www.charlestondailymail.com Business http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Classic week a boon for state Commerce department http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150703/DM01/150709761 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150703/DM01/150709761 Fri, 3 Jul 2015 08:53:51 -0400 By Marcus Constantino

MORE COVERAGE AND LIVE UPDATES HERE

The state of West Virginia rents out a private box above the 18th green of The Old White TPC during the Greenbrier Classic each year.

It's not all fun and games for the state officials in attendance, though. In fact, billions of dollars of potential investments in the state are at stake.

West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette says the Greenbrier Classic is one of the Department of Commerce's busiest and most critical weeks of the year. Businesspeople, project managers and site consultants from all over the world come to the Classic each year as guests of the state to meet with state officials, including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Burdette, about potential business developments in the state.

Burdette said officials with Procter & Gamble, an international manufacturer of popular consumer product brands, had been in discussions with state officials at the Greenbrier Classic for two years before the company announced in February it would build a $500 million manufacturing plant in Berkeley County. Though Burdette said deals aren't struck at the Classic, the tournament gives state officials the perfect opportunity to build relationships with companies and consultants who represent them and show off what the state has to offer.

"This is our fifth year, and you can probably tie almost any major announcement - and even some minor projects - to a relationship that either started or was built upon at this Classic," Burdette said. "Most of the time, you're dealing with 15-minute phone calls or trying to get into someone's office for 30 minutes, but here it's breakfast, lunch and dinner. We're with them for an extended period of time, they know who they're working with, they know who they're talking to, they develop a level of trust, and that's very, very important."

Throughout the week of the tournament, the state's box on hole 18 is full of executives and representatives of unnamed companies having drinks and watching golf with state officials. It's a common business tactic employed by other states - Burdette said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told him this week that the Bluegrass State uses the Kentucky Derby to try to woo companies into investing in his state.

Burdette said the Greenbrier Classic gives him the opportunity to show potential investors one of the best sides of West Virginia.

"The folks that are sitting in here that love golf, they're businessmen," Burdette said. "They play golf. Golf is really a business sport. People go off onto golf courses and they talk about deals and they build relationships by going off to golf. We've got one of the premier tournaments in the country and they get to come here and watch it on the 18th green and we get to sit beside them and talk to them about West Virginia."

Representatives from companies from a variety of industries are brought in throughout the week. Thursday was dedicated to exports. Friday, the state will host international corporations. This weekend, small business owners will be invited.

In an age where emails and conference calls are a big part of business transactions that span states or continents, Burdette said the personal interactions that take place at The Greenbrier can leave lasting impressions that hopefully make a difference when a company decides where to locate its project.

"Even a big company, when they do a project, it's a big deal to them," Burdette said. "They've got their careers on the line. They want to make sure they make smart decisions. One of the guys from Procter & Gamble told us, he said, 'One of the comforting things for us was we had your cell number, we had the governor's cell phone number, we knew we could get to whoever we needed to.' It's all part of a big puzzle you put together to attract a company to West Virginia."

One of the state's biggest targets during the Greenbrier Classic is site consultants - people hired by major companies to evaluate potential sites and determine which makes the most business sense. They act as a proxy between the company they're representing, which remains confidential, and the states where potential development sites are. Site consultants may be working on multiple projects for different companies at any given time.

Jim Clarke, a consultant with real estate consulting firm JLL based out of Tyson's Corner, Virginia, was one of many site consultants in discussions with state officials Thursday. Companies rely heavily on data about potential development sites, Clarke said, so face-to-face meetings with state officials help him do his job better by strengthening his lines of communication and information.

"We've got a pretty extensive database on every metric a company is going to look for before they open up," Clarke said. "Primarily they're looking for available labor, they're looking for corporate tax structure, they're looking for the suitability of the actual piece of property to be developed without any extraordinary site development costs, and they're looking for location. They'll consider multiple opportunities and sift all the data until hopefully the right answer drops out at the bottom."

Though much of the investment decisions come down to dollars and cents, Clarke said his personal evaluations on states do matter, and building personal relationships with state representatives helps him get data companies are looking for quicker - which can ultimately factor into what state lands a project.

"People who do what I do can tend to be a pain-in-the-butt to folks who do what they do because our clients demand information and not always in a reasonable time frame, so it's good to have the relationship to call the person on the other side and if you know them, you're more likely to have the information on a timely basis and they're not going to say 'that so-and-so didn't give us enough time to do what we need to do,'" Clarke said.

"So it helps to establish a relationship. And clients want to know, what do you think of them? Or how do you think they're going to behave, or how do you think they're going to respond? They might not have had interface with that particular state or that particular jurisdiction before, so your professional opinion is valued."

When hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line - like the Procter & Gamble project - talks can extend for years. Burdette said the Greenbrier Classic is the state's biggest opportunity of the year to meet with the people who can help strike the next big business deal in West Virginia.

"These types of things are important," Burdette said. "I know it's hard for a lot of folks who don't understand how intricate and involved and protracted these negotiations to bring a company to the state are or expand a company that's already here, and they don't understand why we would spend money to do this or do that ... It's not that black and white. Even a big company, when they do a project, it's a big deal to them. They've got their careers on the line. They want to make sure they make smart decisions."

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or marcus.c@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.

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Parkersburg museum pays tribute to Borg Warner chemicals http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150702/DM01/150709815 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150702/DM01/150709815 Thu, 2 Jul 2015 15:45:25 -0400 By Lexi Browning PARKERSBURG, W.Va. - When visitors enter the Oil and Gas Museum, they will find themselves stepping out of the 21st century and into a pre-Civil War era.

Though the East Coast's first oil well was discovered in Titusville, Pennsylvania, Parkersburg historians agree that the oil movement began 245 miles south - on West Virginia soil.

Upon entering the museum's video chamber, visitors view a short documentary about the Mountain State's history and impact of the oil industry. Museum founder Dave McKain, the late author and Parkersburg historian, narrates the story.

J.C. Rathbone, who would later become a prominent figure in the oil industry, began digging for salt in 1849 and soon discovered a reserve of oil instead. In an era where producing kerosene from coal had become too expensive, companies began using oil for cheaper manufacturing.

The year 1861 brought a rush of population to western Virginia as Wirt County began leasing sections of property to oil drillers from across the country. But those who could afford the $1,000 lease, mostly doctors and lawyers, had no means of crating the oil they exposed.

At one point, ironbound barrels were used to dam oil that flowed into a West Virginia creek to prevent it from flowing further.

With the promise of one-third of the oil's profit, 10 leases at $1,000 each, the Rathbone family was cashing in an income of $10,000 daily.

Then the Civil War began.

The economic-boosting wells became the target of a mass torching from the Confederate soldiers, whose lack of knowledge on oil flammability quickly led to their demise. At the end of the burning, 20,000 barrels were lost.

A need to protect the western portion of the state's economy, citizens and progressive elimination of slavery soon provoked a Union judge and later congressman Jacob Beeson Blair's visit to the White House.

To preserve the proposed statehood for West Virginia, Blair entered Lincoln's office through a window on the first floor and convinced him to consider the matter further. By January 1, 1863, West Virginia was admitted to the Union.

"If Blair had not visited D.C., West Virginia wouldn't be," McKain concludes.

At the end of the war, oil drillers returned to the region, but it wasn't until the late 1880s that the art of deep-well drilling was exposed. In the early 1890s, a new boom was underway.

In the next 30 years, The New York Herald reported a vast $60 million profit for the West Virginia oil industry; approximately $5 billion to $6 billion today.

As the industry continued, oil remained a renowned aspect of the newfound state - even West Virginia's first governor, Parkersburg native Arthur Boreman, had heritage with the oil industry.

