Category Archives: Business

SC GOP leaders back reauthorization of Ex-Im Bank

South Carolina’s top Republicans are all signing on for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, breaking with the “conservative” wing of their party in the U.S. House:

Governor Haley, Senators Graham and Scott Support Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization

WASHINGTON – South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have written to congressional leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate expressing support for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

“As elected officials from a state where thousands of hardworking families benefit from exports, we urge you to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) before its charter expires this year,” wrote Haley, Graham and Scott.  “As the official export credit agency of the United States, Ex-Im is a vital export finance tool to the businesses in our state – at no cost to American taxpayers.

“Ex-Im allows South Carolina businesses to compete globally on a level playing field.  Without Ex-Im our local businesses would be forced into a global market with foreign competitors that receive extensive support from their own export credit programs.  Allowing Ex-Im to expire will deliberately disadvantage American businesses and lead to increased unemployment.”

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This shouldn’t be surprising, for two reasons:

  1. The Ex-Im Bank is hugely important to Boeing, which is in turn hugely important to SC politicos.
  2. The GOP sentiment for shutting it down seems pretty much confined to the extreme wing in the House, and outside advocacy groups. Senate Republicans are broadly supporting reauthorization.

Graham secures funds for deepening Charleston harbor

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Now that he’s gotten that GOP primary inconvenience out of the way, he can get back to doing the job that South Carolinians send folk to Congress for:

Graham Secures Charleston Harbor Deepening Funds

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a member of the Senate Appropriations Energy & Water subcommittee, applauded the passage of its FY 2015 appropriations bill which contains funding for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Feasibility Study and design and construction of the Charleston Port.

“This is a very good day for the Port of Charleston,” said Graham, a member of the subcommittee.  “I’m pleased my Republican and Democrat Senate colleagues understood the value of the Port of Charleston and fully funded the port even though the Corps of Engineers, as a whole, received a budget reduction.  We also added language to the bill that will streamline moving from the study phase to the engineering and design phase of this project.  I think this speaks volumes about the value of the Charleston Port to the state, region, and country as a whole.”

Graham noted the legislation contains $695,000 for continuing the Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study of deepening Charleston Harbor, $1.572 million for future harbor deepening construction, and $13.149 million for continued harbor operations and maintenance.

Graham was an early and ardent advocate for deepening Charleston Harbor and has fought repeatedly to secure federal authorization and funding for the project. The legislation passed through subcommittee yesterday and is expected to pass the full committee this week.

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Not that I’m being critical of his bringing home the bacon. No Tea Partier am I. Securing funding for deepening the port upon which our state depends so greatly is a good thing.

So good work, senator…

“Hey kids! Say hello to my leetle friend!”

You’ve probably heard about this already:

McDonald’s tweeted a photo of the new Happy Meal mascot, saying: “Say hello to our newest friend, Happy!”

But within hours, the new square-faced red and yellow mascot with big white teeth was scaring away people on Twitter and had become the butt of jokes.

@DrZombield said: THAT! Is scary!@CraigGrannell warned: “HE WILL EAT YOU ALIVE! RUN!”

@Naive_Steve came up with his own tag-line: “Happy”, “It’s the meal that eats you.”

Wow, talk about tone deaf. Even the wording of the Tweet was scary:

Say hello to our newest friend? They should have gotten Al Pacino to deliver that line.

But you have to hand it to McDonald’s for the way they rolled with it. Operating on a variant of the classic principle that no press is bad press, they’ve had fun with the uproar:

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They say baseball will be very, very good to us

baseball talk

Seated are, from left to right, Mayor Steve Benjamin, developer Bob Hughes and moderator Jim Hammond.

This morning’s edition of Columbia Regional Business Report’s “Power Breakfast” series featured Mayor Steve Benjamin and developer Bob Hughes talking up Bull Street and baseball.

tie

Don’t read too much into the tie.

I had overslept and dressed in a rush for the hyper-early event, and didn’t realize until I got there that I had worn my tie with the layouts of classic Major League ballparks on it. As I hastily explained to Mike Fitts when I saw him there, this should not be construed as a sign of support on my part. I’m still sort of ambivalent about this thing. I, too, think minor league baseball could be very, very good to us, but I always wanted it down by the river, so… I don’t know how I feel about this consolation prize.

