Matt Kempner's Unofficial Business

Kempner: Arby’s eats Buffalo wings? Why the chicken wing war is on

Kempner: Arby’s eats Buffalo wings? Why the chicken wing war is on

It used to be that chicken wings didn’t do much good, even when still attached to chickens. Now, it’s the priciest part of our most important bird in Georgia. That’s kind of crazy if you think about it. A wimpy wing with the bone still in costs more than boneless breast meat? But restaurants and grocers have figured it out, which might partially explain why Sandy Springs-based meat-marketer...
Kempner: Get rich quick? A Georgia bitcoin CEO’s advice on wacky money

Kempner: Get rich quick? A Georgia bitcoin CEO’s advice on wacky money

We are in the throes of another get-rich-quick frenzy that surely will make some people rich and others chumps. Fans of bitcoin contend that it will revolutionize the world of digital currency, taking the place of old-world stuff like dollar bills as a way to pay and be paid. But, at the moment, bitcoin is getting more attention because some people are trading it like an investment that&rsquo...
Kempner: A $5.2 billion reason Georgia politicians should listen now

Kempner: A $5.2 billion reason Georgia politicians should listen now

This one should be hard for Georgia Power to squirm out of. Unless elected state leaders willfully close their ears, as they’ve done in the past. Experts for the state just filed written testimony that amounts to 140 pages of incriminations against Georgia Power and its contractor over the nuclear expansion of Plant Vogtle. The experts’ conclusion: massive costs on Vogtle are unreasonable...
Kempner: It’s not a new toothpaste. Georgia city adopts a brand name

Kempner: It’s not a new toothpaste. Georgia city adopts a brand name

A city is not a brand of toothpaste. But there are times when it gets treated like one. Leaders and residents of a new Georgia city on the south side of metro Atlanta spent weeks coming up with a new name for their community of nearly 90,000 people. It was an exercise in Branding 101, with a clear feeling that money and business might be on the line. They wanted a name that would attract employers...
Kempner: About those UGA football tickets you didn’t know you paid for

Kempner: About those UGA football tickets you didn’t know you paid for

I’m betting you didn’t realize this, but you helped strangers buy some really great season tickets to Georgia football, Duke basketball and Ohio State Buckeyes games. Hopefully you won’t have to do it again next year. I’m a big fan of college sports. But I don’t expect the federal government and taxpayers to help me pay for the best seats at games. (I’m too cheap...
Kempner: Confessions on the laziest, most-popular Christmas gift idea

Kempner: Confessions on the laziest, most-popular Christmas gift idea

Year after year, we return to the holiday season and ponder what special gifts would bring joy to friends and loved ones. And, once again, most Americans somehow arrive at the same answer: a plastic card. Or, increasingly, a digital equivalent of one. Gift cards are pretty much the easiest, fastest gift to give on the face of the Earth. (I know: unless you count a smile.) They refuse to give way to...
Kempner: Arthur Blank only cautiously bets on soccer fans in Gwinnett

Kempner: Arthur Blank only cautiously bets on soccer fans in Gwinnett

Atlanta United proved that a shockingly large number of metro Atlantans are willing — anxious even — to pay good money to go wild at pro soccer games. But a top official for owner Arthur Blank is toning down expectations as they press their luck and dig deeper into the world’s most popular sport. The organization, which also owns the Atlanta Falcons, is poised to test the market...
Kempner: How a big, fat tax break from D.C. might curb generosity

Kempner: How a big, fat tax break from D.C. might curb generosity

One big item in Republican tax plans would make figuring out our individual income taxes a little less crazy. But it comes at a price. So here’s a basic question millions of Americans may soon face, one that highlights the link between behavior and money: Will we donate less to charities if it’s harder to get a tax break for doing so? Nonprofit leaders are nervous. In fact, they fear they...
Kempner: New trust issues arise between CNN and President Trump?

Kempner: New trust issues arise between CNN and President Trump?

