There's a lot to digest in a typical edition of the weekly Houston Business Journal, and the publishers are organizing seminars on how to get the most out of the paper. Journal Publisher John Beddow says they're called "Smart Reader Seminars."
"What it is, is a one-hour session with groups of business people. We show them better ways of reading the Business Journal and a way where they can really get the most out of the news leads and the events that are covered in the paper. Our average reader spends a little over 45 minutes with us, and that's a long time. But this gives as a quicker way when they first get their Journal just to scan it in a way where they can get the necessary information."
Beddow says changes in Houston's business community affect other businesses.
"Our news philosophy, so to speak, is to cover the changes in businesses because whenever there's a change in a business, that's an opportunity for somebody out there to capitalize on it, because if a business is going to hire a hundred people, that's a big impact on that business, and they may need to help from other support companies to help them ease through that transition. Or, if they're laying off a hundred people. So what we do is we show our readers at these Smart Reader Seminars the most effective way of being able to identify those changes and who the contact people are and who the businesses are and what the overall effect of that change is going to be for the business so that they can get the most out of it."
The "Smart Reader Seminars" are also an opportunity for the HBJ to get feedback on the paper.
"Yeah, we get a lot of direct feedback from people about what they like and what they think we should be improving in the paper. Again, it does not apply strictly to HBJ, although we use the Business Journal as a teaching tool. It's very interesting. We'll invite readers, you know, potential readers to our office or we can go out to their business. Pretty even mix of current readers and potential new readers who volunteer for this. It's a free seminar, and you never get enough information out there, so a lot of people are pretty eager to come to these things."
Beddow says the free seminars can be arranged by calling the Journal business office.
NRG Energy has received federal approval to acquire a 44 percent interest in the Texas Genco South Texas Project electric generating station. The OK came from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The action follows approval in November by the Federal Trade Commission of an early termination of the antitrust waiting period for the transaction. Both companies say the deal should close during the week of January 30th.
Behringer Harvard REIT I of Dallas has acquired the Woodcrest Corporate Center for $70 million. The more than 333,000-square-foot building formerly housed the Langston Steel Plant, and was converted to office use in 2002. Authorities say the building is more than 95 percent leased.
Lubbock has its own power and light company. Now city leaders want to take a serious look at the natural gas business. The city council has voted to create a committee to investigate whether Lubbock Power and Light could also serve as a natural gas utility provider. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports the committee is expected to present its findings in about 60 days. LP&L incoming President Gary Zheng says while the gas retail business is new to the utility, the company knows about natural gas because it uses that to fuel its power plant.
Satellites have monitored crop conditions around the world for decades. They've helped traders predict futures prices in commodities markets and governments anticipate crop shortages. But those satellite images are now increasingly turning up in courtrooms across the nation. That's as the Risk Management Agency at the U.S. Department of Agriculture cracks down on farmers involved in crop insurance fraud. The agency stepped up its enforcement after the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000 required it to use data mining to ferret out false claims. Every year, it ships claims data to the Center for Agriculture Excellence at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. There, analysts look for anomalies in claims and generate a list of claims for further investigation. Satellite imaging is provided on the most egregious cases. The USDA's Farm Service Agency helps farmers get loans and payments from a number of its programs. They're also using satellite imaging to monitor compliance.