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Archive for August, 2013

An US Airways/American Airlines oops

Domestically, the most important airport in south Florida is Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), not Miami (MIA). American Airlines has a big hub in Miami for operations to Latin America and the Caribbean, but that doesn’t overcome the fact that Miami is much more expense to operate from than Ft. Lauderdale.

Since May 2007, US Airways’ only service from its Phoenix (PHX) hub to south Florida has been to FLL. Last month, in anticipation of its assumed-soon-to-close merger with American Airlines, the carrier said that it was resuming Miami service effective in late October. Then the DOJ announced they were going to sue to block the merger. And in response, that US Airways’ PHX-MIA flight is now not going to happen. Good one, and not really a sign they think they can beat the government in court.

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A reminder about how cool Charlotte isn’t

One of the most important events in introducing the world to reggae music was the film The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff. To mark the 40th anniversary of the movie’s release, there will be one-night only showings of the film on September 5th in select theaters across the country. And no, Charlotte isn’t included. (The only showing in the Carolinas is in Durham.)

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NASCAR HOF loses more money

$1.6 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, including a $900,000 operating loss with attendance down to 177,000.

“We aren’t there yet,” said CRVA chief executive Tom Murray. “But we think we have stabilized.”

Of course, “stabilized” may well be enough for economic development types to declare victory and move on the next deal that’s alleged to be amazing for the city.

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The arts, again

The Charlotte Observer offers up the latest on the ASC’s efforts to come up with a new funding model. The ASC has just heard about how arts funding works in Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, and Nashville, some of which do things very differently.

And a quote:

Charlotte task force co-chairwoman Valecia McDowell said one message resonated with task force members. “One thing that came through loud and clear is the importance of communicating with the community so the arts and cultural sector is delivering what the community is looking for,” she said.

“We’ve been a public/private partnership so long, it was eye-opening to hear how other communities are handling these challenges.”

Providing what the community is looking for? Imagine that.

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Air tankers, again

Seems the GAO has a new report out calling for the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to work together to develop a new plan to increase the number of air tankers available to fight forest fires. It’s a real issue, as there are currently only nine private-operated air tankers that operate under contract to the Forest Service. What happens when there aren’t enough air tankers available? Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130s get called in. And, of course, Charlotte is the home of one of the four C-130 units trained to fight forest fires.

Not everyone agrees that the approach the GAO recommends is the way to go. As KJZZ-FM reports:

Tony Kern is the former National Aviation Director of the Forest Service. He said that federal oversight of airtankers is costly, timely and too big a job for the agencies.

“I think the state ought to look at requesting federal funding to develop their own state fleet of airtankers,” Kern said. “I think the timeline for a federal fleet test acquisition, you’re looking at a decade, I think the states are much more nimble.”

Interesting.

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2016 N.C. presidential primary

The Associated Press had a piece out over the weekend on an element of the election law changes adopted by the General Assembly requiring that North Carolina’s presidential primary be held just after South Carolina’s in 2016. All other primaries would continue to be held in May. What’s this all about:

“The goal is to be able to have more influence,” said Adam Newmark, an Appalachian State University political science professor, but “the problem is every state wants to be more influential.”

Correct. And the easiest way to have more influence is simply for states to move their primaries forward. Left to their own devises, various states would up the ante with ever-earlier primaries and caucuses until some state decided to hold its contest in 2015… and even that wouldn’t end the bidding…

Note that the big winners in a state having its presidential primaries early are the state’s political operators, who can sell their services to presidential campaigns, and politicians, who get schmoozed for their endorsement.

The Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee recognize the problem of this early primary bidding war and reduce the number of delegates from states that have their primaries earlier than a certain date without approval. Will such punishments deter Republicans in the General Assembly from holding an early primary? Time will tell.

Bonus observation: Republicans pride themselves on wanting to reduce the tax and regulatory burdens placed upon citizens. Funny how such considerations got ignored in this case. Having a separate presidential primary would cost counties millions while civic-minded voters would spend literally millions of additional hours of their scarce time casting a ballot in two separate primaries instead of one.

