Friday, March 30, 2012

Waiting for word on Idaho Falls Best Buy store

Best Buy has announced it will be closing 50 stores in the coming fiscal year, but there is no news yet whether its store in Idaho Falls, No. 944, will be affected.

The retailer on Thursday reported a $1.7 billion loss for its fourth quarter, which ended March 3. Along with the store closures, Best Buy also plans to eliminate about 400 jobs in its corporate and support areas. The goal, the company said in a statement, is to achieve $800 million in cost reductions by its fiscal year 2015.

So far, the only specifics the company has offered has been in a canned e-mail: On Thursday, March 29, we notified employees at five stores in the Twin Cities area, and one store in the San Antonio area, that their stores will close later this year as Connected Store remodels are completed in their markets.

The company plans to cut costs by $250 million in FY 2013 and by $800 million by FY 2015. "We are quite deliberate and thoughtful when we make such decisions," Best Buy spokeswoman Susan Busch Nehring said over email. "We are working to ensure the impact to our employees will be as minimal as possible, while serving all customers in a convenient and satisfying way. We will announce details about specific store locations and timing for closings once they are finalized."

As part of the company’s new strategy, Best Buy will remodel some of its big box stores with what it calls a “Connected Store” format. These stores will “focus on connections, services and multi-channel experience through a total transformation of both the store and the operating environment.”

Stay tuned. Consumer spending may be up, but consumer spending patterns are changing faster than anyone can make heads or tails of.

Titanic Remembrance Teas planned at Stillwater Mansion

Page 1 of the New York Times, April 16,1912
There's little more than two weeks before the centennial of history's most memorable shipwreck, the Titanic, which sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 2012, around 2:20 a.m.

For moviegoers, director James Cameron has remastered his 1998 film "Titanic" to 3-D. That should be interesting, but if you're looking for something more intimate The Stillwater, 387 N.Water Ave., will be hosting a Titanic Remembrance Tea every Tuesday in April at 6:30 p.m.

The Ladies Tea Guild of South Eastern Idaho are helping to put the events on, but members of the public can make reservations by calling (208) 200-4473 or e-mailing stillwatermansion@hotmail.com.

The first event, this Tuesday, will feature storyteller Teresa Clark presenting accounts of the Titanic's survivors and music by the White Star Orchestra.

My favorite account of the Titanic comes from book called "The Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic," by John Malcom Brinnin (Delacorte Press, 1971). Brinnin is mainly a poet, so I thought I might share a passage from his account.

The unsinkable ship, the most superb technological achievement of her time, the dreamed-of sign and symbol that man's mechanical skill would carry him into a luminous new world of power, freedom and affluence had become, in the words of one contemporary dirge, "the most imposing mausoleum that ever housed the bones of men since the Pyramids rose from the desert sand." Nothing had gone wrong. Everything had gone wrong. The odds on a ship such as the Titanic hitting an iceberg and foundering under the blow were calculated at a million to one. With devastating and absolute precision the Titanic and her officers had in the space of four days surmounted these odds. Designed to survive anything that man or nature could bring to bear against her, the great ship could not survive even the first voyage of the twenty-five or thirty long years of sea-going for which she was built.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Irish pub planned for old Hub Bar site

For years it was known as the Hub Bar and for a brief time it was Shooters, but the building at the northeast corner of Broadway and Park Avenue is going to have a radically different look and feel by this summer. State Rep. Janice McGeachin and her husband, Jim, have got framers busy inside transforming the interior into an Irish pub. No word on what the name will be or the exact opening date, but here is a picture of the work that's going on as well as an artist's rendering of what the property is going to look like inside and out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Busted! Why, Google, why?

Looks like I've managed to tick off Google, which has informed me that it has yanked my AdSense account. Not that it was doing me a lot of good. In three months I hadn't even reached the $100 threshold, when money would have gone into my bank account. Yet earlier this month I received this e-mail:

After reviewing our records, we've determined that your AdSense account
poses a risk of generating invalid activity. Because we have a
responsibility to protect our AdWords advertisers from inflated costs due
to invalid activity, we've found it necessary to disable your AdSense
account. Your outstanding balance and Google's share of the revenue will
both be fully refunded back to the affected advertisers.

