Marketplace - American Public Media
For telecommuters putting in too many hours in a coffee shop or at your dining room table, there's co-working. There are more than 3,000 co-working spaces around the world, six times as many as there were just four years ago. But as business ventures go, a lot of these modern shared work spaces are short-lived.
Think of it like a gym membership, only for your office. Pay a fee — daily or monthly — and you get a desk, a phone, maybe a meeting space. Bonus: You still get the buzz of being around other working professionals.
Steve King, partner at Emergent Research, a consulting firm that tracks the co-working industry, says don't expect co-working to go away anytime soon.
"They haven't peaked yet," he says. "It's an industry that continues to grow very rapidly. It's not a very old industry."
The economy has left more people working on their own, and looking for a decent work space. As companies scale back, they're less willing to sign on to long-term leases.
"They can expand or shrink as they need to because they're basically paying month-to-month," he says.
Plus, King says, working from home has its challenges. Namely, distractions.
"You know, they take the dog for a walk or they start snacking, or there's a repeat of 'Gilligan's Island' on TV that they want to watch," says King.
However, King says like any new industry, co-working has a pretty high degree of churn.
"Churn is a nice way of saying a lot of businesses go out of business," King says.
Last year, Atticus Rominger helped launch SocialVenture, a co-working space that used to be a warehouse in in Birmingham, Alabama. You can pay $175 a month for a desk or $375 a month for a private office. He says after doing a little research, his company found plenty of people interested in renting space.
"But we also found a lot of people who'd kicked the tires on co-working for many years and never really kind of took the bait," Rominger says.
In the last five years or so, at least three other co-working spaces in Birmingham have come and gone. Rominger says at SocialVenture, renting out desks hasn't been a problem. But creating a co-working culture — where there's a close-knit group of workers collaborating and bouncing ideas off of each other — is a different story.
"And that's something that we're going to really just have to grow into as we balance the desire to have this active and close co-working community with the realities of having a mortgage and operating a real estate venture," he says.
In other words, Rominger says, the priority now for his co-working space is to find a profitable business model.
That energy and feel-good vibe can come later.
The biggest bank in Russia, Sberbank, has started lending out cats.
Actual live cats.
Basically, if you take out a mortgage, they'll lend you a cat because apparently Russian lore says letting a cat walk through your house before you move in is good luck.
You've even got your choice of ten breeds including tabbies, Siamese, and, reports Bloomberg Businessweek, an exotic hairless cat resembling a sphinx.
Regrettably, Hello Kitty was not on the list.
The U.S. homeownership rate fell in the Great Recession and its aftermath — from a peak of 69.2 percent in 2004, to 64.7 percent in the most recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
It turns out immigrant households bucked that trend, according to a recent report.
The analysis, published by economist Azanaw Mengistu at Fannie Mae, says that from 2000 to 2010, immigrant homeownership rose more than 2.5 percent, to 52.4 percent, while native-born homeownership fell more than 1 percent over the same period. Research by economists Kusum Mundra at Rutgers University and Ruth Uwaifo Oyelere at Georgia Tech, comes to similar conclusions.
Immigrant homeownership is likely to remain lower than native-born homeownership for the foreseeable future — that's a simple reflection of assets and income, as well as the high-priced metro areas they tend to immigrate to first when arriving in the U.S.
The gap between immigrants and those born in the U.S. appear to be narrowing significantly, though.
A possible explanation for the better homeownership outcome of immigrants in the past decade is that the documented and undocumented immigrants who arrived in droves during the 1980s and 1990s, are now well-established in communities, and in the workforce.
“The immigrants today are more educated, they have more time in the United States, and they’re more likely to be citizens, things that boost home-ownership rates,” says Rakesh Kochhar at the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.
He also points out that recent immigrants are more heavily Asian and Middle Eastern; compared to Latinos. They tend to come to the U.S. with higher levels of education and wealth to begin with.
Mundra and Oyelere speculate in their paper that so-called ‘birth networks’ might help explain why some immigrant groups do better at homeownership. A large concentration of other immigrants from the same country or region might help people get and keep jobs, and pool the financial resources to buy and hold onto their homes in bad economic times.
Jose Quinonez, CEO of the nonprofit Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco, believes immigrant families may have social characteristics that make holding onto their homes more likely.