We always knew there were trust issues between Donald Trump and CNN. Now, some people are looking for the president’s fingerprints on action that could undercut the network. News outlets reported that the U.S. Department of Justice told AT&T it will try to block the company’s purchase of Time Warner unless AT&T makes a brutal move, such as selling off Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting...
Kempner: CEO of Georgia powerhouse skips the whole apology thing

Kempner: CEO of Georgia powerhouse skips the whole apology thing

If you made a giant mess that your neighbors were going to end up paying for, would you take a moment to apologize to them? Perhaps at least mumble something about “regret”? Georgia Power’s CEO did not utter such words the other day. Not even close. CEO Paul Bowers made a rare personal appearance at a hearing before the Georgia Public Service Commission this week. He was there...
Kempner: Time to decide if you pay more for Georgia’s nuclear debacle

Kempner: Time to decide if you pay more for Georgia’s nuclear debacle

Don’t read beyond this sentence if you don’t pay a power bill in Georgia and never will. Otherwise, get your wallet out. There’s a bit of show biz about to start Monday in hearings with elected state regulators. When it’s over, it’s likely to end up costing you and your Georgia descendents for decades to come. That’s because the only giant, deeply delayed, steeply...
Kempner: Who do you trust more with your key, Amazon or your neighbor?

Kempner: Who do you trust more with your key, Amazon or your neighbor?

My wife and I have almost always given neighbors our house keys to keep. That’s because we are infinitely needy, and they are infinitely fantastic people. (We nicknamed one “Jesus.”) Now, Amazon wants our keys, too. It’s launching a service called Amazon Key, in which, at your request, it can remotely, electronically unbolt smart locks on your door so its contractors can deliver...
Kempner: Atlanta airport spends jaw-dropping money for fancy umbrella

Kempner: Atlanta airport spends jaw-dropping money for fancy umbrella

The domestic terminal at the world’s busiest airport isn’t exactly a looker from the outside. Most travelers probably are too focused on making their flights or trying to remember if they brought the travel-size toothpaste to care about street aesthetics outside Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta We-Can’t-Even-Remember-What-It Looks-Like-From-The-Outside International Airport. Hartsfield...
Kempner: How Cobb, Gwinnett and N. Fulton lost 50,000 Amazon jobs

Kempner: How Cobb, Gwinnett and N. Fulton lost 50,000 Amazon jobs

It’s probably too late for most of us in metro Atlanta’s biggest suburbs to get off our fannies and make Amazon love us enough. Too bad: 50,000 jobs would have been wondrous for Cobb, Gwinnett, much of north Fulton and most of the other communities out here. That’s just the latest price of our dithering on creating and paying for serious public transit. Seattle-based Amazon...
Kempner: Which of these startups will be a billion-dollar business?

Kempner: Which of these startups will be a billion-dollar business?

If you know anyone who’s started a business, you know being an entrepreneur trying to market something cool and new can be brutally hard. And mighty expensive. Which is why the last couple weeks have been big ones for owners of some Georgia startups. Dozens exhibited and pitched their businesses to investors or potential customers at several area events, from a Techstars Atlanta demo day...
Kempner: One Atlanta suburb’s goal? Ditch ugly; embrace charming

Kempner: One Atlanta suburb’s goal? Ditch ugly; embrace charming

Lawrenceville, the county seat of Gwinnett and the oldest incorporated city in metro Atlanta, doesn’t have a monopoly on ugly. For decades, though, it didn’t seem like it opposed the concept. The historic square downtown was nicely rehabbed years ago. Good restaurants and a popular theater have taken root there. But pawnshops, used-car lots, disjointed development and loud signs contorted...
Atlanta’s soccer shocker? Ridiculous success with fans

Atlanta’s soccer shocker? Ridiculous success with fans

A strange virus is running rampant through metro Atlanta, with the potential to shake things in ways we hadn’t expected. We’ve seen symptoms: red, black and gold flags billowing all over town. A throng of the infected walked right by John Wilson, a reasonable football guy, as he stood outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on a recent weekday evening. “I didn’t know this many people...
Kempner: Last assignment for Equifax's ex? Survive Capitol Hill 

