Economy

Ring maker remakes industry with big buyout: Herff Jones' purchase of American Achievement to narrow roster of rivals to two; deal may be worth $700MRestricted Content

May 26, 2008
Tracy Donhardt
Herff Jones Inc.'s latest acquisition is a whopper that will remake the competitive dynamics of its niche industry-the sale of high school rings, yearbooks and other products that help mark educational milestones. The Indianapolis-based company this month agreed to buy American Achievement Group Holding Corp., a deal that would reduce the roster of Herff's major competitors from three to two. Herff has $511 million in annual revenue, while American Achievement has $315 million. Terms were not disclosed, but Dow Jones'...
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Dwindling unemployment trust nears crisis point: Fund that once held $1.6 billion may face insolvencyRestricted Content

May 19, 2008
Peter Schnitzler
Indiana's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund is running out of money-fast. It opened this decade with $16.6 billion in assets. By the end of last year, it had dwindled to $302 million. And last month, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said the balance was just $80 million. Though DWD in early May received $300 million in taxes collected from employers, the infusion is only a shortterm fix. By year's end, the fund is expected to be short on cash again....
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Symphony Bank results keep hitting sour notes: CEO hopes to succeed by taking bank 'to the people'Restricted Content

May 19, 2008
Cory Schouten
Symphony Bank's palatial branch along East 96th Street-outfitted with a copper roof, towering domed ceiling and heated parking lot-was designed to telegraph wealth and stability. But instead, the $5 million Taj Mahal became the most prominent symbol of the bank's excesses and one reason the startup has lost money every year since its founding in June 2005. The bank, which has no other branches, has torn through two management teams and piled up annual losses of $2 million or more...
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Steak n Shake hopes discounts whet appetites: Yet some fear promotions may hurt the brandRestricted Content

May 19, 2008
Chip Cutter
In an effort to reverse declining sales at its restaurants, The Steak n Shake Co. plans to roll out a number of new promotions and discounts this summer. During a conference call with analysts May 14, interim President Jeffrey Blade said the Indianapolis-based chain plans to introduce deals such as 99-cent children's milkshakes and discounted burgers and sandwiches to lure customers back into its stores. The company also is testing $1 kids' meals, a discounted milkshake "happy hour" from 2...
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EDITORIAL: Pricey fuel isn't all bad: Pain at pump creates opportunityRestricted Content

May 19, 2008
Pricey fuel isn't all bad Pain at pump creates opportunity The high cost of fuel hurts everyone, from commuters to business owners to not-for-profits whose volunteer drivers deliver meals to shut-ins. Our whole economy suffers. But there's a silver lining to gas for $4 a gallon: opportunity. If the price of fuel isn't coming down, and that seems to be the prevailing wisdom, the only thing to do is adapt. It's in adapting that there's opportunity to be found and...
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Land banking: Banks grab top sites for branches, often years before they buildRestricted Content

May 19, 2008
Cory Schouten
Many of central Indiana's banks are filling their own safe-deposit boxes, but they're not stuffing them with jewelry, legal documents or blackmail material. They're banking parcels of land. The sites often are in fast-growing suburbs or redevelopment areas that hold potential for new brickand-mortar bank branches, sometimes several years down the road. Competition can be fierce for the prime sites, and other financial institutions aren't the only nemesis for banks: Walgreens and CVS also are fighting over the best ground,...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Why the arguments against free trade don't hold waterRestricted Content

May 12, 2008
Mike Hicks
Americans are in a tough spot when it comes to negotiating free trade agreements. With the exception of a small Scandinavian country and a couple of European principalities, everyone we trade with has lower wages, weaker environmental standards, and less personal liberty. So it is easy to argue that we shouldn't trade with a country until it becomes like us. This is the siren song of economic catastrophe. Here's why. First, countries don't trade with each other; people do. The...
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BEHIND THE NEWS: Area's humdrum economy now looking pretty goodRestricted Content

May 12, 2008
Greg Andrews
Hoosier executives aren't exactly crowing about the Indianapolis-area economy these days. But they're painting a brighter picture than you might think, especially compared with the carnage they see in what used to be the nation's hottest markets. Here's what Simon Property Group CEO David Simon, not one to lavish idle praise, said during a February conference call with analysts: "I think the Midwest has been flat for I don't know how many years, other than Indianapolis. Indianapolis seems to be...
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Commentary: We manage traffic Rube Goldberg-styleRestricted Content

