published Friday, September 5th, 2014

Business Briefs: TVA is named top 10 utility

TVA is named top 10 utility

For the ninth consecutive year, Site Selection magazine has ranked the Tennessee Valley Authority among its Top 10 North American utilities for economic development.

TVA estimates it helped attract or retain 52,000 jobs and $5 billion in capital investment in its seven-state region in 2013 and has already been involved with $8 billion of projects yielding 52,000 jobs so far this year. TVA is one of only three utilities named a Top 10 utility for economic development in each of the past three years.

Georgia Power, Alabama Power, Duke Energy and Entergy also were Southern utilities named among the top 10 by Site Selection.

"This year's top utilities not only continue to turn in the numbers year after year, but continue to invest in doing more and in innovative new approaches to partnering with both companies and communities," said Adam Bruns, Site Selection managing editor.


EU bank cuts interest rates

The European Central Bank cut interest rates Thursday and announced a program to pump money into the economy and stimulate lending by buying bundles of bank loans. Europe's central bank announced three rate cuts, including lowering the main refinancing rate to 0.05 percent from 0.15 percent.

The 18 countries that use the euro showed no economic growth in the second quarter after four quarters of meager expansion. Inflation is only 0.3 percent annually, well below the ECB's goal of just under 2 percent.


Income gap widens further since 2010

A Federal Reserve report says the richest 10 percent of Americans were the only group whose median incomes rose in the past three years.

The Fed's report says incomes declined for every other group from 2010 to 2013, widening the gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.

The report, which adjusted for inflation, finds that median income for the top 10 percent rose 2 percent, to $223,200 from $217,900. Median income fell 4 percent for the bottom 20 percent, to $15,200 from $15,800.

For the middle 20 percent, incomes dropped 6 percent, to $48,700 from $51,800.


FCC to promote broadband choices

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that meaningful competition for high-speed broadband service is lacking in the United States and that the commission will take steps to promote more choices, particularly for wired in-home service.

The chairman, Tom Wheeler, said while high-speed broadband is available to most U.S. homes, a much smaller portion has a choice of more than one provider of service of greater than 25 megabits per second, what he called "table stakes" for the use of broadband's most valuable services.

Wheeler said the commission would not seek greater regulation but would encourage and promote competition where it does not exist, including rural areas. And he said the FCC would oppose mergers that reduce competition.

That potentially could affect the proposed acquisition by Comcast of Time Warner. Those companies do not compete head-to-head in any markets, but their merger would eliminate a platform that could expand to offer more choices for individual consumers.

One step the commission is contemplating is whether states should be allowed to ban municipalities from offering high-speed Internet service. Chattanooga's EPB has petitioned the FCC to be able to expand its high-speed broadband outside of its service territory.


Textile firm adding over 100 Georgia jobs

A textile manufacturing company is planning to add more than 100 new jobs during the expansion of a plant in south Georgia.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday that American Textile Co. is planning to invest $10 million in the expansion of its plant in Tifton and will create more than 100 new jobs over the next three years. The company is based in Duquesne, Pa.

Deal says the Tifton plant opened in 2011 and currently employs 200 people. Company officials said in a statement that the Tifton plant produces millions of bed pillows annually. American Textile Co. CEO Lance Ruttenburg says rising costs for shipping and overseas wages, and an increase in demand for American-made products has made expansion in the United States financially viable.


Toyota says cars will need drivers

Your car soon will do more to help avoid a crash. As for one day leaving all the driving to the vehicle while you relax in back, don't get your hopes up.

That's the message from safety executives at Toyota, who on Thursday promised by 2017 to have collision-prevention technology installed across its U.S. lineup, in both mainstream and luxury vehicles. But for now at least, every vehicle the company designs and builds will require someone in the driver seat.

Toyota expects by "mid-decade" to roll out a next-generation of safety systems in the U.S. that allow cars to steer themselves enough to stay in the center of a lane. And to keep the driver focused on the task at hand -- driving -- the cars will also feature a camera that monitors the driver's eyes and makes sure that hands are on the steering wheel. If the eyes drift off the road or hands come off the wheel, the car would issue a warning.

"In other words, a full-time back-seat driver," said Ken Koibuchi, general manager of Toyota's intelligent vehicle division.

Several other automakers already have lane-steering technology and driver monitoring systems, but often they're only available in higher-cost or luxury models. Toyota's system might eventually have the ability to warn you if your freeway lane is going away, or merging traffic could hit your car.

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