Kempner: Last assignment for Equifax's ex? Survive Capitol Hill 

Speak really slowly and stall when testifying before hostile lawmakers on Capitol Hill, a corporate executive once suggested. But that won’t be an easy task for former Equifax CEO Richard “Rick” Smith this week. Starting today, Smith is slated to be on the hot seat in multiple House and Senate hearings digging into Atlanta-based Equifax’s massive breach ...
Kempner: Thieves taking over 401(k) accounts. How to protect yours

Kempner: Thieves taking over 401(k) accounts. How to protect yours

Haven’t checked your retirement account balance in awhile? Um, now might be a good time. Few financial nightmares are as frightening as life savings being looted by identity thieves. It isn’t easy, but it’s also not quite as difficult as I had thought. Steven Voss checked his 401(k) account balance a couple months back. It was empty. “It’s an awful feeling,” he...
Kempner: 143 million reasons to be mad at Equifax’s CEO

Kempner: 143 million reasons to be mad at Equifax’s CEO

There’s an old saying that’s not always true: You get what you pay for. Unfortunately, Equifax’s board got exactly what it paid for when it lavished money on now-former CEO, Richard “Rick” Smith. Smith was hired to grow Equifax big time. That’s exactly what he did while acquiring a massive trove of sensitive data on nearly a billion people. What he and the board...
Kempner: Why cyber muggers keep winning (and we keep losing)

Kempner: Why cyber muggers keep winning (and we keep losing)

It’s not uplifting to chat with cybersecurity experts these days, because our most sensitive data is not safe. Sure, the businesses, government agencies and others that have our private information try to protect our valuables. They smack away lots of attempts by bad guys to grab our data. But, ultimately, many of the defenders end up buckling, just like credit reporting agency Equifax recently...
Kempner: Equifax data breach fiasco? It’s actually a stunning repeat

Kempner: Equifax data breach fiasco? It’s actually a stunning repeat

Tell me if you think you already know this: An Atlanta area company with a horde of sensitive personal information lands on the hot seat for letting bad guys get consumers’ secrets. Consumers complain the company waited too long to warn them, didn’t have its act together when it finally did and then offered inadequate protections. Federal investigators dig into questions of insider trading...
Kempner: Amazon, here’s $1 billion. Now, bring Atlanta 50,000 jobs

Kempner: Amazon, here’s $1 billion. Now, bring Atlanta 50,000 jobs

Amazon could make the most gargantuan of deliveries to metro Atlanta. We just have to give the online giant encouragement. Like maybe way more than $1 billion. The company that regularly awes consumers and debones competitors recently announced it is searching for a place in North America to put a second headquarters. The site might eventually include 50,000 algorithmically optimized employees...
Kempner: Hey, Irma, catastrophe guy rolls after 20 hurricanes

Kempner: Hey, Irma, catastrophe guy rolls after 20 hurricanes

He’s been dispatched to the aftermaths of so many hurricanes that he hasn’t bothered to count them all. Hugo, Erin, Opal, Floyd …. “Probably at least 20,” James Warren told me by phone as he headed to yet another property smacked by Hurricane Harvey. He specializes in catastrophes as an insurance claims adjuster for Atlanta-based Crawford & Company. But he has actually...
Kempner: Georgia elected officials face a nuclear ultimatum

Kempner: Georgia elected officials face a nuclear ultimatum

Georgia “We’ve-Got-All-The” Power has just offered elected state regulators an all-or-nothing deal. As in, Georgia Power gets it all or its customers get nothing. The state’s largest utility, which is a government-regulated monopoly, recently launched its latest campaign to continue its long-troubled, billions-of-dollars-over-budget nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle, this...
Kempner: How to keep your home from going down the (storm) drain

Kempner: How to keep your home from going down the (storm) drain

With Hurricane Irma lurking and more storms surely headed our way, don’t forget the stunning lesson our neighbors in Texas learned during Hurricane Harvey’s flooding. Most of them apparently will not be covered by their homeowner’s insurance. Typical policies have gaping holes that most people — including many of us in Georgia — probably haven’t fully thought...
Kempner: Wait, the next hot intown Atlanta place is where?

