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More crude oil travels by train, and communities along rail lines grow concerned

Thu, 2014-02-06 08:29

Ever lapsed into daydreaming while you sit at a railroad crossing, waiting for a long freight train to go by?

When a fatal oil train explosion in Quebec last summer killed 47 people and flattened a downtown, people aren't daydreaming anymore. That disaster served as a wake-up call to a lot of people living close to railroad tracks, who suddenly realized that was crude oil rolling by in tanker. As oil trains have had more accidents, and governments are examining the safety of rail oil shipments, some local residents are applying the brakes on what they see as a dangerous rush to move oil by train.

There are, however, powerful economic reasons why more oil is being shipped by rail, rather than through pipelines.


Reporter Sarah Gardner talked with Graham Brisben, CEO and founder, PLG Consulting, about moving oil by train:

Q: How much crude oil are we moving on trains?

A: It's certainly growing. It's up to about 400,000 carloads per year today. Although crude by rail gets a lot of attention -- it's a big focus in the media partly because it's an area of growth for railroads, but also because there have been a number of high profile crude-by-rail accidents -- the reality is it's only 2 to 3 percent of total car loadings for the railroads.

Q: Why are they using trains to move oil to refineries?

A: Initially, when crude by rail got started, it occurred in the Bakken play in North Dakota. The initial idea was to use rail to get crude to market simply to bide the time until pipelines were built out with enough capacity. But once crude oil got going, the commodity traders and the exploration and production companies realized that rail gave them faster transit times, the ability to ramp up more quickly than pipelines, and the ability to take the crude oil to different destinations where a higher price could be received for those barrels.

Q: There's not just one price?

A: No. Because crude oil trades at different prices at different places according to oil benchmarks (like West Texas Intermediate, Light Louisiana Sweet and Brent).

Q: Won't crude by rail go away when more pipelines get built?

A: As the pipeline network gets built out in a north-south direction, the flow of crude from the Bakken in North Dakota will have more of a shift from rail back to pipeline. But going east-west, that business will persist. You're simply not going to see a buildout of pipelines going east-west. It's simply cost-prohibitive to go over the Rocky Mountains, for example.

Q: What about tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada?

A: That oil is coming to market both by pipeline and now, increasingly, by rail. First, it was the light, sweet crude out of the Bakken. Now, it's heavy sour Canadian crude going to U.S. refineries.

Q: Who's making money on all this?

A: Obviously this has been a bright spot for the railroads. And tank car builders and leasers have enjoyed some very flush returns. The other beneficiary has been commodity traders who take advantage of those price spreads. It's also a good time to be in the refining business because of abundant domestic supply. They're in a better position than they were five years ago.

Q: Federal regulators are moving to increase safety standards in light of recent accidents. Will those new regulations affect the economics of crude by rail?

A: Crude by rail is economically attractive enough to warrant the hard work it is going to take to improve safety. The measures that can be taken, in reality, aren't all that difficult. We expect regulations on retrofitting tank cars with crude oil. Also it wouldn't surprise me if there end up being routing guidelines away from population centers, along with the speed restrictions. And greater scrutiny of terminal operations.

Q: Railroads seem very old-fashioned somehow. Could we live without them?

A: Could we live? Yes. Could our economy survive without railroads? No.

PODCAST: Layoffs in tech and retail

Thu, 2014-02-06 08:27

There are job cuts and there are companies that announce plans to cut jobs. The outplacement firm Challenger Grey and Christmas keeps a monthly tally of the latter, and there's news just now these layoff announcements surged in January. A combined total of 45,100 jobs will eventually go, including many jobs from the supposedly screamingly-hot world of technology.

The governor of Tennessee wants to make community college or technical school free for all high school graduates in the state. Republican Governor Bill Haslam calls his proposal the Tennessee Promise. It's part of a broader workforce development strategy in a state that lags behind in higher education, but wants a technically savvy labor pool.

European foreign ministers this month are meeting with officials in Cuba to work out a new agreement on trade and investment. What might this mean for Cuba's still tenuous relationship with the U.S.?

Twitter's good earnings report just doesn't cut it for investors

Thu, 2014-02-06 08:16

Twitter released it's first quarterly earnings report yesterday. And the little bluebird did better than expected, earning two hundred and 42 million dollars in revenue last quarter. But investors aren't happy this morning, because growth in the number of Twitter monthly users was not sky high. Twitter's stock has dropped 20 percent so far this morning.