This summer, the Oil and Gas Museum debuted an exhibit on an additional prominent Parkersburg industry: cycolac production.

The Borg Warner Chemicals plant, known for producing an acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic, employed 4,000 internationally. Approximately 2,000 were employed at the Parkersburg location, which became the headquarters.

Artifacts inside the exhibit include a factory lab, various hardhats, hot plate stirrers and pouches of pellets manufactured inside the plant.

Paul Hoblitzell, president of the museum, was employed by Borg Warner for 13 years.

"I was in central engineering and I was in maintenance the last few years I was there," Hoblitzell said.

Following the plant's management transition to General Electric in 2007, the plant was then sold to SABIC where it closed two years later. Hoblitzell said he was approached by Borg Warner retirees who wished to install a new exhibit to preserve their company's heritage.

"They put this together to save some of the SABIC material since it was closing here and being torn down," Hoblitzell said. "They'd like to put together a display somewhere that depicts how cycolac is made just as educational reference. It was more of a structural plastic."

The plastic was sold and distributed in pellet-form with customized colors, Hoblitzell explained. RCA and Western Electric became the first buyers of the products, using the plastic for constructing radios and telephones.

Hoblitzell pointed to a world map dotted with red gemstones displaying each of the Borg Warner plants.

"I suppose the standout is that they were a local company that went worldwide to become the largest producer of ABS plastic in the world," Hoblitzell said.

Hoblitzell said he hoped visitors exited the exhibit with further knowledge on a major piece of Parkersburg history.

"The purpose of this exhibit is for preservation and education," Hoblitzell said.

Contact writer Lexi Browning at 304-348-7917 or lexi.browning@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/_galexi.

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Optima Chemical to take over part of DuPont's Belle plant http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150630/DM05/150639972 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150630/DM05/150639972 Tue, 30 Jun 2015 11:51:45 -0400 By Joel Ebert A portion of DuPont's Belle-based chemical plant will change hands Wednesday, the same day a spinoff of the company becomes official.

After purchasing assets from The Chemours Company, which is a subsidiary of DuPont Co., Georgia-based Optima Chemical will begin operating inside the currently functioning unit at the Belle facility, as well as another previously unused unit.

With the addition of the Belle location, Optima will have its second manufacturing site.

The move essentially means the company will become a tenant on the Chemours site, said Doug Cochran, an Optima spokesman.

"The acquisition situates Optima in the Kanawha Valley, known as an important area for chemical manufacturing," said Gene Williams, Optima's president. "We conducted a careful evaluation of facilities, workforce, infrastructure, safety and environmental culture and local and state government relationships before making the transaction. After doing so, we are confident that the facility offers a unique set of capabilities and equipment that will allow Optima to better serve existing customers and to attract new customers looking for the capabilities we are now able to offer."

No one at the Belle facility will lose his or her job as a result. Instead, Cochran said the plan is to hire chemical operators and other professionals in the near future.

"Our intention is to hire 20 to 30 folks in the next 18 months," he explained.

Williams said there is a possibility that key personnel from the company's Douglas, Ga.-based facility will be moved to the Belle location.

"Optima Chemical has given us good reason to be proud," said Charles Hinnant, president and owner of Charkit Chemical Corporation and its sister companies, Optima and Arran Chemical. "Since its founding in 1997, it has been on a steady path of growth, serving an increasing number of clients that are representative of an expanding range of industries. Their Georgia facilities have frequently been cited for safety and environmental excellence by the Georgia Department of Labor and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates."

Optima, which focuses on specialty chemicals, will use one building to focus on specialty organic chemistry. The other facility, which has typically been used to run agricultural products, will allow Optima to manufacture on agricultural intermediates.

Although Chemours, which will officially be spun off from DuPont effective July 1, has plans to produce fluoroproducts at its Belle location, Optima has no plans to do so, Cochran added.

The spun-off company, which will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol CC, will employ 9,100 employees at 37 production facilities in 12 countries, according to previous reports.

Beyond the Belle facility, Optima does not currently intend to expand its operations to Chemour's Washington, W.Va., plant, which is located just south of Parkersburg.

As of last fall, 430 people were employed at the Belle facility, a DuPont spokeswoman told the Daily Mail.

About 1,500 people were employed at the Washington, W.Va., plant. With Chemour splitting from DuPont, about half the employees will go with the spun-off company and the rest will remain DuPont employees.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin praised the latest announcement by Optima, saying, "West Virginia has a long tradition of manufacturing excellence that continues today and will well into the future. Our workers are the best in the world, and we are pleased Optima recognizes that the Mountain State is a great place to do business."

Contact writer Joel Ebert at 304-348-4843 or joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.

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State sets auction of about 50 surplus vehicles http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150630/ARTICLE/150639975 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150630/ARTICLE/150639975 Tue, 30 Jun 2015 10:28:08 -0400 DUNBAR, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia residents will have an opportunity to buy a car or truck from the state next week.

A public auction of surplus state vehicles is set for July 8 in Dunbar. The list of about 50 vehicles for sale includes a 2010 Ford Escape, 2008 Ford F-150 truck, 2007 GMC Yukon, 2005 Cadillac CTS, and a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria.

Potential bidders may inspect the vehicles through July 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Dunbar location, 2700 Charles Ave.

For a list of vehicles to be sold, visit http://www.state.wv.us/admin/purchase/surplus/AuctionList.pdf .

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Greenbrier County reaps economic benefits of Greenbrier Classic http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150630/DM01/150709988 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150630/DM01/150709988 Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:35:39 -0400 By Marcus Constantino

FOR MORE GREENBRIER CLASSIC COVERAGE CLICK HERE

As the sixth edition of The Greenbrier Classic gets underway, Lewisburg businesses are getting ready for both newcomers and annual "regulars" who are coming back to their favorite shops and restaurants.

Crowds will gather en masse today for the Pro-Am, a star-studded event that will feature celebrities like former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and "Duck Dynasty" star Jase Robertson, as well as TOUR golfers including Tiger Woods, whose only other Greenbrier Classic appearance was in 2012.

But Lewisburg businesses have already been in high gear this week hosting golfers, their families and the thousands of volunteers and members of the media that come to town early for the event.

Melissa Barrow and her daughter, Katie, both of Texas, were out shopping in Lewisburg on Tuesday afternoon as the professional golfers put in time at the driving range and practice green at The Greenbrier. Melissa's husband is a producer for the CBS Sports broadcast, so they travel occasionally to PGA TOUR events. The Greenbrier Classic, they say, is one of their favorites because of the small-town atmosphere in the Lewisburg area.

"It has a family feel to it," Katie Barrow said. "I know a lot of people that are here with the TOUR. You notice a lot of them brought their families, their wives and children, so that makes it stand out from other tournaments because it's such a family-friendly environment."

"There's a lot of things for everybody to do during the week," Melissa Barrow added.

Sandy Carter, owner of The Bakery on Court Street, was hard at work with his wife and daughter Tuesday morning preparing lunch for crew members from CBS Sports, which is televising the third and final rounds of the golf tournament live on Saturday and Sunday. Carter said he's baked seven dozen bagels and prepared lunches for the CBS Sports crew each day of the tournament for the past four years.

Carter said the crew members enjoyed the bagels so much, he was asked to ship a dozen bagels to CBS' headquarters in New York. Producers from The Cooking Channel's "Chuck's Eat The Street" show learned of his delectable bagels and featured his shop on the show in September 2014, which thrust his business into the national spotlight.

"We had people from all over come in because of it," Carter said. "CBS has helped put us and Lewisburg on the map."

Carter said he and other Lewisburg shops regularly see professional golfers and their families come through during the week along with the regular crush of tourists. He also sees a steady steam of what he calls "golf widows" - the wives and children of men who are watching the tournament.

