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One World Trade Center is tallest building in US

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The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has determined that the official height of One World Trade Center in New York City is 1,776 feet (541.3 meters) to its architectural top, making it the tallest building in the US over the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago. The key to the determination was that the addition at the top of the building spire integral to the design of the building as opposed to being just an antenna. Naturally, this will spark some controversy, but the CTBUH is the organization that makes these official determinations.

We snapped this photo of this still unfinished building recently from the Trump hotel in Soho which provided an excellent view. One World Trade Center is certainly a beautiful and welcome addition to the New York City skyline.

Apple brings jobs to Arizona

With Apple’s announcement that it will start manufacturing high end sapphire glass in Arizona, we have some good news on the domestic job front. The impact will be 2,000 jobs, though it’s important to note that 1,300 of those jobs will apply to the construction phase, so the permanent jobs number is 700. Still, it’s a start for high-end glass manufacturing in the United States and that could have a long-term effect. Hopefully Apple continues on this path to bring more jobs home to the US.

The GOP Establishment Fights Back

Business interests claimed that the disastrous government shutdown strategy woke them up to the problems caused by Tea Party Republicans, and last night we saw the beginning of a shift in strategy. The business community basically ignored radical right-winger Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor’s race. Cuccinelli had expressed support for the Tea Party strategy and also had very extreme views on social issues. Then, in a special election for a House seat in Alabama, the business community lined up behind Bradley Byrne who was facing Tea Party darling Dean Young who made a serious of extreme statements including Birther references.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent around $200,000 on Byrne’s behalf, and Ending Spending, an outside group bankrolled by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, spent around $75,000 on TV and ads boosting him.

Business groups have stated that they will begin to play in primaries after several election cycles where the Tea Party and the far right were left alone to support their candidates and pick off business-friendly Republicans. In many ways this is just an escalation in the GOP civil war, but it marks an important turning point. They are sending a message to GOP House members that there will be a price to pay for spitting in the face of Wall Street and the business community.

Utah bankers revolt against Mike Lee

Utah Senator Mike Lee, along with Ted Cruz, has been one of the vocal ringleaders of the government shutdown strategy that almost led to a United States default when they also tried to use the debt ceiling as leverage. Lee has been unapologetic about his role, but now his approval rating is plummeting in Utah. Also, consistent with what we’re hearing from business leaders around the country, the backlash against Lee’s tactics are extending to the business community in Utah as many of his former fundraisers and supporters seem determined to have Lee replaced.

The Post quoted A. Scott Anderson, the president of a prominent Utah bank who raised money for Lee’s successful 2010 campaign.

“If things are to happen, you can’t just stick to your principles. You have to make things work. . . . You’ve got to be practical,” Anderson said, as quoted by the Post.

And then there was Utah native Spencer Zwick, the finance chairman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, branding Lee a “show horse” and vowing to campaign against the senator.

“Business leaders that I talk to, many of whom supported him, would never support his reelection and in fact will work against him, myself included,” Zwick told the Post.

The Journal, meanwhile, caught up with Quin Monson, a pollster for Brigham Young University who said that Lee may have set himself for a tough re-election campaign.

“Lee looks vulnerable to a challenge from within his party, but the real danger could be a challenge in a general election from the right kind of moderate Democrat,” Monson told the Journal.

We’ll see if this attitude persists. Lee has basically said he doesn’t care what people think, as he’s determined to go with his notion of “principle” over compromise. Business leaders are talking tough now against the Tea Party, but will they follow through next year?

But there are numerous reports indicating that the money is drying up. People who work on Wall Street are realizing that many in the Tea Party hold them in contempt and could care less if the country defaults on its debt. Many are saying they will look for more moderate Republicans who respect business to support.

We’ll see what happens.

Ontario reveals 5-year horse racing plan

ID-100102842 horse racing
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s been fascinating to watch state and local governments grapple with the financial problems facing the horse racing industry. With the growth of legal gambling across the country, race tracks have taken a serious hit. Iconic race tracks like Pimlico Race Course that hosts the Preakness Stakes have faced serious financial problems as horse racing isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be. Due the the popularity of the Preakness there were efforts in Maryland to save that track.

It’s not just the proliferation of casinos, of course, threatening the viability of the business of race tracks. It’s also the easy access to online forms of this type of recreation. Plenty of promotions, like this – horse racing betting – join now!, can be found all over the web, so there’s much more competition for the impulse bettor. Of course, nothing can really replace the pageantry of horse racing, and the huge races still get plenty of attention, but getting fans to experience that first race on a casual Saturday has become much more difficult.

In states like Ohio, we have seen the race tracks lobby to get the right to have slot machines, making them more of a casino than a race track. But it’s measures like this that can prop up an industry.

Extreme measures are being taken north of the border in Ontario as well, as a five-year plan was just announced with the Ontario government putting up a staggering $400 million to prop up the industry. The plan was based on a final report from the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel and will be implemented from 2014 through 2019. The idea is to build on the “great traditions” of horse racing in Ontario and draw a new generation of fans to the sport. Again, drawing fans to this sport might seem odd to people who see gambling as an issue to be contained as opposed to something worthy of promotion, but the world has certainly changed over the years.

CEOs try to push Congress to end shutdown and debt limit insanity

dollar bills spelling USA

Wall Street and the business community have supported Republicans for years, but now many of them are stunned to see the utter contempt that many Tea Party Republicans have for the financial system. While some understand the point of using leverage in negotiations, the willingness to tempt fate with a potential default on the national debt is making many CEOs nervous. GOP representatives are now hearing an earful from those business interests that helped raise a ton of money for them, and now CEOs are getting involved. Their ideal solution is to get a big budget defiicit deal, but they have had to impress on many members the potential for economic catastrophe if we get to the brink of defaulting on the national debt.

