published Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Business Briefcase: Will TVA salute Navy admiral?

Will TVA salute Navy admiral?

The head of the Navy's nuclear submarine program will retire from the military on Nov. 2, but he reportedly may still be interested in a different federal job.

Navy Admiral Kirkland Donald, the director of Navy Nuclear Propulsion, could be a candidate for the top job at the Tennessee Valley Authority. Donald will retire from the military at the end of the week after 37 years with the nuclear Navy. Sources indicate that Donald could be among those being considered to succeed the retiring Tom Kilgore as TVA's chief executive officer.

TVA has hired an executive search firm, the McAuley Firm, to help the board select the agency's next CEO. According to the job posting, the new CEO "will implement operational plans and oversee day-to-day activities" for the nation's biggest government utility. Kilgore's base salary and annual performance incentive totaled $2.7 million last year.


Georgia counties sue British bank

Three Georgia counties are suing a British bank, claiming that predatory lending harmed property owners as the housing market collapsed.

Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties filed the lawsuit last week against London-based HSBC in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The lawsuit alleges that HSBC and its affiliates abused minority borrowers by putting them into mortgages they couldn't afford, or gouging consumers with high-priced loans and high fees when they might have qualified for cheaper mortgages.

The lawsuit is likely unprecedented in Georgia. It was filed under the federal Fair Housing Act and seeks unspecified damages, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The lawsuit alleges that discriminatory practices caused the foreclosure crisis, which disproportionately affected minority borrowers. Predatory loans resulted in higher rates of foreclosure, which depressed overall housing values and reduced property tax revenue, the plaintiffs maintain.

The housing crisis "has caused tremendous tangible and intangible damage" to the tax bases in the three counties and resulted in increased costs related to vacant properties, the lawsuit states. As a result of depressed tax collections, cities and counties across metro Atlanta have struggled with cuts in service — and in some cases property tax rate increases — to stay above water.


Gas prices trouble area businesses

Tennessee small businesses rate gas and fuel costs as the single most burdensome cost to their operations, according to a new survey of small-business owners in the state by Georgia Washington University and Thumbtack.com.

The survey of more than 6,000 small-business owners nationwide found in Tennessee that businesses rated, in order, the most burdensome costs to be fuel costs, self employment taxes, health care costs and personal income taxes.

Concerns about minimum wage laws, medical malpractice costs and disability insurance costs rated at the bottom of the concerns listed in the survey.

In the presidential election year, 37 percent of Tennessee small-business owners rated the economy and jobs as the single most important factor for them in choosing a president.


Student debt less in state, Georgia

Graduates of Tennessee and Georgia colleges are taking on more debt, but the debt burden for those coming out of university is still well below the U.S. average.

According to a study released last week, the average student graduating from a four-year college in 2011 had $26,500 a student debt.

By comparison, Tennessee graduates, on average, had only $20,703 in debt and Georgia graduates averaged $22,443 in debt.

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