Tuesday, February 1, 2011
GCF Bank proudly supports the 2011 Superbowl Hoagie Fundraiser benefitting local families facing serious medical conditions. To place an order, contact Kim Hinrichs at (856) 582-5353, Ext. 5704 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All orders must be placed by Thursday, February 3rd. Check out the video.
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RIP Mr. Goodwrench
Mr. Goodwrench (1977-2011) preceded in death by beloved family members Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Oldsmobile.
Mr. Goodwrench was a marketing brand for GM parts and service, available through local dealers. He symbolized the high service standards required of certified GM technicians.
He's probably best remembered as the sponsor of NASCAR's black #3 Chevy driven by the late Dale Earnhardt. The relationship was forged as an associate sponsorship in 1979 when Earnhardt took Rookie of the Year honors. Mr. Goodwrench became the full time sponsor in 1988, adorning the side panels of his car for six of Earnhardt's seven championship titles.
He continued on to sponsor the #29 car of Kevin Harvick after Earnhardt's untimely death in 2001, where he remained through 2005. He was relegated to a part time role in his last season in 2006, and left the sport completely during GM's 2008 financial struggles.
It has been ten years since a last lap wreck in the 2001 Daytona 500 took the life of NASCAR racing legend Dale Earnhardt. His death caused the racing world to take a close look at driver safety.
He wasn't the first racer to lose his life performing a sport he loved. In fact, 11 other drivers faced a crash-related death in the previous decade alone. Yet Earnhardt was a racing legend. The ripples were felt throughout the entire racing world, regardless of what type of vehicle you competed in.
NASCAR launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding Earnhardt's death with the intent of assuring future driver safety. One wondered if this might not be a pipe dream. Would it be even remotely possible to remove risk of 43 drivers circling a track at 200 mph, in a pack separated by mere inches?
Certain drivers chose to use a Head And Neck Support (HANS) Device after the crash to restrict head movement in a serious collision. By the end of 2001, NASCAR mandated use of the device for all drivers throughout the series.
The seat belt system was switched from a five-point to a six-point safety harness, two belts around a driver's legs rather than one between the legs connecting to a lap strap. This harness is standard on the redesigned cars that debuted in 2007, along with a wider body as well as roll cage and seat placement to better protect a driver in case of a crash.
Tracks installed SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) Barriers to replace concrete walls that were instant death upon impact. The walls absorb and disperse the force of contact rather than the driver and car.
Enforcing these safety features has achieved its purpose. There has not been a crash-related death in NASCAR since Dale Earnhardt.
General Motors underwent a death of its own. Without nearly $50 billion in federal government loans in 2008 and 2009, the automobile giant would have been a thing of the past. The bailout triggered a new nickname for the GM acronym - Government Motors.
The company declared bankruptcy in June 2009, and emerged a mere 40 days later after renegotiating key labor and supplier contracts that enabled them to restructure more efficiently.
GM has repaid $6.7 billion of the government loans, with the rest converted to an equity stake that was sold when the company returned to public status in November 2010. It has no outstanding debt to the U.S. government.
Investors showed their confidence in the revamped company. Their November IPO was the largest in Wall Street history, raising $23.1 billion for what was considered worthless a mere 14 months prior.
Rebranding has been key to GM's success. The move to eliminate Mr. Goodwrench is just part of their shift of emphasis away from corporate identity to focus on the four remaining brands.
It's working. Their third quarter 2010 profits were reported at $1.96 billion. The same quarter in 2009 showed a $1.2 billion loss.
Last week, the company withdrew its application for $14.4 billion of federal money to help automakers build more fuel efficient cars. The decision was based on improved cash reserves and reluctance to take on more debt.
And they're doing quite well on their own in this regard. The award-winning electric Volt has played a huge role in the automaker's resurgence.
But they are not resting on their laurels. Wait until you see the prototype of the hydrogen-fueled Hy-Wire concept car here. By far, it's the most innovative offering by any automaker to date.
GM's success can encourage all of us who face what appear to be insurmountable challenges. They weren't afraid to make difficult decisions, to undergo the pain of losing an essential part of their very being in order to survive.
There are times we all need to make similar choices, from each of us as an individual all the way up to our federal government. Let's hope that we have the strength and confidence to choose wisely.
Enjoy the hype of Super Bowl XLV. It may be the last football anybody sees for some time.
