Randal Charlton has had a long, colorful career with plenty of ups and downs. In his 71 years, he’s done everything from tending dairy cows for a Saudi sheik to starting a jazz club in Florida. And as a lifelong entrepreneur, he has bought and sold 14 different companies.
Charlton’s last venture was a Detroit-based biotech company called Asterand, which he co-founded and then merged in 2006 with a U.K.-based competitor. He was 67 years old after the deal closed – a time when many would hang up their spikes and take it easy.
Instead, Charlton took on a daunting new challenge: fighting Motor City’s economic blight by building a successful business incubator for entrepreneurs called TechTown. Charlton raised $24 million from foundations and government, gathered together an impressive array of resources for training and start-up funding and recruited a small army of start-ups that have created a total of more than 1,800 local jobs.
TechTown is located in an old five-floor automotive plant with 130,000 square feet. When Charlton took over, just one floor was built out, and the center was running on loans guaranteed by nearby Wayne State University. Since then, the incubator has been home to 250 companies, and more than 2,200 entrepreneurs have graduated from its training programs. Last year, 14 TechTown companies received capital infusions totaling more than $1.35 million. The incubator has invested $700,000 directly in early-stage businesses and helped clients raise $14 million in follow-on funding.
Reference librarians are nothing if not precise, and Kevin Davey plotted his exit from the Chicago Public Library system with all the exactitude of a veteran fact-finder. His last day was Sept. 30 — just 48 hours after his 55th birthday and first day of retirement eligibility.
With his wife still working and the couple’s finances under control, Davey figures that he has the ideal plan in place. All that remains is to land a part-time job with another library to put the icing on the cake. But after submitting close to 20 resumes, Davey hasn’t fielded a single interview.
“Starving the beast” is a favorite conservative strategy for forcing cuts in federal spending. The idea is to deprive the government of revenue in order to force spending cuts – and resistance to new taxes is a central feature of the current Super Committee deliberations in Washington.
Advocates for older Americans are watching closely to see how the committee’s work might lead to retirement benefit cuts via a higher Social Security retirement age, smaller cost-of-living adjustments or higher Medicare eligibility ages. Meanwhile, a separate starve-the-beast exercise goes mostly unnoticed: a big squeeze on the administrative budget of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Is the U.S. economy heading for another recession?
Two investment strategists who spoke to a group of Thomson Reuters brokerage clients at a conference in Phoenix on Tuesday say the chances are slim. Despite the bear market blues, David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise, says a double dip recession is unlikely. The U.S. is destined to be in two percent growth environment for the foreseeable future — “or 2.5 percent, if we are lucky,” Joy says.
Rick Robinson, regional chief investment officer at Wells Fargo, who is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, told attendees the chance of a recession in the U.S. is about 35 percent. However, the construction and manufacturing industries in the U.S. are operating at “Depression-like” levels, he says.
Mark and Kathy Swezy of Englewood, Colorado embody what many Americans would call a rock-solid work ethic. Mark is a full-time purchasing manager at JoaQuin Manufacturing, while Kathy splits her time between her own graphic design business and a job at Nosh Nest, a high-end cookware and food shop in downtown Denver, Colorado.
Yet to hear Kathy Swezy tell it, the last two months have meant belt tightening on top of more belt tightening. “Over the last 60 days it’s been a little bit better, because I’m starting to get more graphic design work — but I really had to cut my rates, too,” she says. “So I’ve been buying school clothes at thrift stores, I’m using outdated software,and basically we don’t go out to dinner much at all.”
What’s the best way to tame our fears and become confident long-term investors? Let’s listen to what some of my favorite bears have to say and then take a look at the big picture.
Jobs, justice and peace. Have three themes ever been so intimately intertwined since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., championed this tri-partite campaign in his 1967 March on Washington?
Unemployment is ravaging the country, especially among urban minorities. Yet Congress has yet to put forward a comprehensive jobs plan to create employment. We’re still fighting two wars and garrisoning troops in Europe and Japan as the jobless rate soars at home. Debt reduction is still a priority over job creation.
Ratings agencies helped spark the financial meltdown of 2008-9, when they deemed that steaming piles of mortgage junk were brimming with triple-A goodness. They were wrong – and epically so.
Now S&P downgrades the debt of the entire country, further threatens to do so another notch, teams with fellow ratings agencies to bring Europe to its knees with each new appraisal and gets an assist for wiping trillions in wealth from investors’ portfolios in just a few days.
Retirement investors have struggled with a Jekyll and Hyde economy these past two years, where Dr. Jekyll lives very well on Wall Street while Mr. Hyde runs roughshod over a terrified Main Street.
On Main Street, the jobless rate tops 9 percent and 14 million residential mortgages are underwater – a figure Deutsche Bank thinks will hit 25 million, or 48 percent of all home loans, before the housing bust ends.
A quick trip around the Web today came up with a treasure trove of things to think about, from advice on what to do now, to historical perspectives to funny tweets. There’s analysis that says gold will go up, there’s analysis that says gold will go down. And there are worldwide repercussions that you might not have ever considered.