published Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Business Briefcase: Affordable Care Act focus hurts Unum sales

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    The Unum headquarters in downtown Chattanooga.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
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Affordable Care Act focus hurts Unum sales

The Affordable Care Act may bring health insurance to millions more Americans, but the new provisions of ObamaCare appear also to be stealing away at least the time, if not the business, from the brokers and agents who also sell disability insurance and other employee benefits.

In a conference call with industry analysts, Unum CEO Tom Watjen blamed a 5.2 percent drop in sales, in part on delays and concerns over ObamaCare.

"The general environment remains challenging, which has been compounded by the fact that many brokers and agents and employers are focused on the implementation of health care reform, thus, delaying the implementation of new workplace benefit programs," Watjen said. "This headwind may be with us for much of 2013."


Rain brings cheap power

With precipitation nearly 12 inches above normal so far this year in Chattanooga, low lying areas remain flooded and the rain-swollen Tennessee River continues to limit barge navigation.

But one silver lining in all the rain has been an abundance of TVA's cheapest power. During February, conventional hydro units generated 2,057,000 megawatt-hours, an all-time high for TVA. The highest monthly total prior to February 2013 was December 2004 at 2,016,110 megawatthours, TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said.

Hydro generation from water flowing through TVA's 29 power-generating dams is the cheapest source of electricity generation for the federal utility.


Women's institute seeks mentors

The Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute is accepting applications for its 6th Annual Women Mentoring Women program, which will begin Aug. 23.

The Women Mentoring Women program consists of eight 2-hour lunchtime sessions designed to aid women in developing or sharpening their mentoring skills so they can go back into the community and mentor other women. Each session will be led by recognized local women who will present on topics such as understanding communication styles, team building, political savviness, and the use of power, authority and influence in the workplace.

"The tips I learned from the Women Mentoring Women Program have been tremendous instruments in both my professional and personal life," said Sharon Braden, marketing and proposal manager at Thompson Engineering, who was mentored in 2009. "I walked away with a tool chest full of beneficial information."

The initiative began in August 2008, and has graduated 76 women from a variety of business backgrounds in the Chattanooga area. Those interested in applying for this year's program may visit www.cwli.org.


Volkswagen, Audi open Manhattan dealerships

Audi and Volkswagen on Friday announced the grand opening of two new flagship dealerships in New York City.

The $135 million financing is Audi and Volkswagen's largest investment in a dealership real estate project, and is part of the company's continued growth strategy and operations expansion in the United States, officials said.

The brands kicked off the dealership opening with a joint celebration Friday. Attendees included top leaders from both brands including Hans Dieter Potsch, a member of the board of directors of Volkswagen Group of America.

"As the nation's leading business hub, and one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world, New York City has always been a vital market for Volkswagen in achieving long-term U.S. growth," said Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.

Strategically located on 11th Avenue, between West 56th and West 55th streets in Manhattan, the ultra-modern dealership facility comprises two fully integrated buildings, spanning 265,000 square-feet, the company said.

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