Also, I don’t know what to think about Bull Street overall, and I think part of the reason for that is that I still find it hard to envision. I get what Mr. Hughes says about the specifics of what will actually be there and how it will ultimately look will develop in an “organic” manner over the next couple of decades, and will largely be driven by market forces. But that makes it hard for me, and others, to make up our minds about it. Which, I know, has been infinitely frustrating to the mayor, who believes, as he reiterated, that we have to stop “kicking the can down the road” on this unique urban fixer-upper opportunity.

Anyway, here are some things that came up that seemed of interest to me:

  • Hughes talked the concept of “placemaking,” a concept that sounds to me a bit like the “third place” that Starbucks has always striven to be. He described it as a place where, if you arrange to meet someone there, you don’t mind if that person is late, “because there’s something to engage your mind.” In any case, we were invited to think of the Bull Street redevelopment, and I suppose the ballpark in particular, as an exercise in “placemaking.”
  • As a representative of ADCO, I wasn’t too thrilled with his complaint that “I’m tired of Columbia always making excuses for being hot.” He said it’s 6 degrees cooler than Dallas here, and this development is about showing people in a concrete way how much cooler we are.
  • The mayor again made his point that we have to stop thinking of ourselves as the “compromise… government town.” All the governmental entities that contribute to our local economy are awesome, he said, but they don’t pay property taxes. He thinks the city needs to be known to the private sector as a place that “aggressively seeks your capital and treats it well while it’s here.”
  • Benjamin observed that increasingly, people don’t move to a city because they found a job there; they move to a place where they want to live, and seek employment opportunities in that place. This development is about creating that kind of place. Hughes spoke of our local institutions of higher education as places that will crank out residents for Bull Street: “You’re graduating each year more people for this development.”
  • The ballpark was repeatedly touted as a necessary spark to draw the rest of the kind of development that will be needed for the project to succeed. Not having it, in the minds of potential investors/developers, would have been a deal-breaker, Hughes asserted. Now that it’s a done deal, everything can proceed.
  • Hughes invites people who want to be part of the development to “Bring me something you want to build.” That’s because “We cannot do Bull Street by ourselves;” the billion-dollar investment would be too much. He’s seeking “a diversified team of developers.”
  • He said more and more such developers are interested, even enthusiastic: At recent development gatherings across the country, the questions his team gets from potential developers have changed in a positive direction, going from “Why would I want to go to Columbia?” to “How big can my sign be?” and “When will the first pitch” be thrown in the ballpark.
  • But for the moment, he’s only interested in development that fits the architectural concept of the place. The buildings — whether apartments, attached single-family homes, or commercial — will be three-to-four stories tall. Anything taller than that would obscure “the dome” (by which I assume he means the cupola atop the Babcock Building) , and anything less doesn’t fit the concept. “If you’re not three stories tall, we’re glad to talk to you, but we’re not going to be interested in the beginning.”
  • When is “the beginning?” The plan is to start “moving dirt” this summer, and work will start on the ballpark in the early fall. We’ll see the first residents in August 2015, and “hotel, retail and baseball” up and running in April 2016.
  • How long will it take to complete the development? Hughes said, “I want it not to take 20 years,” and reckons that “We’re a great success if it takes 14 or 15.”
  • Possibly the least sensitive remark of the morning was something that Hughes quoted to the effect that “Old brick is depressing; that’s why nobody ever left this place.” I didn’t hear who he was quoting and I missed the larger point he was trying to make about the look of the place. He did say that five buildings will be preserved, which he said represented about 75 percent of the square footage of the most comprehensive wish lists for historic preservation that he’d seen.
  • There was a lot of talk about walkability and bikeability. One person asked how the development would be accessible by bike from the established neighborhoods across Bull Street. Hughes gave perhaps his weakest answer of the morning to that, suggesting that cyclists could cross at the light. Then he said something about a tunnel that runs under Harden perhaps being employed for that purpose on the eastern side.
  • Hughes noted with regard to the $31 million in publicly-funded infrastructure, “It takes me 20 years to get that.” Benjamin added, “20 years, and benchmarks that have to be met along the way.
  • “This project’s going to be judged by its success,” Benjamin asserted. In response to a question about opposition, he said, “I talk with people every day who are very excited.” He spoke of touring Charleston with Joe Riley, “the dean of mayors in the United States,” who spoke of building things that have “a permanent impact on a city.” Benjamin added, “In 50 years, no one will remember what the unemployment rate was,” or the crime rate. Or, he hopes, how acrimonious was the debate over Bull Street. He believes its success will wash all that away.

baseball been berry berry good to me

This just in: Craft beer bill on fast track

 

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This came in a little while ago from Wesley Donehue over at Push Digital:

ICYMI: Craft Beer Law Change on Fast Track

Columbia, SC-May 16, 2014:  “South Carolina is on the verge of passing the most progressive craft beer production laws in the country”,  from the Greenville News (5/15/14).

