Fence manufacturer adds 162 jobs in Tennessee

Barrette Outdoor Living, a manufacturer of fencing, railing and exterior products, announced Thursday that it invest $33 million and create 162 new jobs in Bulls Gap, Tennessee where it has operated since 2001.

With a workforce of more than 700 employees, Barrette Outdoor Living is one of Hawkins County's largest employers. Barrette will add 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space, including four new extruders, co-extruders and cooling tanks as well as additional fabrication and packaging equipment.

Barrette was founded nearly 100 years ago in Canada and employs approximately 2,000 people today across North America. As the leading North American supplier of exterior home products to the residential market, Barrette Outdoor Living manufactures and distributes vinyl, aluminum, steel and composite fencing and railing, composite decking and other outdoor products.

"Job creation in rural Tennessee is crucial to our state's economic success, and I thank Barrette Outdoor Living for its investment in Hawkins County," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said.


Billionaire club grows as stocks boost wealth

One of the world's most exclusive clubs just got a new member, with a second aspirant knocking on the door.

Steve Ballmer, the former chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., has a net worth of more than $100 billion, making him the ninth person in the world to reach that lofty plateau. Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison fell just short of making it an even 10, ending Wednesday with a fortune of $98.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Ballmer, 65, who stepped down as Microsoft's CEO in 2014 and now owns the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, has seen his wealth grow by $20.1 billion this year, while Ellison has added $18.9 billion.

A rally in tech shares has fueled the latest surge in wealth, with seven of those above the $100 billion mark deriving their fortunes from technology companies. Inc.'s Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person, has been among the biggest recipients of that rally and now has a record net worth of $212.1 billion.

Together, the nine members of the club — along with Ellison — have added about $245 billion to their fortunes since the start of the year and are now collectively worth $1.36 trillion. In addition to being mostly technology chiefs, the group is also largely American, with French luxury goods mogul Bernard Arnault the only exception.


Mortgage rates decline again

Mortgage rates continued to fall this week, tracking a decline in yields on Treasury securities as the bond market continues to signal concerns over the strength of the recovery from the pandemic recession.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average for the 30-year home loan eased to 2.90% from 2.98% last week. By contrast, the rate stood at 3.03% a year ago.

The rate for a 15-year loan, a popular option among homeowners refinancing their mortgages, fell to 2.20% from 2.26% last week. Freddie Mac economists expect economic growth to gradually push mortgage rates higher in the second half of the year.


Toyota ends gifts to election deniers

Toyota Motor Corp. will no longer donate to members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 election in January, including all GOP members of Congress from Tennessee and most of the Republicans in Georgia, the company said Thursday,

The move follows an announcement earlier in the day that The Lincoln Project, a political action committee founded by Republicans to help defeat former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, would be releasing a series of advertisements directed at companies that donated to policymakers who opposed certifying the election on Jan. 6, beginning with Toyota.

Like many other companies, Toyota announced it would temporarily withhold and review PAC donations after Trump supporters mobbed the U.S. Capitol building and after 147 Republicans objected to the Electoral College results from select states later that evening.

But the company's PAC resumed donations to some of those members as early as Feb. 4 with a donation to Rep. Alex Mooney, R-West Virginia, according to campaign finance filings. The company went on to donate a total of $56,000 to Mooney and 37 other Republicans who opposed certifying the results, according to an analysis by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit ethics watchdog group.

Other corporate donors included Boeing, Koch Industries, Lockheed Martin, Walmart, PNC, U.S. Bancorp and more.


Mazda recalls 261,000 cars

Mazda is recalling nearly 261,000 older small cars because a plastic emblem on the steering wheel can shatter if the air bags are inflated, causing injuries.

The recall covers certain Mazda 3 cars from the 2004 through 2007 model years.

Mazda says in documents posted Thursday by U.S. safety regulators that the emblem can shatter and send plastic fragments into the vehicles.

The company says in documents that it has 10 reports of injuries outside the U.S. Also, two lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. alleging injuries.

Dealers will replace the air bag module cover. Owners will be notified starting Aug. 28.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner