Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 4:08 PM
SB-1 Defiant. (AW) The Defiant JMR demonstrator. (Sikorsky illustration)

A joint team at Boeing and United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky Aircraft has been picked by the U.S. Army to build a sample new SB-1 Defiant Joint Multi-Role (JMR) demonstration helicopter -- for possible Navy use as well -- to be ready for testing in 2017.  Statement here.

Both companies make helicopters in the Philadelphia area, but it will be years, if ever, before these Army ships add jobs here. Boeing has made Black Hawk, Apache and Chinook helicopters among others for the U.S. military and employs more than 4,000 at its Ridley Park works. Sikorsky employs hundreds at its Coatesville facility, but that's mostly for civilian aircraft.

The team the Army tapped to build what may end up being one of a few rival Defiant models is based at Sikorsky's Connecticut works, Alison Sheridan, a Boeing spokeswoman in St. Louis, told me. "We will be building one helicopter. It’s intended to fly higher, hotter, faster." The ship will be more conceptual, "shaping requirements for future acquisitions," than operational.  Will parts eventually be built in Ridley? "It's way too far down the road to speculate. It may not fly until the 2030s." Still, "it’s a good news story for the team. It reinforces our commitment to helping the Army develop these guidelines," instead of waiting to bang it all out in production.  


POSTED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 3:40 PM
Daniel Kline, president and founder of Delancey Street Capital. (Photo from LinkedIn.com)

Daniel Kline loves Philadelphia. But he's not putting his fund's millions to work around here.

"The city has so many great reasons for people to want to rent and live here," says Kline, who named his real estate investment firm Delancey Street Capital after one of Society HIll's premier residential addresses. "I grew up here, went to school here (Wharton, and Akiba), learned the business from Mitch Morgan here." His Morgan Properties Inc. used the late recession to buy cheap and expand fast, becoming at one point the biggest apartment landlord in New Jersey.

Kline left Morgan and set up Delancey in the spring of 2013 and began hunting properties in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In that time Kline has invested $35 million -- none of it in the Philadelphia area. His firm's latest buy is Sail Cloth Factory Apartments -- $12.9 million for 107 units in a converted downtown Baltimore ship-supply loft factory building -- in a neighborhood Kline is sure will support both improvements (24-hour valet and gym, roof deck, free Internet and yoga), and higher rents, squeezed between a big state college campus and a university medical center. In fact, all his deals have been in Maryland, not Pa.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 1:04 PM
The Comcast Center, which is Comcast Corporate headquarters, is seen in Philadelphia. (William Thomas Cain / Getty Images)

Vox Media's TheVerge.com reporter Adrianne Jeffries writes that her publication "interviewed more than 150 current and former employees in an effort to understand Comcast’s lousy reputation. We heard the same stories over and over again: customer service has been replaced by an obsession with sales; technicians are understaffed while tech support is poorly trained; and the company is hobbled by internal fragmentation."

So TheVerge has published Comcast Confessions, extracts from dozens of interviews with mostly unnamed current and former Comcast customer service phone workers, installers and supervisors. They detail a sprawling, inconsistent, often outsourced "customer service" operation that pushes workers to sell and cut costs.

Comcast responds a bit in the third installment: "Comcast knows it has a problem with coordinating all its moving parts. D’Arcy Rudnay, Comcast’s chief communications officer, says the breaking point came in 2011. 'Everything was completely different geographically,' she says. 'It became impossible to deliver the customer experience that we wanted to.' The company has taken steps, but "we’re only in the first, second, or third inning of this," Rudnay added. "There are so many pieces of the infrastructure that need to be fixed."

POSTED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 12:40 PM
Penn State trustees Keith Eckel and Kenneth Frazier (center left and right)

Six Pennsylvania farm owners. Six Pennsylvania business people. Nine alumni, elected by alumni. Nine people (including three cabinet members) chosen by the Governor. Is that who ought to hold voting seats on Penn State's board of trustees?

- Yes, says Nationwide Insurance chairman (and Penn State farmer trustee) Keith Eckel, the Penn State board is just as good as the boards at other Pennsylvania state colleges (West Chester U or Kutztown U, for example.)
- No, says ex Sallie Mae CEO (and elected trustee) Al Lord. He thinks Penn State ought to have a board like Penn's or Princeton's, full of prominent state and national figures who can build Penn State's status as a leading university.
- What do you think? You can tell trustees in person if you drive to State College for a public meeting by the board's Governance and Long-Range Planning committee meeting on Friday, at the Penn State Hotel, State College, Room 204. Eckel chairs the committee; alumni trustee Al Lubrano is a member.