Carter prefers to call them "guests," because the hope is that the visitors will want to come back to Lewisburg.

"Lewisburg itself, year after year, is getting more exposure, more traffic," Carter said. "There's a lot of neat towns in America, but Lewisburg, in my opinion, is unique among all those little towns. I have people tell me they walk around town and they feel like they're for a short time a part of it. They're not treated as outsiders or tourists."

Kara Dense, executive director of the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said hotels as far away as Beckley and Lexington, Va., have been booked solid for the tournament, and many rooms are booked as early as a year in advance. The tournament gives businesses the opportunity to leave a lasting first impression on visitors, but it also thrusts Lewisburg into the national spotlight as television crews from The Golf Channel and CBS Sports cover the tournament closely all week.

Though Dense didn't have exact numbers for how much of an economic impact The Greenbrier Classic makes for Greenbrier and surrounding counties, she said it's a big part of Greenbrier County's $247 million tourism industry.

"It's giving us exposure and public relations we couldn't afford to buy," Dense said. "When you get four days on The Golf Channel and CBS, and the course, when you watch it on TV, it looks amazing. And the announcers talk about how beautiful the people are and how beautiful (Greenbrier County) is."

Carter admits Lewisburg has come a long way from when The Greenbrier nearly went out of business in 2009, and Jim Justice purchased it and saved it from bankruptcy. Between the Greenbrier Classic, the New Orleans Saints' summer camp and the State Fair of West Virginia, Carter said Lewisburg is bustling on any given summer day.

"You gotta hand it to Jim Justice," Carter said. "Everything he's done to keep The Greenbrier going, to keep it local, to do everything it's doing. He's putting energy in it and advertising into it, and he's out there day after day after day tooting West Virginia's horn, so to speak."

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or marcus.c@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.

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Greece faces losing the euro http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150629/ARTICLE/150629129 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150629/ARTICLE/150629129 Mon, 29 Jun 2015 17:45:19 -0400

By DEREK GATOPOULOS

and COSTAS KANTOURIS

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece — Anxious pensioners swarmed closed bank branches Monday and long lines snaked outside ATMs as Greeks endured the first day of serious controls on their daily economic lives ahead of a July 5 referendum that could determine whether the country has to ditch the euro currency and return to the drachma.

As strict capital controls took root following Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ surprise weekend decision to call a referendum on international creditors’ latest economic proposals, Greece’s population tried to fathom the sheer scale of the impact on their day-to-day existence.

Following a breakdown in talks between Greece and its creditors, the country is in the midst of the one of the most acute financial crises seen anywhere in the world in years. It’s running out of time to get the money it needs to stave off bankruptcy.

That has stoked fears of a crippling bank run, a messy Greek debt default and an exit from the euro. As a result, the country’s government imposed strict capital controls, none more onerous than a daily allowance of a measly 60 euros ($67) at the ATM.

The sense of unease was evident in the number of pensioners lining up at bank branches hoping they might open. Many elderly Greeks don’t have ATM cards and make cash withdrawals in person, and so found themselves completely cut off from their money.

“I came here at 4 a.m. because I have to get my pension,” said 74-year-old Anastasios Gevelidis, one of about 100 retirees waiting outside the main branch of the National Bank of Greece in the country’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki.

“I don’t have a card. I don’t know what’s going on. We don’t even have enough money to buy bread,” he said.

The capital controls come ahead of a big 1.6 billion-euro payment Greece has to make to the International Monetary Fund. It’s unlikely to be able to pay that without financial assistance.

Greece’s bailout program with its European creditors officially expires Tuesday, meaning the country will not have access to any of the money still available if it doesn’t secure a deal.

For months, the left-wing led Greek government, elected in January on a promise to bring an end to the hated austerity that it blames for an acute economic recession, has failed to agree on a package of spending cuts and reforms demanded by creditors in exchange for access to the remaining 7.2 billion euros ($8.1 billion) in rescue loans.

The sight of an economy on the precipice hit global markets hard Monday. In Europe, the Stoxx 50 index of leading shares ended 2.5 percent lower, while Germany’s DAX slid 3.6 percent. There were also some early warning signs that Greece’s problems may prove contagious — the borrowing rates of other highly indebted eurozone countries such as Italy and Portugal inched up slightly.

Investors are worried that should Greece leave the euro and say it can’t pay its debts, which stand at more than 300 billion euros, it will be forced into a chaotic return to the drachma — developments that could derail a fragile global economic recovery, as well as raise questions over the long-term viability of the euro currency itself.

“The major market concern is that if Greece were to default and or exit then it might encourage others to do the same,” said Gary Jenkins, chief credit strategist at LNG Capital. “Thus it puts the entire eurozone project at risk of collapse.”

Tsipras is advocating Greeks reject the proposals in the referendum, which increasingly has the look of a vote on euro membership itself.

That message was hammered home by European leaders.

“I’d like to ask the Greek people to vote ‘Yes’ ... I very much like the Greeks, and I’d say to them, ‘You should not commit suicide because you are afraid of death,’” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in an emotional speech against a backdrop of giant Greek and EU flags.

Negotiations with Greece were not dead, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her deputy insisted — as long as Greeks support that path in the July 5 vote.

“It must be crystal clear what is being decided: It is essentially the question, yes or not to remaining in the eurozone,” German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said.

Throughout Greece, massive queues formed at gas stations, with worried motorists seeking to fill up their tanks and pay with credit cards while they were still being accepted.

Although credit and cash card transactions have not been restricted, many retailers were not accepting card transactions Monday.

Electronic transfers and bill payments are allowed, but only within Greece. The government also stressed the controls would not affect foreign tourists, who would have no limits on cash withdrawals with foreign bank cards.

For emergency needs, such as importing medicine or sending remittances abroad, the Greek Treasury was creating a Banking Transactions Approval Committee to examine requests on a case-by-case basis.

Tsipras announced the capital controls in a televised address Sunday, blaming eurozone finance ministers for their rejection of an extension request to the bailout program.

The referendum decision, which has been ratified by Parliament, shocked and angered Greece’s European partners.

Greece is dividing into two camps ahead of the referendum — with most of the opposition backing a “Yes” vote.

“If you want to stay in the euro, vote yes. ... If you want banks to open, vote yes ... And most important, if you want to stay in Europe, vote yes,” former prime minister Antonis Samaras told lawmakers.

Protesters gathered late Monday to back the government proposal. A rally in support of the “Yes” vote is planned Tuesday.

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Drops in coal, crude oil and grain shipments cause railroad slump http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150629/ARTICLE/150629131 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150629/ARTICLE/150629131 Mon, 29 Jun 2015 17:43:59 -0400

By THOMAS BLACK

Bloomberg News

U.S. railroads, Wall Street favorites for much of the past decade, are slumping into a bear market amid a three-way squeeze from plunging coal, crude-oil and grain shipments.

An index of the four largest publicly traded U.S. carriers has dropped 20 percent from its peak in November, paced by Kansas City Southern, as the companies struggle to offset the loss of volumes. They haven't tumbled this much since 2011.

Those difficulties are likely to drag on, leading to the first annual industrywide earnings decline since 2009, as low natural gas prices sap coal demand, U.S. oil drilling slows and harvests return to normal after a record crop. That threatens to crimp a rally that made the group one of the top performers in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

"It's going to be a tough year," David Vernon, a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst, said in a telephone interview after publishing a note last week whose title predicted second-quarter profit reports that would be "Dark and Full of Terrors."

Earnings per share for the largest U.S. railroads - the other three are Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern - will fall 0.6 percent in 2015, based on analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Last year, they gained 19 percent. Analysts predict revenue will drop 2.8 percent this year after jumping 6.7 percent in 2014.

