2009-04-17 / Business


Briefs by John Temple Ligon

Municipal power Los Angeles, Calif. is a municipal power city, as is Austin. Tex. Municipal power cities produce and/or purchase wholesale electric power and sell it to their citizens at a slight mark- up. That slight mark- up is a tax, as is the profit margin SCE&G charges its customers. In each case the mark- up is a tax because the customers are buying a necessity, electric power, from a monopoly with no choice over source or price. The difference is SCANA/SCE&G distributes its profits around the world as dividends to its shareholders, while a municipal power city transfers its profits to city hall to hold down property taxes. Orangeburg, S.C. is a municipal power city, and Orangeburg buys its electric power in bulk from SCE&G and sells it to its citizens for less per kilowatt hour than what SCE&G's Columbia customers pay. Now Orangeburg wants to switch its electric power source from SCE&G to Duke Energy because Duke can sell to Orangeburg for less than SCE&G. The North Carolina Utilities Commission won't allow it. The commission claims Duke would use its existing customer base to support its delivery of electric power to Orangeburg. Duke says that isn't so. Duke says wholesale deals spread its costs, helping with prices across its customer base. Duke and Orangeburg are working together to determine how to proceed. Duke can turn a profit in the Orangeburg arrangement, and the people of Orangeburg can get cheaper electric power than what they're paying SCE&G. Listening to all this, Columbia? How much money could Columbia transfer from a municipal power system to offset property taxes? Austin reportedly transfers more than $95 million for fiscal year 2008- 2009. That's $95 million the property owners in Austin save in property taxes.

Minority report The Education Trust reports South Carolina minority and lower- income students have raised their scores, narrowing achievement gaps on standardized reading and math tests. The Education Trust report says the eighth-grade math performance by black South Carolina students ranked ninth in the nation when compared with similar students in other states and the District of Columbia. The Latino South Carolina students ranked eighth in the country.

UNC basketball value Even before it won this year's NCAA tournament, the basketball team at the University of North Carolina was

rated the country's No. 1 in value, according to Forbes

magazine. Forbes' rankings are based on the money the teams contribute to their universities and local communities. UNC's team is good for $25.9 million, the most in the country. No. 2 is the Kentucky Wildcats.

International trade The 36th annual South Carolina Trade Conference is scheduled for May 26- 28 at Charleston's Riviera Theatre and the adjoining Charleston Place Hotel at the corner of Market and King. About 400 delegates are expected. Registration costs $425, which includes meals and six networking sessions. Speakers include Charles Bierbauer, Emmy award winning anchor for CNN and dean at USC's College of Mass Communications and Information Science. For further information visit www.scspa.com/SCITC/scitc.asp

The low and the high in unemployment — where to relocate and where to avoid The major U.S. metro areas with the lowest unemployment rates: Salt Lake City, Utah (4.6%); Honolulu, Hawaii. (5.2%); Ogden, Utah (5.2%); Oklahoma City, Okla. (5.2%); Omaha, Neb. (5.2%); Des Moines, Iowa (5.3%); Madison, Wis. (5.3%); Albuquerque, N.Mex. (5.4%); Baton Rouge, La. (5.4%); New Orleans, La. (5.5%); Washington, D.C. (5.5%). The 18 major U.S. markets with jobless rates of 10 percent or more: Fresno, Calif. (15.7%); Stockton, Calif. (15.1%); Bakersfield, Calif. (13.8%); Toledo, Ohio 13.3%; Youngstown, Ohio. (13.1%); Detroit, Mich. (13.0%); Riverside- San Bernardino, Calif. (11.8%); Providence, R.I. (11.5%); Cape Coral- Fort Myers, Fla. (11.5%); Dayton, Ohio (10.9%); Charlotte, N.C. (10.5%); Greensboro, N.C. (10.5%); Sacramento, Calif. (10.4%); Grand Rapids, Mich. (10.3%); McAllen- Edinburg, Tex. (10.1%); Los Angeles, Calif. (10%); Las Vegas, Nev. (10%); Bradenton- Sarasota, Fla. (10%).

Atlanta's evolving editorial page The Atlanta Journal- Constitution is sending its editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker to Washington as a columnist. She won the Pulitzer for commentary in 2007. Tucker is being replaced by Andre Jackson, the paper's current senior business, federal and state news editor. Before coming to the AJC, Jackson was the business editor

of the St. Louis Post- Dispatch.

The Marriott pulls back freebies After a recent 25 percent decline in demand by customers at its 2,600 U.S. hotels, Marriott International is reducing distribution of free guest newspapers. Instead of leaving papers at every door every morning, Marriott will begin asking guests at check- in if they would like a complimentary paper. Marriott started giving guests free copies of USA Today about 25 years ago, and guests

today can choose from USA Today, The Wall Street

Journal, and a local paper, maybe a weekly.

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