“Their home means much more than just a mere investment that they can flip,” he says. “It’s really their realization of the American dream, of establishing themselves in the community and in the economy.”
Quinonez says immigrant families have a long history of pool financial resources across generations, and also tend to live together in multi-generational households. So if one adult loses a job, another may be available in the household to keep up the mortgage and hold off foreclosure.
Angela D'Amario, president of Firebee, a small PR firm in Atlanta, Georgia, says she constantly promotes clients on Facebook and LinkedIn, but she has yet to figure out Twitter.
“It just seemed like no one was getting good results," she says. "Everything that was out about Twitter advertising was very confusing."
D’Amario says she really wants to know how to target specific groups of consumers the same way she says is possible on Facebook and LinkedIn.
"So, you’re not having your message seen by all these people who could care less," she says. "Where on Twitter – I really don’t get how it’s possible to do that – to say I want moms who are between the ages of 25-35, in Minnesota who like sports."
Enter flight school, the multimedia training plan that includes what Twitter calls “Story Problems.”
"They’re designed to be like real life client situations," says Kevin Lange, senior vice president, social media director at Starcom MediaVest Group. His agency helped Twitter develop the new training.
"The question might give you the objective of a hypothetical client, their advertising budget and then you have to pick from the choices which strategy on Twitter or which tweet is going to be most appropriate,” he says.
But, notes John Greening, a professor of brand management at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, figuring out what works on Twitter can be harder than it sounds.
“Everybody’s talking about it and they think they need it, but they don’t know why and they don’t know how," he says.
Some agencies said they couldn't even figure out how to sign up for the new training. (The signup link is here, just in case any of them are reading.)
One problem, says Greening, is simple lack of understanding of the new.
"With any of these new tools – people aren’t sure how to use them. What you find is that they put the old way of doing things against the new tool," he says. "So, if it’s video they might treat it like a TV commercial. Well... that might not be the most effective way that Twitter works."
Greening says just because consumers are using a platform doesn’t mean it’s valuable for advertisers.
"Just because it's out there and popular," he says, "doesn't mean it's an effective marketing tool."
By some estimates, the extremist group ISIS controls 60 percent of oil production in Syria, as well as six oil wells in Iraq.
Much of this oil ends up in the black market, and given that, the "purchase" and sale of this oil is far from typical.
In addition to its holdings, the group is also assumed to pilfer from pipelines and storage facilities, said Valerie Marcel, oil and Middle East analyst at the Chatham House think tank in London.
Marcel says ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, takes some of its crude and refines it. “They have an open pit, they burn the oil very crudely,” Marcel says. “And then they have some gasoline which they can provide to local residents, and to their own Humvees.”
The rest of the oil goes to market, largely in Turkey, through a murky set of intermediaries.
“Some of them are Iraqi middlemen, and they take the crude to the border,” Marcel says. “Others are Turkish middlemen. And they’re able to actually sometimes get the oil sold directly to a refinery in Turkey. So that involves a quite well-informed organization.”
Middlemen take a big cut of the money on the way to the black market. So instead of earning the world market price of $100 a barrel, ISIS pockets half or a quarter of that.
Still, assuming intelligence estimates that the group sells 40,000 to 60,000 barrels each day, daily revenue comes out to $1 million to $3 million.
This is enough oil that intelligence may be able to spot its movement.
“We are talking about at least 200 trucks,” says Luay al-Khateeb, an advisor to the Iraqi parliament and head of the Iraq Energy Institute. “And these fleets should be legitimate targets of U.S. and Iraqi air forces.”
Convoys may be a key point of interception. Once the crude gets to market, it can be untraceable.
“Once oil is integrated, it’s very hard to know, literally impossible to know, if a drop comes from here or from there,” says Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury Department intelligence official now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “What we are going to need is intelligence identifying those middlemen, and then deciding how to target their ability to continue functioning in that manner.”
As important as oil revenue is to ISIS, Levitt thinks it’s a small piece of the group’s overall finances.
The extremist group is also assumed to raid banks, and tax farmers and commerce in the territory it controls.
It happens twice a year at the New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but it has nothing to do with football. We're talking about a much bigger game, one that's only growing: Offshore oil and gas.