It’s hard to believe that just three weeks ago the possibility of passing the Stone Bill was nearly impossible, but thanks to grassroots efforts and a lot of emails to the SC General Assembly we made magic happen.

Why is the Stone Bill so important?

1. It will loosen antiquated beer laws in efforts to attract California-based company, Stone Brewing , who is planning a $31 million eastward expansion, to South Carolina.

2. It will create more than 250 jobs.

3. South Carolina breweries will finally have the chance to be competitive with the booming craft beer industry taking off around the country.

To pass a bill this fast in South Carolina is practically unheard of and with the potential of a $31 million investment and hundreds of new jobs it would be a mistake for the General Assembly not to pass the Stone Bill.

For more information visit scbeerjobs.com, or contact Wesley Donehue at 843.460.7990

Unsubscribe

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But — and here’s what I’m unclear on — are we still in the running for Stone, or is this aimed at other, similar opportunities?

D’oh! is right. What century do you think this is?

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Seeing as how she and Warren have gotten into blogging lately, and grown more sophisticated in their use of social media and such, I was disappointed when I didn’t find an embedded video with the online version of Cindi’s column today.

After all, it started this way:

IN ONE OF MY favorite Saturday Night Live skits, a just-exonerated Bill Clinton walks to the podium in the Rose Garden for a news conference, gives a thumbs-up to his supporters, declares “I … am … bulletproof,” and walks away. After a moment, he turns, walks back to the podium and adds: “Next time, you best bring Kryptonite.”

Our legislators must feel the same way after Circuit Judge Casey Manning discovered that they have bulletproof armor that protects them from criminal prosecution….

You have to realize what a special thing it is for Cindi Scoppe to make a pop culture reference that way. She doesn’t do pop culture. She is the most all-work-and-no-play person I know, and her readers are the beneficiaries of that affliction. So I particularly appreciated this reference, and immediately went hunting for a video clip…bulletproof

which I could not find. At least, not right away. (I’d be happy for some of y’all to show me what I missed.)

Oh, I found one that may have been the right one. NBC had taken it down. And then added insult to injury by saying, “Don’t worry, though. We have plenty of other stuff to watch.” Like I’m here to be entertained. Like any other “stuff to watch” will compensate for the lack of the one clip I need, the one being quoted.

Join the 21st century, folks. Rather than hiding your content, leverage it by allowing other media — including blogs and even newspapers — to praise your creativity and urge other people (perhaps people who have the time and inclination to watch that “other stuff” you’re offering) to seek it out. You’ll be a winner in the long run.

Sheesh…

Doug forms impression of Haley strength, Sheheen weakness

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Our own Doug Ross attended IT-ology’s Summit on Information Technology today, and this is his report:

Nikki Haley did the quick welcome speech to the crowd this morning.  Never had seen her before in person…   I was impressed with her energy and her ability to speak without notes.  She laid out what will probably be a theme for the next few months:  a growing economy built on encouragingcompanies to come to South Carolina.    What was more indicative of what’s in store for Vincent Sheheen was when Ed Sellers (Chairman BCBS – you probably knew that) got up after Nikki left and said that Haley and her team (Bobby Hitt and others) were the best administration  he had worked with in 25 years in terms of economic development.   Otis Rawl followed Sellers with more praise for Nikki.    If I were Vincent Sheheen, I’d drop out now… I don’t think he’s going to come as close as last time.
The mayor also spoke briefly and did a good job of selling Columbia as a place to grow technology business.   He was late so he wasn’t in the room when Haley was there.    My cynical self wonders if that was on purpose.

As I’ve said many times, Nikki makes a great first impression, and connects really well with a group of people.

I agree that Vincent’s in trouble, and not only because he’s not as good at connecting with a crowd. Four years ago, the state chamber (Otis Rawl’s organization) backed him, which was extraordinary for a Democrat. I had already seen indications that wasn’t going to happen again. This is another indication of that.