The dwindling volumes for coal, oil and grain are magnified in contrast with last year's surges. Petroleum carloads, chiefly crude, are down 0.6 after 2014's 13 percent increase. The other commodities are down even more; Union Pacific's grain and coal declines are 10 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Coal's retreat is especially worrisome for investors because it's the industry's largest commodity, and the weakening demand may be permanent. Environmental regulation has squeezed the fuel, which many utilities can easily replace with cleaner- burning natural gas. Coal accounted for 18 percent of cargo for both Union Pacific and CSX.

"This group has had the whammy of coal and the whammy of grain," said Michael Barr, a buy-side analyst with Neuberger Berman Group, which owns stock in the four major U.S. railroads. "It makes these reported numbers look really bad."

The S&P 500 Railroads Index's gain in the 10 years through 2014 beat the broader S&P 500 by more than sixfold. Profits were driven by productivity as companies invested to refurbish networks following deregulation. Pricing gains were outsized as old contracts were renegotiated based on improved service.

Efficiency gains will be harder to achieve in coming years after most of the rails have increased their operating margins to more than 30 percent. Core pricing has increased, but not as fast as the past pace.

Not all investors are so pessimistic.

The railroads are only in a temporary rough patch, said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer for BMO Asset Management in Toronto, which owns rail stocks. Rails continue to take business from trucks and have pricing power, which drives earnings over the long term, he said.

"Maybe the easy money has been made, but we don't think this is over or long in the tooth," Taylor said. "When the economy does well, the rails do well."

Excluding coal and grain, shipments are tracking economic growth, Neuberger Berman's Barr said. Railroads have posted a 4.1 percent increase in intermodal traffic, which is mostly consumer goods, in the second quarter so far this year. The industry tallies include BNSF Railway, now owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The rails will regain their footing and investors will jump back in as valuations prove to be cheap, said John Larkin, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp. Even with declines in coal and grain, Union Pacific is expected to post earnings growth of 4.7 percent this year, based on the average of 29 analysts' estimates. Earnings in 2016 are expected to jump 14 percent.

"The railroads have had a great run over the last 10 to 12 years," Larkin said. "Some people say the good days are over, but we argue that railroads' returns can be better than the overall market."

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North Carolina approves tolls on Interstate 77 near Charlotte http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150629/ARTICLE/150629140 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150629/ARTICLE/150629140 Mon, 29 Jun 2015 16:44:34 -0400 By ROMY VARGHESE Bloomberg News North Carolina signed contracts and sold $100 million of municipal bonds, workers are surveying the land, and the state’s first private toll lanes are set to open on Interstate 77 in 2018.

Not if Kurt Naas has anything to say about it. Naas and a group of fellow Charlotte-area residents have filed suit to stop the $648 million plan for the state’s first highway project with a private operator, a subsidiary of Madrid-based Ferrovial. The residents have spurred a chorus of opposition that includes local business leaders and the government of Mecklenburg County, where the stretch of highway is located.

“We’re siphoning money out of our local economy and we’re sending it to a foreign company,” said Naas, 53, an engineer and resident of Cornelius. “Giving the public right of way and using public dollars to build private lanes is bad public policy.”

The push for such public-private partnerships — or P3s — is expanding across the nation, from North Carolina to Colorado and Texas, as localities face dwindling federal dollars to fix crumbling roads through the almost-broke Highway Trust Fund.

“The Highway Trust Fund is just going from deadline to deadline, without long-term certainty regarding funds,” said Dan Close, a money manager in Chicago at Nuveen Asset Management, which oversees about $100 billion of munis, including the North Carolina securities. “When you need critical infrastructure completed, P3 projects are offering a little bit more certainty.”

Private financing of public works is common in Europe and Canada, with companies handling the work on the assets while governments retain ownership. It’s less so in the U.S., where the Highway Trust Fund was established in 1956 to support the new Interstate Highway System.

But the fund is almost out of money, supported by a federal gasoline tax that hasn’t been raised since 1993 and with lawmakers bickering over how to fill the gap.

So, governments are turning to other sources of financing.

In North Carolina, a venture called I-77 Mobility Partners, led by Ferrovial subsidiary Cintra Infraestructuras and Aberdeen Global Infrastructure II, will design, build, operate and maintain the I-77 project for 50 years.

The company, which is investing $248 million, will collect revenue from the new toll lanes on a 26-mile stretch of the highway north from Charlotte.

The state Department of Transportation sold the municipal bonds in May. The sale included securities maturing in June 2026 yielding 3.72 percent, or about 1.4 percentage points over benchmark munis, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. An index of 10-year BBB revenue-backed munis yielded 3.27 percent that day, Bloomberg data show.

Fitch Ratings graded the bonds BBB-, one step above junk, citing the project’s vulnerability to less traffic during economic downturns and the area’s “limited familiarity with tolling.” DBRS Ltd. graded the securities BBB, one step higher.

Levies will change based on demand, and travelers can either use those lanes and pay, or drive on the free lanes. Vehicles with more than three occupants can ride on the new lanes without charge. The state is paying about $95 million toward the cost, and a federal loan to the company provides $189 million.

The project will create “8,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs” with as many as 100 local companies expected in the construction, said Jean Leier, a spokeswoman for I-77 Mobility Partners.

“This long-term traffic solution will generate economic development and continued economic vitality to this important corridor,” she said in an email.

Partnering with a private operator speeds up a project needed to cope with the congestion in a fast-growing area, said Mike Charbonneau, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation in Raleigh.

Charlotte, the state’s most-populous city, is home to Bank of America Corp. and Duke Energy Corp., the biggest U.S. electric utility. Surrounding Mecklenburg and Iredell counties make up 16 percent of the state’s employment, according to Fitch.

“While P3s are new to our state, they are an important strategy moving forward to help meet growing demands and to stay ahead of rapid growth,” Charbonneau said by e-mail.

Representatives of local businesses see the project as worsening traffic and are traveling to Raleigh on June 30 to meet with legislators to persuade them to cancel the transaction, said organizer John McAlpine. He said drivers would eschew tolls, while operators of trucks with more than three axles — which can’t use the paid lanes — would throng the free ones.

Mecklenburg County also wants to curb the project. Its board of commissioners voted 7-2 on June 16 on a resolution asking state leaders to cancel it and come up with an alternative without tolls.

The transportation department filed a motion this month in Mecklenburg County Superior Court asking that the suit by Naas’s group be dismissed.

With no solution in sight for long-term federal funding of roads, more localities are considering P3 projects, testing American acceptance of tolls, said Jonathan Gifford, director of the Center for Transportation Public-Private Partnership Policy at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.

“That’s a bit of a wild card,” Gifford said. “There’s a widening appreciation for the fact that the public acceptance of using tolls to finance the projects is pretty variable.”

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Blackhawk Mining plans to buy some Patriot Coal assets http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150629/ARTICLE/150629159 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150629/ARTICLE/150629159 Mon, 29 Jun 2015 11:22:57 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Blackhawk Mining LLC says it plans to buy some of Patriot Coal's assets in southern West Virginia.

Lexington, Ky.-based Blackhawk says in a news release that it has entered a definitive agreement to purchase Patriot's Panther, Rocklick, Wells, Kanawha Eagle, Paint Creek and Midland Trail complexes. The agreement also includes reserve areas.

The sale is subject to a bankruptcy judge's approval.

Scott Depot, West Virginia-based Patriot filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 12.

The bankruptcy court approved bidding procedures for the sale of Patriot's assets on June 23. The court also approved Blackhawk as the "stalking horse" bidder for the previously identified assets.

