Chattanooga panel OKs job-creating iFixit warehouse project and more business news

Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / A banner bears the logo of iFixit on their new Chattanooga facility.
Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / A banner bears the logo of iFixit on their new Chattanooga facility.

iFixit warehouse plan approved by city panel

A project that's adding more than 200 jobs to Chattanooga's Onion Bottom won approval Thursday from a city panel for a parking lot improvement and a site change to better enable the use of a loading dock.

Micah Duffey of ASA Engineering, representing the planned iFixit service facility and warehouse, said after a meeting of the city's Form-Based Code Committee that an extensive renovation is on schedule at an existing 60-year-old building at 812 E. 12th St.

The company is investing $24.2 million to buy, renovate, equip and staff what was an abandoned warehouse that originally housed Dixie Produce Co. California-based iFixit had sought approval to add curb cuts to the site for the loading dock and to allow a church nearby to better access the parking lot which it uses.

Although iFixit does not repair equipment itself, it provides the tools, kits and instructions to help others make repairs for everything from cellular phone repairs to patching a leaky fuel tank. On iFixit's website, hundreds of repair guides are offered on a variety of consumer products for free. The company makes its money selling tools and repair kits for those doing the repairs.


Mortgage rates decline after rising for 2 weeks

After two straight weekly increases, the average long-term U.S. mortgage rate came back down again this week but remains a significant hurdle for many prospective homebuyers.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the benchmark 30-year rate fell to 6.33% from 6.48% last week. A year ago the average rate was 3.45%.

The average long-term rate reached a two-decade high of 7.08% in the fall as the Federal Reserve continued to boost its key lending rate in its quest to cool the economy and tame inflation.

At its final meeting of 2022, the Federal Reserve raised its rate 0.50 percentage points, its seventh increase last year. That pushed the central bank's key rate to a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, its highest level in 15 years.


DOJ charges LA bank with illegal redlining

The Justice Department accused Los Angeles-based City National Bank on Thursday of discrimination by refusing to underwrite mortgages in predominately Black and Latino communities, requiring the bank to pay more than $31 million in the largest redlining settlement in department history.

City National is the latest bank in the past several years to be found systematically avoiding lending to racial and ethnic minorities, a practice that the Biden administration has set up its own task force to combat.

The Justice Department says that between 2017 and 2020, City National avoided marketing and underwriting mortgages in majority Black and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. Other banks operating in those neighborhoods received six times the number of mortgage applications that City National did, according to federal officials.

The Justice Department alleges City National, a bank with roughly $95 billion in assets, was so reluctant to operate in neighborhoods where most of the residents are people of color, the bank only opened one branch in those neighborhoods in the past 20 years. In comparison, the bank opened or acquired 11 branches in that time period. In addition, no employee was dedicated to underwriting mortgages at that one branch, unlike branches in majority-white neighborhoods.

"This settlement should send a strong message to the financial industry that we expect lenders to serve all members of the community and that they will be held accountable when they fail to do so," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who leads the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a statement.


Nurses strike ends at New York hospitals

Thousands of nurses at two New York City hospitals ended a three-day strike Thursday after reaching a tentative contract agreement that union officials said will relieve chronic short staffing and boost pay by 19% over three years.

Nurses began returning to work Thursday morning at Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center. Each of the privately owned, nonprofit hospitals has over 1,000 beds and 3,500 or more union nurses, represented by the New York State Nurses Association.

Nurses are set to vote next week on ratifying the tentative deals, which union President Nancy Hagans called "truly groundbreaking."

"They set a new standard for safe staffing, for respect and for quality care for all," she said at a news conference.

Mount Sinai said its proposed agreement was "fair and reasonable, and it puts patients first." Montefiore, which agreed to hire 170 more nurses, said it worked to ensure nurses "have the best possible working environment, with significant wage and benefit enhancements."

"We know this strike impacted everyone -- not just our nurses -- and we were committed to coming to a resolution as soon as possible to minimize disruption to patient care," Montefiore said in a statement.


American Airlines raises profit outlook for quarter

Higher airfares and strong demand for travel pushed American Airlines above pre-pandemic profit levels for the recently finished fourth quarter, the company said Thursday.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines expects to make a profit of $768 to $803 million for the October to December stretch, nearly twice as much as the $414 million it made in the fourth quarter of 2019, the last quarter before the COVID-19 pandemic upended the industry.

It's the first time American has been able to best pre-pandemic earnings.

American lost $10.9 billion combined for 2020 and 2021, even after accepting $12.8 billion in payroll support grants from the federal government, the most of any carrier.

American reports its fourth-quarter and full 2022 earnings on Jan. 26 but has been giving investors previews a few weeks in advance for the last two years.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner

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