Twice a year "landmen" from energy companies file into the Superdome for an auction. They bid for the right to drill for oil and natural gas under the sea. And who's selling that right? You and me, by way of the federal government.
The first thing you see at the Western Planning Area Lease Sale 238 is the map of what's for sale. There's the familiar curve of Texas along the Gulf: Corpus Christi, Galveston. A grid overlays 21.6 million acres of the waters off the coast.
"These blocks are generally 3-by-3 miles, " says Caryl Fagot, with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. "The companies are bidding on the right to drill in that particular block. Actually these are, um—"
We're interrupted by an extensive mike check. This is a public auction, after all. Bids must be heard loud and clear. The feeling in the room is dry-as-a-bone serious. But there's a sign posted that hints at drama. "No masks, costumes with head coverings, props or posters."
"Well, we have had protesters," Fagot says. "We've had someone in a polar bear costume, we've had people come with dollar bills attached to themselves, they want to bring in large signs, and we're conducting business here, so we really can't allow that type of thing in the bidding room."
This is big government business. There are thousands of these 3-by-3-mile blocks to manage. All blocks look the same on paper, blue squares of water, but names of certain areas hint at what's underneath: Alaminos Canyon, East Breaks.
The so-called landmen here, who are from BP, Shell, Chevron and others, know what's under the sea floor, or they hope they do, at least.
"It's somewhat of a gamble," says Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association. "They do it by looking at seismic data, by looking at other blocks nearby that have been producing, so you use your best expertise to guess which areas might contain important geological formations that might contain oil and gas, and then you take a guess at how much that might be worth."
This year marks the return of BP to this auction. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the company from bidding on new blocks as part of the fallout of the 2010 oil spill. BP had been the biggest producer in the Gulf, so there's some suspense around its plans, which aren't known until the auction starts.
"The bids are sealed until they're opened up later today, so it's a little like the Academy Awards," Luthi says. "You open the envelope and see who's bid and how much."
Now, without further ado… "Welcome, and I thank you for attending today's sale…" No long acceptance speeches. Auctioneer John Rodi with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management moves pretty quick.
"Alaminos Canyon block … a bid by BHP Billiton…3,106,250…a bid by BP Exploration and Production Inc…$2,327,027…"
The oil company landmen are tight-lipped. Most hold up a hand when they see a reporter's microphone, indicating no interviews. But they carefully mark down each bid, and whisper to each other as the prices go public. Each bid is whisked off in a briefcase.
The relatively small sale is all over in half an hour.
The government's own geologists and other experts will make sure the company has paid a fair price for what they think is under the water. If not, the bid gets rejected. Tallied up, this sale brought in about $110 million.
Ben Waring sells data systems to oil companies for offshore exploration. He points to the map and says the sale held surprises. "BP bought everything that wasn't nailed down in this area right here…"
It's an area called Port Isabel. If there's oil worth tapping, it'll take years of development and many millions of investment to get it out. The auction bids are a drop in the bucket of the lucrative universe that is Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling.
Mark Gurman began seriously covering Apple as a journalist when he was just 15.
Gurman says it was a natural progression.
"I've always been interested in Apple and technology," Gurman says. "So, I thought it was a natural intersection to start digging around Apple. And here I am."
Gurman, now 20, is a senior editor at 9to5mac.com — hustling day in and day out to break the next big story on one of the biggest companies in the world.
Oh, and he's also a junior pursuing his bachelor's from the School of Information at the University of Michigan.
"The way I look at it... is that lots of students have jobs," Gurman says. "Some work in restaurants, others work in other places. People make music, they do what they love, and this is just what I like doing."
Despite all he's achieved, Apple does not consider Gurman one of the best reporters on the beat and, as such, excludes him from Apple events and reviewing new products. He says it used to get under his skin, "but then I realized being able to do this all on my own without the intervention of Apple PR has allowed me to do things that otherwise I wouldn't be able to do being under the constant spotlight of not wanting to upset a company."
It's more challenging to find stories, he says, but the outcome is more rewarding.
His paycheck is dependent on page views. But with an exceptional source list and a record of breaking stories, Gurman says he could see as many as hundreds of thousands of clicks a day. Though he would not confirm, some reports have put his salary at six figures.
So, what's next for the superstar reporter who is expected to graduate in two years?