And when a guy like Ed Sellers goes that far in his praise, it’s important. But I suspect he really mostly appreciates Bobby Hitt.

Something is going to have to change for Vincent Sheheen to be as competitive as he was last time around, much less win. The incumbent has positioned herself well for another four years, even without the Year-Of-The-Tea-Party advantage she enjoyed in 2010.

Someone tell Tyler Durden: Marketers have appropriated ‘Fight Club’

Brad-Pitt-fight-club-body2

Back when I was in college, I read James Michener’s book Kent State: What Happened and Why, which came out the year after four students were shot and killed there by the Ohio National Guard. This was a time when memories of the event were still pretty raw. That one semester I attended USC before transferring to Memphis State, I used to wear a T-shirt (I forget where I got it) with a big target on the back under the word “Student.” It was less a political statement than me just being edgy, ironic and immature.

Michener’s book went into a lot more than what happened that day in May 1970. It painted a portrait of student life at that time and in that place. At one point, he interviewed a campus radical who was complaining about how the dominant white culture kept appropriating and mainstreaming, and thereby disarming, countercultural memes, particularly those that arose from African-American culture. (I would say he was making some point vaguely related to Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance,” but I’ve always tended to understand Marcuse as meaning something other than what he meant. By the way, my version makes sense; Marcuse’s didn’t.)

Anyway, to make the point that there was no limit to the dominant culture’s ability to absorb culture from the edge, he said, “I’ll bet that within two years Buick will come out with full-page ads claiming that the 1972 Buick is a real motherf____r.”

Well, that still hasn’t quite happened. But I saw something today that comes close. I got an email from the travel site Orbitz with the headline:

The first rule of Flight Club is – Columbia deals from $200 RT

Wow. Think about it. “Fight Club” was all about characters who were utterly, savagely rejecting mainstream consumer culture and everything that went with it. But now the best-known line from the film is being appropriated to sell airline flights. Are you digging the irony here?

It doesn’t even make sense, since the first rule of Fight Club is that you do NOT talk about Fight Club. Presumably, Orbitz would like us to talk about this deal.

But the line got me to look — and that was the point.

I can’t wait to see how next year’s Buicks are marketed.

Chamber backs plan for Lott to run CPD, even while council gives it a cold shoulder

Most of city council has thoroughly dissed Cameron Runyan’s attempt to revive the idea of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott taking over the Columbia Police Department.

But the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is applauding. It sent out this statement yesterday:

“The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce fully endorses Columbia City Council member Cameron Runyan’s plan to contract Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott to manage the City of Columbia’s police department. Public safety, economic development and job creation are top priorities of the Chamber and our business community. Our neighbors and our business owners deserve the right to feel safe in their homes, on their streets and in our business districts. Public safety is critical to moving our city from good to great to achieve status as a world-class city.

We firmly believe Sheriff Lott, based on his past performance, has the credibility and proven results to bring about positive changes in the Columbia Police Department, which will benefit our entire community. Sheriff Lott is a well respected leader throughout Columbia, the state and law enforcement. We encourage our city council members to embrace this plan and help make it a reality.”

-  Holt Chetwood | Chair, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

It’s a bit surprising to me that council so categorically rejects the idea of the popular and competent Lott taking over the department, given that the CPD has in the last few years gone way beyond the point that the word “troubled” adequately described just how fouled up it is at the top. The same proposal lost by only one vote in council in 2010.

But it’s habit now with the council majority, I guess. If it comes from the Benjamin camp, and has business support, and might change the status quo in a way that makes sense, they’re against it.

Richland County Shocker: Council does right thing, restarts process

Hey, I’m kind of stunned that, after having been arrogant and dismissive over community reaction to its unexplained decision to award the contract for managing all that road construction that the new penny tax would buy, Richland County Council has done a complete about-face and voted unanimously to vacate that decision, and start the selection process over.

This is good news. And I say that not just because CECS, the local bidder who came in second — despite getting higher scores than the out-of-state firm that the county initially selected — is a client of ADCO’s. I’m saying it because the county had given the citizen’s watchdog panel — and by extension, the entire community — a slap in the face, the way this was done the first time. Not only did the county ignore the panel’s wishes, it refused to give any reasons for its selection of Kentucky-based ICA Engineering. Some council members were pretty obnoxious about it.