Kempner: Wait, the next hot intown Atlanta place is where?

All of a sudden there’s a land rush on in south downtown Atlanta, where developers have proposed big juicy projects and are rooting around for more. Wait, where? The most decrepit, scraggliest, most forgotten parts of downtown. In fact, all of a sudden it’s looking like competition could get ferocious to fix it. Or at least attempt to. Richard Miller, who for more than 50 years has worked...
Kempner: Georgia nuke backers scramble for reasons to keep going

Kempner: Georgia nuke backers scramble for reasons to keep going

There’s a mad scramble underway to come up with new reasons for why Georgians should continue to pay billions of dollars to expand nuclear power in the state. National security! Push back against Russia and China! Healthcare! Seriously? Yeah, if you believe elected officials, who in the next few days are supposed to get new cost estimates and recommendations from the state’s biggest electric...
Kempner: Mount Treason? A brand re-do at Stone Mountain Park

Kempner: Mount Treason? A brand re-do at Stone Mountain Park

The carving of three Confederate leaders and their horses at Stone Mountain Park isn’t just about race, rebel hoopla and questions of history. Unlike most of the staid statues and monuments under threat of being torn down on courthouse squares across the nation, the one at The Big Rock also involves money. The three-acre carving is the biggest branding sign we’ve got in Georgia, as disconcerting...
Kempner: Twin DeKalb brothers pay (in fresh veggies) to use home lawns

Kempner: Twin DeKalb brothers pay (in fresh veggies) to use home lawns

Ah, front lawns. Symbol of home and nesting. Also, sweat-inducing, time-sucking money pits that make us look bad in front of the neighbors. Which is why you might want to know about Georgia Tech-trained engineers and twin brothers Roger and Reggie Ramos of DeKalb County. They “pay” to use some of homeowners’ front lawns. The soft-spoken 34-year-old brothers kill the grass and convert...
Kempner: Trump’s management style? Burn the textbook

Kempner: Trump’s management style? Burn the textbook

For anyone who has ever contemplated whether a business CEO could run the U.S. government better than a politician, we have Test Case A in the White House. Donald Trump is six months deep. So I wandered among the people most likely to have insights that could turn into books or at least heated classroom discussions on Trump’s leadership effectiveness: nearly 10,000 business professors, management...
Kempner: Atlanta stadium’s roof an un-retractable business gamble

Kempner: Atlanta stadium’s roof an un-retractable business gamble

In a perfect-ish world, the super-expensive retractable roof on the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta would, you know, retract. That it doesn’t yet, at least not automatically, might cause a twinge of embarrassment and some extra costs for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United. Rise up? How about “Open up!” But the roof and its challenges are reminders that the $1.5-billion...
Kempner: Georgia Power’s nuclear tower teeters; EMCs ‘concerned’

Kempner: Georgia Power’s nuclear tower teeters; EMCs ‘concerned’

Our bumbling aspiration in Georgia to build more nuclear power is looking suspiciously like that wooden block game, Jenga. You know, the one where you take turns pulling out a block at a time, hoping not to topple the teetering tower. How many pieces can be pulled out before Georgia Power’s nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle metaphorically collapses and takes with it billions of dollars in consumer...
Kempner: Georgia’s nuclear crisis of confidence

Kempner: Georgia’s nuclear crisis of confidence

This time, Southern Co. and Georgia Power will get their numbers right. Or so officials would like to believe. Continuing to fund the only remaining nuclear power plant under construction in the U.S. relies largely on decision-makers convincing themselves that the companies can accurately revise cost and schedule estimates for Plant Vogtle’s expansion. It’s a dicey proposition. Accuracy...
Kempner: How Starbucks killed a Ga. couple’s tea empire