Blackhawk president Nick Glancy says the company is working to complete the acquisition by late September or early October.

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John Burdette column: Your personal Declaration of Independence http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150628/DM05/150629214 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150628/DM05/150629214 Sun, 28 Jun 2015 18:22:09 -0400

By John Burdette

For the Daily Mail

The Fourth of July is celebrated because that is the day the Continental Congress in 1776 adopted the Declaration of Independence, formally announcing the separation from Great Britain.

I believe it's important to note that simply declaring the intention to form a new nation did not make it so.

Many struggles and sacrifices had to be endured before the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 formally recognizing the United States as a new nation.

The truth is, the story of this nation is still being built by all of us each day. We are fortunate to have the freedom to shape our lives in the direction of our choosing.

What visions do you have for your future?

Your first step in achieving the tomorrow set in your vision is to declare it. Plant your flag where you can see it and move toward it each day.

Like the founding fathers, simply declaring your future will not make it so. It may take years of hard work, sacrifice and commitment to make it a reality.

As a financial advisor, many of the goals I help clients plan for require money to make it happen. Keep in mind, money in itself is not usually the goal, but rather money is the tool necessary to achieve it.

For instance, a goal may be, "I want to share a holiday vacation tradition with my children and grandchildren."

This is an emotional goal that takes some financial planning to make it a reality. Goals that stir your heart and bring joy when you think about them are an ideal place to begin your planning.

"Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so," said David Brooks, a New York Times commentator.

This quote encapsulates what I think your second step should be on the way to your future: optimism.

You must believe your dreams are possible and that your actions will produce the results you seek.

I was fortunate enough to tour Independence Hall when I was a teenager.

There you will see a chair George Washington used that has a sun carved into its back. Ben Franklin commented that he knew the sun was rising, not setting.

That's the type of belief you will need to make your big goals happen.

Just like the Revolutionary period, you will have many stumbling blocks along the way.

The markets sometimes falter, you may lose your job or a myriad of problems can crop up to make you waiver.

You must maintain the optimism or you will give up, and your future plans will evaporate.

We have been blessed to have inherited a system of government and commerce that gives each of us the opportunity to pursue the paths we choose.

Each day we add our own pages to the American story.

Declare your goal, take action and stay optimistic and you will have good company with the nation's founders.

Today we have the ability to access markets and participate in innovations that are continually improving our lives.

On the most basic level, we individually improve our lot in life by serving others with our work.

That is truly a reason to stay optimistic and give thanks for those whose unwavering vision made it all possible.

John Burdette is a financial adviser at Fourth Avenue Financial in South Charleston.

Disclaimer: Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corp. (NPC), member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fourth Avenue Financial and NPC are separate and unrelated companies.

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Greek banks ordered to shut indefinitely http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150628/ARTICLE/150629215 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150628/ARTICLE/150629215 Sun, 28 Jun 2015 18:21:16 -0400

By ELENA BECATOROS

and DEMETRIS NELLAS

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece - Greece's five-year financial crisis took its most dramatic turn to date Sunday, with the prime minister announcing Greek banks would remain shut indefinitely and restrictions would be imposed on cash withdrawals.

The decision came on the recommendation of the Bank of Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said during a televised address to the nation. He didn't immediately say what types of capital controls would be imposed.

The developments have thrown into question Greece's financial future and continued membership in the 19-nation shared euro currency - and even the European Union.

For the past two days, Greeks have been rushing to ATMs to withdraw money across the country following Tsipras' sudden weekend decision to call a referendum on creditor proposals for Greek reforms in return for vital bailout funds.

The government is urging Greeks to vote against the proposals, arguing that they are humiliating and that they would prolong the country's financial woes.

The referendum decision, which was ratified by parliament after a marathon 13-hour session that ended in the early hours of Sunday, shocked and angered Greece's European partners. The country's negotiations with its European creditors have been suspended, with both sides accusing each other of being responsible.

Earlier Sunday, the European Central Bank decided not to increase the amount of emergency liquidity the lenders can access from the central bank - meaning they have no way to replenish fast diminishing deposits.

"It is now more than clear that this decision has no other aim than to blackmail the will of the Greek people and prevent the smooth democratic process of the referendum," Tsipras said.

"They will not succeed. These moves will have the exact opposite effect. They will make the Greek people more determined in their choice to reject the unacceptable ... proposals and ultimatums of the creditors," he said.

The referendum is set for next Sunday. But Greece's current bailout expires on Tuesday, and the 7.2 billion euros ($8 billion) remaining in it will no longer be available to Greece after that date.

Without those funds, Greece is unlikely to be able to pay a 1.6 billion-euro ($1.79 billion) International Monetary Fund debt repayment due the same day.

Tsipras said he had renewed a request for the bailout to be extended by a few days to allow for the referendum - a request which was rebuffed during the weekend by Greece's European creditors.

Tsipras gave no details of how long banks will remain closed or what restrictions will be placed on transactions. Two financial sector officials said the banks would likely remain shut for several days, and the Athens Stock Exchange would also not open on Monday.

Some European officials called for renewed efforts by both sides.

"We don't know - none of us - the consequences of an exit from the eurozone, either on the political or economic front. We must do everything so that Greece stays in the eurozone," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told France's i-Tele TV earlier Sunday.

"But doing everything, that means respecting Greece and democracy, but it's also about respecting European rules. So Greece needs to come back to the negotiating table," he said.

On the streets of Athens, reactions to Tsipras' referendum call were mixed.

"I have no idea what we are voting for. Yes or no, we don't know what to say," 67-year-old Triandafila Bourbourda said as she walked in the capital's main Syntagma Square. "I think we shouldn't have gone so far to get into this mess."

But Voula Lambrou, attending a Sunday morning church service, said she believed Greece would be better off outside the 28-nation EU.

"If we exit the European Union, I believe things will be very good for Greece," she said. "It will be tough for some time, but we will be able to find strength in order to carry on ahead. We don't need the Europeans."

Two opinion polls published Sunday indicated that more Greeks want to stay in the eurozone and make a deal with creditors than want a rupture with the country's European partners. Both polls were conducted before Tsipras' referendum call, but they provide an indication of public sentiment.

In the poll by Alco for the Proto Thema paper, 57 percent said they believed Greece should make a deal while 29 percent wanted a rupture of ties. A Kapa Research poll for To Vima newspaper found that 47.2 percent would vote in favor of a new, painful agreement with Greece's creditors, compared to 33 percent who would vote no and 18.4 percent undecided.

Both polls were conducted from June 24-26 and had a margin of error of about 3.1 percent.

On the banking front, the ECB has said it could reconsider its decision on credit levels.

"We continue to work closely with the Bank of Greece and we strongly endorse the commitment of member states in pledging to take action to address the fragilities of euro-area economies," ECB chief Mario Draghi said.

Yannis Stournaras, governor of the Bank of Greece, said the bank would "take all measures necessary to ensure financial stability for Greek citizens in these difficult circumstances."

---

David McHugh in Frankfurt, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

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Hotels use fees to hide true price from booking websites http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150628/ARTICLE/150629216 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150628/ARTICLE/150629216 Sun, 28 Jun 2015 18:19:59 -0400

By THAD MOORE

The Washington Post

Booking a room at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip for July 4 will run you right around $351 a night, before taxes. But look it up online, and you'll see something closer to $319.

The difference: a $32.48-a-night resort fee that pays for amenities like Internet access, the hotel gym and a daily newspaper. Use them or not, everyone who stays pays the fee.

Such fees, which can top $100, have been getting more scrutiny in recent years. Experts say that some hotels charge fees instead of raising their rates because it helps them stay at the top of online search results, where every dollar counts. But consumer advocates say they mask the true cost of a night's stay, making it hard for travelers to pick the right hotel.