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Obamacare and higher education

One impact: As the Winston-salem Journal reports, fewer hours (classes) per adjunct as colleges and universities cut back on their teaching load to avoid having to provide health insurance. Trust me, this will definitely impact the way some places operate. In fact, it already has:

“It is often difficult to find qualified adjuncts,” Wilkes Community College said in a statement. “This varies, depending upon the program or discipline area. The Affordable Care Act has exacerbated this to an extent, especially for hard-to-find instructors for computer courses, technical and health areas.”

As a result, the college is canceling some courses at a time of increasing demand for skills training by job-seekers, and also at a time when more people are depending on part-time jobs for a portion, or all, of their individual or family income.

Wilkes Community College said that the part-time hours requirement also is affecting areas “that rely heavily upon part-time employees, including continuing education, basic skills, academic support centers and student services.”

“The college is hopeful that instructors who used to teach several courses for one community college will begin to make themselves known to others so that the colleges can have access to additional qualified adjuncts, and the adjunct instructors can teach for several colleges,” Wilkes officials said in the statement.

Good luck with that.

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Meanwhile, in or around Washington

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, a bidding war seems to on the verge of braking out between Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia over the site of a new stadium for the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Just one thing: The Redskins aren’t anywhere near the end of their lease at their current stadium:

The Redskins’ lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, but general manager Bruce Allen said hitting that far-off date will require advance work.

“We’ve been looking at different options,” he said. “As we’ve noticed with other NFL teams, it really is a 10-year process when you’re going to build a new stadium these days.

“There’s people — you know, Prince George’s County loves us, obviously the District would like to have us and we love our home in Ashburn, too.”

That competition is likely to mean a big public subsidy from whichever locality the Redskins select — the average cost to build an NFL stadium in the past decade has grown to more than $750 million.

If it really does take a decade to plan and build a new NFL stadium, then what exactly does the deal Charlotte recently cut with the Panthers do, besides throw public money at a team that wasn’t going anywhere in the immediate future anyways?

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Allegiant Air comes to Concord

Offering twice a week service come December 20 on 166-seat MD-80s to an airport near Orlando that isn’t the airport US Airways, Delta, or Southwest fly into. Let’s be clear here, Allegiant is trying to get enough vacationers to fly on them, and book hotels and cars through them to make money in the Charlotte Concord catchment area. Allegiant is profitable and stable but that does not mean that Allegiant’s flight schedule necessarily is. They experiment with markets, and if things don’t work out, they’ll reduce the number of flights a week they offer (seasonally or otherwise) or even drop a market entirely. Just ask Kinston and Wilmington, both of which have had Allegiant flights to Orlando Sanford in recent years but no longer do.

And for the record, Allegiant currently serves Asheville (AVL), Greensboro (GSO), and Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) and seems to be doing well in all three as they offer flights from each to three or four destination in Florida (Orlando Sanford, St. Petersburg, Ft. Lauderdale and Punta Gorda from GSP and AVL, no Punta Gorda from GSO but the other three are offered.)

And here’s a link to a USAToday story on Allegiant’s announcement, which included adding 10 new cities and 18 new routes.

Bonus observation: The Allegiant announcement makes the politics of the regional authority that Stan Campbell and friends want to establish so that Jerry Orr can run Charlotte Douglas International Airport without any interference even more interesting. Remember, the regional authority would oversee just CLT, and not the other airports (like the one in Concord) in the area. And we have Cabarrus County, which would appoint a member to the regional authority’s board, also having their name on a federal grant application that essentially says that Jerry Orr has done a horrible job of meeting the needs of travelers in their part of the region.

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Wells Fargo cuts 284 positions in Charlotte

The financial services sector continues to evolve, though not in ways that are necessarily good for the Charlotte jobs market. Wells Fargo gave 60-day notice today that they are eliminating 284 jobs here in the Queen City. And as the UPoR reports:

In Mecklenburg County, banking jobs have not returned to prerecession levels. The finance and insurance sector employed 51,490 last year, according to federal data. That’s down from 53,917 in 2007, before the recession and financial crisis.

And let’s be clear here, if banking and insurance aren’t growing, it will be difficult for Charlotte’s economy to grow in general.

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