May 12, 2008
Brian Williams
Rube Goldberg was an engineer by training who rose to prominence not for his engineering skills but for his political cartoons, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. Goldberg was also famous for his cartoons that depicted whimsical machines with complex mechanisms to perform simple tasks. Goldberg's fantastic contraptions served as an inspiration for the annual Rube Goldberg competitions held at colleges, universities and high schools across the country. In years past, students have been required to develop...
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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Despite some perceptions, future for IT workers brightRestricted Content

May 12, 2008
Jim Jay
In mid-March, Bill Gates traveled to Washington to carry an unpopular message to Congress: Raise the limits on visas for foreignborn tech workers, or Microsoft and other high-tech companies will be forced to move more jobs overseas in search of a skilled work force. Gates' testimony to the House Committee on Science & Technology wasn't groundbreaking-the shortage of tech workers is well-documented. But it begs an obvious question: Why have computer science enrollments at U.S. colleges and universities fallen by...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: A healthy economy makes an uninteresting campaignRestricted Content

May 5, 2008
Mike Hicks
In this curious primary season, Indiana finds itself the brief center of attention as Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama invest time and treasure in the crossroads of America. The strongest focus in both their campaigns is my favorite subject-the economy. Both candidates bemoan the poor Hoosier economy, its job losses and income inequality. This would be a superb campaign approach for both candidates, except that their claims are wholly, totally and embarrassingly devoid of facts. Indiana's economy is doing...
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INVESTING: Don't follow the crowds; follow these wise menRestricted Content

May 5, 2008
Ken Skarbeck
There are many things I do not understand. I don't understand why a golf gallery must remain "pin-drop" silent while a person hits a ball that sits stationary on a tee, yet fans can scream at the top of their lungs while a batter tries to hit a ball coming toward him at 95 miles per hour. I also don't understand how economists take massive amounts of conflicting economic data, input the statistics into a model, and, presto, out comes...
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Car makers turn up pressure for bigger, but fewer, storesRestricted Content

May 5, 2008
Chris O'Malley
Domestic automakers were already scheming about new ways to chop dealers--cutting costs to service them--as their market share drained to Toyota and other foreign competitors. Now, an economy standing on the brakes could drive another round of dealer consolidations that might not be a good deal for family-owned peddlers of metal.
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Commentary: At BMV, obscurity is sign of successRestricted Content

May 5, 2008
Mickey Maurer
There are professions in which you are never noticed until you screw it up-the center of a football team when he snaps the ball over the quarterback's head, the business assistant when he or she brings the wrong set of papers to the closing, and the bus driver who-after 20 years of safe driving-rear-ends the rock star's limousine. Included in this list is the CEO of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Do you remember Joel Silverman, former commissioner of...
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Davis Homes faces lawsuits; DayMarc out of businessRestricted Content

May 5, 2008
Cory Schouten
A depression in the home-building market has claimed a Fishers builder and continues to hammer locally based Davis Homes LLC--a powerhouse for years that now is facing foreclosure on about 80 home sites.
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Turnaround specialists in demand: Economy creating opportunities for Periculum Capital, other firmsRestricted Content

May 5, 2008
Peter Schnitzler
Even storm clouds have silver linings, if you know where to look. Likewise, even a slowing economy has market opportunities, for those who can adjust. Economists haven't agreed yet about whether the U.S. economy has slipped into recession. But Indianapolisbased investment banking firm Periculum Capital Co. LLC isn't waiting for the official call. Known since 1998 for its expertise in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions, Periculum is beefing up its expertise in business restructuring. "Most people who build businesses...
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VIEWPOINT: Is Indiana prepared for recession?Restricted Content

May 5, 2008
Myron Kanning
Each day, the headlines are filled with r e c e s s i o n - r e l a t e d news. Some predict a pending recession, while others outline pre-emptive actions of the Federal Reserve, Congress and the president. During the 2000-2002 recession, Indiana did not perform well. Indiana lost more jobs than the national average, and its recovery lagged behind the nation's. In fact, Indiana's jobs still have not recovered to the pre-recession level. If...
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NOTIONS: Indiana: See Hillary run against Jack, Bill & BarackRestricted Content

