “We have a choice. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy.”

Recognizing that the path we’ve been on must be altered is just the beginning. By investing money to discover alternative energy sources, technology, etc., we have made the first step on this long journey.

The funds are going toward several types of green technology: $350 million is being set aside for geothermal energy, a source of renewable energy that uses heat from the Earth for electricity generation and heating applications.

An additional $117.6 million will go toward solar energy technologies. The goal of the various partnerships and developments is to continue to lead our country to a greener future.

It’s encouraging to know that although we are all facing difficult economic times right now, the government recognizes that making this investment is for the greater good of not only the U.S. but the world.

Source:
U.S. Department of Energy