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Thursday AM January 11th, 2007

Fluor Corporation to add 1,000 new jobs in Sugar Land…AT&T showcases its U-Verse integrated TV and Internet service at Las Vegas convention…Air Transport Association says airlines consumed one percent more jet fuel in November, but paid less for it than previously… Fluor Corporation will add up to 1,000 jobs to its Sugar Land operations this […]


Fluor Corporation to add 1,000 new jobs in Sugar Land…AT&T showcases its U-Verse integrated TV and Internet service at Las Vegas convention…Air Transport Association says airlines consumed one percent more jet fuel in November, but paid less for it than previously…

Fluor Corporation will add up to 1,000 jobs to its Sugar Land operations this year. The engineering and construction firm, which has about 3,000 employees in its Sugar land operations, will lease space at One Sugar Creek Place to accommodate its expansion. Between a third and half of the new jobs will be engineering positions, and other jobs will be for designers, procurement and financial positions. Irving-based Fluor has recently been awarded contracts for refineries in Louisiana and Indiana for Marathon and BP. The company added 1,000 positions in 2006.

San Antonio based AT&T is showing off it latest package of entertainment and Internet services at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. AT&T is getting into the entertainment business with its latest offering, an integrated package of television and Internet services it calls U-Verse. By upgrading its parts network to fiber optic cable, AT&T is now able to bring high bandwidth digital video and Internet connectivity to its customers. Company Spokesperson Wes Warnock explains that with U-verse, AT&T is competing head to head with cable television companies.

“In terms of specific services that we offer that are unique to AT&T, the ability to record up to four programs at once on a DVR, which we provide to all our customers. We have a great lineup of HD channels which we are really pleased with and we’ve had great feedback from our customers. We also allow customers to program their DVR from any Internet connected computer in the world. So they don’t miss the big game or their favorite program.”

U-Verse also provides Internet connectivity at downstream speeds of up to 6 megabits per second. And while U-verse is not yet available in many parts of the country, it is in Houston.

“Our first market for U-verse was San Antonio. We launched there over the summer of 2006. Our second market was Houston and we launched in Houston in late November of last year so we’ve been very excited by the feedback and pleased with the feedback we’ve had from consumers. Consumers are clearly looking for an alternative and U-verse provides that.”

AT&T will not disclose which areas will come online when, but Warnock says that the U-verse footprint in Houston is increasing on a weekly basis.

Dell founder Michael Dell is challenging the entire PC industry to adopt free recycling programs for customers. At the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Dell said his company will plant a tree for every PC sold. Dell began offering free recycling of any brand of computer or printer in 2004 if consumers bought a Dell system. The policy was amended last year so consumers can recycle all Dell-branded printers, personal computers or other electronics gear for free without the purchase of new Dell equipment required.

Although U.S. passenger and cargo airlines burned more fuel during November, they spent less for it. Figures from the Air Transport Association show airlines consumed about 1.6 billion gallons of jet fuel in November–nearly one percent more than in the same month in 2005. However, they saved roughly three percent, paying about $2.94 billion for it. While crude oil prices were up slightly in November, refined products were cheaper than a year ago due to the refinery industry’s recovery from the hurricanes of 2005 and a mild autumn. Analysts say the fuel-price savings should help offset mild fourth-quarter operating losses being forecast by carriers including United Airlines, Continental Airlines and Airtran.

Kelsey-Seybold Clinic plans to build a new medical and diagnostic center in northwest Houston. The physician group has purchased ten acres from V&W Partners. This medical office will be part of a 640-acre master-planned development called The Vintage, located near the HP campus in northwest Houston at Louetta on State Highway 249. Groundbreaking is set for spring.

Cyprus Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital on Steepletop has added 20 new private rooms, according to the Houston Business Journal. That brings the total number of beds to 180.

The Hilton Houston Westchase Hotel is being purchased by Interstate Hotels & Resorts in a $50.5 million deal. The 297-room hotel is on Westheimer near Beltway 8 in west Houston. Interstate plans to spend as much as $3 million to complete an ongoing $11 million renovation.

Tackling a top priority, house Democrats are pushing a $2.10-an-hour increase in the federal minimum wage toward passage. They call it only a partial restoration of purchasing power for America’s lowest-paid workers. As their second bill since taking control of Congress, the Democrat-written legislation would raise the federal wage floor to $7.25 an hour in three steps over 26 months. The federal wage hasn’t budged for ten years. Organized labor and other supporters have said the bill provides aid to the working poor. Business groups and other opponents warn it could lead to higher prices, force small companies to reduce staffing or hire fewer new ones, and hurt profits. The Senate is expected to move quickly on a similar bill.

The economy has cranked out fewer jobs under President Bush than it did by the same point in the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. According to figures collected by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy has produced $3.7 million new jobs from January of 2001 through December of last year. When Clinton was in the White House, the economy generated more than 17 jobs from 1993 to 1998. Under Reagan, 9.5 million jobs were created from 1981 to 1986. Commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez in part blames what he says was a “recession that the president inherited.” Meanwhile, economists suggest the labor force of available workers is growing more slowly as the baby boom generation ages.

The U.S. trade gap narrowed for a third straight month in November. U.S. exports of commercial airplanes and other products hit an all-time high and the bill for foreign oil went down to the lowest level in 16 months. The Commerce Department says the deficit shrank one percent to $58.2 billion. That makes for the lowest monthly total since mid-2005. Word of the November improvement comes as a surprise. Economists were looking for the trade gap to worsen.

U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab will meet with the head of the World Trade Organization Friday in a further effort to revive stalled global trade talks. Schwab will fly to Geneva for discussions with the WTO director on ways to revive the Doha round of trade talks. They have been suspended since last July. Both Schwab and the European Union’s top trade negotiator said after a meeting Monday with President Bush and the EU Commission president that progress had been made in resolving differences. Schwab has also talked in recent days with trade officials from Japan, Brazil, India, Australia and Indonesia.

Prosecutors say 53 now-former employees at a Swift meat processing plant in Cactus have been indicted in an ID theft investigation. A federal grand jury in Amarillo returned indictments of aggravated identity theft and related charges. Agents in mid-December raided six Swift plants nationwide. Prosecutors say all 295 people arrested at the Cactus plant had assumed the IDs of U.S. citizens. Authorities used additional criteria to determine which workers to prosecute. The other illegal immigrants arrested will be–or have been–processed for deportation. All 53 people indicted are charged with one count of false representation of a social security number. Conviction has a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Most are also charged with aggravated identity theft, having fraudulent immigration documents, and false representation of U.S. citizenship. Those charges carry maximum sentences ranging up to ten years in prison, plus fines.

Caraustar Industries announced plans to close its recycled boxboard mill in Lafayette, Indiana, and a unit in the Texas panhandle. The Indiana closure will cost about 75 workers their jobs. Atlanta-based Caraustar also will close tube and core converting facilities in: Amarillo; Vacaville, California; Grand Rapids, Michigan and Leyland in the United Kingdom. Those four closures will effect a total of about 58 salaried and hourly employees. Caraustar says it will provide separation pay, benefits coverage and job assistance to the affected employees at all five plants.

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