April 28, 2008
Bruce Hetrick
On the eve of the allegedly crucial Ohio presidential primary, I e-mailed a friend in Columbus to ask what it's like in a state where primaries matter. Her response spoke of endless phone calls from volunteers and machines, get-outthe-vote visits to her neighborhood, yard signs everywhere, nonstop commercials on TV and candidate visits galore. I lamented that Indiana would never experience such a thing. I stand corrected. Thanks to the never-ending Democratic contest between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack...
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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Making green make sense in a competitive marketRestricted Content

April 28, 2008
Robert Stefanski
Day after day, the news seems filled with stories of disruptive credit markets, an economy teetering on recession, and increasing energy costs. As business professionals grapple with such issues daily, why would commercial real estate professionals consider the time and effort to "go green"? Historically, green initiatives suffered in part from stereotypical "tree-hugger" false perceptions. Such perceptions may lead people to believe that green investments simply aren't worth it. The truth? The real focus has always been the efficient use...
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BEHIND THE NEWS: Is it time for investors to bite on Steak n Shake?Restricted Content

April 28, 2008
Greg Andrews
It takes courage, but sometimes the best time to invest in a stock is when almost no one else is. That strategy paid off royally with Finish Line Inc., whose shares are up 180 percent this year. Now, is the time right to dive into The Steak n Shake Co.? To be sure, naysayers can find plenty of reasons to steer clear of Steak n Shake, which helps explain why shortsellers-investors who make their money when shares fall-have flocked to...
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Former Duke retail executive ready for first solo project: Schembre preparing to break ground on $15M Lawrence CommonsRestricted Content

April 28, 2008
Scott Olson
A former Duke Realty Corp. executive who hung up her own shingle last year is close to breaking ground on her first project. Cindy Schembre, 49, launched Via Retail Development LLC in January 2007 and is negotiating with tenants and closing on the purchase of 11 acres at 56th Street and Mitthoeffer Road. The $15 million project, known as Lawrence Commons, is an 80,000-square-foot neighborhood center that is slated to break ground in June. The development includes a 45,000-square-foot anchor...
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Soaring cost of gas makes ethanol blend more competitiveRestricted Content

April 28, 2008
Chris O'Malley
Prices of an alternative fuel that's had patriotic and environmental appeal--but not an economic one for motorists--have been flirting this month with gasoline on an energy-equivalent cost basis. The sudden but often fleeting price appeal of fuel "E85," a blend of ethanol with a dash of gasoline, is due largely to gas prices soaring to nearly $4 a gallon.
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Defaults also hit business property: Experts expecting bump in commercial loan woesRestricted Content

April 28, 2008
Scott Olson
In the few short months since Gordon Hendry began leading the Property Management Division for the local office of CB Richard Ellis, the firm has become involved in a growing number of commercial loan defaults. Locally, CB Richard Ellis is the courtappointed receiver for Plainfield Crossing, a 92,000-square-foot West Washington Street strip center anchored by Value City, and for Crooked Creek Center, a 52,000-square-foot center at 79th Street and Michigan Road. Hendry expects the local office will be assigned to...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Recession speculation is wrong way to use brainpowerRestricted Content

April 28, 2008
Mike Hicks
With all the media warnings on the state of the U.S. economy, it is hard to get a good idea what a recession is and what it might mean for Hoosiers. The formal definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth. We haven't had even one quarter where real growth dipped below zero, and the weakerthan-usual employment data of the first three months this year won't be enough to pull the economy into a recession. The...
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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: As business property taxes rise, who really pays the bill?Restricted Content

April 28, 2008
Brian Mann
All Indiana counties revised property tax bills as a result of an outcry by thousands of homeowners who fought back when they saw their 2007 tax reassessments and bills. Assessors had to go back to work and try again. So, they did. The new bills are out, and while it may be good news for homeowners, you can bet commercial property owners aren't turning cartwheels in the parking lot. The average assessment for commercial properties (where you shop, work and...
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