Brian Blau is a research director for consumer technologies at Gartner and joined us to help explain.

Click play on the audio player above to hear the interview.

How easy should it be to join a labor union?

Thu, 2014-02-06 08:00

The National Labor Relations Board proposed changes to the rules that govern how workers vote on whether or not to unionize. The new rules make it easier for workers to organize by allowing them to distribute information electronically and by shortening the election period.

Under the current system, if workers want to form a union they have to file a petition and then hold an NLRB-sanctioned election. Before the election is the appeals process. Labor organizers argue this system allow employers to delay elections.

“The idea is to eliminate those tactical maneuvers,” says Thomas Kochan, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The new rules would move the appeals process to after the election, thereby shortening the period between the petition and the election. 

The U.S. Chamber of commerce and other business groups oppose the rule change.

“They feel like these rules are going to have the effect of silencing employers,” says Geoff Burr, Vice President of Government Affairs at The Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group that represents 22,000 predominantly non-union construction businesses. 

The 5 member board of the NLRB is divided with three democrats in favor of the rule change and two republicans opposed.  Both sides will have 75 days to weigh in on the rule change before a public hearing in April.

European officials to consider new trade with Cuba

Thu, 2014-02-06 07:24

European foreign ministers this month are meeting with officials in Cuba to work out a new agreement on trade and investment. What might this mean for Cuba's still tenuous relationship with the U.S.?

Enrique Acevedo, a Miami-based reporter and anchor for Univision joined us to help answer that question. Click play on the audio player above to hear the interview.

Opinions on Cuba, of course, vary widely.  Enrique's network is just finishing up its surveys for a nationwide poll on the attitudes of Americans toward Cuba, which Univision plans to release next week. 

When tech jobs don't last forever

Thu, 2014-02-06 07:08

There are job cuts and there are companies that announce plans to cut jobs. The outplacement firm Challenger Grey and Christmas keeps a monthly tally of the latter, and there's news just now these layoff announcements surged in January. A combined total of 45,100 jobs will eventually go, including many jobs from the supposedly screamingly-hot world of technology.

John Challenger is CEO is the company that commissions the survey and said that while the tech industry has seen a lot of growth, it's also subject to a lot of volatility. Companies like Intel and EMC are shifting their business strategies to account for the mobile market.

Many of the announced layoffs are part of a trend we've been tracking in recent weeks, with retailers like Target, Sear's, Macy's laying off after the holidays.

"The cuts that occured in retail came from two sources," Challenger says, "They looked at their store operations and cut unprofitable areas of their businesses post-holiday rush, but also tens of thousands of workers, year-in-year-out, leave their jobs -- they've been hired during the holiday season -- and then when the season's over, they go back to their full-time jobs or second jobs. Those jobs literally disappear when the season's over and come back in the following year."

The government's monthly tally of employed and unemployed comes tomorrow, a report that experts say could be distorted by the weather and people falling out of the labor force after their unemployment benefits were curtailed.

New York's Fashion Week spreads out from its uptown hub

Thu, 2014-02-06 06:14

In New York today amid the grey slushy snowbanks will be a crush of Lincoln town cars and Uber Limos, as Fashion Week officially begins. Fashion week is spreading out from its fancy, uptown hub and one of the people responsible for that is Jenné Lombardo, the co-founder of MADE Fashion Week which helps promote more up-start designers. She joined us to talk about how that is happening.

Click play above to hear more.

After the interview, Lombardo shared her thoughts on some of her favorite designers. Though hse is a fan of many New York designers, there are two that stand out: 

“Jeremy Scott and the Blonds are really a show. I mean, the audience is just as entertaining and interesting as are the clothes. So at the end of the week when you’re absolutely exhausted, to be able to go to their shows, it’s pretty thrilling.”

The Blonds:


Jeremy Scott:


Sony to sell off VAIO brand, expects $1bn loss

Thu, 2014-02-06 05:54

The once-mighty electronics giant Sony said today it's no longer expecting to make a profit this year. Instead the forecast is for a loss of more than $1 billion. And Sony said today it will sell off VAIO, it's personal computer-laptop business. The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes joined us from Tokyo to help explain.

Click play on the audio player above to hear more.

Tennessee Promise to make state's community colleges free

Thu, 2014-02-06 05:30

The governor of Tennessee wants to make community college or technical school free for all high school graduates in the state. Republican Governor Bill Haslam calls his proposal the Tennessee Promise. It's part of a broader workforce development strategy in a state that lags behind in higher education, but wants a technically savvy labor pool.

