IBM remains coy about layoffs
IBM has begun laying off thousands of employees at facilities throughout the United States and Canada, according to multiple media reports, though the company has thus far refused to comment on specifics. The move comes shortly after the company fell short of Wall Street’s expectations and posted one of its worst quarters in eight years—with first-quarter revenues down 5% compared to last year. When asked if the company shakeup might impact IBM’s pending Baton Rouge project, LED Secretary Stephen Moret deferred comment to IBM spokeswoman Lisa Lanspery, who says, "It is IBM’s practice not to comment publicly on this matter." In an email, Lanspery adds that "IBM remains committed to the success of the center" planned in downtown Baton Rouge, which the company claims will bring "800 new technology positions" to Louisiana over the next four years. IBM is touting an "invitation-only hiring event" on Friday in an email that was sent out by the LSU Alumni Association. "Get in on the ground level and be part of a team of Application Development Specialists learning on-the-job while building in-demand technical skills," the invitation reads in part. State and local officials say the IBM project will be a "game changer" for Baton Rouge and Louisiana, although it’s questionable whether the company has delivered on those sorts of claims in other cities. —David Jacobs
Small businesses continue to prefer email, still learning social media
The results of an annual survey by Cox Business show that small business owners and managers across the nation still prefer email for most communication and remain reluctant to engage in social media. "Generation Y often claims that email is dead, yet 40% of respondents said email is the tool most critical to the success of their daily communication over cell phones, social media and personnel," reads a summary of the survey findings. "In fact, social media accounted for only 5% of business owners and managers' daily communication success." Managers of small businesses are hesitant to use social media as part of their marketing mix, with 33% of the 605 respondents saying they don't use social media at all to market their business. Technology is not seen as an obstacle to small business, at least for the most part, with more than half of the respondents agreeing emerging technology enhances their business as opposed to being disruptive. However, while 37% said they're comfortable with how they and their businesses are evolving with the technology, 32% said they don't feel that they can keep up. When it comes to entrepreneurial idols, respondents of this year's annual survey selected the late Steve Jobs as their favorite, followed by Ben Franklin and Walt Disney. You can find more results from the survey here.
Today's poll question: What is your most common method of communicating with coworkers and clients throughout the workday?
B.R. hotel rates boosted 32% by LSU football games
On any given Saturday when the LSU Tigers are not hosting a football game in Baton Rouge, the average rate on a hotel room in the city is about $80. But when the Tigers are in town, that average jumps by 32% to about $105. And while that’s certainly a nice boost for area hoteliers that have come to rely on strong bookings during game days each fall, it’s nowhere near the largest increase for hotel stays among the nation’s preeminent college football cities. That’s according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, which cites Smith Travel Research data. Tuscaloosa, Ala., sees the highest average hotel rate increase due to football games: from roughly $72 to about $175 on Alabama game days—an increase of 144%. "Surprises toward the bottom of the list [of SEC cities] include 10th-place LSU, whose football patrons apparently opt to stay in nearby New Orleans—or their RVs," reads the article. You can take a look at the complete list and read the full story here.
Wiser medication use could cut health costs by billions, study stays
If doctors and patients used prescription drugs more wisely, they could save the U.S. health care system at least $213 billion a year. Specifically, researchers conclude, the savings would result from reducing medication overuse, underuse and other flaws in care that cause complications and longer, more-expensive treatments. The new findings by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics improve on numerous prior efforts to quantify the dollars wasted on health care. Experts previously have estimated that tens of billions, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars, could be better spent each year to improve patient care and outcomes and to slow down spending by government health programs, insurers and consumers. The institute, part of data analysis and consulting firm IMS Health, used its proprietary data on prescriptions written by doctors—many of which patients never fill—plus other information to produce a current, more reliable estimate of avoidable costs solely related to medication use. IMS arrived at the $213 billion figure through analyses in six categories in which doctors, patients or both could be making better use of medication: from getting a prompt diagnosis when new symptoms arise to taking medicines as directed by the doctor. The $213 billion theoretically saved equals nearly 8% of the more than $2.7 trillion the U.S. spent on health care last year. Those billions could pay for the health care of more than 24 million Americans currently uninsured, according to IMS. Read the full story from The Associated Press here.
Federal fracking study won't be done until 2016
An Environmental Protection Agency official has informed a fracking conference in Ohio that a study of the threat to drinking water from the shale-drilling process won't be completed until 2016. That's the word from Jeanne Briskin, coordinator of hydraulic fracturing research at the EPA's Office of Research and Development. She spoke Tuesday at a two-day conference on the subject held in Cleveland. The Akron Beacon Journal reports that Briskin says the EPA could release a preliminary report late next year. She described the work as "complex research." Congress in 2010 directed the agency to investigate the threat to groundwater and air from the controversial hydraulic-fracturing process. Critics say it is harmful to the environment.
Investors looking to Fed for answers on economy today
Worry and speculation have consumed investors since Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke to Congress last month about the Federal Reserve's drive to keep long-term interest rates at record lows. Today, many hope the Fed will settle the confusion. Will the Fed scale back its $85 billion-a-month in bond purchases within "the next few meetings," as Bernanke suggested during his remarks to Congress? Or does the job market remain too weak for the Fed to slow its stimulus, as Bernanke said at another point? The Fed's bond purchases have been intended to hold down long-term loan rates to induce Americans to borrow and spend and invest in the stock market. Ultra-low rates are credited with helping fuel a housing comeback, support economic growth, drive stocks to record highs and restore the wealth America lost to the recession. Conflicting statements from other Fed officials have further clouded the outlook for the bond-buying program. That's why the pressure for the Fed to clarify its message has intensified in recent weeks. The Associated Press has an overview of four key Fed events taking place today and what investors can expect from them here.
News roundup: B.R. firm among 2013 Lantern Award winners … LSU, Southern boards must list scholarship awards … DEQ gets $500K from Temple Inland for 2011 spill
Manufacturing success: Baton Rouge-based Moran Printing Inc. is one of eight Louisiana companies being honored with a 2013 Lantern Award for manufacturing excellence and community service. LED honored all of the award winners at a private reception at the Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday. One winner is selected from each of the state’s eight Regional Planning and Development Districts. You can see all of this year’s Lantern Award winners here.
Naming names: Members of the LSU and Southern University system governing boards will have to disclose which students receive scholarships from them. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the requirement into law Tuesday. The bill by Baton Rouge Sen. Dan Claitor requires the boards to post the list of their scholarship recipients annually on their websites and to provide a list to the Legislature. The lists are due by Aug. 1 each year.
Pay day: Louisiana has received a $500,000 check as part of Temple Inland's sentencing for polluting the Pearl River in August 2011 with illegal discharges of a substance known as black liquor from its Bogalusa paper mill. The discharges killed more than 160,000 fish and more than 430,000 freshwater mussels. The payment covers the costs of monitoring for and responding to chemical spills.