Business

Business news from Charlotte and the Carolinas. For more business news, listen to Marketplace every weekday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Duke Shuffles Executives

Dec 18, 2012
Duke Energy

Another Progress Energy executive is out at Duke Energy in the latest personnel shuffle of the merged companies.  A Duke Energy spokesman says changes required in a settlement with North Carolina utility regulators sparked a "domino effect."  

Seven top executives are shifting titles and roles in what resembles a game of musical chairs.

Duke CEO: Don't Fear The Fiscal Cliff

Dec 17, 2012
Julie Rose

The Charlotte business community gathered Monday for a diagnostic take on the U.S. economy from the city's top industries. Executives of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, Nucor and Premier health care alliance offered a grim picture of slow growth and high unemployment. 

If the U.S. economy had a life coach, every pep-talk these days would be along the lines of "Look pal, you gotta 'Fake it 'til you make it.' Confidence breeds success.  All this worry is bringing you down."

Ben Bradford/WFAE

The U.S. government and the nuclear industry are betting on new, much smaller nuclear reactors that can be mass produced in factories, and shipped around the world. 

"We are trying to jumpstart a new U.S. industry," says Assistant Secretary of Energy Pete Lyons. "That’s my goal: A U.S. industry, U.S. jobs, clean energy."

Last month the Department of Energy partnered with Charlotte-based nuclear company Babcock & Wilcox to finish development, in a deal that could total over $400 million. But critics worry that the model for the new reactor is flawed at its core.

Eat Local? Try Locally-Processed Food

Dec 10, 2012
Julie Rose

To "eat local" typically means dining on fresh produce, meat and dairy from nearby farms. But WFAE's Julie Rose discovered another way to "eat local" that is a thriving industry in the Charlotte region.

The Charlotte Regional Partnership estimates there are more than 200 companies processing food locally with some 15,000 employees and $5 billion in yearly sales.

Let's dine on the fruits of their labor.

First to the meat counter. Perdue and Tyson have huge poultry processing plants in our region.

A Sign Of Surging Construction In Mecklenburg

Dec 6, 2012
North Carolina Department of Transportation

Mecklenburg County is adding 18 new building inspectors, in response to an expected surge in construction, but that has not necessarily led to a surge in construction jobs.

Mecklenburg Code Enforcement Director Jim Bartl says his office has been steadily getting busier. By spring, he expects to be so busy that his office will need the new staff.

“What we’ve been observing, which is a trend for 21 months especially on the commercial side, is a slow climb out of the depths of the recession,” Bartl says.

An Ear Around Charlotte On Black Friday

Nov 24, 2012
Ben Bradford / WFAE

Super stores, including Walmart, K-Mart, and Target opened on the night before Black Friday this year. At the Target near Uptown, Juanita Stinson sketched out her shopping plan.

"I don’t plan on getting home 'til seven in the morning or later," Stinson says. "Go to sleep, get up around 3 in the afternoon, hit it again."

But, some people don’t approve of Black Friday’s encroachment into the holiday.

S&D To Add 200 Jobs In Concord

Nov 19, 2012
Nishant Khurana/flickr

If you’re a coffee drinker, there’s a good chance you’ve had a cup of S&D Coffee and don’t know it. The Concord-based company supplies McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Circle K, and Krispy Kreme, among others, with coffee, tea, and creamers. S&D has over 600 employees in the state and now plans to add another 200 to that count.

Lowe’s Home Improvement says its profits jumped 76 percent in the third quarter from the same period a year ago. The company headquartered in Mooresville says it made $396 million. Part of the increase comes from sales related to Hurricane Sandy.

flickr/Todd Austin

In the late 1990s, there were what were called "Crystal Meetings". Top executives from ten Asian-based tech companies met in hotels and bars in Taiwan to set the price of LCD screens.  In other words, price-fixing.

Charlotte Aims To Do Business With Local Startups

Nov 12, 2012

Charlotte has a reputation for fostering big business. Monday night the city council will vote on a plan to encourage the little guys - what it calls "High Growth Entrepreneurs."

Any small business with the potential to grow quickly fits the category – it could be a hot local restaurant starting to franchise, or a start-up with technology borne of a program at UNC Charlotte. 