If the Promise succeeds, Tennessee will be the only state to offer associate's degrees and technical certificates free. David Baime with the American Association of Community Colleges says many students are right on the brink, financially.

"So when a message is sent out loudly and clearly that for qualified students community college is free," says Baime, "We think that it could make a big difference in terms of people's willingness to enroll in our institutions."

The governor says he'll pay for the Tennessee Promise with lottery revenue. The proposal builds on a growing number of smaller place based scholarship programs. Michelle Miller-Adams studies the Kalamazoo Promise in Michigan and says the lure of college scholarships for Kalamazoo students prompted many families to move there.

"The Kalamazoo public school district has grown by 25 percent over the last seven years since the Promise was announced," Miller-Adams says.

She says that's a local economic bump that wouldn't be felt in a statewide program. But the focus on community colleges could do a lot to develop the local workforce.

Avoiding government surveillance at the Olympic games

Thu, 2014-02-06 05:03

The winter olympics start tomorrow in the Russian city of Sochi. Olympians, officials, and reporters have been arriving all week, with lots of devices in tow. And that means there's been a lot of talk about digital surveillance. Russia's government doesn't have the best record in, say, protecting freedom of the press. Ars Technica's senior business editor Cyrus Farivar has been looking at how to use technology while at the games and joined us to help explain.

Click play on the audio player above to hear more.

No benefits for the rich

Thu, 2014-02-06 03:36

Today the Senate will vote on a bill to extend long-term unemployment benefits for 1.7 Million Americans. The proposal would exclude one group – people making incomes over $1 Million.

After all, if you’re a millionaire, maybe you don’t need a safety net funded by tax payers.

“It is the kind of thing that I think government should be doing more of. Which is saying, who really needs that safety net and who doesn’t,” says economist Michael Strain with the American Enterprise Institute.

But would the exclusion save the government money?

“The millionaires exclusion is a solution in search of a problem,” says Judy Conti, a federal advocacy coordinator with the National Employment Law Project.

In 2009, millionaires collected $20 million in unemployment benefits. “That was only 18-one-hundredths of a percent of the total outlay of unemployment benefits for that entire year,” says Conti.

Also, excluding the rich wouldn’t be free. States would have to set-up new systems to measure income.

“There is an associated cost. And they wouldn’t get additional money to administer this test,” says Rich Hobbie, executive director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

He says states would be forced to spend scarce resources in order to deny benefits to millionaires.

It's not that easy to be a YouTube superstar

Thu, 2014-02-06 02:15

YouTube used to be a place that was mostly about curiosities, bits of original, unedited video clips by amateurs. Then people started getting serious. The amateurs started getting famous because of what -- and how much -- video they were putting on the website. YouTube started selling ADS on all those videos, and giving some of that money to creators. Leslie Kaufman is a media reporter for the New York Times. She wrote a story this week on how hard it can still be to make the big bucks even when you're a super YouTuber.

Click play above to hear the whole interview.

Twitter: Little blue bird's first financial flight

Wed, 2014-02-05 13:56

Today was a big day for Twitter. The company released its first earnings report since it went public and it made more money than analysts were expecting, reporting an adjusted gain of $0.02 per share.

And Twitter’s monthly active users grew to 241 million, an increase of 9 million. But the problem that Twitter has always faced from the beginning is their users and how quickly they are acquiring them. Investors are paying close attention to user growth abroad, since they expect the U.S. market to become saturated.

CFPB's Richard Cordray to appear on Jeopardy ... again

Wed, 2014-02-05 12:42

This final note today.

Did you know there's a salt shortage? The kind that goes on the road. The bad weather across the country has driven up demand for road salt so that cities are actually starting to run out. For example, Morton Salt told Cleveland that they're going to run 23,000 tons short.

Who knew that Morton makes both table salt and the kind we use on roads?

And then, this answer.

This current head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will appear once again on Jeopardy!, where he was a five-time undefeated champion in 1987.

Back then, he was a judicial clerk from Ohio.

The Question?

For $200, who is Richard Cordray, Alex?

Lizzie O'Leary, who once "totally choked" (her words, not ours) in Final Jeopardy, says good luck!

Adult Swim attracts younger viewers into late night pool

Wed, 2014-02-05 12:36

In the past year, Adult Swim, a division of Turner Broadcasting, has become the number one viewing destination for the coveted 18 to 49 year-old male demographic -- a viewership which brings in premium pricing from advertisers, because they are hard to reach.