That was outrageous, and this stunning turnaround was warranted. The people of Richland County — and those of us who don’t live in the county, but will pay the tax — deserve a do-over, and a transparent one.

This is a very encouraging development — responsive local government officials who can admit when they’ve made a mistake! Next thing you know, the county legislative delegation will give up control of the county election commission. OK, maybe I’m getting all giddy and carried away here…

Top Five Commercials from Super Bowl 2014

Dylan

According to the buzz, this was a kinder, gentler year for Super Bowl commercials.

The buzz is right. The ads were less sexy, less edgy, more warm and mushy.

Also according to the buzz, the best of the lot (or one of the best) was the Budweiser ad with the horse and the puppy.

There, the buzz is wrong. Talk about belaboring a good thing. The one last year with the horse and the trainer was cute. This was cute with a candy coating. Too much.

Here, for your edification, are the Top Five Super Bowl Commercials of 2014:

  1. Radio Shack — “The ’80s called. They want their store back.” When’s the last time you saw an advertiser accurately and honestly describe its own greatest weakness, and have this much fun with it? Never, that’s when.
  2. Chrysler — “America’s Import.” They got Bob Dylan to do a car commercial. Bob. Dylan. And he did it with a pseudo-profound tone that mocked his own music and his reputation as some sort of American cultural prophet. I wonder how much they paid him. And I suspect it’s not enough.
  3. Budweiser — “A Hero’s Welcome.” The kind of warmth that Bud was going for with the puppy one actually works in this one. And yes, every soldier does deserve this kind of hero’s welcome. It’s been done, but this was done well.
  4. Turbo Tax — “Love Hurts.” Deals honestly, though in a twisted, ironic way, with the fact that most of America probably didn’t want these two teams in the Super Bowl. Kind of makes you wonder why all of those people watch the game, when you think about it.
  5. Pepsi — “Halftime Intro.” I don’t know why, I just really enjoyed the giant hands playing the Brooklyn Bridge like a giant electric bass, and the traffic circle like a turntable. Not all that complicated, but well executed.

I thought about including the Doritos/Time Machine one. But my colleagues at ADCO were mad at Doritos for not picking the one with the ostrich, which they loved. So I left it off…

radio shack

 

Other side heard from: ICA says they’re local, too…

Apparently, ICA — which won the nod of Richland County Council to manage the penny sales tax construction projects — is concerned about the protests over their getting the job. They’ve sent out a mailer to some local folks, including our own Silence Dogood, protesting that they, too, are local folks. An excerpt:

In fact, ICA Engineering, formerly known as Florence & Hutcheson, has been a part of – and grown with – Columbia and Richland County for the last 30 years. From five employees in downtown Columbia in 1984, we now have 30 professionals who live, work, invest and raise their families right here. All work for the Penny Sales Tax contract will be performed in Richland County. For the past 30 years, ICA Engineering and its employees have paid state, county and city taxes here. We are also proud of the fact that the vast majority of these local employees are graduates of engineering programs at The Citadel, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.
We also support many local charities and community organizations. We actively serve in our community through homeowners associations, churches and professional societies. I recently served as chair of the Issues Committee for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. We have supported organizations such as Epworth Children’s Home and the Special Olympics. Many of us have served on School Improvement Councils and have been a part of Leadership Columbia as well. We also support and are active in local economic development agencies, like the Central SC Alliance, that focus on growing the area’s economy and creating jobs….

You can read the whole letter here. Yeah, I’ve been rooting for the team that was rated No. 1 and didn’t get the job, CECS. But never let it be said that I don’t give you everybody’s point of view. Within reason, of course.

Old Koreans vs. NY McDonald’s: Taking the ‘third place’ to extremes

As I’ve mentioned before, Starbucks strives to be “A third place between work and home,” a place of community, more than a place that just sells awesome coffee.

In recent years, McDonald’s has tried to get in on some of that “third place” action with its McCafé concept. Which has always seemed a bit odd, to me. McDonald’s is about getting in and getting out, as quickly as possible. Or driving through. It’s a place to fuel up when you don’t have time to stop and have a decent meal. Why would I want McDonald’s to be Starbucks when there’s Starbucks (which, if nothing else, actually serves decent coffee)?

I have at times thought Ronald McDonald was a bit conflicted about this. Just the other day, I noticed a “no loitering” sign at the awkwardly-placed pedestrian entrance to the McDonald’s in the Vista. So… you wanna be like a coffee shop, but you don’t want me hanging around?