"That is the golden question... To be honest, I'd like to move into something mostly different than what I do now," Gurman says. "Instead of being the person who covers the companies, I'd like there to be someone like me, covering my company."
Ever since Ralph Taylor joined the Navy in 1960, boating has been in his blood.
“You could stick me out in the middle of the ocean, I’d love it,” he says, sitting in his 24-foot pontoon, parked in his Waxahachie driveway.
Ten years ago, Taylor moved to Waxahachie from the coldest city in Texas, Dalhart, because he needed to be closer to the Veterans Affairs facility in Dallas after a liver transplant.
His wife passed away in 1999, so his daughters help him get to and from the hospital for appointments.
“This VA down here is really modern, they take good care of you,” Taylor says. “It’s just they overwhelmed the system.”
The VA North Texas Health Care System is the second busiest in the country. Last year, there were about 1.4 million outpatient visits and although the majority of appointments are made in less than 30 days, new patients often wait a month, even two months on average for a specialty care visit.
So when Taylor started having trouble seeing, the VA turned to Dallas-based Key-Whitman Eye Center.
The Vision For Faster Health Care
Weeks before the Veterans Affairs hospital controversy dominated headlines, Dallas-based Key-Whitman Eye Center received a call from the North Texas VA.
The VA was hoping to expedite eye care services for veterans in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, and wanted to establish a formal partnership.
“In the last 80 days, we’ve probably had appointments for 200 patients already,” says Dr. Jeffrey Whitman.
Whitman says it’s an honor to serve the veterans, and he enjoys listening to their stories while helping improve their vision.
“I can have a patient come in with a cataract and within a couple of weeks we probably can have them, with functional vision, back to work,” he says. “And there’s no reason the veteran population shouldn't be able to take advantage of that.”
Dr. Jeffrey Whitman with patient Eddie Carter, a veteran referred to his clinic through the VA North Texas Health Care System.Key-Whitman Eye Center
Just The Beginning
In the last few months, partnerships with local health care providers have ramped up. Jennifer Purdy, assistant director for Outpatient Services at the North Texas VA, says collaboration is part of a long-term solution to cut wait times.
“We've got to ensure that patients have a way to be seen and that their needs are met,” she says. “So I think we will continue to grow [partnerships] out in the community.”
Purdy estimates more than 30 new health care vendors were added this year.
Finding new partners isn’t always easy. Purdy says private practice doctors in some specialties, like endocrinology and psychiatry, haven’t been able to fit veterans in. Part of the reason could be doctors have to wait longer for VA payments, which Dr. Whitman says can be especially tough on smaller practices.
"Every practice may not be able to do this, but I think practices that know that they’re able to do this should raise their hand and volunteer,” Whitman says. “And it’s a win-win. If we have excess capacity, it’s not completely altruistic, I get to stay busier!”
A Glimpse Into The Future For Veterans
Ralph Taylor was happy to go to Key-Whitman, where he had surgery to remove cataracts in both eyes.
Before surgery, Taylor couldn’t drive, couldn’t fix his boat and he definitely couldn’t see individual leaves on the cottonwood outside his window. He couldn't even see individual stars in the evening sky.
“But I was out here the other night and it was a full moon, and boy, I just love Texas at times like that,” he says, smiling.Lauren Silverman
Taylor says the VA, by helping pay for medications and surgeries, has kept him from being, as he puts it, "completely destitute."
Congress is trying to help the VA from going broke and form more partnerships. The $16 billion health care bill signed by President Barack Obama provides money for more partnerships like the one between Key-Whitman Eye Clinic and the North Texas VA.
If providers step up, the second busiest VA system might get some relief. And patients waiting in line might be able to get back to doing the things they love faster.
First up, we talk to Susan Schmidt, Managing Director at Mesirow Financial in Chicago about signs that the U.S. economy is gathering strength. And it's been the man-bites-dog business story of the summer: the company where they employees didn't loath the boss, they liked him to the point they effectively shut down the business after he was ousted in a family feud for control. Today, at the New England grocery chain Market Basket, those employees and supportive customers got what they were looking for. Arthur T. Demoulis is coming back as CEO after his reported $1.5 billion buyout offer was accepted. Plus, how about an iPad the size of a bathroom mirror? Published reports suggest that what may be on the way is a 13-incher, big as a modest laptop.