Monthly Archives: July 2009

The high cost of losing nurses

A new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is yet more evidence of why hospitals work so hard to retain nurses. It says the cost of replacing a nurse is $36,567, with the loss of experienced nurses being especially costly.

The cost is based on termination payouts, filling temporary vacancies, additional ovrtime costs, and hiring and training new staff, the foundation says.

Ag site helps explain ACRE

The National Corn Growers Association has developed a bulletin for landowners on the farm bill’s ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election) program. But Art Barnaby, a Kansas State University agricultural economist, says the paper is also a helpful resource for wheat growers.

Barnaby stressed it’s important for producers to stay on top of ACRE information, particularly with the USDA’s statistic service releasing its first yield estimate Aug. 12.

“The Aug. 12. . .report could be a game changer in some states,” Barnaby said. “I think the (corn) association’s bulletin explains most of the landlord issues.”

Are lenders really lending?

A new survey shows that just over a third of nationally chartered banks are actively lending.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s survey of national bank examiners shows that 37 percent of banks examined were increasing their loan production. Thirty-one percent had little change in loan production, the survey said.

The survey also showed that underwriting standards by banks have tightened.

The return of due diligence

I’m certainly no entrepreneur. No financial magician, either.

But I’m the kind of anal-retentive guy who will spend a year voraciously reading automotive reviews before I even think about approaching a dealer to trade cars. That’s no excuse for buying a Chevrolet Blazer, but I never said I was perfect.

So maybe that’s why I’ve struggled to get this term out of my head this week: Due diligence.

It cropped up twice this week, early as I sat in court listening to the mind-boggling tales of investor after investor who happily plowed thousands into Thomas Etheredge’s Wild West World, largely without so much as a Google of “Thomas Etheredge,” let alone any sticky details like a proforma or a business plan.

I’ve certainly underestimated the spell of a jailhouse conversion, let alone three of them.

And that says nothing of the bankers who handed over bags of money to him, apparently with little more than a hearty “Look me in the eye and hear me well.”

And then due diligence cropped up again as I researched a story on the relative lack of development around Intrust Bank Arena. It seems that business developers have this crazy notion that they’d like to gauge the demographic and traffic around the arena before they buy in and start building restaurants, entertainment venues and shops. It happens that way all across this great country of ours. Go figure.

So if there’s a moral to my week, it’s a growing appreciation of the folks who will follow the arena downtown to do business.

After they do their homework.

Kansas seventh in CNBC ranking of best states for business

Kansas got some good publicity this week when CNBC ranked the state seventh in its list of America’s Top States for Business.

According to a press release from the state, the report analyzed each state by examining 40 measures of competitiveness. Those are grouped into 10 categories: cost of doing business, work force, quality of life, economy, transportation, technology and innovation, education, business friendliness, access to capital and cost of living.

Kansas was in the top 10 in work force, transportation, econonomy and cost of living.

From Gov. Mark Parkinson:

“Each time our state is recognized by an organization like CNBC, it confirms that our policymakers, legislators, educators and economic development leaders are making good decisions and positioning us for success. And of course, this ranking speaks volumes about the proud Kansans who comprise our work force, own businesses and continue to drive innovation here.”

Virginia was the top state on the list, followed by Texas, Colorado, Iowa, Utah and Minnesota.

A sign of the (financial) times?

The electronic billboard in front of the Sedgwick County Extension building at 21st Street and Ridge Road has been advertising a class:

“Legally Secure Your Financial Future”

Is that first word necessary? Probably.

Oil futures spike earlier this month

Care to guess the cause?

Supply down, demand up?

Uh, no, as this article points out.

Gotta love the free market.

The WSJ weighs in on oil speculators

Here’s a July 8 piece from the Wall Street Journal on oil speculation, foreshadowing crackdowns by several governments.

Interestingly, the same piece quotes an oil-market analyst at PFC Energy who doubts the impact of managing speculator activity.

Without comment, I’ll just ask readers to check that company’s Web site to see what they do.

Scary stories from job interviews

I met Anita Bruzzese a couple of years ago at a Royals game and found her to be a great conversationalist. I didn’t realize until later that she’s also a great writer, on all sorts of workplace issues.

In her blog today, she offers some tips to people who are conducting job interviews.  She doesn’t name names, but she says the tips are based on horror stories she’s heard. Scary stuff, indeed.

Home buyers: Go see your friendly (government) lender

Government-backed home loans have reached 36 percent, the highest figure since 1990 as borrowers confronted with tight private lending have nowhere else to turn, as this Bloomberg article points out.

That’s up almost 10 percent from June 2008, according to the article.

Commercial real estate is a time bomb

Several weeks ago, a group of local commercial developers and lenders sounded a warning about the future of the commercial real estate market, in Wichita and nationwide.

Now comes a Bloomberg piece from Washington, D.C. sounding the same warnings – a cutback in commercial securities, rising default rates, refinancing problems.

Interestingly, the locals said that the problems are manifesting themselves in the Wichita multi-family market, with record numbers of apartment complexes up for sale.

Today, there are 36 multi-family complexes – from duplexes to multi-unit apartment complexes – for sale in Wichita, according to Loopnet. The reason? Many owners bought with conduit loans three to five years ago that are coming due, and will be difficult if not impossible to refinance.

There could be some real bargains soon for cash buyers in the Wichita multi-family market.

The government jumps in on oil prices as they plummet

Here are a few interesting pieces on the oil price issue.

First is this report that hedge funds and their ilk will have their oil positions publicly disclosed. That can’t be comfortable for the companies who gleefully forecast $300 a barrel oil a year ago.

A more recent story by Bloomberg ratchets up the government’s interest in intervention. Somewhere today, I suspect Dick Cheney’s head has exploded.

Next comes the revelation that supply is up and demand is down for gasoline, ironically just a couple of weeks after speculators pushed the price above $70, claiming just the opposite. Go figure.

Wednesday’s looking like a bad day for the supply and demand canard, eh? You’re going to have to excuse me, but when people opine that high oil prices are the direct result of plummeting supply and skyrocketing demand, my first move is to protect my wallet.