The Federal Trade Commission took aim at the fees in 2012, threatening 22 hotel chains with legal action if they didn't start making the fees more clear. Staff attorneys at the FTC said that as long as the fees show up during the booking process and consumers see the total cost before paying, the hotels were doing enough.

But consumer advocates said the FTC should have a stricter standard. Unless fees are rolled into the prices that high-end hotels advertise and to booking sites' search results, they said, consumers will be stuck with a research project if they hope to comparison shop.

"It becomes a giant hassle for consumers," said Charlie Leocha, founder of Travelers United, a consumer advocacy group. "It's totally consumer unfriendly, and it's totally unnecessary."

About 7 percent of hotels charge resort fees, which have been around for years, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Total fees in the U.S. cracked $2 billion for the first time in 2012, and reached $2.25 billion last year, according to Bjorn Hanson, who studies the industry at New York University.

Hanson said the fees are virtually pure profit for resorts, because they would have to offer most of the amenities they cover, like pools and phone service, with or without a fee.

Plus, it's a way for hotels to charge extra without being knocked in search results. Raising the price of a room just a few dollars can put a dent in hotels' market share, he said, but charging it as a fee keeps them competitive.

That's because on most major booking sites, resort fees don't show up in search results. Consumers usually don't encounter fees until they choose a hotel and start to pick a room.

FTC lawyers said this week that that's enough disclosure because consumers know the cost before they pay, but the announcement roiled consumer advocates, who were pushing the agency to go further.

"We took the position that information needs to be upfront, but whether it's expressed as one dollar figure or two dollar figures, we were not going to tackle that," Mamie Kresses, a senior attorney at the FTC, said in a presentation to industry and consumer representatives.

In some places, resort fees are difficult to avoid, according to data compiled by ResortFeeChecker.com. In Snowshoe, West Virginia, nearly 9 in 10 hotels charge a mandatory fee. In Las Vegas, more than 4 in 10 do.

They range nationwide from a few dollars a night to more than $100, but like the Bellagio, most hover around $20 or $30.

Executives at MGM Hotels, which owns the Bellagio, defended the fee, saying it's cheaper than charging individually for amenities. And even though the company's websites don't advertise the total price, they said no one is trying to hide the fees.

"It is not in fine print, and it is not in small print," said Micah Richins, MGM Hotels' senior vice president of revenue management, "but it is in bold print."

Robert Gilbert, president of Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, said the fees can give resort operators steady revenue to pay for amenities even as room rates fluctuate from customer to customer and season to season.

Leocha, of Travelers United, said he planned to push the FTC to change its policy. Like other consumer advocates, he says the practice won't go away unless regulators step in. Advocates say that's because hotels that roll mandatory fees into their room rates would be hit in search results.

"All too often, it turns out that the good guys have no choice but to join the bad guys," said Ed Perkins, a Tribune-syndicated travel columnist who opposes the fees. "That's not a situation I think we'd like to see continue."

bc-hotels

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Cheers, relief and tears for HHS chief after high court ends Obamacare fight http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150628/DM01/150629228 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150628/DM01/150629228 Sun, 28 Jun 2015 15:01:09 -0400

By LENA H. SUN

THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON - When Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell saw on her office computer that the Supreme Court was about to release the much-anticipated ruling on the Affordable Care Act, she rushed out of her office and down the hall to a conference room where about two dozen senior staff were gathered. Before she got there, she heard a cheer erupt from the room.

"And that's the moment that I knew," said Burwell, describing how she found out Thursday that the court had upheld a key part of the Affordable Care Act, allowing health insurance subsidies to flow to all qualifying Americans.

Burwell also knew that the initial media reports could be wrong, recalling what happened the last time the court ruled on a challenge to the law. "Are we sure?" she asked her staff. She also took a moment to lean over a staff member's shoulder to read the decision on a laptop as staff members double-checked the opinion, according to an official in the room. The mood in the room was joyful but also relieved. Some staff members cried.

Only then did the top health care official allow herself to become emotional and cry, she said.

In a meeting with reporters Friday, Burwell said the day of the ruling was "very emotional." But now it's time to focus on what's next, and said she planned to spend her remaining time in office on many of the other aspects of the health law.

"I believe it's time to turn and build on the progress," she said.

Repeating a theme she has stressed in recent weeks, Burwell said she would work harder to help Americans understand the law's many other provisions. Although the law - and the word "Obamacare" - are unpopular, many provisions of the law are popular. "Obamacare isn't connected to the actual substance" of the law, she said.

"It's about your child of 26 being able to stay on (parents' health plan), it is about you no longer having to worry about pre-existing conditions, it is about you can use preventive services often without a co-pay," she said.

Burwell said she would also make a renewed push for states to expand Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor, and changing the way government pays for health care by linking payments more closely to the quality of care rather than the quantity.

Asked whether health officials had any new strategy to persuade states to broaden Medicaid coverage, Burwell said: "I'm an optimist about the Medicaid issue in terms of being able to make some progress."

She said she would continue to reach out and work with governors to come to understandings that suit each state's circumstances, citing recent agreements reached in Indiana and Florida. "We welcome the opportunity to talk about how a particular state needs to do this. ... We think there's a lot of space to get to agreement."

The law originally expanded Medicaid to include all childless low-income adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,250 for an individual). The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could choose that option. Twenty-one states have resisted, most of them led by Republican governors.

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App that simplifies splitting the tab gains momentum http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150625/ARTICLE/150629385 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150625/ARTICLE/150629385 Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:32:52 -0400

By MAE ANDERSON

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - On a trip to Maine with four friends, Alexander Culbertson racked up $1,300 on gas, hotel rooms, food and drinks.

But instead of splitting all of the weekend's activities evenly throughout the trip, one person paid for everything. Then, later they all split the final bill using Venmo, an app that lets users pay with a tap and a text-like message.

"It would have been a nightmare for all of us to evenly split every transaction," says Culbertson, 26, a Boston advertising executive. "If you say 'I'll grab beer and you grab the groceries,' things usually don't come out as planned. "This kept things easy."

Person-to-person mobile payment services like PayPal-owned Venmo are catching on as a way to bypass searching for an ATM or splitting a bill on multiple cards when the dinner check comes. And they're particularly popular among millennials, a generation that seems to have their own way of doing everything.

For Dan Callahan, 22, a digital marketing manager in Philadelphia, using Venmo means avoiding the awkward situation of nagging his roommate for rent since you can request payment via the app.

"I write the checks or pay online for our rent, utilities, and anything else, and at the end of each month, I total it all up and he sends me half," Callahan said. "And it's all free. Beats having to get ATM charges from my bank and dealing with cash!"

The services also are growing quickly: Venmo is seeing four times the growth this quarter as it did last year. The service processed $2.4 billion in transactions in 2014 and $1.3 billion last quarter alone. Similar services abound, including Snapcash on Snapchat and Square's Cashtags which can be used via tweet or text.

It's still just a sliver of total spending online - which Forrester predicts will reach $334 billion in 2015. But the peer-to-peer payment services are catching on with some more quickly than so-called digital wallets like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay.

Rohan Gandhi, 24, a consultant in Washington, D.C., said when his friend lost a debit card while traveling with him in Cambodia, he was able to foot all the bills and then be "Venmo-ed" back instantly by his traveling companion.

"In terms of convenience, us twentysomethings are never without our phones, and the app is incredibly easy to navigate," he said.

The services link directly to your bank account, debit card, or credit card. (In Venmo's case, it's free to link to your bank account or debit account but credit card transactions cost a 3 percent fee).

You first have to connect to other people who have signed up for the service. Then, you type in the amount you want to send someone, add a short message about what the payment is for, and hit send.

