Work starts to pick up

Once again, G.D. Gearino reviews the year that was, putting such a spin on it that 2011 feels quite dizzy.
By G.D. Gearino

 

Or you could rename it the Christo Westin and jack up the room rate.
Charlotte had to close a downtown light-rail station and portions of two streets after a chunk of aluminum sheathing on the 300- foot-tall Westin hotel detached and fell 24 floors. The city reopened the station and streets only after the hotel wrapped two sides of the building with a special net to prevent more pieces from falling.

“Rockn gem prty my pad thrsdy! C U there!”
Concluding that traditional advertising wasn’t working, Charles & Colvard, the Triangle-based manufacturer of Moissanite gemstones, announced it would move into social media, reaching out to bloggers and engaging online commenters. It also said it might try Tupperware-style home parties.

Makes sense only when you realize “healthy” is defined as “least sick.”
GBuilder magazine forecast that the Raleigh-Cary housing market would decline only 10% in 2011, prompting the publication to proclaim it the healthiest of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. Durham-Chapel Hill ranked third.

Forgo the cigarette for a post-coital vaccine.
Medicago, a Montreal-based biotechnology company, opened a plant in Research Triangle Park to make H1N1 flu vaccines from tobacco. The “noxious weed” — as early smoking foe King James I of England referred to it — has an easily modifiable genome that makes it useful for pharmaceutical purposes.

Within a month, they figured out how to bundle subprime mortgages and sell them to suckers, uh, investors.
To get a first-hand feel for finance, two dozen Charlotte high-school students got training from a local credit union and started an after-school bank at Harding University High. It opens every Tuesday to handle transactions for students, faculty and family members.

Cost to keep employees who have no other prospects? Billions.
DRegulatory filings last year showed that Charlotte-based Bank of America had earmarked $3 billion to cover charges related to its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, including money to retain executives. Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, questioned why the bank needed to pay them to stay when Wall Street was laying off people: “I don’t think anyone was out there hiring.”

Thus will no AmEx customer ever hear again: “Hello, kin I hep y’all with something?”
New York-based American Express closed its call center in Greensboro, moving its 1,900 jobs to other locations such as Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

Actually, sir, they’re bathed in a sugary glaze.
TA contributing analyst to the Motley Fool investment-advice website was unimpressed by Winston-Salem-based Krispy Kreme’s plans to double the number of its international stores within five years. Calling the company a “one-trick pony” doomed to eventually run out of markets, the analyst asked, “Where do you go if all you’re selling is donuts bathed in the neon and fluorescent glow of faux roadside Americana?”

Meanwhile, Anderson Cooper goes to 361 to avoid confusion.
After announcing an acquisition that would nearly double its size, Durham-based public-health organization FHI changed its name to FHI 360.

And keep those scruffy Occupy people away. They’re so 1968.
ATo clinch the deal to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Charlotte officials had to agree to a long list of demands. Among them: promise to replace the blue seats in the Time Warner Cable Arena if the Dems decided they didn’t like them, provide up to 350 cars with drivers, have 100 color-television sets and 1,500 two-way radios on hand, make 50,000 square feet of Class A office space available, maintain temperature in the arena at no more than 72 degrees with a humidity level of no more than 50% and create a recycling program “acceptable to the DNCC.”

OK, as long as we’re demanding the truth, can we ask the feds about that guns-to-Mexico thing?
The nation’s three largest cigarette manufacturers — including Winston-Salem-based Reynolds American and Greensboro-based Lorillard — objected to the Justice Department’s proposal that they pay for an advertising campaign in which they confess that they misled the public about such things as second-hand smoke and low-tar tobacco and that they correct each with a sentence that begins: “Here’s the truth.” The companies complained that the campaign wasn’t designed to provide information to consumers as much as it was to “shame and humiliate” them.

Good thing it wasn’t even better, or it could have been a thousand.
After announcing its best year ever — showing a profit of $358 million — Matthews-based retailer Family Dollar laid off 100 employees.

“Sorry. When you said ‘assets,’ I thought you were just talking about the money looted from investors.”
After the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Greensboro investment adviser Stan Kowalewski for alleged misuse of clients’ money, his assets were frozen by a federal judge. Neighbors told SEC officials that he later held a series of weekend yard sales at his $1.7 million estate, peddling high-end kitchen fixtures, doors, cabinets, granite countertops and almost anything else that could be pried loose.

What’s even better is that the overseas market for chitlins is totally untapped.
A Ukranian billionaire bought a bankrupt poultry-processing plant in Siler City and announced plans to ramp up exports of chicken thighs and legs. “In Ukraine, Russia, the Middle East and North Africa, people love dark meat,” a spokesman said.

Wasn’t this mentioned as an endtime event in the Book of Revelation?
he ailing economy even caught up with the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament in 2011, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. Once a rare and highly valued commodity, unsold tickets were in abundance last spring. Scalpers occasionally were faced with selling tickets at a loss. One fan paid $300 for a booklet of tickets — almost 25% below face value.

How about this: We promise not to give extra credit for hiding the decline?
N.C. State University announced plans for a graduate course of study in its Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department. It would lead to a master’s in “climate change and society,” the university said, but administrators understood that getting funding might be a tough sell to the new Republican majority in the General Assembly — many of whom are skeptical of climate change.

The name doubles, so should the boss’ salary.
After Charlotte snack maker Lance merged with Pennsylvania-based Snyder’s of Hanover to form Snyder’s-Lance, the company revealed that CEO David Singer’s compensation had nearly doubled to $4.5 million annually.

As Fitzgerald once noted, “The rich are different than you and me.”
Concluding that it wasn’t sufficiently serving the needs of high-net-worth clients, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo is forming a boutique business — with about a third of its 300 employees based in North Carolina — to offer wealth-management, investment and banking services to clients with at least $50 million of assets. The operation will use pyschologists to help staff understand the social values of their new clients, an executive said.

Existential question of the day: Is it even possible to craft a nonleering headline for this story?
The Charlotte Observer reported that a North Carolina private-equity investor appeared to have won the bidding to buy Hooters of America, the Atlanta-based restaurant chain best known for hiring shapely young women to serve food while dressed in tight T-shirts and barely decent shorts. (The Observer’s headline combined the words “firm” and “Hooters.”)

Well, yeah, but this is a turkey burger.
PBoddie-Noell Enterprises, the Rocky Mount owner of more than 300 Hardee’s restaurants, gave its blessing to a TV commercial featuring a former Miss Turkey stripping down to a bikini while eating a turkey burger as a group of men stare. The conservative, family-owned company previously had refused to air in its markets similar Hardee’s commercials that featured beautiful, provocatively clothed women eating hamburgers with evident pleasure.

Six-figure monthly mortgage payments are nature’s way of saying you own too many homes.
AQuintiles Transnational CEO Dennis Gillings and wife Joan underwent a highly public divorce, during which they squabbled over how to divide their 23% ownership of the Durham-based global contract-research organization, as well as who should shoulder the family’s $130 million debt. Court records showed payments on their seven homes and other obligations totaled $8 million per year.

Except for all those who’ve been let go. They’re called “history.”
As business expanded beyond basic banking, BofA, which had called those on its payroll “associates,” had to expand its vocabulary. It now also uses “colleagues,” “teammates” and, yes, “employees.” Seems “associate” is a job title in investment banking.

Better to brew than brood.
Why is everybody so hoppy? For the third year in a row, Asheville was voted “Beer City USA” in an online poll in recognition of its preponderance of craft brewers.