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Archive: November, 2011

POSTED: Wednesday, November 9, 2011, 8:36 AM

Arizona state senate president Russell Pearce, a leader in the national Republican Party anti-immigrant movement, was trailing a moderate rival in a recall election for his seat in the city of Mesa, reports the Arizona Republic here. (Update: Pearce conceded.)

Pearce, like US Rep. and ex-Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, R-Pa., pushed for state restrictions on immigration in defiance of federal law, and accused labor-seeking immigrants of draining taxpayer funds.

Their movements, with support from Tea Party activists, had helped pushed the national GOP off its traditional support of immigration as a source of cheap labor for business, and raised conflict with pro-immigrant Republicans like Texas Govs. George H.W. Bush and Rick Perry, who embraced both the growing Hispanic electorate and low-wage labor.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 9, 2011, 8:23 AM

My former colleague Paul Davies last week proposed former PA Gov. Ed Rendell as a logical successor to departing Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart.

The Associated Press yesterday floated former PA Gov. Tom Ridge as a logical successor to scandal-plagued Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Governors may bring useful skills to running these semi-public, heavily taxpayer-subsidized instutions: They have long experience dressing up questionable ideas, and prying scarce dollars from reluctant legislators. 

POSTED: Tuesday, November 8, 2011, 3:11 PM

Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, a Langhorne firm that makes drug-dosage control systems, has raised $25.7 million from investors, the firm told the Securities and Exchange Commission here.

Aprecia's chairman and CEO is former South Africa resident Etienne Perold, founder of investment firm Founding Partners. Reached at his office near Princeton, he declined comment: "We have a great story to tell, but it's not time to tell it."

Other Aprecia bosses include Donald C. Monkhouse, president and chief scientist, who formerly worked for Pfizer, Sterling and SmithKline Beecham, among others; and chief business and financial officer Michael King, formerly of Novartis AG's Sandoz unit.

POSTED: Tuesday, November 8, 2011, 2:38 PM

"We buy companies to add and grow them, not to downsize them," says John Prosser Jr., executive vice president for finance and administration at Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Pasadena, Ca. Jacobs said last week it has purchased Philadelphia-based architectual-engineering firm KlingStubbins, which employs 500 at offices in five US cities and Beijing.

Jacobs said it bought KlingStubbins for its college, hospital, lab, "intelligence/cyber security" and data-center expertise. Publicly-traded Jacobs already has offices in Philadelphia and the Conshohocken area. Prosser said the possibility of combining some activities was a factor that made the sale attractive. 

Prosser declined to project workforce changes resulting from the sale or discuss the sale price, which he said was "not material" to Jacobs' operations. Jacobs sales total around $10 billion a year and have risen in the past four quarters, after falling in 2010. He said the firm was purchased from its individual owners, mostly employees.

POSTED: Tuesday, November 8, 2011, 1:01 PM

This morning's Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Job Openings and Labor Turnover shows there were 3.4 million open positions at US employers in September, the most since before the recession started three years ago.

Yet there are at least 15 million unemployed Americans who say they're seeking work. That's more than 4 people out-of-work, for every 1 available job.

(How bad is that? Ten years ago, during the dot.com and telecom boom, there was a nearly 1:1 balance between vacancies and surplus workers, Prof. Paul Harrington, of Drexel University's new Center for Makrets and Labor Policy research center, tells me.)

POSTED: Monday, November 7, 2011, 4:44 PM

President Obama's Environmental Protection Administration "is gung ho on shutting down coal plants," through EPA rules that limit drifting coal smoke, sulpher dioxides, nitrogen oxides and other toxics under Maximum Achievable Control Technology guidelines, writes Andy DeVries, energy analyst at CreditSights Inc., the bond-watching firm set up by Wall St veteran David Hendler.

For a power company weighing what fuel to use, burning coal in a "scrubbed" power plant runs around $65 a ton, producing about as much energy as natural gas costing $5 per million cubic feet, DeVries writes. That lets utilities price power around $35 a megawatt-hour.

But coal prices have risen above $65 a ton, partly due to China demand, and natural gas has slipped below $5 per mcf, due largely to Marcellus shale gas from upstate Pennsylvania and other new deep underground sources.

POSTED: Monday, November 7, 2011, 2:58 PM

Glenn Mack was recruited in early 2009 from a Whole Foods market in Atlanta to the chain's Franklintown store, but lost his job "unfairly" after he returned from a relligious pilgrimage to the Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia a year ago, according to a complaint Mack made to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with help from a Muslim civil-liberties and advocacy group.

Whole Foods denied Mack's initial EEOC claim, and he's hoping to get a favorable preliminary finding from the agency. Store employees had no immediate comment.

Mack was also "prevented" from performing daily Muslim prayers indoors and had to pray outdoors, Moein Khawaja, regional director of the Council on American-Islamic relations, told me. "He's getting unemployment" payments because Pennsylvania officials did not believe he was fired "for cause," but benefits will run out soon and Mack stands to lose his Overbrook apartment, Khawaja told me.

POSTED: Monday, November 7, 2011, 2:15 PM

The high price of corn, "due to erratic weather and U.S. ethanol policy" that uses grain for fuel, has claimed another big family-owned American chicken producer, says dealmaker Michael Goodman, a partner at SSG Capital Advisors LLC in West Conshohocken.

In at least the fourth such sale since the start of last year, Goodman negotiated theNov. 2 sale of O.K. Industries Inc., a Fort Smith, Arkansas firm that employed 3,100 at chicken houses in Oklahoma and Arkansas preparing bird meat for supermarket chains and fast-food restaurants, to Industrias Bachoco SAB de CV in Celaya, Mexico for $95 million (includes working capital).

While the biggest US chicken suppliers like Tyson's and Pilgrim's Pride are corporate players, "the next tier was almost all family-owned businesses" until the 2008 financial crisis; since then, volatile corn and soybean prices have "made it difficult for these smaller players to thrive," Goodman told me. "The industry is scaling up and globalizing, and we are seeing the demise of the family-owned food company."

Bachoco, a 59-year-old company with more than 700 facilities, dominates Mexican poultry. Chief executive Rodolfo Ramos offered "a warm welcome to all our new staff members and suppliers" and promised "excellent service and quality products."

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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