At one McDonald’s in Flushing, NY, they’re more than conflicted — they’re positively fed up with being a third place for a group of Korean senior citizens who camp out in the joint all day, every day. The NYT has a fascinating piece about this quiet battle of wills:

Shortly after New Year’s Day, Man Hyung Lee, 77, was nursing a coffee in his usual seat in a narrow booth at a McDonald’s in Flushing, Queens, when two police officers stepped into the fluorescent light of the restaurant.

Mr. Lee said the officers had been called because he and his friends — a revolving group who shuffle into the McDonald’s on the corner of Parsons and Northern Boulevards on walkers, or with canes, in wheelchairs or with infirm steps, as early as 5 a.m. and often linger until well after dark — had, as they seem to do every day, long overstayed their welcome….

Mr. Lee said he obediently left — and walked around the block and came right back. More:

For the past several months, a number of elderly Korean patrons and this McDonald’s they frequent have been battling over the benches inside. The restaurant says the people who colonize the seats on a daily basis are quashing business, taking up tables for hours while splitting a small packet of French fries ($1.39); the group say they are customers and entitled to take their time. A lot of time.

“Do you think you can drink a large coffee within 20 minutes?” David Choi, 77, said. “No, it’s impossible.”…

The cops have been called four times via 911 since November. And officers drop by as often as three times in a day to check on the situation and urge the folks to move along. To no effect.

This is a kind of impasse that seems to have no really good guys or bad guys in it. As sympathetic as a group of old friends might be, you might have some sympathy for the godless corporation when you read this. My attention was drawn to this piece by a writer at Slate who noted that the old folks …

… are definitely being jerks. Lovable jerks, sure, but jerks nonetheless. They refuse to let other customers sit down. They don’t even order food—in fact, they come to the McDonald’s after eating lunch at a local senior center. They take smoke breaks near the restaurant entrance. They’re not meeting for any official purpose—they’re just shooting the breeze. And their choice of McDonald’s isn’t for a lack of other options; there are numerous nearby civic centers, including one that prepared a basement room especially for this group of friends. They still return to the McDonald’s.

Adding to the oddity of the story, none of the old folks could explain to the reporter why it has to be that McDonald’s.

One for the People Are Quirky file.

First Barnes & Noble, now Sears: What’s happening in Harbison?

This just came in a little while ago:

Just In: The Sears store & auto center on Harbison Blvd. in the Columbiana area will permanently close in Early March.

So, what’s up in Harbison? First Barnes & Noble, now this…

Yeah, I know. It’d not about Harbison. It’s about Barnes & Noble and Sears specifically. It would be more logical to say, “First the Sears catalog (back in 1993), now this.”

What went wrong with Sears? I mean, yeah, it had taken on a sort of anachronistic feel, a sense that it was big back in the ’50s because that was its time, but how does that happen, and could Sears have done anything — other than stop being Sears — to reverse the process?

Of course, maybe looking at this as a Sears story is as off-base as seeing it as a Harbison story. But it’s hard to imagine this store closing back in the day when Sears played a much bigger role in the retail universe…

Chamber seeking successor for Ike McLeese

The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce sent this out today:

Columbia Chamber Now Seeking Applicants for New CEO and President 

The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is now seeking applicants to fill the position of CEO and president for the organization. The CEO and president will be responsible for developing and maintaining a collaborative relationship between the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and key businesses, government, education, public policy organizations, regional chambers, the U.S. Chamber and other regional organizations to foster a nurturing business environment for members.

He or she will also ultimately be responsible for all operations of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and serves as the primary point of contact for the organization’s officers, the Board of Directors, elected officials and community leaders. The CEO and president plans, organizes, directs and controls the Chamber’s services, products and public policy activities for the Chamber’s members and responds to the needs of its members.

To view the full job description, click columbiachamber.com/CEO.htm.

The deadline to submit applications is January 31, 2014.

Ike McLeese left a big void in community leadership; it will be hard to fill…

A worrisome national meme regarding SC’s Boeing plant

First 787 Takeoff In Charleston SC  K65673

Inaugural flight of first 787 Dreamliner built in SC./Boeing

We take great pride in our Boeing 787 plant down in North Charleston, and with good reason. It shows, as Bobby Hitt would say, that “we know how to make stuff” in South Carolina, including high-tech stuff.