That follows tomorrow morning's hearing on how Penn State should modify its unpopular "Consent Agreement" with the NCAA. Watch at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at http://wpsu.org/live More in my column in today's Philadelphia Inquirer here. 

POSTED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 11:32 AM
Eddie Gindi , executive vice president of Century 21, discusses his company's vision. (Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)

John Wanamaker, first among the department store moguls whose palaces once lined Philadelphia's Market Street and spread to New York and across the Northeast, survives only as a green metal statue outside City Hall, facing the city's faded retail district.

But Eddie Gindi, co-owner of New York's Century 21 department stores and scion of a family of Brooklyn retailers, still believes "Philadelphia is the right spot for us." And he's chosen the former Strawbridge's at 8th and Market (downstairs from this newsroom) for the chain's first location outside the New York area.

Gindi tells his story -- and how the 9/11 attacks that wrecked Century 21's flagship store gave him new purposes -- in my column in the Aug. 4 Inquirer here.  

POSTED: Monday, August 11, 2014, 1:43 PM

All 9 alumni-elected trustees on Penn State's board are calling for an "informative and lively" public session at a special Penn State trustees' meeting that will review and, they hope, repudiate the 2012 NCAA sanctions and fines against their university, at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, Deans Hall I, on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

In a letter to "Alumni and Friends," the alumni trustees are inviting mass attendance at the meeting, which they say will review the university's up-til-now "secret" negotiations to update the 2012 Consent Decree with the NCAA. Trustees Chairman Keith Masser scheduled the meeting after the elected alumni trustees called for such a meeting in a letter last week, though it's not clear if Masser was acting in response to their demand. UPDATE: Special meeting was not in response to the trustees' letter, Penn State communications adviser David LaTorre tells me.

In the Consent Decree, according to these trustees, Penn State leaders wrongly "rushed" to accepted responsibility for a sports-oriented culture that allegedly failed to stop former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky from molesting children and agreed to NCAA football program sanctions and $60 million in fines. The elected trustee group. fortified by an April Commonwealth Court ruling they say "questioned the very validity of the Consent Decree" and required its revision, is unanimous that any revised agreement "must terminate the Consent Decree and all sanctions, acknowledge the NCAA's responsiblity for its errors, and return all funds to the University."

POSTED: Friday, August 1, 2014, 8:46 AM
Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Charles Plosser. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters File Photo)

Despite his past record as the Federal Reserve's worst economic forecaster, Charles I. Plosser, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, is trying to serve as the conscience of what he believes to be a wandering, inconstant Federal Reserve Board of Governors: In Plosser's brief dissent to the Fed's July 30 stay-the-course policy statement, the conservative Plosser, who is skeptical the Fed can do much more for the economy than guide interest rates, urges higher rates (to avoid credit and asset-price distortions) now that unemployment is finally falling. Excerpts: 

The economy has improved significantly this year, and inflation and unemployment have moved much closer to the FOMC's longer-term goals. However, neither the pace of the reduction in [Federal Reserve] asset purchases nor its end date has been modified...

Thus, I cast a dissenting vote because I opposed retaining the statement language that reads "…it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends." I viewed such language as an inappropriate characterization of the future path of policy and so may limit the Committee's flexibility going forward.

POSTED: Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 6:16 PM

California-based Macerich, which owns dozens of U.S. shopping centers, including the Deptford Mall, will invest $106.8 million to redevelop the Gallery and offer "accessible luxury retailing" in the 1.4 million sq. ft. Center City shopping mall, where Kmart shut its store earlier this year, owner PREIT said Tuesday.

Macerich operates 55 malls, a majority in California and other Western states, along with several in the New York area and other markets. Macerich has experience leasing retail space "in dense, urban envirnoments" -- it has malls in Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y.C. -- PREIT said in a statement. Macerich will acquire a 50 percent interest in the Gallery under terms of the deal. PREIT will invest with Macerich in Gallery improvements on a 50/50 basis. 

While losing Kmart, PREIT's plans for the complex have been buoyed recently by New York store chain Century 21's committment to renovate and open in a long-vacant space in the former Strawbridge & Clothier store that forms part of the Gallery complex.

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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