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Unofficial Business

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...
Kempner: Uh-oh. Gwinnett Place mall owner has second thoughts on redevelopment

Kempner: Uh-oh. Gwinnett Place mall owner has second thoughts on redevelopment

Almost four years after buying Gwinnett Place, the mall’s owner has determined that, on second thought, it doesn’t know what exactly it will do with the fast-fading property. Earlier this year, the company had said it would submit redevelopment plans to the county in March. That didn’t happen. Instead, an executive who was handling the plans has left the company. Now, his boss...
Kempner: Now Coke wants to be ‘consumer centric total beverage’ biz?

Kempner: Now Coke wants to be ‘consumer centric total beverage’ biz?

The coronation of Coke’s new CEO began with him swinging a big ax at the heads of about 1,200 of his employees, mostly in Atlanta. Mass layoffs are a pretty jarring first act by a new CEO, especially at a company that is all about optics and image and giving the world a smile. Kind of makes me wonder what James Quincey’s second act will be as he tries to set a healthier future...
Kempner: 67-year-old whistle blower in DeKalb case ‘just did my job’

Kempner: 67-year-old whistle blower in DeKalb case ‘just did my job’

Some people just can’t let stuff go. It sounds like it was that way for Deborah Cook, who at 67 may finally get some satisfaction – and a piece of a $4.6 million settlement – after making sure the feds held a DeKalb County company responsible for alleged wrongdoing. Cook told me she just couldn’t stomach what she believed was a company skirting accountability for its actions...
Kempner: Braves push our buttons to sell SunTrust Park

Kempner: Braves push our buttons to sell SunTrust Park

The Atlanta Braves are spending a chunk of change to welcome you back to the place they’ve just moved into and you’ve never been. They’re hoping the pitch pays off by making regulars out of casual fans. And they expect to get a younger crowd. You’ve probably seen or heard ads from the team’s “Welcome Home” marketing campaign, a sweeping effort that includes...
Kempner: Bill O’Reilly’s replacement had called Fox star a phony

Kempner: Bill O’Reilly’s replacement had called Fox star a phony

Another heap of bad drama for Fox News is good for a former CNN talker starting this week, but maybe not so much for CNN. Fox News dumped Bill O’Reilly after publicity about another wave of sexual harassment complaints, legal settlements and hush money. I suspect it wasn’t an easy decision for a network that has struggled through self-inflicted controversy in the last year over...
Kempner: Small business, X-rated or not, flamed by I-85 collapse

Kempner: Small business, X-rated or not, flamed by I-85 collapse

A street walker named “Star” and, oddly, the proprietress of a ladies apparel store were the only people I found along one eclectic Atlanta byway who said the traffic jams from the I-85 collapse might actually be good for business. Who knew? But make no mistake: some of our entrepreneurial neighbors need our help. Collapsageddon is now embedded in the daily business life of a street...
$5K rent for Alpharetta apartments? It’s not fake news

$5K rent for Alpharetta apartments? It’s not fake news

Let this rattle around in your mind for a second: some “premium” two-bedroom apartments in one of metro Atlanta’s hottest new live-work-play-shop oases rent for more than $5,000 a month. In Alpharetta. Deep in the burbs of north Fulton. Why, you might wonder — I certainly did — would people shell out rent equivalent to five house payments? Rents for some two-bedroom apartments...
Kempner: Hey, United, paying passengers is better than dragging them

Kempner: Hey, United, paying passengers is better than dragging them

How much do you think it would have cost United Airlines to have avoided the latest viral video debacle that has enraged consumers (at least those who didn’t scoff at a forcibly bumped passenger’s screams)? My guess is $1,000. But, heck, maybe United could have sweetened the pot by just a couple hundred bucks to try to convince one more passenger to give up their seat and take a later...
Kempner: Delta gives passengers a new reason to squirm

Kempner: Delta gives passengers a new reason to squirm

A lot of airports are getting better at pampering travelers – or at least treating them with less indifference — once they make it through TSA security. But at the world’s busiest airport, two big airlines that control the most gate space are taking two very different approaches to our true bottom line. Southwest has a number of soft seats at its gates at the Atlanta airport. Delta...
Kempner: I-85 collapse an economic fork in the road

Kempner: I-85 collapse an economic fork in the road

If there’s anything we aspire to in metro Atlanta, it is to be a community on the move. So the collapse of an interstate bridge — of I-85 no less in Buckhead — feels like the caving in of Atlanta’s femoral artery. This one won’t kill us. It will, though, hurt us. We know it will make our drives more miserable. And it will again remind us that the limits of our...
Kempner: Time for a nuclear apology from your power company

