Monday AM November 6th, 2006

Kaneka Nutrients opens Pasadena factory...Labor Department says nation's unemployment rate is at five-year low...Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston joins striking Houston janitors in pressuring building owners into asking cleaning companies to increase salaries and benefits...

Kaneka Nutrients has opened a new facility in Pasadena to produce the supplement Coenzyme Q10. Kaneka's Tom Schrier says clinical trials and research shows CoQ10 to be beneficial, and global demand has increased in the past few years.

"CoQ10 is a vitamin-like substance that's naturally present in your own body. It works in every cell of your body to help the microchondria produce ATP or energy. The older you get, the less Q10 you produce in your own body. You need Q10 in every cell, every organ, every tissue in your body to function properly. So, as you age, your production levels drop off, and as you supplement, you're able to get back that feeling of energy and have that proper functioning of your different organs. Also it's a very powerful anti-oxidant to kind of ward off the effects of aging."

The facility is the second plant opened by Kaneka Nutrients, which has been manufacturing CoQ10 in Japan since 1977.

" For Koneka, Japan is our only location outside the United States. That's in Takasago, Japan. In the U.S., here in Pasadena, Texas, this is the first and only manufacturing location for CoQ10. I believe we've added 70 new jobs in production and quality assurance and manufacturing, as well as sales and manufacturing here in Pasadena."

Kaneka's Pasadena plant will help meet two-thirds of current global demand, and can be expanded up to four times its initial capacity of 100 metric tons per year.

The Labor Department reports the nation's unemployment rate has dipped to a five-year low of 4.4 percent. That's a drop of two-tenths of one percent and marks the third straight monthly decline. Some 92,000 jobs were added to payrolls in October. While that number is lower than expected, there were strong upward revisions to the previous months. The report provides an indication of a strong labor market just days ahead of the midterm elections. Among sectors, services added 152,000 jobs, while manufacturing reduced employment by 39,000 and construction got rid of 26,000 jobs. President Bush seized upon the figures as evidence that his economic policies are working. Speaking at a GOP rally in Missouri, he said ''tax cuts have led to a strong and growing economy and this morning we got more proof of that.''

Deacon Sam Dunning from the Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston joined striking Houston janitors on Friday at the Hilton Americas to ask developer Gerald Hines to pressure building owners into asking cleaning companies to increase salaries and benefits. About 150 striking workers disrupted traffic in Houston's Galleria shopping district for about 90 minutes last Thursday afternoon. One dozen who chained themselves to metal garbage cans and sat in the middle of the street were arrested and charged with obstructing a pathway--a misdemeanor. More than 1,700 janitors have been on strike since October 23rd.

The Houston Independent School District is hosting a job fair to select substitute teachers for schools in the east and north Houston. Interviews begin after a 2 p.m. presentation at HISD's Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center on West 18th Street. Associate teachers should have a degree; a teacher's certification is preferred. Applicants who have completed at least 60 college hours may be hired at a lower rate.

The 4th annual Community Job Fair is set for today at San Jacinto College's Slovacek Student Center on Uvalde. The job fair is from the WorkSource, in conjunction with Congressman Gene Green.

Texas is second only to North Carolina as a great state to do business, according to Site Selection magazine's November issue. The annual ranking of Top Business Climates is determined by tracking new and expanded business facility activity and by a survey of corporate site seekers across the country. Decision makers are asked to consider the lack of red tape, financial assistance and government cooperation.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has urged San Antonio-based Valero Energy to improve safety procedures after the deaths of two contractors asphyxiated while retrieving a roll of duct tape that had fallen into a refinery reactor, according to Reuters. The mishap happened in November 2005 at Valero's Delaware City refinery. The reactor vessel had been purged with nitrogen as part of a normal maintenance procedure. Valero says it has already implemented all four safety recommendations from the CSB.

October was a good month for the service sector of the economy. The Institute for Supply Management reported that its non-manufacturing index jumped last month to 57.1 from 52.9 in September. Economists had expected it to come in at 54.9. According to the report from the private research group, nine industries grew in October, led by utilities and the information sector. Six industries declined with the weakness tied to the housing area. Readings above 50 indicate rising activity.

Shares of Whole Foods Market tumbled more than 20 percent today. That's after the Austin-based organic and natural foods retailer warned of slower growth in sales next year. Whole Foods has enjoyed a great run as shoppers spent more for its fancy and organic produce than similar items at mainstream grocery chains. But analysts have warned that slowing consumer spending and tougher competition from mainstream grocery stores could squeeze Whole Foods. The Austin-based company reported third-quarter earnings approaching $40 million. That's more than three times the $9 million in last year's quarter. Revenue rose 15 percent to $1.29 billion--but fell short of analysts' expectation of $1.32 billion. And same-store sales rose 8.5 percent after three years of double-digit increases. Whole Foods forecasts same-store sales will grow six to eight percent in fiscal 2007, which began in late September.

Shares of Houston-based Encysive Pharmaceuticals climbed Friday after the drug maker said it's answered federal stipulations for the approval of its lead candidate--a drug for a high-blood pressure condition. Encysive expects to hear from the Food and Drug Administration within 30 days to find out what further steps, if any, are required in the approval process. Thelin, a tablet for pulmonary arterial hypertension, could conceivably hit the U.S. market within three of four months. But Needham analyst Mark Monane warns that if the FDA asks Encysive for further clinical trials, it could take as long as three years to bring Thelin to market. Thelin was recently approved in the European Union, where the company expects it to launch in the fourth quarter.

Atmos Energy attorneys suddenly began removing about $33, 500 in lavish expenses from its proposed increase in its North Texas natural gas rates. That's apparently after inquiries by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Dallas-based natural gas utility has proposed increasing rates by about $63 million a year--or about $4 on the typical monthly bill for each of its 1.5 million customers. Administrative law judges are hearing the case this week, with recommendations to the Texas Railroad Commission for a final ruling early next year. An Atmos spokesman says that "largely the items'' the Star-Telegram spotted would be removed from its rate request. Among the expenses are: rooms at New York City's Four Seasons Hotel, where invoices show several Atmos executives paid between $777 and $961 per night last December; a $1,400 reception for alumni of Western Kentucky University alumni, where a former Atmos vice president chairs the board of regents; cases of wine costing $467 and $350 each; a $279 meal for Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo, his friends and a commission staff member.

The Beaumont Enterprise received a Spindletop Award to recognize the newspaper's 125 years of service to the community. The Chamber of Commerce award, presented last Friday night, came nearly a year late. The Enterprise was founded in 1880, but last year's ceremony was postponed by Hurricane Rita. The newspaper's coverage during the hurricane was cited frequently during an awards banquet attended by more than 600. Featured were former Reagan White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater and former President George Bush.

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