Friday PM June 8th, 2007

Fishing groups appeal against proposed red snapper quotas and shrimp trawling limits...DeVry University says students affected by closing of MTI College of Business and Technology can transfer credit hours...Senate Finance Committee asks Continental Airlines to outline benefits from pension relief provision...

Commercial and recreational fishing groups have made a last-minute push against proposed regulations for the Gulf of Mexico's red snapper fishery. They say that stricter quotas and shrimp trawling limits would deal a severe blow to their business. But many seem resigned to the reality that federal fisheries regulators are expected to approve 80 percent cuts in fishing quotas and other measures to help revive the Gulf's ailing snapper population. Many of the concerns during yesterday's public testimony came from shrimp fishing groups, who could face partial season closures to curtail the accidental catch of young snapper in their nets. An attorney for the Southern Shrimp Alliance trade group, Glenn Delaney, said the industry is "hanging on its fingernails'' already because of pressure from imports and rising fuel prices. To rejuvenate the red snapper, a species near total collapse from decades of overfishing, regulators must strike a balance between regulations on shrimp "by-catch'' and limits on commercial and recreational fishers who pursue the snapper. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which sets fishing rules in the Gulf, is asking that accidental shrimp catch be reduced by 74 percent from what it was about five years ago. Recent data show shrimpers may be close to that target, but they would likely have to make some concessions.


DeVry University is allowing students affected by the recent closing of the Houston campus of MTI College of Business and Technology to transfer up to 58 credit hours to DeVry's Bachelor of Science in Technical Management degree program. MTI taught computer systems, network technology and computer business applications at two Houston locations. DeVry is hosting information sessions at Equity Drive at Beltway 8 near Clay road through Tuesday for former MTI students.


Falcon Gas Storage Company says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a final permit to Mobay Storage Hub, authorizing construction of its gas storage facility. This permit clears the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act. The Mobile, Alabama, facility will supply local and interstate gas customers, including natural gas utilities, electric generators and industrial end users. It triples the underground storage capacity in Alabama. The Federal Energy Regulatory commission granted permission last December for the construction and operation of the project.


Houston-based Continental Airlines and Fort Worth-based American Airlines have been asked by the Senate Finance Committee to outline benefits they will get from a provision extending them pension relief. That was inserted into the Iraq war spending bill at the last minute, reducing the money the companies must set aside each year to fulfill their pension obligations. The committee wants a response from the CEOs of the two airlines by June 15th.

Continental Airlines is launching a new non-stop service to Baja California from Houston. The flights will operate on Thursdays and Sundays from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport and Loreto International Airport, 700 miles south of San Diego on the Sea of Cortes.


Houston Executive Airport is breaking ground today on its new airport in Brookshire, 37 miles west of Houston. The development, to be constructed by Tribble & Stephens Constructors by 2008, will be called Henriksen Jet Center. A two-story, 48,000-square-foot structure will feature a 26,000-square-foot hangar, passenger lobby, pilot's lounge, theater room, weather briefing room and offices.


Chief executives of small- to mid-sized businesses in Houston are more optimistic than CEOs nationwide about the future of their companies, according to the Houston Business Journal. The second-quarter Vistage International CEO Confidence Index rates Houston CEOs confidence at 98.1, compared to 90.5 for the nation as a whole. Recruiting and retaining talent is the most important concern of many of those polled, as well as implementing energy-saving strategies. Some 75 percent of Houston CEOs expect to add more staff.


Americans paying down credit card debt? That was the case in April, as the Federal Reserve reports consumer borrowing posted the smallest increase in six months. Consumer borrowing rose at an annual rate of just 1.3 percent, down from a seven-percent increase the previous month. The slowdown was paced by a five-tenths-of-one-percent rate of decline in the category that includes credit cards. That meant consumers were paying off more credit card debt than they incurred, something that has not occurred in 13 months.


Spending in the U.S. on Internet ads hit a new high in the first three months of the year--the tenth straight quarter that's happened. Figures released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PriceWaterHouseCoopers show Internet ad volume in the first quarter came to $4.9 billion, a 26 percent increase from the same time last year. The shift has been a boon for Google, while other media outlets are trimming their staffs and cutting other costs as they try to offset recent revenue losses.