So it is that I worry that it seems to be more and more routine for national media to say this one negative thing about the SC Boeing plant, as I have boldfaced in this passage from a story in The Wall Street Journal this morning:

Never overwhelmingly credible was Boeing’s threat to rip away its new 777X from its unionized Seattle-area workforce if local union members didn’t approve contract concessions, as they did last week.

Let us count the reasons: Boeing was already known to be dissatisfied with the dispersed plane-making that currently has the 787′s wing made in Japan. Boeing’s own new 787 plant with nonunion workers in South Carolina has been slow to get up to speed. A trained and experienced workforce, such as exists in the Seattle area, is not easy to recreate and Boeing is under considerable pressure from customers signing up for deliveries of the new 777X after 2020 to minimize delays and snafus like those that afflicted the 787….

Hey, I want them to take their time and do it right — I’d hate for SC workers to get the reputation of being casual and slipshod. But I hate seeing the word “slow” in connection with SC labor.

I’ve just seen that mentioned a number of times recently, to the point that it has started to worry me…

Saying goodbye to my very favorite store, Barnes & Noble on Harbison

The purists who didn't like the floor space that Toys & Games took over in recent years may be gratified to see that area as one of the first cleared out.

The purists who didn’t like the floor space that Toys & Games took over in recent years may be gratified to see that area as one of the first cleared out.

Here we are in the very last days of my very favorite store on Earth, the Barnes & Noble on Harbison.

Its last day of operation is Tuesday… Dec. 31.

The Harbison B&N is more than a store to me. Or perhaps I should say, something other than a store. I certainly made far more purchases at other stores over the years — Food Lion, Publix, Walmart and the like.

But for me, this store was the ultimate “third place.” That’s a term I knew nothing about until recently, when I was getting ready to help conduct a brand workshop for an ADCO client, and I happened to read up on the branding strategy of Starbucks, which has from the start striven to be a “place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.”

I enjoy both of those places, but between the two, I prefer B&N. There’s only so much you can do in a Starbucks. Noise is often a factor in the coffee shops, while B&N had a more library-like feel to it, except right around the cafe portion, where the sound of the grinder could be intrusive. And then there are all the books to browse through, which to me has always been a sort of foretaste of heaven.

I loved browsing in B&N even before I started drinking coffee in 2004. (Long story behind that. From the time I turned 30 until my 50th year, caffeine drove me nuts. Then, when I was at the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, I started drinking coffee to deal with the 20-hour days — there was, after all, a Starbucks on every corner. And I found that it didn’t bother me anymore. In fact, it did what it was supposed to do, keeping me from dozing off and creating a nice, creative buzz.)

But to browse through those books for a couple of hours on a Saturday, enjoying my first (and second) coffees of the day — that was awesome. And if I took along my laptop and did a little blogging while I was there, well, all the better.

And yes, I did occasionally buy something. In fact, I buy most gifts there. I find it easier to imagine what sort of book someone will like than any other sort of gift, and I make a point of buying them at the actual store to show my appreciation for all the good times it affords me. Buying the gift also makes me feel less of a self-indulgent sensualist as I browse.

Anyway, I was there a couple of times over the last week or so before Christmas. The first time, I bought a book for my Dad — a biography of Omar Bradley. When I got to the counter to pay for it, the clerk asked whether I was a member. I said yes, and offered my card. It had expired (yeah, I think it was around the holidays when I renewed last year). She asked whether I wanted to renew. No, I said sadly, thinking, What would be the point?

The second time, on Christmas Eve, I found myself in Harbison with a little time on my hands, and just went in to browse once more. For nostalgia’s sake, I even put sugar in my coffee, even though I’ve been drinking it black for years. I used to use a lot of sugar back in the day, such as when I wrote this.

I was wandering through the DVD section, seeing if there were any last-minute gifts that would strike me, when one of the booksellers asked whether I needed help. I said no, but as he turned away, I asked him to wait.

I asked when the store would close. He told me — New Year’s Eve.

I asked why it was closing. He said because B&N couldn’t afford the lease, and the new tenant, Nordstrom, could.

Apologizing for intruding, I asked what he, who had worked at B&N quite a few years, was going to do. He said he might be working at the store at Richland Fashion Mall, and he urged me to come there. I said yeah, that store was OK, but it had no audio/video section. He noted pragmatically that that was the first part of the store he would expect to close, since everyone downloads music now and streams movies online.