Apparently, the Web giant, which reported net income of $2.71 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, was concerned that people might have been clicking on my Google AdWords with intentions that were less than sincere.

I confess. I wrote a smart alecky piece in Idaho Falls Magazine suggesting to readers that if they saw an ad on BizMojo Idaho that struck their fancy I wouldn't be opposed to them clicking on it. I hinted that if I made enough money from Google AdSense there might be a party at Carl's Jr. sometime, where we could all enjoy juicy burgers.

I can appeal this, and I might, but I'm more curious than anything. Did someone get carried away? Was I ratted out? Or is Google all-knowing and all-seeing? I have a hard time believing someone as small as myself would show up on their radar screen or cause them any concern at all, but I guess I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

The ultimate irony, I suppose, would be getting dinged on the Web for something that appeared in old-fashioned print. I believe the truth will emerge in the fullness of time, but it still might be more complicated than anything I can understand.

Next in the Biting-the-Hand-That-Feeds-You-Department: Has Facebook Turned Into a Turkey?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A less frantic picture at this year's job fair

I don't think there's a better way to take the temperature of the local economy than to attend a job fair like the one held this morning as part of the Mayor's Business Day.

The last one I went to, in 2010, there was an air of desperation at odds with the bankers and business people onstage at the Civic Auditorium that morning, all talking about how the recession was over. It wasn't, as we all found out. People told me about being out of work for months, about single job openings receiving more than 300 applications.

Whether it was the time of day -- morning rather than late afternoon -- or the actual economy, this year's job fair was comparatively laid back. The Idaho Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area's unemployment rate for February was 6.5 percent, way below the state and national averages. Idaho has posted seven straight months of declining unemployment.

Will Jenson
Rob Smith
Jessica Clapp
"You can have a decrease because people have stopped looking for work, but in our case it's because people have been finding work and the labor market has been growing," said Will Jenson, regional economist in the Idaho Department of Labor's Idaho Falls office.

While the unemployment rate is the same as it was in February 2011, the number of job postings online and in the paper was up 24 percent in 2011 over 2010. That has shown no sign of collapse in the new year.

Jenson said the housing market is still down, but the decline in construction jobs has slowed. The segment of the economy that has been up sharply has been leisure and hospitality, which he feels indicates an increase in consumer confidence.

If eastern Idaho's unemployment doesn't drop as far as other parts of the country, it will only be because it hasn't had as far to decline. Jenson said he expects the local unemployment figure to be between 5.5 and 6 percent in the second half of this year. Beyond that, a lot will depend on the federal budget. Between Pocatello and Rexburg, 20 to 25 percent of the jobs are linked to the Idaho National Laboratory.

If you can see it coming, it's not as bad, he said. "When people have a timeline, they have time to plan. It creates a softer landing for them. We've been through it before and we'll go through it again in the future. It's nothing new to us."

Elsewhere at the job fair, here's what people had to say:

Fred Rhoads of Waddell & Reed said he would be happy if could find one good entrepreneurial person for his team. In early December, Waddell & Reed moved to expanded offices in the Taylor Crossing on the River development. "People are starting to feel more optimistic. I think (they) are realizing they need to do something with their investment dollars."

Representing Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, JoAnn Cummings pointed to three pages of positions that the Idaho Falls hospital has open. "At the hospital, we constantly have opportunities," she said.

Still, she is not without friends who have been anxious to find work. "In this market, it depends a lot on what your skill set is," she said.

Rob Smith of Idaho Falls was at the event in hopes of finding a part-time job that would suit his degree and background in accounting while he pursued a mechanical engineering degree at Idaho State University.

Smith, 32, got a degree in accounting from BYU-Idaho, but discovered that the earning potential wasn't what he thought it was. "The compensation wasn't what a lot of us expected coming out of school," he said. To earn the more than $40,000,"the only way you can get that is if you're a CPA or really lucky," he said.

Jessica Clapp, 22, said she was looking for a job as an administrative assistant or something in information technology. Since graduating from Idaho Falls High School in 2007, she has worked for two call centers (Qwest and Center Partners), in food service and retail. Since last July, when she was sidelined by a health problem, she has been living with her parents while looking for work.

"I'm looking for a career, not a job," she said.