published Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Business Briefs

VW India ads create buzz

Volkswagen of India may have taken the notion of creating a buzz around its brand a bit too literally.

According to Autoblog, VW placed ads in the Times of India and other newspapers with the tagline on the first page, "Feel the excitement?" On a second page of the ad, a light-sensitive box starts vibrating when the page is turned to read the second part of the ad.

But rather than excitement abut the VW vehicle, some readers thought the vibration spurred thoughts of sex. Autoblog reported.

One Facebook post about the new ad wondered about the meaning of the ad.

"I'm not sure anymore if VW stands for Volkswagen or Vibration for Women," the Facebook post said,


Is city a blueprint for bayfront?

Corpus Christi, Texas, Caller Times reported last week that Chattanooga's downtown revival in the past three decades could be a model for Corpus Christi and other midsize cities.

"During the past three years, there's been a reversal in the city's brain drain," reporter Jessica Savage wrote about Chattanooga. "A younger demographic is moving back. Longtime residents say their kids want to live in Chattanooga after college and their friends do, too."

The story noted that Chattanooga's downtown population of 3,300 is up 12 percent since 2001 when two downtown elementary schools opened. The Scenic City has benefited by the addition of downtown parks, artists' relocation incentives through ArtsMove, housing programs by Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise and EPB's high-speed Internet service.

"Main Street, once an abandoned strip of boarded-up buildings, is making a comeback," Savage reported.


Telecommuters complain far less

Nearly one of every five workers for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee now does his work from home.

Vicky Gregg, the outgoing president of Tennessee's biggest health insurer, says such teleworkers tell her they prefer not having to travel to BlueCross' Cameron Hill corporate campus even with its modern facilities and cafeteria.

"When I met with our telecommuters, I always laugh," Gregg told the Chattanooga Rotary Club last week. "They are the happiest bunch of employees. They never complain about the temperature of the building, parking or the soup."


MBA at VW draws 9 company reps

The MBA program at the Volkswagen Academy, an educational partnership with UTC, has people representing nine local companies, according to the automaker.

Using EPB's fiber-optic high-speed connection, the program offers a real-time video and audio connection between the VW Academy and UTC for more than 20 post-graduate students.

"We are very pleased that the enrollment has gone so well and that we have added yet another program to our offerings at the Volkswagen Academy," said Hans-Herbert Jagla, executive vice president of human resources at VW in Chattanooga, in a statement.

Students include employees of VW, U.S. Xpress, Whirlpool, Chattanooga State Community College and Snap-On Tools and others.

"The MBA program at Volkswagen Academy provides students living or working in the rapidly growing eastern Hamilton and Bradley counties more convenient access to UTC graduate courses," said Dr. Robert Dooley, college of business dean at UTC.


Corker urges SEC to move on reform

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., wants the Securities and Exchange Commission to keep working on a plan to regulate money market funds.

In a letter to the SEC, Corker urged the regulatory panel to continue to pursue reforms of money market fund regulations to protect taxpayers from a potential bailout. Last month, SEC commissioners tabled a proposal to regulate money-market mutual funds in a setback to advocates of Wall Street reform. SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro, who drafted proposed regulations, said she was disappointed reforms have yet to be made four years after the 2008 financial crisis highlighted problems in the industry.

Money-market mutual funds invest in Treasurys and other debt securities. Shortly after Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, one key fund announced its clients could get back only 97 cents of every dollar they had put in the fund -- a move known as "breaking the buck." That triggered a $300 billion run on other money market funds that led to a virtual freeze in financial markets and ultimately to the government guaranteeing the security of money market funds during the worst of the crisis.

Corker, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said Congress should never again be forced to choose between a taxpayer bailout and allowing individual investors to suffer personal losses while institutional investors flee.

"It appears that there is common ground here around a set of rules that could stem a run and the potential need for government intervention," Corker wrote to the SEC. "Whatever the solution, reforms now are better than a taxpayer bailout down the road. Inaction is not an option."


North Georgia offices win award

The North Georgia employer group that serves Catoosa, Dade, Walker and Chattooga counties won the Georgia Employer Committee's Spirit Award for 2012 during a recent Georgia Labor Department conference.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said labor department employees in North Georgia showed "steadfast determination in keeping the spirit in spite of unforeseen challenges and extraordinary circumstances."

When the Labor Department merged the LaFayette and Northwest Georgia career centers, the local staffs "worked tirelessly to develop a plan to best utilize a $10,000 grant from the Governor's Workready Program to pay for general education [development] testing for qualified students, GED study guides for public libraries and GED software for Georgia Northwestern Technical College," Butler said.

"Whether working to ensure that people in an area with one of Georgia's hardest hit economies get much-needed assistance, or successfully navigating reorganization, this committee has shown why it deserves this recognition," he said during a recent awards program.


New pilot at Flying J

Pilot Flying J, one of America's largest privately held companies controlled by the family of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, has hired former PepsiCo President John Compton as chief executive.

Compton succeeds Jimmy Haslam, the older brother of Gov. Haslam who has served as Pilot's CEO since 1994. Jimmy Haslam will assume the role of chairman of Pilot Flying J and Maxum Petroleum, and his father, Jim Haslam, who founded the company with one gas station in Gate City, Va., in 1958, will be titled founder and chairman emeritus.

Compton is a native Tennessean and a 1983 graduate of the University of Tennessee. He began his PepsiCo career working at a Frito-Lay plant in Pulaski, Tenn., and later became chief executive officer of Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade based in Chicago. In March, he was named president of PepsiCo.

Pilot Flying J and its recently acquired Maxum Petroleum have annual sales in excess of $30 billion. The combined companies have more than 25,000 employees.

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