Monday AM January 8th, 2007

Electronics retailers report healthy Christmas season...Dell moving more supply chain management and manufacturing to Singapore...British Consulate-General of Houston's UK Trade and Investment group and Greater Houston Partnership to host Carbon Emissions Trading Conference....

The nation's two biggest consumer electronics retailers, Best Buy and Circuit City, report strong December sales. It's a bright spot in a month that was weak for many other retailers. Best Buy, the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer, says sales in the month rose seven percent at stores open at least 14 months, better than it had expected. It credits "high double-digit'' increases in high-end television sales. Rival Circuit City says sales grew more than four percent for the month at its stores open at least a year. Such measures, called same-store or comparable-store sales, are key retail indicators.


Dell is moving more of its global supply chain management and manufacturing to Singapore. The Round Rock-based computer maker says it plans to add up to 400 new jobs in the region. Dell has its headquarters for Asia-Pacific and Japan in Singapore. Currently, it employs almost 25,000 workers across the Asia-Pacific region, with about 400 in Singapore.


Houston-based law firm Fulbright & Jaworski is now offering its domestic employees 80 annual hours worth of around-the-clock, licensed back-up care for childcare, eldercare and other personal family needs, in-home or out-of-town. Benefits range from short-term in-home care for healthy children to care for an elderly parent living in another city. The program even allows a nursing mother to bring her infant along on a business trip, where a caretaker will be provided while she works. The program fills the gap when a child is sick and a traditional daycare will not accept them.


Enterprise Products Partners plans an expansion of its 48-mile refinery grade propylene pipeline system between Texas City and Mont Belvieu, according to the Houston Business Journal. Work on the project is slated to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2007. Houston-based Enterprise provides midstream energy services to producers and consumers of natural gas, natural gas liquids and crude oil.


WCA Waste has completed acquisitions in Florida and Missouri, according to the Houston Business Journal. The Houston-based company acquired Southwest Dumpster in Fort Myers, Florida and Sunrise Disposal in Springfield, Missouri. WCA Waste transports, processes and disposes non-hazardous solid waste. It operates 20 landfills, 21 transfer stations and material recovery facilities and 25 collection operations in Texas and ten other states.


The British Consulate-General of Houston's UK Trade and Investment group, Rice University and the Greater Houston Partnership are hosting the Global Carbon Emissions Trading Conference this month. It's set for January 18th at the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on Allen Parkway. Carbon emissions as a financial commodity may represent a rapidly growing international market worth over $30 billion. Speakers will include Mayor Bill White, as well as representatives from the World Bank, the Carbon Disclosure Project and the International Emissions Trading Association.

Rice University, in conjunction with the Smalley Institute, is hosting its 6th annual Nanotechnology Venture Forum on January 25th at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management. The forum will showcase 20 of the most promising nanotechnology start-up companies. Speakers will include venture capitalists, investors and experts in nanotechnology research and commercialization, including Tom Pickens, son of T. Boone Pickens, and founder and managing director of Texas Nanotech Ventures. The first 400 registrants will receive a free copy of the book Nanotechnology for Dummies.


About 220 of the nearly 1,300 Swift workers detained during immigration raids in six states last month, including Texas, face identity theft or other criminal charges, according to federal immigration officials. U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement agents had initially said 65 of the 1,282 employees rounded up December 12th faced criminal charges. The plants raided were in Cactus, Texas; Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota. Immigration charges are considered administrative, rather than criminal. An ICE spokesman says the agency's investigation continues--but Swift CEO Sam Rovit said that neither Swift nor any current or former management officials face charges. The raids halted operations at six Swift meatpacking plants for six to seven hours. Swift said the raids could cost it up to $30 million in its current fiscal year as it tries to replace lost workers. While all six plants resumed operations the day of the arrests, none are back to pre-raid production levels. Swift hasn't said when operations might be back to full speed or how much operations have been reduced.


Goodyear has added a Canadian tire plant to its list of reductions. The Akron, Ohio-based tire maker says it'll stop making tires at a plant in Valleyfield, Quebec, and trim the plant work force from 1,000 to 200 by the end of June. The plant is one of five where Goodyear makes private-label tires for sale to wholesale customers under other brand names. Last year, the company announced plans to cut production of those tires by a third. Goodyear announced plans on December 29th to close an 1,100-employee private-label tire plant in Tyler, Texas. The status of that facility had been a key issue in the three-month strike that thousands of Goodyear workers ended on Tuesday. Plant cutbacks announced over the past year by Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear also include Upper Hutt, New Zealand, with plans announced in June to close the 400-employee plant, and Washington, England, and Debica, Poland, with plans announced in April to close the British plant and reduce production in Debica, cutting 1,500 jobs.


Dallas-based cell-phone carrier Metro-PCS Communications has filed an initial public offering that could raise more than $1 billion. Metro-PCS launched its service five years ago. It registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell stock through an IPO. Metro-PCS didn't detail the number of shares it plans to sell, the price range it expects to fetch, or on what exchange it plans to list. Metro-PCS markets its service differently than many major cell phone carriers. It charges a flat rate for unlimited calls, for which customers prepay, and there is no long-term contract. While the arrangement eliminates the company's credit exposure to nonpaying customers, it also contributes to a higher customer turnover rate than at traditional contractual carriers. As of September, Metro-PCS had 2.6 million subscribers. That's up 50 percent from the same point in 2005. It also owns or has access to wireless licenses that cover about 140 million potential subscribers in the United States.


The Brown Foundation has donated $2 million to San Antonio's McNay Art Museum, according to the Houston Business Journal. The funds will be used in the construction of the Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions. Since being formed in 1951, the Brown Foundation has awarded more than $1.35 billion in grants in support of education, community service and the arts. The McNay was built in 1954 as the first museum of modern art in Texas.


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