There are very strong opinions on all side of the government shutdown and the debt debate, but the plain fact is that the GOP is engaging in political extortion, and the President is not willing to let them get away with it.

Many Republicans from the beginning saw this as a failed strategy, and now even more are becoming frustrated as John Boehner again doesn’t seem to have an out. It’s a mess, and hopefully at some point this will be resolved without a full-blown crisis.

Current Trends in UK Gambling Market

roulette table and players

Anyone who opens their eyes to the popular media will know that online gambling has become a huge business in the UK, with revenues surpassing the £2 billion mark last year; surely good news for the treasury.

The meteoric rise of online gambling is probably due to a number of factors, but there seems to be a distinct trio acting as a driving
force: sports betting, the online casino, and the popularity of mobile internet devices such as smart phones and tablets.

The online casino has really captures the imagination of a lot of Brits. It offers many more games than merely the casino favorites of old. Bingo has certainly found a home on the net, with popularity going through the roof due to socially marketed gaming, and free bet rewards. The free bet is a big draw to many potential punters across the gambling board.

Sports betting has always been something we associate with the bookmakers, but where in the past this may have been confined to horse racing, the phenomenon has now spread to football. Football is our national sport, and you’ll notice many gambling ads both at half time and before televised games. Many of these ads will be promoting things like ‘in play’ betting; another big draw for many gamblers who believe they can read games well.

The net is no longer removed from our grasp, the way it was with standalone PCs; it’s now an ever-present on smart phones and tablets.
This takes out the need to make the trip to the bookmakers, and it also provides a handy platform for games like bingo and the sites like JackpotCity.co.uk to run on.

New proposal for corporate tax reform

The Obama administration is trying to revive talks about corporate tax reform that could see the top rate in the US drop from 35 percent to 28 percent. This time, in order to strike a deal with House Republicans, Obama is linking his corporate tax proposal to other proposals for investments that would trigger growth in middle class jobs, such as infrastructure investments.

This offers another test as to whether House Republicans are remotely interested in governing as opposed to reflexively opposing anything Obama stands for. Most House Republicans strongly favor corporate tax reform, and many of them also understand the importance of investments like infrastructure.

This proposal should also generate support among business lobbyists as well, though Obama’s insistence on some sort of minimum tax for foreign corporate earnings will still be a problem for many multinationals.

Something needs to happen, however, as the current system is riddled with loopholes.

Federal budget outlook is improving

dollar bills spelling USA

The economy is steadily improving, and now we’re seeing improvement with the US budget deficit.

In February, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that this year’s deficit would fall to $845 billion, down from nearly $1.1 trillion in 2012. Goldman Sachs recently predicted that the deficit would fall even further, to $775 billion, and return to sustainable levels within two years.

As a result, the national debt is rising far more slowly than in the frantic days after the 2008 economic crisis: The Treasury Department actually expects to repay a tiny sliver of the $16.8 trillion national debt by the end of June.

Much of the improvement stems from recent budget deals. Over the past two years, Congress has capped agency spending and created the sequester, which is trimming outlays on domestic programs and the military. Lawmakers also agreed to raise taxes on virtually every American this year, letting a temporary reduction in the payroll tax expire and tax rates rise for households earning more than $450,000 a year.

But other factors are at work, too. Defense spending has been declining rapidly with the end of the war in Iraq and the ongoing drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. A surprising — and apparently durable — slowdown in health-care costs has sharply reduced projected spending on Medicare and Medicaid. And the falling jobless rate and improving economy have helped push federal tax collections up 16 percent over last year, according to figures out Tuesday.

This will have interesting implications for budget talks, but also should start instilling some confidence with business leaders, which hopefully then fuels even more economic growth.

Shale oil boom helps local banks

offshore drilling rig with moon behind it

The fracking revolution is having a ripple effect throughout the U.S. economy. That applies to both the natural gas boom in states like Ohio and the oil gas boom in North Dakota. BusinessWeek notes the impact the oil boom is having on local banks.

In his office on the second floor of a glass-encased building on North Main Street in Watford City, N.D., Stephen Stenehjem rolls out a map of a proposed multimillion-dollar residential development and shakes his head in disbelief. “My dad would have been very pleased,” says Stenehjem, a third-generation banker and the chief executive officer of First International Bank & Trust. “For 25 years, our focus as a community bank was to help keep our small town alive. So it has been really fun to see this oil come back.”

Once a depressed town of 1,700 in what was America’s least-visited state, Watford City and its neighbors are at the center of North Dakota’s oil and gas boom. While about 470 banks across the U.S. have folded in the past five years, those serving America’s new fracking economy have seen explosive growth. Oilfield workers carrying paychecks, investors looking to build, and farmers enjoying mineral-rights payments are pouring money into banks. First International, with $1.3 billion in assets and 21 branches in North Dakota, Arizona, and Minnesota, hired 65 employees over the past year, including lenders, trust officers, and insurance agents, and plans to add 30 more this year. “It’s fun to be a banker in North Dakota,” Stenehjem says. “Even six or seven years ago, if there was a new pole barn going up in the county, I knew about it. Now I can’t keep track of everything.”

The implications for the U.S. economy are staggering. It’s great to hear good news and we’ll be following this story.