The current league/player agreement expires March 3rd. Known as the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the terms dictate player compensation and benefits. Without an agreement, the game will not go on.
The last player strike, in 1987, lasted one month. Only one game was cancelled from that year's schedule. The NFL rounded up players cut during training camp and other relative unknowns to compete as replacement players. They were paid $1000 per game.
But the Player's Association hadn't set up a strike fund to cover lost salaries during the walkout. In fear of losing their annuities, prominent players began to cross the picket line and return to the field.
With union support deteriorating, players voted to go back to work without a new agreement. A new CBA finally agreed upon permitted free agency in return for setting a salary cap and minimum.
Negotiations on a new agreement will begin this Saturday, the day before the Super Bowl. Several sessions are scheduled between now and the March deadline. Both sides have been accusing each other of failing to take their position seriously. And the differences are vast.
The NFL wants to extend the regular playing season from 16 games to 18. They want to establish a rookie wage scale and benefits for retired players. They also want the players to cede an additional $1 billion of the gross revenues up front before calculating their bonuses.
The union filed suit against the league, arguing that owners conspired to restrict players' salaries in the final year of the current agreement. They took action that would enable them to file an antitrust lawsuit if they are locked out. The union is happy with the current agreement and wants to continue the status quo.
Players and owners both have a lot to risk if an agreement is not reached by the deadline. They estimate revenues of $120 million will be lost if the agreement expires. That number escalates to $1 billion by September's start of the regularly scheduled season and about $400 million for every game missed thereafter.
Players would not be able to see team doctors or use facilities for treatments if there is a lockout. They would be responsible for their own health care.
The CBA sets qualifications for free agency. With no agreement, players who are eligible won't be unable to market their talents around the league. Teams won't be able to fill holes in their roster.
But the draft would still go on. Would college players sign contracts without knowing if a rookie wage scale will be in place? How will teams know which position is most urgent to fill if they don't yet know who will become a free agent? A seasoned veteran may be a better fit, depending on who becomes available.
Sunday's matchup between the Green Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers should be a good one. Both teams boast a rich championship history. The game features the league's two best quarterbacks squaring off against its two best defensive players. It doesn't get much better than this.
It stands to be a fitting conclusion to the NFL season that could very well bring more excitement to the playing field than at the negotiating table. And leave us with anticipation for what next season may hold.
Last week was a week for news about home prices and sales. The S&P/Case-Shiller Index, which tracks U.S. home prices, showed a deceleration in the annual growth rates in 17 of the 20 metropolitan composite areas. In the last year, the S&P/Case-Shiller showed a .4 percent decrease in the 10-City composite and a 1.6 percent decrease in the 20-City composite. November was the sixth consecutive month where the annual growth rate slowed. Positive news was seen only in southern California and Washington, DC. Improvements from the low in April 2009 are 4.8 percent and 3.3 percent in the 10- and 20-City Composites, respectively.
Another measure of home prices is the houses financed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). House prices were unchanged in November. This housing price index follows an increase of 0.2 percent in October. On a year-on-year basis, the FHFA HPI is down 4.3 percent. This index is based on resale prices for single-family homes financed or bundled by the federal housing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So this index is better in the month but worse for the year.
The bright spot is new home sales that are stronger than expected in December, jumping 18 percent to an annual unit rate of 329,000. Supply came down to 6.9 months from 8.4 months in November. These sales show a 12 percent increase in the median price of $241,500. The speculation is that the surge in buying was tied to December's jump in mortgage rates which encouraged home shoppers to go ahead and complete the transaction. Note that the gain is concentrated in the West, not evenly distributed through regions. For the full year, new home sales totaled a record low of 321,000, down 14 percent from 2009.
As we move into 2011, some positive feedback with consumer confidence and jobs. Consumer confidence picked up sharply in January led by a big improvement in the assessment of the jobs market. The Conference Board's index increased to 60.6 in January, more than seven points! Those that are saying jobs are currently hard to get fell more than 2-1/2 percentage points to 43.4 percent for the best reading in two years. A reinforcement of the improvement, December's reading was revised lower to 46.0 percent by eight tenths. The monthly employment report shows promise in January as the jobs-hard-to-get improves during the month! Consumers buying and jobs improving are a big plus for continued improvement in the real estate market!
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