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Monday AM May 19th, 2008

New graduates urged to assess corporate culture during job interviews…South Texas mayors and business leaders file suit to stop border fence construction…Higher prices for crops and livestock drive Texas agricultural production to new heights…

For new graduates entering the work world, assessing a firm’s corporate culture can help ensure a good fit. Lesley Vandiver with The Creative Group in Houston says the Internet can help get you started, but clues gleaned during job interviews can also offer a glimpse into a company’s culture.

“How people greet each other when they go to the lobby, how they communicate with one another when you’re walking through the office. Ask questions to help you understand the typical processes, how employees are recognized, rewarded, the average tenure of employees. Ask, you know, what it’s like to work for a company, what attributes are needed to be successful in a role, what characteristics your company values most in its employees.” Ed: “You know, a graduate coming out of a college situation is sort of in a rarified atmosphere for the past few years, so it’s different just getting into the work world.” “One hundred percent different. The areas that should be covered, I would say, when you’re asking about certain things within the workforce is just making sure that when you walk into an environment that you feel comfortable there. Some people may be more acclimated to a very corporate environment. You know, really determine how it feels when you’re walking into a company. And just be mindful that it is going to be different than being in college. And learning, you know, how to work within a corporate environment is one hundred percent the most important thing.”

Vandiver says most companies strive to help new employees acclimate.

“Companies, while they do offer orientation, it is really your job to seek out the things that are most important to you and for you to become acclimated. Ask questions. Try to determine, you know, what things are most important to you, because something that might be important to one person who’s new at a company may not be the most important to another. So in this day and age, it’s really you acclimating yourself within an environment. As a new employee, you should definitely resist the impulse to convince teammates to do things your own way. Really get in there and talk to colleagues and understand the rationale behind why people do certain things and the processes and the procedures that take place. At the same time, you want to make sure that your voice is heard within a company. When you’re new, just be observatory glance at what’s going on around you and evaluating, you know, respecting the corporate culture, clarifying you’re your job duties are, observing communication styles, maybe, there may be one way that Susie communicates versus another way that Bob communicates and learning what those are and how they prefer to communicate within an organization.”

The Creative Group specializes in job placement for marketing and advertising professionals.

The Houston Airport System is establishing an aviation training facility at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The airport system is partnering with the Texas Engineering Extension Service to inaugurate a program to provide aircraft rescue and firefighting training.

South Texas mayors and business leaders on Friday filed suit to stop construction of the U.S.-Mexico border fence. The Texas Border Coalition alleges in a suit filed in Washington that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff failed to negotiate fairly with landowners for access to their property. The lawsuit also names customs and border protection officials. Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner says the suit is a delay tactic. Coalition members say a 1996 immigration law giving Chertoff authority to condemn property for the fence also requires that he negotiate fair compensation. They say landowners were offered $100 and were hoodwinked into waiving their property rights.

Nobody raised a hand last week when a lawmaker asked who wants legislators to support wind and water projects backed by billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Some 175 landowners were at the meeting in Childress. The crowd also was asked how many want legislators to oppose efforts by Pickens to obtain rights of way for water pipeline and electricity transmission lines. When asked that question, nearly all of the landowners raised their hands. Senator Bob Duncan of Lubbock said two amendments are allowing Pickens to obtain rights of way. Duncan also says legislators could amend those plans during the 2009 session. Duncan and Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo arranged the meeting after calls from landowners about letters they received from Pickens. Pickens spokesman Jay Rosser says landowners should consider the benefits of the projects. Rosser also says the legislation is leading to one of the greatest economic development initiatives in the history of the Texas panhandle.

Saudi Aramco and ConocoPhillips plan to build a $12 billion refinery on the Saudi Red Sea coast. The refinery would boost Saudi Arabia’s refining capacity by 50 percent. The plant is set for completion by 2013.

Houston-based Trico Marine Services is paying $682 million for more than half the shares of Norwegian subsea service company DeepOcean, according to the Houston Business Journal. Trico also offered to purchase DeepOcean’s remaining shares. The deal creates one of the world’s largest providers of integrated subsea services.

Higher prices for crops and livestock drove Texas agricultural production to a record $21.8 billion in 2007. Details are from a Texas Agrilife Extension Service report. Officials say grain prices rose to the highest level in memory because of increased demand for grain used in the production of ethanol. Also showing sharp gains in value were wheat, corn, sorghum and hay. The 2007 production mark was nearly $3 billion more than what was recorded in 2005 and nearly $5 billion more than in 2006. Authorities estimate the total economic impact to rural Texas last year was about $42.6 billion.

If the Houston Symphony ends its current fiscal year on a financial break-even basis or better, an anonymous local entrepreneur has pledged to assign royalty interests in three natural gas wells to the orchestra. Drilling is set to begin on the three wells over the next several months, with production possible by August. The Houston Symphony Society’s president says the Symphony is within striking distance of breaking even for the fourth consecutive year. Royalty interests are projected to total as much as $5 million over a three-year period.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reports that most mortgage interest rates have dropped over the past week. It finds the average for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages stands at 6.01 percent–down from 6.05 percent last week. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averages 5.60 percent—unchanged from the previous week. For one-year treasury-indexed adjustable rate mortgages, the average this week is 5.18 percent. That’s down from 5.29 percent last week. Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft says where rates declined, it was on hopes for financial markets recovery later this year.

Fannie Mae says it is doing away with higher down payment requirements for borrowers in distressed real estate markets. The government-sponsored mortgage financier said it will require down payments of between three percent and five percent for all loans that it guarantees. That replaces a December policy that required a higher down payment if the loan was for a home in a market with declining real estate prices. Washington-based Fannie says the move is part of its effort to help resuscitate the flagging mortgage market.

United Airlines is reducing frequent-flier miles for flights under 500 miles as part of efforts to cut costs. Beginning in July, United will award frequent-flier miles based on actual miles flown for those short flights, doing away with the minimum credit of 500 miles. Once the change is made, a passenger flying between Chicago and Detroit, for example, would get 234 miles one way instead of the current 500. US Airways already has done away with the minimum. Analysts expect other carriers to follow as they continue cutting perks to cope with growing costs. A United spokeswoman says the Chicago-based carrier is looking at every part of its business to ensure it is fiscally responsible in a challenging economic environment.

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to meet with American Airlines to discuss the company’s revised inspection procedures for suspected lightning strikes. FAA spokesman Les Dorr told the Associated Press the meeting should not be considered an investigation of Fort Worth-based American. An American spokesman wouldn’t discuss the nature of the change in inspections. Dorr and the carrier say planes are typically struck about once a year, but damage is usually minimal. Aircraft are built to take the strikes. Dorr says the meeting follows complaints from a mechanic at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport about the adequacy of the revised procedures. Two pilots have also used the FAA’s Aviation Safety Action Program–an anonymous reporting system. American spokesman Tim Wagner says it’s not unusual for the carrier to revise inspection procedures.

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