But, feeling like an advocate trying to save a client’s life in a hopeless trial, I argued that Netflix didn’t have the high-quality, hard-to-find movies that you could buy at B&N, such as the Criterion collection of fine films. He pointed out there were other places you could get those, although no local, bricks-and-mortar location had as large a Criterion selection as B&N did.

Sigh.

I got a B&N gift card for Christmas, so I’ll probably be in their one more time before it closes for good. Maybe I’ll see you there. Maybe we can have a coffee together, with several sugars to counteract the bitterness…

Pinson attorney claims Benjamin was original target of probe

OK, so now someone is alleging that there was, at least in the past, federal interest in the mayor of Columbia:

CHARLESTON, SC — Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and former city employee Tony Lawton were among the original targets of what has become a broad federal public corruption investigation, a defense attorney said in federal court here Wednesday.

Attorney Jim Griffin of Columbia said the FBI improperly redirected its case toward his client, Greenville businessman Jonathan Pinson, making the evidence gathered about Pinson illegal because it was gained through wiretaps aimed at Benjamin and Lawton and the city of Columbia.

Griffin said that wiretaps that captured Pinson’s cell phone conversations exceeded the authority of the judge’s approval because the investigation was aimed at possible corruption in Columbia city government.

“It’s the fruit of the poisonous tree,” Griffin told U.S. District Judge David Norton…

The judge said the recordings could be used.

For our part, we don’t know whether the allegation of federal interest in the mayor was true, or whether the FBI is interested in him now. Because no one else is talking, and Griffin doesn’t elaborate.

Request line: Here’s that Pinson thread Silence wanted

Nothing I’ve posted the last couple of days has engaged y’all’s interest much. So I suppose I’ll take requests.

On the last post, Silence asked: “Can we [have] Pinson thread? Or top headlines, or something?

It took me a moment to realize what he meant. Google was no help. But then I realized I had read the name “Pinson” this morning, and here’s that story:

Jonathan Pinson and a Florida business associate, both facing federal corruption charges, courted Mayor Steve Benjamin and two others on City Council about more Columbia development projects, according to interviews and documents obtained by The State newspaper.

Federal prosecutors have tied only Pinson’s Village at River’s Edge to their ongoing investigation. But the newspaper’s inquires show that Pinson and admitted kickback payer Richard Zahn of Florida have been much more active in Columbia than had been known publicly.

The corruption case against Pinson, a close friend and business partner of Benjamin, enters a critical stage Wednesday with a hearing in Charleston. U.S. District Judge David Norton will determine whether months of the FBI’s secretly taped telephone conversations from the investigation can be played at trial or ruled inadmissible….

No one on City Council has been charged with a crime….

About the only thing I can think of to say about the story (and this reflects my habits of thought as an editor) is that it takes its sweet time naming the other council members who had traveled to Florida and heard the pitch from these guys Pinson and Zahn. Even though the mayor is named twice in the first three grafs, you don’t read the names of Tameika Isaac Devine and Brian DeQuincey Newman until the jump page.

But I don’t see enough information here to base a conclusion on. It appears that this Pinson guy is, as Gil Walker said, something of a “big talker.” And that Benjamin, Devine and Newman all paid him and Zahn more attention than I’m entirely comfortable with. But I don’t see anything that negates the council members’ claim that these meetings, like “many they participate in, were in response to requests from people interested in doing business with the city.”

And apparently, the feds haven’t seen anything like that either.

Beyond that, I guess I’m waiting for some further, clarifying information before I draw any conclusions.

Enough with the pop-ups!

popup

I’ve been pretty patient about this. Exceedingly patient, considering that I no longer get paid a dime out of The State‘s ad revenues.

But I’ve just gotta say that it’s getting more and more unpleasant to use thestate.com, with the constant intrusive pop-ups. (Not that I’m going to stop going there, because in spite of all, where else am I going to get that much local content?)

The kind that gets me the most is when I merely click in the search box — before I’ve had a chance to enter my search term, or hit ENTER, or anything, just click in the box — and BAM! There’s a popup jumping into my face.

It’s one thing when it’s something local, and relevant. Hey, local merchants gotta eat. But when it’s something as generic and seamy and irrelevant as the set of links above, I get annoyed.

Now, all of that said — one of y’all (Dave Crockett) recently reported getting a pop-up, or rollover, or something, while on my blog.

Has this happened to anyone else?