Articles

INVESTING: As seeds of market decline are cast here, look to Japan

Japan has been a stock market dog for 15 years. The Japanese economy is the world’s second-largest and its resurgence after World War II is amazing, but the country has been a trap for investors. That picture might be changing. Let’s go over some history first before we talk about why Japanese stock makes sense today. By the early 1970s, Japan had lifted itself out of the war’s destruction. Then the manufacturing companies there got a miracle: the first oil…

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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Job growth, other factors portend stronger economy

While it’s not quite the job creation engine it was in the late 1990s, the newcentury U.S. economy is still one of the brightest stars on the global stage when it comes to growth. Last month’s strong employment gains, on the heels of upward revisions to overall growth and productivity, should put to rest any fears that the national economic expansion will be foundering anytime soon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, payrolls at U.S. business establishments grew by…

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GERALD BEPKO Commentary: Chicago World’s Fair is model for Indiana

Cities seem to progress in stages with moments of decline, growth, exceptional energy, and, at times, a sense of destiny. For many years, Indianapolis has been a city on the move, a little like Chicago in 1893 when it hosted a World’s Fair. Chicago sought to shed its frontiertown image and establish itself as a city of global consequence. It beat out New York, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., for the right to host the fair. In hosting it, Chicago…

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Local buyout specialist attracts $43 million: Hammond Kennedy Whitney & Co. targets M&A

In 2002, it took Glenn Scolnik and his partners 85 road shows to raise $57 million for their new management buyout fund. They just raised another $43 million with a single presentation. “Our investors agreed we needed more money. It was a very easy fund-raise,” said Scolnik, president and CEO of locally based Hammond Kennedy Whitney & Co. “You don’t want to crow too much, because it’s not over ’til it’s over. Until you realize an investment, you only have…

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BULLS & BEARS: Americans’ lack of savings shouldn’t be misconstrued

One trait Americans have perfected is fretting. We are the most anxious of all cultures at a time when our prosperity is at its peak. According to the Federal Reserve Board’s flow of funds accounts, Americans’ household assets and net worth are at alltime highs, home ownership and homeowners’ equity are at all-time highs, and we have more money in the bank and money-market funds than we’ve ever had. Still, we are popping anti-depressants like popcorn. Even after all the…

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Software firm on the rebound: Move to private status, restructuring help Made2Manage move into profitability

Made2Manage Systems Inc. is beginning to make strides, both in profitability and perception, since completing its metamorphosis from a public to private enterprise 18 months ago. The software maker that staged its initial public offering in 1997 posted a peak loss of $4.7 million four years later amid a soft economy. Its health improved the following year in 2002, when losses totaled $690,000. But by then, Made2Manage executives had concluded an investor-led acquisition would be the best elixir to nurse…

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BEHIND THE NEWS: Setbacks smudge image of Obsidian CEO Durham Stock is down Snapping up firms

Tim Durham tells reporters he wants to be the richest man alive. His office sits atop the Bank One Tower, the state’s tallest building. For fun, he adds to his collection of four dozen collector cars. But behind the glitz, Durham is trying to untangle what’s become a real mess at Obsidian Enterprises Inc., the publicly traded manufacturing and transportation firm he controls and leads. In a regulatory filing last week, Obsidian’s independent accounting firm, Minnesota-based McGladrey & Pullen, expressed…

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Auctions bucking tradition: Sales method no longer last resort in real estate

In the not-so-distant past, a real estate auction meant one of only two things. “It used to be who died or who went bankrupt,” said Bob Getts, local director of auction services for Indianapolis-based commercial real estate brokerage Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. But over the last decade or so, real estate auctions have come out of the shadows, and are no longer viewed as a last resort for owners desperate to unload a property. These days, no property is considered…

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Celluloid tax credits?: Incentives for movie makers getting bipartisan support

House Bill 1639 would put in place a hefty set of tax incentives for companies making movies, television shows, music videos, commercials and corporate videos on Hoosier soil. Though the bill has bipartisan support in the House, a similar measure was spiked last year because of concerns over lost tax revenue. Even the bill’s author thinks there could be a fight over the measure in the Senate. Those who think the idea of drawing movie producers to Indiana is far-fetched…

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Eco suit spawns flurry of litigation: Class actions hit Honeywell in wake of thermostat fight

Industrial powerhouse Honeywell International Inc. suddenly finds itself under siege by an army of aggressive class-action attorneys-all because it decided to mess with a couple of determined entrepreneurs from Lebanon. Attorneys from around the nation in recent months have filed six class action lawsuits in state courts charging New Jersey-based Honeywell used deception to obtain the trademark for its ubiquitous round thermostat, then used its lock on the round-thermostat market to overcharge customers. T h e l eg a l…

