Business

Op-Ed: Are There Any Black People in Austin?

Aug 29, 2012
nataliecofield.com

Austin routinely tops national lists for jobs, living and general quality of life. But do those accolades apply equally to all its citizens?

One of the findings of the City of Austin’s African American Quality of Life Initiative was that black Austinites lacked several of the social opportunities African Americans enjoy in bigger cities like Washington D.C. or Atlanta. But the following op-ed from Natalie Madeira Cofield, President & CEO of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce, argues that more young African American professionals should consider making Austin – and cities like it – their home. You can read Cofield’s thoughts below.

‘Are there any black people there?’ 

That’s a question I am too often confronted with by my African American peers when speaking about the growing number of professional opportunities that exist in Austin, Texas. Contrarily, I have no problem finding smiling faces of non-African Americans to cheer me on while I am spreading the business gospel of ‘Austin Awesomeness’ around the country. Austin has successfully captured the hearts of hippies and techies alike.

After months of sitting on their wallets, Americans went shopping in July. The uptick reported Tuesday is boosting economists' hopes for a reasonably strong back-to-school season. And retailers are looking for clues about how the holiday shopping season will turn out later in the year.

"This is a good report," Chris Christopher, an economist with IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, wrote in an assessment of the latest report. "It indicates that consumers came back after hunkering down" during the year's first half when sales were "dismal."

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized a settlement with Facebook in which the social media leader agrees to get users' approval before making any privacy changes and agrees to periodic third-party audits for the next 20 years on how it handles user privacy.

We told you about this settlement back in November, but today, Reuters reports, after a period of public comment, the settlement has become official.

Update at 4:33 p.m. ET. Right At Expectations:

Facebook reported slightly stronger than expected profits. For the second quarter, it reported a net loss of $157 million or 11 cents a share. But when it adjusted its earnings to remove stock compensation charges related to its IPO, Reuters reports, Facebook actually made 12 cents a share.

Former Citigroup CEO Says Big Banks Should Be Split Up

Jul 25, 2012

Sandy I. Weill, the former Citigroup CEO who helped usher in the era of super banks, said during an interview with CNBC today that big banks should be split up.

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That’s a lot of Chimichangas: The parent company of Austin restaurant chain Chuy’s made its initial stock offering Monday, raising $75.8 million.

Chuy's Holdings Inc. will begin trading shares today on the NASDAQ exchange, under the trading symbol CHUY. It makes Chuy’s Austin's newest publicly-traded company.

The Austin-American Statesman reports that the company originally filed for an initial public offering in August of last year, amid a market downturn when few companies were making IPOs. But the market has since strengthened, and the IPO window has reopened. 

flickr.com/beleaveme

Computing giant Apple has acquired land to house its Americas Operations Center.

The Austin Business Journal reports Apple purchased three plots of land in Northwest Austin late last month:

Records at the Travis County Clerk’s Office show that McShane Development Co. LLC, through its Riata Vista LP entity, sold three tracts of land to Apple on June 21. The exhibits indicate that the land is in the Milwood Section 20 subdivision near Parmer Lane and Delcour Drive.

Apple’s opening of an operations center in Texas was assisted by numerous grants and tax abatements: a $21 million grant from the state, via Governor Rick Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund; approximately $8.6 million in abatements from the City of Austin, and approximately  $6.4 million from the county.

Caleb Miller for KUT News

The House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures met Wednesday to take a look at streamlining the alcoholic licensing and permitting process.

According to the Texas Tribune, interim Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) director Sherry Cooke told the committee that her agency wants to consolidate the processes for beer and liquor licenses.

The issue is that there are two separate processes for receiving a beer license and liquor licenses. Some of the applications for those permits can be processed through TABC, but others have to involve county courts.

Almost two billion dollars in Texas sales taxes were collected in June – some 15 percent more than the state collected in June last year.

Austin's share of sales taxes comes to about $12.5 million in revenue, which is up more than 10 percent from the same time last year.

"Sales tax revenue has increased for 27 consecutive months in Texas,” Comptroller Susan Combs says in a statement. “Strong business spending in industries such as manufacturing and oil and natural gas boosted the latest sales tax collections. Revenue from consumer spending in the retail trade and restaurant sectors also did well."

Tax Cap Added for Historic Homes; Exemption Increased for Elderly, Disabled

Travis County Commissioners voted to add a cap on historical tax exemptions. The new policy matches the City of Austin’s cap of $2,500 a year.

Historic home owners argued that a higher exemption is necessary for them to maintain the facades of their homes. County Judge Sam Biscoe says the county will continue to look at the impact of the historical tax exemptions.

