published Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Business Briefcase: Dalton has worst yearly job losses

Dalton has worst yearly job losses

Among America's 372 metropolitan areas, Dalton, Ga., had the worst share of job losses in the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment in metro Dalton, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, declined by 3,900 jobs, or 6 percent, from July 2011 to July 2012, BLS reported last week. Dalton's 12.5 percent unemployment rate in July 2012 was down from the 13 percent rate a year ago, but the decline was entirely due to a drop in the size of the local workforce as more workers moved out of Dalton.

The self-described "Carpet Capital" of the world has been hard hit by the slump in housing and commercial construction and the shift among many homebuyers from soft to hard floors.

Dalton continues to have the highest jobless rate of any metro area in Tennessee or Georgia in July. Since 2006, metro Dalton has lost more than one of every five jobs, BLS figures indicate.


IRS, Urban League seek local volunteers

Internal Revenue Service and the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga are looking for volunteers willing to give their time to learn about taxes and then help others by preparing federal income tax returns for free.

Last year, nearly 99,000 Americans volunteered to provide free tax services through IRS tax help programs.

"Volunteers are certified to prepare simple tax returns for people whose incomes are $50,000 or less," said Val Palmer, the tax program coordinator for the Urban League. "People of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to volunteer. There is a role for anyone who is interested and wants to help."

Volunteers can help as a return preparer, site coordinator or a greeter.

Training is scheduled for October and November and volunteers generally study online to obtain their volunteer certification. Once certified, volunteers spend as little as three to four hours per week volunteering between the months of February and April.

To volunteer, contact vpalmer@ulchatt.net or call 756-1762, ext. 19.


Yogurt bar concept targets Chattanooga

Another self-serve yogurt bar is targeting Chattanooga for its expansion.

Pizitz Management Group, the nation's largest Great American Cookies franchisee based in Birmingham, Ala., launched its 32 Degrees Yogurt Bar concept two years ago. The company now operates 15 company-owned units in six states and plans to expand soon to Tennessee with a new unit in Franklin.

Jenny Buha, the company's director of development and marketing, said the company wants to franchise its operations in Chattanooga and other markets.

"Chattanooga has a very active lifestyle and a vibrant downtown where I think our concept will do very well," she said.

The 32 Degrees concept features self-serve frozen yogurt in 14 individual and ever-rotating flavors of yogurt, along with 50 different and always-changing topping such as hand-cut fresh fruit, candy, nuts and sauces. Customers custom-assemble their own frozen treats, weigh their creation at the cash register and pay by 45 cents per ounce.


FourBridges places Green-scapes financing

The Chattanooga-based FourBridges Capital Advisors has placed a $25 million senior credit facility for Greenscapes Home and Garden Products, Inc. in Calhoun, Ga.

Greenscapes designs and sells home and outdoor products, including landscape fabric, edging, frost protection, rubber mulch, bug zappers and stone care cleaners. The company also has licensed certain items to sell under the Scotts and Black Flag brand names. Greenscapes markets to Lowe's, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers.

"We were aware of opportunities in the market, but to take advantage of them, we needed additional financing," said Sage Ralston, president and founder of Greenscapes. "The traditional commercial banks we initially considered simply didn't fit us. FourBridges identified a partner that we previously were unaware of but provided exactly what we needed, and the result was a win-win."

Greenscapes engaged FourBridges in May 2011 to conduct a "Bridge to Capital" analysis. FourBridges recommended that Greenscapes obtain an extension from its current lender and seek additional financing in the next six months. The process was restarted in late spring 2012, with the goal of selecting a new senior lender and an increased line of credit.

One of these was Cole Taylor Business Capital, the asset-based lending division of Chicago-based Cole Taylor Bank. Cole Taylor offered a creative solution that fit the financing needs of Greenscapes, and it was ultimately selected as the lender.

"We were impressed with Greenscapes' management team and the company's strong growth potential," said Mike Sharkey, president of Cole Taylor Business Capital.


Bristol lands new call center

U.S. Solutions Group, Inc., announced last week that it will open a $4.1 million call center in Bristol, Tenn., which will add 548 jobs.

The 11-year-old company, which was acquired by Teleperformance in April 2010, is the nation's biggest No. 1 global contact center provider with 249 facilities in 49 countries.

Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said the state worked closely with U.S. Solutions Group's management and sees this project serving as the basis for long-term job growth in the Tri-Cities area.

Recruiting and hiring has begun for full-time positions. Interested applicants should apply online at www.ussolutionsgroup.com.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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