According to Whitney Matheson, creator of the Pop Candy Blog at USA Today, Adult Swim's edgy mix of cartoons and live action shows is well-suited for the "YouTube generation."

She says since the network's debut in 2001, Adult Swim's programming has been 15 minutes or less.

"A longer program like 'The Tonight Show' or 'Jimmy Fallon,' you know the highlights of that show are going to be online the next day," Matheson says. "So why waste your time sitting through the whole thing? You can switch over to Adult Swim where not only is everything short, but there is always something kind of odd and interesting going in."

Besides new shows with Chris Elliot and Patton Oswald, they will be adding another hour of programming.

Mary Barra's making less - a lot less- than her predecessor

Wed, 2014-02-05 12:24

Usually, a story about how much a CEO is paid involves criticism that the pay is too high. But there's a flap unfolding this week about how it seems the new CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, makes less – a lot less – than her predecessor, Dan Akerson.

Barra’s salary is $1.6 million, and Akerson’s was $1.7 million, but the difference is in the extras. Barra’s total pay is about $4.5 million, and Akerson’s added up to $9 million, thanks to what are called short-term incentives – bonuses tied to performance.

"There’s a bit of mystery and guesses that go into this thing," David Larcker explains. He is the James Irvin Miller Professor of Accounting at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

"You garner benchmarks, and then you have professionals on the board that have done this many times, and they try to make an informed judgment," he says.

And that is what GM says it did. The company also says Barra’s compensation package is incomplete. Later this year, it’ll include "long-term incentives."

"You can kind of explain away maybe one individual difference, but across the pattern of data, those averages don’t lie," says Linda Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

And that may be why so many people are talking about this. On average, Babcock says, a woman makes about 80 percent of what a man would, but, she points out, that pay gap widens the higher you go up the corporate ladder.

"The public scrutiny over this issue is really a good thing," Babcock says.

According to Virginia Valian, who teaches psychology at Hunter College, women have to walk a line men don’t.

"People don’t mind entitlement in men to the same extent that they mind it in women."

We make judgments in the workplace about men and women, she says, and these judgments – even if they are subtle, can result in big differences in what people get paid.

Sochi Olympics isn't a guaranteed winner for sponsors

Wed, 2014-02-05 12:11

Russia passed a law last year forbidding "propaganda" that promotes LGBT rights. That ban extends to visiting foreigners — like athletes, or the brands sponsoring the games. Some of those companies — including McDonald's and Coca-Cola — make a point of promoting their support for gay rights in the U.S.     

"Well, this is all just a terribly awkward situation for the sponsors," says Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  "This is the sort of thing that sponsors just don’t want to talk about, and they really hope that this story dies down." 

Meanwhile, Calkins thinks brands like Coke have been doing their best to placate their friends here.  Coke’s Super Bowl ad included images of a two-dad family: 

Calkins thinks the timing-- so close to Sochi--carries a message:

"I think there they were saying, 'We get it. But hang with us, folks. We’re going to put this in our Super-Bowl spot, but when it comes to the Olympics, we’ve got to act differently.'" 

In fact, Coke’s written statement about the Sochi controversy refers to the Super Bowl ad.  And it doesn’t mention Russia at all. In their words:

As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate diversity.  We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion, equality and diversity through both our policies and practices. We do not condone intolerance or discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world.

As an Olympic sponsor since 1928, we believe the Olympic Games are a force for good that unite people through a common interest in sports. We support the core values of the Olympic Movement – excellence, friendship and respect – and are proud to continue our role in helping to make the Olympics a memorable experience for athletes, fans and communities all around the world.

As a business, it is our role and our responsibility to ensure that we embrace human rights practices in our own workplaces.  It is also appropriate for us to help foster diversity, tolerance, unity and respect among all people.

We will continue to demonstrate our support of the LGBT community and, more broadly, promote our values for diversity through our policies and actions. Most recently, we ran a television commercial in the United States, in front of the largest Super Bowl audience in history, that provides a snapshot of the lives of real Americans representing a diverse slate of ethnicities, religions, races and other groups. The ad has a powerful message that we believe spreads optimism, promotes inclusion and celebrates humanity - values that are core to Coca-Cola.