Commissioners also voted to increase the tax exemption for Travis County homeowners who are 65 and older and for those with disabilities. The amount of value that had been taken off a home for taxing purposes had been $65,000 a year. They raised it to $70,000 annually.

Losing your job is rarely good. Not being able to find one for months can be disastrous for individuals, and bad for society as well. Yet during the recent recession and the current anemic recovery, more people in the U.S. have been unemployed for longer than at any time since 1948.

Of all Americans who were unemployed in June, almost half had been without a job for 27 weeks or longer. In other words, 5.4 million people have been jobless for more than half a year.

flickr.com/rampant.gaffer

Firing up the grill? Don’t expect to be fired up at work.

With this year's Fourth of July holiday falling on a Wednesday, many workers are taking vacations in addition to the mid-week day off. Though summer vacations are commonplace, the quantity of workers taking off at the same time could spell trouble for some companies.

But John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told KUHF that not all companies will be hurt.

“For a busy company, there’s just the risk that they can’t produce the same amount worker-hours they need to provide a high quality service or product," he said. "For companies that are in a slowdown, it’s probably not a bad idea to get their vacations loaded up at the same time.”

If you want to know where your meat came from, you won't be happy with the World Trade Organization right now. Late last week, the WTO announced that the United States' country-of-origin labels, which took effect in 2008, discriminate unfairly against foreign meat suppliers such as Mexico and Canada.

KUT News

Home prices have again increased in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area.

Prices rose 5.7 percent since last May, and 2.3 percent since last month, according to a home prices index released by a real estate data company.

Amand Nallathambi is the president of CoreLogic, the company that released the report.  "The recent upward trend in U.S. home prices is an encouraging signal that we may be seeing a bottoming of the housing down cycle," he says in a press release. "Tighter inventory is contributing to broad, but modest, price gains nationwide and more significant gains in the harder-hit markets, like Phoenix."

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Online retail giant Amazon.com began charging Texas sales tax this weekend. But that doesn’t mean everything you buy through the site will be taxed.

While most products on Amazon are sold by, well, Amazon, Wikipedia notes that as of 2007, the site had over 1.3 million third-party sellers and associates. And Amazon says it’s up to those sellers to determine whether they need to charge the tax.

“Third party sellers that use our platform must determine their tax collection requirements based on their individual circumstances,” Amazon Corporate Communications spokesperson Scott Stanzel tells KUT News.

KUT News

Round Rock-based computing company Dell announced a deal to purchase Quest Software for $2.4 billion today.

Founded in 1987, Quest Software offers IT management solutions to corporate clients, including database management, data protection, performance monitoring and more.

The move comes as Dell seeks to expand beyond its original model of personal computer sales. 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

In less than 48 hours, online retailer Amazon.com will start charging Texas sales tax on products you buy from its site.

Texas will become only the sixth state to charge sales tax on Amazon purchases. The switch comes after an agreement was made between the Texas Comptroller’s office and the online retailer. In 2010, the comptroller’s office claimed Amazon owed the state $269 million in uncollected sales tax. Under the new agreement, Amazon will create at least 2,500 jobs  in the state and will also bring at least $200 million in capital investment. 

For many brick-and-mortar operations the move will level the playing field. Jason Brewer is with the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a national trade group.

Chip Skambis

Austin military veterans and Texas-based entrepreneurs have launched an online portal to connect vets and their spouses to openings in franchise employment and ownership.

The initiative aims to help improve the high unemployment rate among veterans, which has reached 7.2% in Texas.

The Texas Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centerand The Dwyer Groupannounced their support and collaboration with the International Franchise Association in creating The Veterans Franchise (VetFran) Toolkit.

flickr.com/maysbusinessschool

New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show the effects of a down economy: median household net worth declined by 35 percent between 2005 and 2010. That’s a loss of over $36,000, falling from $102,844 to $66,740.

”The overall decline in net worth reflects drops in housing values and stock market indices,” Census Bureau economist Alfred Gottschalck says in a statement.

While the households of people over 65 lost more money over the period, people under 35 lost a much greater percentage of net worth. Similarly, while groups at all levels of education also experienced declines, education provided a degree of economic insulation.

A Federal Reserve study showing that Americans lost wealth in the Great Recession turned up another, perhaps more surprising, result: Credit card debt fell sharply.

"The percentage of families using credit cards for borrowing dropped over the period; the median balance on their accounts fell 16.1 percent" between 2007 and 2010, the report concluded.

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