Kempner: How Starbucks killed a Ga. couple’s tea empire

Too much caffeine does funny things to even the best of minds. Like when the espresso-sipping leaders at Starbucks said the revolution they sparked in coffee would happen with tea, too. In 2012, the Seattle-based giant struck a $620-million deal to buy Teavana, a mostly mall-based tea retailer that was built from scratch by Atlanta couple Andy and Nancy Mack. A measly five years later, Starbucks...
Kempner: Atlanta-based practice offers would-be parents a sort of fertility 401(k)

Kempner: Atlanta-based practice offers would-be parents a sort of fertility 401(k)

The process of making babies is, biologically speaking, designed to be pretty dang glorious. But this isn’t a column about sex. It’s about efforts to expand the business of having babies later in life, an exercise sometimes loaded with anxiety and steep costs for would-be parents. An Atlanta-based medical practice backed by big investors wants to become a national powerhouse with a pitch...
Kempner: Once a tip-free zone, Uber caves on gratuities. Now what?

Kempner: Once a tip-free zone, Uber caves on gratuities. Now what?

Uber apparently wants to do right by its drivers and be a real pal to them. Which it plans to do by putting pressure on customers. Once a gloriously guilt-free, no-tip-expected zone, Uber now wants us to give its drivers tips. Will the shifting, confounding world of tipping ever settle down? If Uber can’t hold fast, who can? Uber announced it now will include a gratuity option...
Kempner: 50 years later, ATMs try not to show their age

Kempner: 50 years later, ATMs try not to show their age

Remember when cash was king? When cash really ruled, ATMs seemed like one of the world’s great inventions for letting consumers be consumers. Now, banks and other financial companies are looking for new ways to make the machines do our bidding beyond cash withdrawals and checking balances. But a bunch of Americans, me included, don’t use ATMs much any more. A couple pups just out of college...
Kempner: Gwinnett CEO’s paycheck has shareholders fuming, again

Kempner: Gwinnett CEO’s paycheck has shareholders fuming, again

It’s not easy to be a good listener if you don’t like the message, especially when it’s something like: “Stop blowing our money.” For example, there’s a publicly traded company in Gwinnett where the board of directors continues to lavish pay on its CEO at a rate that would make the bosses of much larger Fortune 500 companies blush, as I pointed out in a recent...
Kempner: Atlanta gourmet grocer aims to avoid an Amazon whooping

Kempner: Atlanta gourmet grocer aims to avoid an Amazon whooping

Paul Nair thought his four tiny gourmet and organic groceries in metro Atlanta competed directly with a really big rival: Whole Foods, which snagged nearly $16 billion in sales last year. But he had an odd reaction after learning his little Savi Provisions shops in Brookhaven, Midtown, Inman Park and Buckhead will soon face a far bigger competitor, one that has already shredded lots of retail...
Kempner: ‘Idle’ workers cited at Georgia’s delayed Vogtle project

Kempner: ‘Idle’ workers cited at Georgia’s delayed Vogtle project

Add “idle” workers to the list of troubles at Georgia Power’s struggling nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle. Construction workers are supposed to be toiling away on the project that’s already three years behind schedule and falling farther behind. But a state monitor recently testified that “idle time, early quits and late starts remained high” among construction...
Kempner: Robot guard will (adorably) patrol Georgia Aquarium

Kempner: Robot guard will (adorably) patrol Georgia Aquarium

The strangest beast at the Georgia Aquarium this summer won’t be in a watery tank. Instead, a distant cousin of R2-D2 will be out among us: a robot security guard patrolling the parking garage and perimeter, whirring softly, occasionally giving a sweet little whistle and maybe, eventually, raising questions again about the future of jobs for humans. Allied Universal, the nation&rsquo...
Kempner: New Atlanta neighborhood for movie cast, crew (and us)