"I like the convenience of it - primarily that immediacy," said Sierra Davis, 25, a newspaper writer in Los Angeles.

Security works the same way it does for any app that stores your bank or card information. That means it might be accessible if someone steals your phone. And the fee for using credit cards discourages their use, even though credit cards are usually fraud-protected for anything over $50, unlike some bank accounts and debit cards.

Cynthia Larose, chair of the privacy and security practice at the law firm Mintz Levin in Boston, said users should be cautious.

"These days you can't assume that any system is secure," she said. "If you're starting off using a system like this, I wouldn't use your main bank account."

Peer-to-peer services have security policies in place but they're not always as direct as dealing with a bank. Venmo, for example, says users aren't liable for more than $50 of any unauthorized transfers they find, but only if they contact the company within two days after learning of the theft.

Still, for Davis, like many, the convenience outweighs security concerns.

"Security is always a concern when dealing with finances online. But I bank online, I make online purchases, I've used PayPal in the past without a problem. I have a password on my phone, in addition to the password on the app, and I keep a close eye on my finances and trust my bank," she said. "For my generation, money transfers like this are so familiar that it feels safe."

The messages that go along with the payments are a major attraction for many users. Venmo features a Twitter-like newsfeed that shows who your friends are paying and what they're paying for.

"I like how you can leave notes saying exactly what the transaction was for," said Jordyn Holman, 21, from Chicago. "People are fun with describing it, oftentimes using emojis like hamburgers and drinks to describe a meal that was Venmo-ed."

Peer-to-peer systems typically work only for people who are on the same system, and multiple systems have sprung up. Facebook recently jumped in the game with Facebook mobile payments, Square and PayPal have built up their own services, and banks have their own person-to-person, or P2P, services

The services, which are free or charge a nominal fee, don't make much money. PayPal's soon-to-be CEO Dan Schulman said the goal for Venmo is to eventually tie the app into PayPal's network of merchants and have more businesses accept Venmo. Currently, Papa John's accepts Venmo payments for Pizza and HBO accepted it for its pay-per-view blockbuster boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in May.

Adam Madaris, 22, a bank teller in Boulder, Colorado, hosted a party with his roommate for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight and had attendees split $99 pay-per-view cost via Venmo.

"I actually can't think of a single one of my friends who haven't used a service for making payments electronically, whether that's Venmo, Snapcash, Google wallets, or even my bank's P2P service," he said.

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Demand for soda in McDonald's Happy Meals fizzles http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150625/ARTICLE/150629387 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150625/ARTICLE/150629387 Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:16:18 -0400

By CANDICE CHOI

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - McDonald's says fewer people are picking soda for Happy Meals after it stopped listing the drinks as an option on its menu boards.

The world's biggest hamburger chain said Thursday 48 percent of Happy Meals orders chose soda as a beverage in the U.S. after it was scrubbed from menus and marketing materials between July of last year and May. That's down from 56 percent in the year-ago period.

"I would expect that this would continue to go down," said Julia Braun, director of nutrition at McDonald's.

The results were noted in a report commissioned by McDonald's Corp. to track its progress on a pledge made in late 2013 with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which was founded by the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.

The pledge is part of a push by McDonald's to quiet critics who say it serves junk food and peddles unhealthy choices to children. Shaking that reputation is particularly important for McDonald's, whose courtship of parents and children over the decades helped make it an industry leader.

Burger King and Wendy's have also said they would stop featuring sodas as an option for kids' meals on menu boards after advocacy groups called for the change. Representatives for both chains declined to provide details on how the moves have changed soda sales.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the decline in sodas for Happy Meals showed promise.

"It takes more than one year to undo decades of bad marketing," she said.

McDonald's did not provide historical data on the share of Happy Meals orders that included soda in past years, which might indicate the popularity of the drink had been fading on its own. But prior to the change, it said the percentage of Happy Meals with soda had been holding steady for at least 18 months.

Coca-Cola said in a statement that it is proud to be McDonald's partner, and noted that it supplies a range of drinks for the chain's customers, including Dasani water and Minute Maid juices for Happy Meals.

As for changing the drinking habits of adults, McDonald's doesn't plan to stop featuring Coke drinks for its extra value meals. But as part of its pledge with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, it said it would offer side salads, vegetables or fruit as an alternative to fries in 20 major markets by 2020.

That effort didn't begin in the U.S. until earlier this year, and McDonald's says it doesn't yet have data on how many people are forgoing fries for salads, which now include kale and spinach.

The report commissioned by McDonald's also found the company complied with its pledge in the U.S. to promote healthier options on Happy Meal packaging and to include positive nutrition messages in advertising aimed at children.

The report, conducted by Keybridge, was based on surveys of 100 restaurants in the U.S. and 81 locations in Italy. Brendan Fitzpatrick, one of its authors, said Keybridge verified sales data on Happy Meal drinks with a McDonald's supply chain manager.

"Other than that, we're reliant on McDonald's for providing the data," he said.

Despite a variety of efforts by McDonald's to change perceptions about its food, sales have continued to slump since late 2012. And at least one effort to get people to eat better isn't working out.

When rolling out egg whites as an option for breakfast sandwiches in 2013, McDonald's started using whole grain muffins for its Egg McMuffins. But Braun, the director of nutrition at McDonald's, said feedback on the bread hasn't been good.

"I think that one is going to be reworked," Braun said. "Whole grains are definitely challenging."

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Ford jumps into the car-sharing pool with pilot program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150625/ARTICLE/150629447 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150625/ARTICLE/150629447 Thu, 25 Jun 2015 06:35:32 -0400

NEW YORK (AP) - Ford is following the ride-sharing craze, launching its own pilot program in six U.S. cities and in London.

Under the program, customers who finance their vehicles through Ford Motor Credit will be able to rent their vehicle to pre-screened drivers for short-term use, helping to defray some monthly vehicle ownership costs.

"As most vehicles are parked and out of use much of the time, this can help us gauge our customers' desires to pick up extra cash and keep their vehicles in use," David McClelland, Ford Credit vice president of marketing, said in a written statement.

Ford Motor Co. said that 14,000 customers in the U.S. will be invited to participate, along with 12,000 in London.

U.S. customers will partake through ride-share company Getaround, while London customers will use easyCar Club.

The program is being offered through November to Ford Credit customers in Chicago, Washington D.C., Portland, Oregon and California locations including Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.

The ride-sharing industry is showing strong growth and more traditional auto companies are clamoring to get aboard.

Avis spent $491 million two years ago to buy Zipcar, tapping into strong demand for short-term car rentals in urban areas. Enterprise runs CarShare and Daimler AG runs Car2Go in multiple European and U.S. cities.

The number of users has doubled over six years, according to the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California. While it is tiny compared with the traditional car rental industry, annual revenue has reached about $400 million, researchers found.

Ford also said that it has a new electric bicycle, the MoDe: Flex. It's the automaker's third eBike, following the MoDe:Me and MoDe: Pro that launched in March.

Shares of the Dearborn, Michigan, automaker rose 36 cents to $15.65 in midday trading Wednesday.

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Business briefs for June 25, 2015 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150625/DM01/150629499 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150625/DM01/150629499 Thu, 25 Jun 2015 00:01:00 -0400

Heidi Dylan, an eclectic women's clothing store at 1031 Quarrier St., inside Uncork & Create in Charleston, announces the launch of their online store HeidiDylan.com. A launch party and ribbon cutting will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday. The ribbon cutting will take place at 6:15 p.m. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and wine will be provided. Door prizes will be given out throughout the evening at the event, which is open to the public.