Governor Rick Perry has signed into law a $22 million program offering financial incentives to lure movie production to Texas. Standing with Perry for the signing was Houston-born actor Dennis Quaid. Texas has been the site of a number of films and television shows. But it's been losing business the past few years to Louisiana, New Mexico and other states that offer benefits to filmmakers. Some productions have gone to other countries. Perry said he hopes Texas will one day be the culture capital of the world. For now, he says he'll take not losing to Louisiana. Quaid--who's planning to move to Austin--says the program would boost local economies as production crews spend money on construction and in hotels and restaurants. He says he hopes Austin becomes "the new Hollywood.''


Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano expressed limited concern about a decision by the new owner of a refinery to stop shipping some gasoline to her state. San Antonio-based Tesoro last month bought the Wilmington, California, refinery--near the port of Los Angeles--from Shell Oil. Tesoro says it plans to stop shipping gasoline produced by the refinery to Arizona and Nevada to increase its production of gasoline for the California market. Napolitano plans to meet this month with representatives of a regional petroleum industry group to discuss the situation. But she says initial indications are that other sources of supply can make up for the company's decision. A company official has said that 25 percent of the refinery's gasoline output was shipped out of state.


Houston-based Triumph Healthcare is acquiring Memorial Hermann's Continuing Care long-term acute care operations. Triumph says the deal will give it 66 more beds, and it will now be operating 11 long-term acute care hospitals in the Houston area, totaling 769 beds. Triumph will continue to operate 66 beds at the Westside location at Beltway 8 and Westview, including an eight-bed intensive care unit. The third Memorial Hermann long-term acute care operation near Memorial Hermann Northwest will close.


Webster-based Spacehab subsidiary Astrotech Space Operations has been awarded $4.7 million in satellite processing contracts, according to the Houston Business Journal. Astrotech, which is based in Florida, will work on facilities, spacecraft fueling operations and flight hardware transportation.


Two companies propose building a $1.3 billion, 750-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Midland, Michigan. The companies are Houston-based Dynegy and East Brunswick, New Jersey-based LS Power Group, and say their joint venture would be called mid-Michigan Energy. The plant would create 100 permanent jobs and employ up to 1,200 people during construction. A spokeswoman says the site was selected because it is near a high-voltage transmission system and rail lines to bring in coal. Federal and state regulators would have to approve the project, which could take six years to complete.


A milestone for Toyota. The Japanese automaker says sales of the hybrid vehicles it introduced ten years ago have topped the one million mark. Cumulative sales of Toyota's gas-and-electric cars include 345,000 vehicles in Japan and 702,000 abroad. The company says the Prius is the clear leader, with a total of 757,600 vehicles sold since its 1997 introduction in Japan. Toyota began selling the Prius in North America, Europe and elsewhere in 2000. Last year, it accounted for more than 40 percent of hybrid sales in the U.S.


How would you like to use your cell phone to find stuff in a store? The Wall Street Journal reports Sprint Nextel has begun offering a service that will let you do exactly that. According to the paper, it involves a mobile search service from GP Shopper that uses global positioning system technology to help consumers find products in nearby retail stores. Shoppers will be able to use their cell phones to find out where they can buy a certain Ipod model or new Nike sneaker in a store nearby and at what price. It's all based on a location signal sent by shoppers' phones or by typing in a zip code. They can then save the items to a shopping list and share them with friends via text message. Slifter, as the downloadable application is called, will cost a $1.99 a month for Sprint subscribers with data plans.


A private equity consortium increased its bid for Biomet Incorporated by 4.5 percent to $11.4 billion. The Warsaw, Indiana-based orthopedic products maker is urging its shareholders to approve the new offer. The news comes a week after independent proxy adviser institutional shareholder services recommended that Biomet shareholders reject a $10.9 billion offer. That's because the company's value has increased since the deal was announced in December. The new offer is for $46 per share, up from the previous offer of $44. The buyer consortium includes affiliates of the Blackstone Group, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Fort Worth-based TPG. It'll make a tender offer on or before June 14th for all Biomet shares. Biomet has canceled a shareholder meeting set for Friday to vote on the $44-per-share offer has been canceled.


The man ousted as CEO of RadioShack after he was caught lying on his resume has started a new company. David Edmondson has launched EasySale, which promises to pick up a customer's used household goods and sell them on the Internet. Edmondson plans to promote the business by using yellow and red company trucks through the Dallas area. Edmondson says he's hired about 65 people, including more than one dozen former colleagues laid off from Fort Worth-based RadioShack. Edmondson left RadioShack in early 2006 after he admitted fabricating educational achievements on his resume. He was also convicted of drunken driving and went through a divorce.


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...