Kempner: New Atlanta neighborhood for movie cast, crew (and us)

South of Atlanta, across the street from one of the biggest movie-making complexes in North America, the CEO of Chick-fil-A is betting he can make a real-life movie neighborhood with cool architecture and creative residents. But pulling it off may be harder than spreading fried chicken sandwiches far and wide, which is one business Dan Cathy knows really well. This movie and real estate stuff he&rsquo...
Kempner: Georgia’s highest-paid CEO? You’ve never heard of him

Kempner: Georgia’s highest-paid CEO? You’ve never heard of him

The highest paid CEO of a Georgia public company last year wasn’t the boss at Coke, Home Depot, UPS or Delta Air Lines. No, Georgia’s $21.7-million man leads a company that most people — including its neighbors in Norcross and Peachtree Corners — probably have never heard of. Ronald Clarke’s compensation last year was so bountiful that it ranked him just behind the pay...
Kempner: Delta dumps peanuts, but Georgia goobers still soar

Kempner: Delta dumps peanuts, but Georgia goobers still soar

Delta Air Lines’ decision to drop peanuts as a regular, free in-flight snack is just the latest indignity for Georgia goobers. Worse still, Delta’s shift to new snack offerings includes almonds, the fancy-pants tree nut primarily grown in California, as opposed to the ground-burrowing peanut, the official state crop of the airline’s home state of Georgia. My colleague Kelly...
Kempner: Radioactive question looms over Georgia’s nuclear mess at Vogtle

Kempner: Radioactive question looms over Georgia’s nuclear mess at Vogtle

Georgia’s nuclear mess is about to get way messier now that the chief contractor on the Plant Vogtle expansion has fled to bankruptcy court. So a new race is underway to see who can nab enough bubble wrap to insulate themselves from a fresh round of costly shocks. So far, Georgia Power has sidestepped virtually all of the financial reckoning on its own project. Billions of dollars in past...
Kempner: Turner CEO gathers intel on you; Promises ‘personalized’ TV

Kempner: Turner CEO gathers intel on you; Promises ‘personalized’ TV

He’s a bit profane, adores Taco Bell and runs one of the biggest cable TV empires in the nation. Oh, and John Martin, Turner’s first-ever New York-based CEO, thinks there are too many television networks and a a bunch of “s****y” ones should die. Just not any of his. Which is probably a good thing for Atlanta, since a big chunk of Turner’s operations are here, from...
Kempner: Uber-fighting cabbies get schooled by Ga. Supreme Court

Kempner: Uber-fighting cabbies get schooled by Ga. Supreme Court

Atlanta taxi drivers, who’ve already had their lunches eaten by Uber and Lyft, just learned a painful lesson about government regulation. You can’t count on it to save your financial neck. On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed with a lower court ruling, essentially killing a proposed class-action lawsuit brought by Atlanta cab drivers. The cabbies wanted the state to compensate...
Kempner: Why Atlanta’s best mall just dumped its flashiest tradition

Kempner: Why Atlanta’s best mall just dumped its flashiest tradition

The July 4th fireworks at Atlanta’s Lenox Square mall were supposedly the biggest in the Southeast, at least back in the day. Now that the Buckhead mall has announced that it’s abruptly ending that 57-year-old tradition, we’re left to wonder whether the fireworks show was more smoke than fire. Because, otherwise, why would you kill such a thing? It supposedly drew hundreds of...
Kempner: I-85 returns, but who will bail out the hurt businesses?

Kempner: I-85 returns, but who will bail out the hurt businesses?

With the I-85 bridge in Atlanta expected to reopen Monday if not sooner, small business owners clobbered by the month-and-a-half-long traffic mess have a nagging question: Will anyone help them get back on their feet? Some want compensation from the government or maybe a tax break or just marketing help to let Atlantans know it’s safe to come out and spend again with them. They...
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