Mitzi Brammer, owner of Heidi Dylan Boutique, recently partnered with Danielle Snidow, co-owner of Uncork & Create, to form Heidi Dylan Worldwide LLC, according to a news release from the business. Together the women manage the Heidi Dylan retail store in Charleston and have been working hard to launch HeidiDylan.com.

In addition to the launch of the online store, Heidi Dylan is now offering private "sip and shop" events with a hostess rewards program. Parties of 10 or more can have their own private shopping party with their friends and earn free and discounted clothing. Sip and shop events can be scheduled Monday through Wednesday and on Sundays.

To contact the store, call 304-345-7877. Visit the website HeidiDylan.com.

Organizers at Inspiring WV, a nonprofit in Buckhannon, are inviting residents to help students, boost the state economy and build a stronger community for West Virginia by attending the Once in a Blue Moon experience on Aug. 1.

This unique fundraiser will feature entertainment by Bridgeport guitarist Russ Ruppert and a locally-sourced dinner of ribeye steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, hot rolls and desserts. It will take place on top of Allegheny Mountain near the famous Red Harper Country Store Barn off U.S. Rt. 33 on the historic Harper Farm. Following the dinner, guests will enjoy a view of the full moon as it rises over the Potomac Highlands and are welcome to stay until 11 p.m.

Guests are invited to arrive at 6 p.m. with dinner served at 7 p.m. Tickets are $100 and can be reserved by calling 304-588-5200. Following dinner, attendees will hear from a guest speaker.

Inspiring WV encourages middle school students to consider entrepreneurship as a career option. The fundraiser will support programs in 12 counties in north central West Virginia. For more information, visit www.inspiringwv.org.

Business news source CNBC has named McKinley Carter Wealth Services, which operates with a regional office in Charleston, to its Top 100 List of (Fee-Only) Wealth Management Advisors for 2015.

To be considered for the list, CNBC focused on firms that are SEC-registered investment advisors with a fiduciary responsibility to act in their clients' best interest. These advisory firms don't accept any fees or compensation based on product sales; instead, they charge a fee for their advice. These fees are either asset-based or, as advisors can also provide more comprehensive advice, the fees may be project-based.

CNBC placed McKinley Carter at No. 80 on its list, which means, among a national landscape of about 15,000 considered, the firm is performing at the top 1 percent of all firms in the U.S.

The firm currently operates with nearly 40 employees among five regional offices, which are located in Charleston and Parkersburg, Pittsburgh (Pa.), Gaithersburg (Md.), with headquarters in Wheeling. In addition to investment management and trust services, McKinley Carter offers corporate retirement plan and nonprofit advisory services.

compiled from staff, wire reports

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Community college adds new program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150624/DM01/150629486 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150624/DM01/150629486 Wed, 24 Jun 2015 20:01:02 -0400 Joining the already-existing "two plus two" program at BridgeValley Community and Technical College, programs including accounting, business, health services administration and criminal justice will qualify as of today.

Students who complete the eligible associate degree programs at BridgeValley will be able seamlessly to transition into a bachelor's program at West Virginia University Institute of Technology, according to a press release from WVU Tech.

Once students earn an associates degree, they will be able to finish a bachelor's degree within two years.

Programs eligible for the agreement include: accounting associates degree to accounting bachelor's degree, finance associates degree to accounting bachelor's degree, management associates degree to business management bachelor's degree, marketing associates degree to business management bachelor's degree, criminal justice associates degree to criminal justice bachelor's degree, health care management associates degree to health services administration bachelor's degree and paralegal studies associates degree to public service administration bachelor's degree.

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Business designs software that streamlines bidding process http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150624/DM05/150629491 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150624/DM05/150629491 Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:29:58 -0400 By Andrea Lannom When Nathaniel Boggs decided to create his software program, aiming to eliminate favoritism in the bidding process, he wanted to go after the goldfish.

"Most people when they're in business, they go after the whales, where all the money is," Boggs said. "There are a lot of goldfish out there and if you get enough goldfish together, it's going to surpass the value of a whale."

That's why his business is called Goldfish Resources. This business, which Boggs created along with Bob Bliss and his uncle Craig Boggs, enables buyers and sellers to be anonymous until the company picks the vendor it wants.

"It's designed to eliminate fraud, favoritism and kickbacks in the bidding process," said Bliss, vice president and co-founder of Goldfish Resources.

Boggs said his inspiration for the company came from his past experience with purchasing and sourcing. He came up with the idea in 2012 and he said it has been growing ever since.

"We kept running into problems, especially on the time on getting bids back and then running into maybe there is some favoritism going on in the purchasing world," he said. "I thought there has to be a better way to make it quicker and easier, instead of calling, faxing or emailing - just have one channel set up."

And it's not just for larger companies. Boggs said the program works with businesses of all sizes.

Once a business decides on the service it wants, Goldfish goes into that company, installs the vendor list into the program and then trains employees and vendors.

Bliss said it's an easy drop-down menu on the computer.

"For example, if you want to buy 300 tables ... they know they have 200 vendors but they call Joe because he's a good buddy who they play golf with," Bliss said. "Under our program, they outline the purchase for the tables such as what kind of table, size, warranty - all the facts about it. They hit the button and that request to bid goes out to all qualified bidders that sell tables."

All the vendors see is a bid request from a company in Charleston that wants 300 tables, Bliss said. When the company gets its bids, it sees it on its end as "Vendor A and Vendor B," along with the listed price.

"It's anonymous until they make the final decision. At that point, they find out who I am and I find out who you are," Bliss said.

Bliss said it's a quicker process. He said purchasing directors have told him that it can sometimes take up to two weeks to get a few bids back.

"They're amazed when they get the bids on this program and they can have it out to all vendors in a minute and a half," Bliss said.

The program also gives reports to management showing various purchasing trends. It also tracks buyers to see what makes them pick a bid.

Boggs said the program also keeps businesses from spending time repeatedly researching who sells a certain item.

"Our system pulls everyone who sells office supplies. It saves time. It identifies it for you rather than you identifying them and contacting them," Boggs said.

For a small company, Bliss said the program could run about $20,000 and it could go as high as $50,000.

"That includes the installation of the program, getting set up on the server, training employees and vendors, which is the biggie. If you have 400 vendors, that's a lot of vendors to train," Bliss said.

Boggs said businesses won't need to change their procurement systems and that there will be no updates on the current accounting system at all.

"As opposed to changing the whole process, you don't have to do that. You just add the Goldfish link to the computer and get it up and running," Bliss said.

Boggs and Bliss said they're ready to roll with their company right now. However, he said they are taking baby steps.

"We're going low-key with it right now. We're talking to purchasing directors, talking to various people and trying the process," he said.

They said they have found interest from a lot of companies and they're in negotiations with clients right now. "The opportunities for this company are huge," Bliss said. "It has interests from the state, interests from schools, interests from hospitals. There are all kinds of ramifications that could come from other areas and other states."

Eventually, they said they hope for national expansion.

"Right now, we're just three guys operating out of our own wallets," Bliss said. "But I believe the potential is pretty good."

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.

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ArcelorMittal to sell 1,100 acres in Weirton to Frontier http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150624/ARTICLE/150629569 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150624/ARTICLE/150629569 Wed, 24 Jun 2015 13:23:23 -0400 WEIRTON, W.Va. (AP) - ArcelorMittal plans to sell 1,000 acres of surplus property in Weirton to The Frontier Group of Companies.

Media outlets report that ArcelorMittal announced this week that it has entered a purchase agreement with Frontier for the property adjacent to its steel plant. The sale is expected to close later this year. Details of the deal weren't released.

Frontier says its plans for property include developing the Ohio Valley Industrial Park.

Frontier President David Franjoine says in a statement that the company believes the Weirton site has significant development and reuse opportunities.

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