Wednesday AM January 3rd, 2007

Grubb& Ellis report predicts growth for commercial real estate leasing market...Duke Energy officially spins off its gas transmission business into Spectra Energy...Green Bancorp completes proposed merger with Redstone Bank...

The Grubb & Ellis 2007 Global Real Estate forecast says the U.S. commercial real estate leasing markets should continue to improve, and stable interest and cap rates will keep the real estate investment market healthy. Although the national economy shows signs of slowing down with higher energy prices and a weakened housing market, the report says Houston's outlook is for sustained growth. The Houston market is expected to expand at a moderate pace while outperforming the nation in 2007. Businesses will use their record profits to add staff and lease more space in 2007. With the Port of Houston's expansion, industrial property owners will be attractive to growing tenants, investors and companies.

North Carolina-based Duke Energy has officially spun off its gas transmission business into Spectra Energy, which will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange today under the symbol "SE." Spectra Energy executives will celebrate the official launch with a ceremonial bell-ringing at the NYSE this morning. Spectra operates about 17,500 miles of transmission pipelines and 250 billion cubic feet of storage in the U.S. and Canada. The new company will serve three key links in the natural gas value chain—gathering and processing, transmission and storage and distribution.

Green Bancorp has completed its proposed merger with Redstone Bank, which has three locations in the Post Oak/Memorial area. Redstone, which serves mainly commercial accounts and real estate developers, will change its name to Green Bank, which will build a corporate headquarters and additional branch locations at Greenbriar and the Southwest Freeway.

Jamail Construction has changed its name to Jamail & Smith Construction to recognize partner Greg Smith as an equal shareholder in the company. Smith and Jim Jamail transformed the company from a local Houston general contractor to a statewide provider of construction services to public sector clients.

Falcon Gas Storage has received Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for its MoBay Storage Hub subsidiary to develop and operate a facility in southern Alabama by April 2008. The Houston Business Journal says the project will connect with the Florida Gas Transmission pipeline, the Gulfstream pipeline and the Transco pipeline. MoBay has agreements with six shippers, including electric utilities, producers, marketers and municipal gas districts.

An oil rig construction and repair company is getting 290 temporary guest workers from India for welder and fitter jobs in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Officials with Signal International say more than 200 of the guest workers have arrived to work at the shipyard--with the rest expected this month. The company, which has yards in Mississippi and Texas, cited widespread shortages in skilled workers after Hurricanes Katrina and Eita in 2005. Signal President Dick Marler says the company will likely need guest workers until the Gulf Coast returns to normal. The guest workers are on Signal's payroll as full-time employees. They receive the same pay as all other signal craft personnel--and are taxed the same. The workers also pay for their room and board. Signal has two shipyards in Pascagoula and four in the Orange and Port Arthur areas of Texas.

A new Florida State University study is critical of management, indicating that 39 percent of workers said their supervisors failed to keep promises. The study says 37 percent believe their supervisor fails to give credit when due, and 31 percent said their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" in the past year. Twenty-seven percent said their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers, and 24 percent said their supervisor invaded their privacy. Florida State University College of Business associate professor of management Wayne Hochwarter says workers should stay visible, because hiding can be detrimental to your career, especially when it keeps others in the company from noticing your talents or contributions. The survey was conducted by mail.

Checkfree Corporation has agreed to acquire Carreker for $8.05 a share, or a total of $206 million. Checkfree is an Atlanta-based provider of electronic bill payment and electronic banking services. The company says the acquisition will expand its software business and consulting expertise. Carreker is a Dallas-based provider of payments technology and consulting services for the financial services industry.

Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare has completed sale of a San Diego hospital accused of paying kickbacks to doctors for patient referrals. The 306-bed Alvarado Hospital Medical Center has been sold to Los Angeles-based Plymouth Health. Tenet says the $22.5 million in pre-tax proceeds will be applied for general corporate purposes. Tenet had announced plans in May to sell Alvarado. It was part of a deal with federal prosecutors in San Diego to pay $21 million to settle kickback charges. The settlement came after two juries failed to reach verdicts in criminal trials. Plymouth health is a physician-owned company formed by the family of two doctors. Tenet says it's now sold seven of the 13 hospitals it's said it plans to sell in a restructuring move. It says negotiations continue toward the sale of the six other hospitals.

Trucker Brigido Moctezuma knows his boss' Mexican fleet of trucks is ready--and has been for years. Access to all U.S. highways was promised to Mexican trucks by the year 2000 under the North American Free Trade Agreement. But U.S. trucking companies, unions and environmental groups blame Mexico's loosely regulated trucking industry. They contend trucks used by Mexican carriers are older and poorly maintained because of the country's less-stringent environmental and safety standards. They say the provision will cost Americans thousands of jobs, pollute the air, damage highways and threaten national security. Mexican carriers insist their rigs meet U.S. standards. But for now, their trucks can't go beyond a 20-mile border zone in Texas. Mexico has said the United States is reneging on part of its NAFTA role, and a February 2001 international arbitration panel agreed. President Bush said in 2001 he'd allow the trucks, and a June 2004 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to remove the last legal barrier. But two and a half years later, the trucks still aren't rolling. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says a safety plan for Mexican trucks is ready should the highways be opened. But an agency spokesman adds negotiations with Mexico continue.

AT&T says its 36 new Yellow Pages headings reflect where society is headed. New headings happen only after the Headings Product Team determines that a critical mass of businesses is active in that industry and chances are strong for future growth. Relatively few of the proposals the team receives annually from sales people and advertisers are approved. New headings this year include "Churches—Emerging Postmodern," "Dentists—Teeth Whitening Services," "Virtual tours" and "Glass—Bullet Resistant."

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...