2004-12-03 / Business

Business Briefs

By John Temple Ligon

Chickens come home to roost

Realtor Charles Gary had a deal with the city, at least he thought he had a deal with the city. Gary was the city’s real estate agent for the land play to locate the first convention center Hilton, the one scrapped because of its unworkable, unprofitable business plan. Gary signed the city’s memorandum of understanding (MOU), where Gary and the other players agreed, “If the City determines that it is not feasible to proceed with the hotel project it shall have no liability under this MOU.” On the other hand, if the city acquired real estate through Gary, the city could be stuck with covering Gary’s fee. At the time, Gary was council member Cromartie’s client. Architecture firm Stevens & Wilkinson also signed the MOU, but somehow city council voted to pay S&W almost $700,000 in design fees for a building never to be built. S&W really didn’t design a whole lot. They farmed that out to TVS of Atlanta, an architecture firm known for hotel work. TVS also designed the convention center. Who’s left to be paid? According to a letter to city council from lawyer I. S. Leevy Johnson last June, the development team threatened to collect $5 million in expenses if their deal fell through, which it did.

More chickens come

home to roost

Columbia Ventures, dominated by Myrtle Beach developer Burroughs & Chapin, still wants Richland County to reimburse them for expenses incurred putting together their $1 billion Green Diamond deal. The deal was killed due to grass roots objections and due to the flood-plain positioning of the project. Apparently like the city’s Hilton “done deal,” Columbia Ventures had every assurance to move forward. Those assurances fell through, and Columbia Ventures is out millions. What’s being announced this week for the USC Research Campus, however, is a direct result of the failure of Green Diamond. Upon abandoning Green Diamond, USC immediately moved on plans to locate its Research Campus in an urbane insertion between Assembly Street and Huger Street. Its five million square feet should include 1,000 multifamily housing units, 500,000 square feet of flexible commercial retail space, 1.25 million square feet of direct USC use, 1.2 million square feet of office and partner space, and 800,000 square feet of research labs.

Cheap dollar boosts trade

Don’t complain, SC, the cheaper dollar sells more goods abroad. And as we try to get honest with ourselves and close on the fiscal deficit, those raised exports should help an otherwise lowered economy. In the meantime, there are some outrageously cheap air fares around the world to get Americans up and out. The flight is cheap, but once you get there you have to pay about 50% more than just a few years ago. Remember when the euro was below 90¢? Now it’s running around $1.32.

Exchange courts small investors

E*trade, the online discount brokerage outfit, is buying Chicago Mercantile Exchange memberships, a move to lower trading cost and to tap into the exchange’s growing range of futures aimed at smaller investors. Futures are contractual agreements to take delivery of a commodity or index such as government bonds, wheat, the Standard & Poor’s stock index, and even Hillary’s cattle at a specified future date. It’s a great way to gain, and it’s an easy way to go broke. Already online with E*trade, we’ll have to try it and report back here. Hillary, remember, mysteriously made a fast $100,000 on cattle futures when cash was a little tight at home.

Immigrants excel

The National Foundation for American Policy recently released its study on American high school students. Of the top science students, 60% are children of immigrants. Of the top math students, 65% percent are children of immigrants. And they stick with it. More than half of our professional engineers with Ph.Ds are foreign born.

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