The advertisement, other videos and additional information can be found on our Journey website at: AmericaIsBeautiful

Information on our support for the Olympics and the LGBT community can be found our our Journey website at: Sochi Olympics Sponsorship

 Not so fast, says Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign.  "You know, at the end of the day, you have to choose up sides," he says.

His group, and 39 others, including Human Rights Watch, have asked Coke, McDonald’s, Dow Chemical, and the other top Sochi Olympics sponsors to issue statements repudiating Russia’s anti-gay law.  

Sainz knows the choice isn’t easy.  He says that's the point.

"Sponsorships are calculations, right? You clearly sign up hoping that sponsorship will accrue entirely to your benefit," he says. "But in some cases, it may not. And this is one of those situations in which it's not going to be all upside for these companies."

The rise of social media makes it tougher for brands like Coke and McDonalds, says Brian Ellner, an executive withthe PR firm Edelman, who previously worked for the Human Rights Campaign. 

"It’s a global conversation, and it’s being powered on social media," he says. "And this is the new reality."

In Sochi, the Opening Ceremonies begin tomorrow.  On Twitter, the contests have already started.

Why CVS is giving up smoking

Wed, 2014-02-05 12:10

If you’re used to getting your cigarettes from CVS, you should start coming up with a backup plan. The pharmacy convenience store chain says it’s no longer going to sell them after October 1.


CVS is definitely going to lose money on this. $2 billion a year in sales, out of $123 billion total (in 2012).

"In the short run," says Columbia Graduate School of Business professor Rita McGrath, "it's clearly going to be something that their shareholders will have to swallow hard, because it will cost them cash flow."


Cigarettes sales in the U.S. are declining anyway. CVS’ decision is part of a modern business phenomenon of rapid redefinition in order to keep up, says McGrath, who is author of "The End of Competitive Advantage".

"They’re exiting a business that’s got flat growth, or is in modest decline, in order to pull resources out to fund things they see as brighter prospects of the future."

McGrath says it’s much like Verizon ceasing to print phone books, or Hilton Hotels quitting room service. 

"Not that they’re bad lines of business," says McGrath, "but they’re not the future."


"They’re trying to tap into this vast market for providing more comprehensive healthcare solutions," says McGrath.

If this pays off, CVS will make a lot more in the long run than it lost on cigarette sales. 

CVS wants to be somewhere between a pharmacy and a doctor’s office. It wants to become the place you go to get your shots, to get medical advice, to get prescriptions. And if that’s where CVS wants to go, then it really doesn’t look good to be selling cigarettes.


John Palizza is a retired lecturer from the Jones School of Business at Rice University, and worked at Walgreens for 23 years.

"The retail side, the general merchandise side of the pharmacy business is slow growth," he says. "If you look at same store sales on the general merchandise side, it’s a higher margin business, but a slower growth business."

On top of that, online sales have been a source of brutal competition for many retailers.

CVS has, for a number of years says Palizza, been pushing much harder to get more of their dollar revenues from the higher growth health care arena.

"This is another step in that direction."


Ceci Connolly, managing director of consulting firm PwC’s Health Research Institute, says for businesses ranging from pharmacies to communications, "we see enormous opportunity for nontraditional players to deliver more and more healthcare."

The drivers opening up this space for retail healthcare are the oldest in the book: convenience, cost, and technology. 

Already, "more than 10 million Americans get a flu shot today at pharmacies, many other millions get them at grocery stores or big box retail stores," says Connolly.

It’s cheaper and easier than scheduling a doctor’s appointment for something so simple.

"That’s a perfect example of people voting with their feet, and we believe much more of that is coming in the very near future."

Advances in technology – and advances in people’s comfort level with that technology -- allows more to be done outside of a hospital, says Columbia’s McGrath.

"As we get smarter with certain technology, it becomes possible for less skilled providers to do something," she says. "You don’t need a trained super-specialized doctor to say 'Yes you have the cold,' or 'Yes, you have pinkeye." 

What’s more, the industries currently occupying much of the healthcare industry space are damaged.

"We know from our research that insurers and pharmaceutical companies do not rate high on trust or popularity scales, so some of these new players may have an advantage with brand identity," says Connolly. CVS, capitalizing on its corner-store image – and now its anti-smoking cred – is adding capital to its branding bank.


It’s more than a pharmacy industry thing, according to PwC’s Connolly.  

"Right now in our conversations with clients, we see a lot of interest in getting into the healthcare space," she says. "We’ve studied the top Fortune 50 companies, and 76 percent of them say that today they are in some way in the health care business."