Progress Boosts Duke Earnings, Challenges Ahead

Nov 9, 2012

Duke Energy says earnings in the third quarter rose 26%, primarily because it was the first full quarter to include Progress Energy.  That figure slightly exceeded analyst expectations, but questions remain about challenges Duke Energy faces going forward.

The list includes:

Duke Energy says earnings in the third quarter rose 26%, primarily because it was the first full quarter to include Progress Energy.  That figure slightly exceeded analyst expectations, but questions remain about challenges Duke Energy faces going forward.

The list includes:

Julie Rose

Chiquita Brands International announced a $67 million third-quarter loss Wednesday, but the company's new CEO Ed Lonergan  said that was better than he expected in a year beset with relocation expenses and volatility in European markets.  It was Lonergan's first earnings announcement since being hired last month to replace Fernando Aguirre. 

Can You Really Lift 100 Pounds?

Oct 25, 2012
Tasnim Shamma

If you’re applying for a job with a construction company and say you can lift 100 pounds, you better make sure you can do it comfortably. One Kannapolis employer is now using a new fitness exam for prospective hires aimed at reducing worker’s compensations claims.

At the Northeast Rehab center in Concord, physical therapist Sandie Warantz is showing off one of the first things someone applying for a position with the Wayne Brothers construction company might have to do.

BofA Gets Praise From Housing Counselors

Oct 15, 2012
Julie Rose

When Bank of America announces quarterly earnings this week, foreclosures and defaulting loans will once again be a key part of the equation.

The Charlotte bank has spent four years wading through a sea of troubled mortgages it took on with the 2008 acquisition of Countrywide. Along the way it's become a favorite target of vitriol - often landing on lists of "most hated institutions" in America. 

But recently, WFAE's Julie Rose discovered some of the people on the front lines of the foreclosure crisis are softening toward Bank of America. 

Julie Rose

The new CEO charged with restoring Chiquita's profits is on the job now and busy introducing himself to the company's 20,000 employees.

Just before speaking with WFAE, he met with an auditorium full of Chiquita employees clad in blue and yellow shirts. Lonergan was impressed.

"That's a really interesting thing for me, because I came here because I have passion for the legacy of this brand and the future potential that it has," says Lonergan. "I also came here because every person I met wears that passion on their sleeve, literally."

Teams Pull 50-Ton Airplane For Charity

Oct 9, 2012
Tasnim Shamma

Fifteen feet doesn’t sound like a lot, unless you’re pulling a 50-ton airplane. And that’s exactly what teams lined up to do at the U.S. airways hangar in Charlotte this morning. They weren’t there just to show off which team had the largest biceps. The goal was to raise money for United Way of Central Carolinas.

There were 26 teams of 20 employees, but Freight Flyers was the most anticipated team. After all, they’re the defending champs.

Helping The Unemployed Learn On The Job

Oct 8, 2012

Sheila Hemphill is a grant specialist with Charlotte Works. She interacts with a lot of job seekers – including many who have been unemployed for a very long time.

Chiquita Names New CEO

Oct 3, 2012

Chiquita's new CEO is better versed in selling soap than bananas, but the company's board believes it needs a someone with turnaround experience right now and Edward Lonergan is their choice. 

News of CEO Fernando Aguirre's exit from Chiquita last month caused some angst in Charlotte. He's been ever-present around town and on Twitter as the charismatic, bow-tie wearing face of the company. . . not to mention the man city leaders dealt with in wooing Chiquita's headquarters here with significant incentives.

Getting a mortgage modified should be significantly easier as of today - assuming five of the nation's largest lenders deliver on promises they made in a $25 billion settlement signed six months ago.

Today is the deadline for Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally Financial to implement hundreds of improvements to customer service for home loans.

Bank Websites Under Cyber Attack

Sep 26, 2012

The websites of several major U.S. banks, including Wells Fargo and PNC, are under cyber attack today. Reports of trouble accessing online banking are pouring into the tracking website Sitedown.co, says founder Jeff Herdell.