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Herff Jones considers global acquisition: Deal to buy George F. Cram Co. is in the works

Sources close to Indianapolis-based George F. Cram Co. said the 139-year-old maker of globes and maps is being sold to Herff Jones Inc., another local company with deep roots. Cram officials did not return phone calls seeking comment. But sources said Cram officials have indicated the sale is done. Officials for Herff Jones-an employee-owned maker of school-related items including caps and gowns, yearbooks and high school diplomas-said the deal is not yet imminent. “We’re in conversations, but we’re not ready…

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Special Report: MURKY MISSION: Vague directive dilutes 21st Century Fund’s high-tech impact

When directors of Indiana’s 21st Century Research and Technology Fund convened in May 2003, they’d already doled out $70 million in state grants over three years to fund h i g h – t e c h innovation a n d w e r e preparing to u n l e a s h another $60 million. But you wouldn’t know it after reading minutes from that meeting. They show a rollicking debate broke out over the 21st Century’s Fund’s…

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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: GDP figures demonstrate Fed’s rate hikes hit mark

Here’s something to try the next time you find yourself mingling with your friends at a party. Strike up a conversation about GDP. You know, GDP. Gross Domestic Product? It’s the total output of everything we produce in the economy. Oh, well, never mind. But even if it’s generally true that talk of GDP’s ups and downs elicits blank stares, some of us devour the news. That’s because the speed-up and slowdown of overall economic growth can affect the policies…

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IDEM levies fewer fines: Air pollution violators account for half of state’s penalties

Four of the 10 largest environmental penalties levied against Indiana companies in 2004 involved air pollution violations, an area of regulation likely to come under renewed focus after the first-ever “fine particulate” health warning was issued last week for Marion and five other counties. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which sounded the alarm, assessed $1.2 million in air pollution penalties last year-almost half of the $2.4 million in 1999, according to state records. The decrease in air penalty amounts…

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Employers target obesity through wellness programs: Overweight workers contribute to higher health costs

Companies enjoy seeing an increase in their bottom line as a reflection of positive growth. They don’t, however, like to see growth in employee “bottoms,” as evidenced by a national obesity epidemic that is becoming a public health crisis and is cutting into corporate profits through increased health care costs. A study by the not-for-profit, nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health reported that nearly 119 million American adults-65 percent-are overweight or obese. The group warns that obesity may soon overtake tobacco…

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VIEWPOINT: Lack of basic skills hurts competitiveness

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There is a businesseducation slant to the age-old argument. The business community contends that the state’s colleges and universities are not producing enough graduates to meet their needs. Highereducation advocates, on the other hand, say the qualified graduates are in place, but a lack of jobs within Indiana sends them packing to other states. We’ll leave that argument for another day. There is another major workplacepreparedness issue, however, that is rightfully drawing…

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Area deals reach new pinnacle: Anthem’s $22.7 billion purchase of Wellpoint heads busy year for acquisitions

In 2004, Indianapolis had plenty of both, crushing all previous local merger-andacquisition records. IBJ tracks business deals larger than $5 million involving area companies in which financial terms are available. Last year, there were 56 of them, worth a grand total of $31 billion. Anthem Inc.’s massive $22.7 billion acquisition of Wellpoint Health Networks Inc. led the pack. Before 2004, $17 billion was the most M&A activity Indianapolis had ever seen in a single year. All by itself, Anthem’s deal…

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Partners bet on Capitol block: Shiel Sexton teams up with Gregory & Appel to redevelop old factory

An Indianapolis contracting company is deepening its near-north-side roots-and exploring another avenue of the real estate business-with a multimillion-dollar plan to renovate and rent out an 85-year-old building just blocks from its Capitol Avenue headquarters. Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. has agreed to spend more than $5 million on the 60,000-square-foot brick building at 1402 N. Capitol Ave., restoring the property to its former glory and transforming it from industrial to office use. The company also is seeking tenants for a…

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VIEWPOINT: We stand on the shoulders of black business giants

In a recent conversation with a family member regarding the lack of African-American businesses in the high technology, life sciences and larger manufacturing arenas, I began to wonder, “What are the barriers that prevent African-Americans from entering business? Are conditions worse now than in the past when we seemed to have greater representation in these areas?” Some will say it is the lack of access to capital. Some will point to the continued aura of racism and prejudice, while still…

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VIEWPOINT: We’re trying to save the wrong brains

I always wonder what people are talking about when they lament Indiana’s “brain drain.” Statistics usually follow, detailing the college graduates taking jobs in other states. It is perhaps a contrarian’s viewpoint, but we should, in fact, encourage these young people to go seek their fortunes. The fact that they are leaving is a symptom, not the problem. Our problem is there are not enough Hoosiers who can create the jobs that could employ our young graduates. We do have…

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