This includes communications companies, retailers, sporting goods stores, and "folks you would not think of as being hospital or insurance companies."

These efforts range from offering healthcare services to healthcare gadgets, like those that count your steps or calories burned.

"These are the little initiatives that they can break into healthcare and get a foothold and see if they will expand."

It’s a reflection of the pressure and the opportunity that is facing the pharmacy industry as a whole, and CVS is trying to get out ahead.


"They’re trying to position themselves as a leader for the healthcare side of the retail business," says Palizza. "Whether others follow suit, or say 'we’re happy to pick up the dollar volume that CVS doesn’t want,' is an open question."

Ghostboxes: What's left behind when Target shuts its doors?

Wed, 2014-02-05 12:03

Big-box retailers have hit on hard times lately — Best Buy, Sears, and Kmart have all closed hundreds of stores since 2011. Online competition and a changing suburban landscape are among the challenges, but it turns out shuttering big-boxes has some unanticipated consequences. Eight Target stores are set to close across the country on May 3, which has caused an uproar in one Ohio town.

Since January, residents of the middle-class suburb in Trotwood, Ohio, have been up in arms over Target's announcement  that it will close a store there. On a dreary Saturday morning, protesters stream into the store's parking lot, but they’re not marching or chaining themselves to the doors. It’s a "shop-in." These protesters are rolling out those red Target carts and buying stuff, from crock pots to toothpaste to underwear.

The shop-in was organized by Trotwood residents as a last-ditch effort to show Target they have buying power. But Target shows no signs it will change its plans to close eight stores around the country, including the one here.

"It was like, ‘What? Target?!'" says Trotwood's mayor, Joyce Cameron.  "It was devastating."

Adding insult to injury, Mayor Cameron says Trotwood’s leadership heard about the closure from the newspaper, not from the Target corporation.

One of the biggest problems Trotwood faces is population loss: more than 10 percent of the population has left in the last decade. The poverty rate here has shot up, too, from 6 percent in 1989 to 18 percent in 2011. Now big-boxes are bleeding out of this middle-class suburb, taking jobs and property taxes with them.

"Sears, Penney's, Lazarus, Wal-Mart, Kmart, we’ve slowly, one by one watched them leave," says Trotwood City Council member Bruce Kettelle. "There’s a shift going on and we’re part of that shift. Unfortunately, we have to live with it. But we don’t want to live with it."

As to what exactly that shift is, it depends who you ask. Target wouldn’t give an interview, but it issued a statement saying closures are generally due to a store’s weak long-term financial performance.

Plenty of experts will say closures don’t necessarily signal an overall decline for a chain or an industry.

"Brick and mortar stores, in other words, physical stores, are not going to go away," says Serdar Durmusoglu, a retail expert at the University of Dayton. "There’s movement from one suburb to the other.

"Target in particular is still opening more stores than it’s closing—reorganizing, but not reducing, its big footprint.

What’s going on in Trotwood, though, is more about a trend towards boarded-up big-box stores. There’s even a name for them: "ghostboxes."

Sarah Schindler, a law professor at the University of Maine, has researched the legal implications of ghostboxes for municipalities. She says ghostboxes are expensive to demolish, and it’s difficult to turn these buildings into something else. In her opinion, that points to poor planning decisions.

"I think a lot of communities are coming around to the realization that this sort of big-box, single-use commercial district wasn’t necessarily the best idea," Schindler says.

"Other than just to shutter the doors and get out of town, there really needs to be a better exit strategy," says Mike Lucking, the Trotwood city manager. He says if towns are going to bring in big-box stores, they need to think ahead about what happens when the companies move out.

Lucking remembers when Trotwood was the shiny new shopping destination outside Dayton: "Things really do go full circle."

Without Target and all the other big-boxes that closed, Trotwood won’t be much of a destination at all.

Getting out of his car at last Saturday’s shop-in, Doyle Copeland says it will now be a 20-minute drive to the next discount retailer

"It’s the last thing we got, we need this Target," Copeland says.

Say 'meow' to the newest Monopoly piece

Wed, 2014-02-05 10:26

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up Thursday:  

  • In Washington, the Commerce Department reports on International Trade for December.
  • Chain stores are slated to report January sales data.
  • And if you’ve acquired the board game Monopoly recently, you may have noticed that the iron token is no longer a game piece. Hasbro announced its replacement by a cat token one year ago. Really, what’s likely to bankrupt you faster? Vet bills or pressed clothes?

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