"They're referred to as DDoS attacks," explains Herdell. "Hackers will take over many computers and direct floods of traffic at these bank sites in hopes that the service will be disrupted and go down temporarily. So it's more of a nuisance than anything, but it's very significant right now."

Charlotte Companies Sued For Foreclosure Fraud

Sep 26, 2012

The North Carolina Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against three mortgage loan modification companies on Friday. Two of the three companies are based in Charlotte.

According to the lawsuit, one of the companies, Community Mortgage Assistance Program, charged customers up to $1,500 in advance. 

Koy Chiu is executive director of the company. On her website, Chiu advertises: “TIRED OF MODIFICATION SCAMS?! KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! SAVE YOUR HOME TODAY!”.

Reports Of New BofA Layoffs Misleading

Sep 20, 2012
MoneyBlogNewz/Flickr

Headlines Thursday were full of news that Bank of America will cut 16,000 jobs by the end of the year. But the headlines can be misleading.

These layoff reports give the impression that every few months there's another major bloodletting at Bank of America. In fact, this latest 16,000 number - and others we've heard in recent months - are all part of the same job cuts announcement Bank of America made last September -  30,000 jobs it said it would cut.

At that time, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan described a plan to get the bloated bank back to its fighting weight.

Small Towns Left Behind In N.C. Recovery

Aug 25, 2012
Dougtone/Flickr

Almost all North Carolina counties have a lower unemployment rate than they did a year ago. But the latest job numbers show that the state’s economic recovery is much more concentrated than that.

Here’s a simple theory to explain job growth: do you live near an interstate?

"Most of the improvements in the state’s unemployment rate are coming along the I-40 and the I-85, I-95 corridors," said Allan Freyer, an analyst for the N.C. Budget and Tax Center.

Freyer said big cities off the interstates are the only places really recovering in North Carolina. 

Lowe's Earnings Fall Short Of Expectations

Aug 20, 2012

Lowe’s home improvement earned 10 percent less from May to August than it did last year. The Mooresville-based company now says it won’t make as much money this year as it had previously estimated.

Lowe’s earnings fell short of its own expectations and Wall Street analysts’.

The nation’s second-largest home improvement chain has been restructuring. A big part of that is making it easier for customers to shop online, on mobile devices and in the stores. CEO Robert Niblock said on a conference call with investors the company is making progress on those initiatives.

Blended Duke/Progress Fleets Bring Savings

Aug 16, 2012

The merger between Duke and Progress Energy is still under investigation by state regulators, but that hasn't stopped the companies from moving ahead with the marriage.

They're actually obligated to start generating significant savings for customers right off the bat. Much of those savings originate in a heavily-secured room full of computer screens at Duke's Uptown headquarters.

As marriages go, Duke and Progress are a blended family in the Carolinas, not unlike the Brady Bunch.

Chiquita CEO Shares Lessons On The Way Out

Aug 15, 2012
Tanner Latham

Layoffs and cost-cutting are underway at one of the most recent marquee companies to relocate to Charlotte. Chiquita Brands International announced a restructuring plan last week that will cut 300 jobs in the coming months, including 15 here in Charlotte. . . and that CEO Fernando Aguirre is on his way out.

It was a disappointing surprise for the Charlotte business community, but not for Aguirre.

He was pleased to see banana pudding on the menu for business leaders at a Rotary club lunch yesterday

Duke CEO Reassures Florida Regulators

Aug 13, 2012

Duke CEO Jim Rogers again took questions from regulators today - this time in Florida, where the company now has a presence thanks to its merger with Progress Energy.

Some Charlotte hotel and restaurant managers aren't as thrilled as local officials about a possible merger between US Airways and American Airlines. They're worried it will mean fewer customers. A group of them has sent a letter to the mayor and city council addressing their concerns. 

Chiquita To Cut Jobs, CEO Stepping Down

Aug 7, 2012
Tanner Latham / WFAE

Chiquita Brands International, which recently relocated its headquarters to Charlotte, announced plans to cut 300 jobs and replace CEO Fernando Aguirre. The company is restructuring to address lagging profits and save at least $60 million a year. The impending job cuts will touch all levels of the company, but Aguirre told investors Chiquita is still committed to Charlotte.

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