Kempner: Time for a nuclear apology from your power company

Sometimes, even rah-rah cheerleading isn’t enough to make a bad situation look good. That’s a shame for Georgia Power, because the CEO of its parent has tried to make the company’s nuclear misadventure look like a puffy cloud on a pretty spring day. Four years ago, when the project to expand nuclear power at Plant Vogtle was already more than a year and a half behind schedule, Southern...
Kempner: Evicting spring break was the easy part for Panama City Beach

Kempner: Evicting spring break was the easy part for Panama City Beach

One of Florida’s most popular beach hot spots is learning how hard it is to kill its reputation as a college and high school spring break guzzle-a-thon and replace it with something safer. Panama City Beach locals this year thought they found a fresh way to woo Atlantans and others from around the nation to the amazing powdery white sand: three weekends packed with Christian music concerts...
Kempner: Will self-driving cars give parking lots the boot?

Kempner: Will self-driving cars give parking lots the boot?

Jerry Skillett, CEO of one of the nation’s biggest parking companies, should be rolled up in a fetal position under a table. Self-driving cars are coming, and according to plenty of urbanists, futurists and transportation engineers, Skillett’s industry is going to be decimated. All those parking lots close to office towers, malls and intown restaurants? Don’t need most of them. Autonomous...
Kempner: A Hail Mary to save the Atlanta Falcons’ old nest

Kempner: A Hail Mary to save the Atlanta Falcons’ old nest

Molly Read Woo has been trying to save the Georgia Dome for years, convinced we’re throwing away an economic gem. We are. But her current grass-roots campaign isn’t going so well. At a recent press gathering, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told it straight to the frequent community activist when she asked if the city would be willing to take over the venue. The Dome is “going to be imploded...
Kempner: A crushing end to the Georgia Dome

Kempner: A crushing end to the Georgia Dome

Goodnight, sweet prince. And flights of monster trucks sing thee to thy rest! (Shakespeare, 2017) The Georgia Dome — the sports palace that we spent lots of money building and now are throwing away like a week-old stadium pretzel — hosted its last performance Sunday night. At times I was a little short of breath. I’d like to say it’s because we were all a little choked up with...
Kempner: A new way to curb Georgia regulators?

Kempner: A new way to curb Georgia regulators?

There was one particular moment when state regulators didn’t rubber stamp Georgia Power’s plans in recent years. It happened after the power company turned in long-range plans showing that it wouldn’t generate even a flicker of solar power, at least not in the next 20 years. That’s when Lauren “Bubba” McDonald took a shocking stand for an elected member of the Georgia...
Kempner: Beat it! Vacation rentals curbed on pricey N. Ga. lakes

Kempner: Beat it! Vacation rentals curbed on pricey N. Ga. lakes

If you want to rent a vacation home on some of Georgia’s priciest and most tranquil lakes this spring and summer, better move along bub. A bunch of them are no longer available. And they may never be again. That’s because homeowners are being told to stop renting to visiting vacationers at least on land owned by Georgia Power at Lake Burton, Lake Rabun, Lake Seed and more than a dozen...
Kempner: Atlantan not a movie guy, but now has Oscar connection

Kempner: Atlantan not a movie guy, but now has Oscar connection

Nelson Burke is more surprised than anybody that an Atlanta guy like him is in the movie business and has ties to a production up for an Oscar on Sunday. It’s become kind of routine. But he tells me he often gets a worrisome twinge. It’s not his back; it’s Georgia legislators. What if the folks at the Capitol get some kind of goofy idea to kill the tax credits that have made...
Kempner: Losing our Fortune 500 companies should be a clue

Kempner: Losing our Fortune 500 companies should be a clue

Long ago, my fellow Gwinnett voters treated the idea of letting MARTA into the county a bit like suggesting someone put a fire ant on our dinner plate. Gwinnett chairman Charlotte Nash has a clear memory of this. But now Nash says she will push for a new public referendum on transit — though she said she doesn’t know if it would include MARTA, which she thinks would have “precarious&rdquo...
Kempner: Georgia Realtor loses suit over Ellen DeGeneres’ joke

Kempner: Georgia Realtor loses suit over Ellen DeGeneres’ joke

A federal judge has dismissed a Georgia Realtor’s defamation lawsuit against the producer of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” because, well, the TV comedian was telling a joke. Warner Robins real estate agent Titi Pierce sued Warner Bros Entertainment — but not DeGeneres — over a nationally televised bit last year in which DeGeneres showed a photo of one of Pierce’s roadside...
Kempner: Are we the jerk neighbor in the water wars?

Kempner: Are we the jerk neighbor in the water wars?

It would be nice to believe that Georgia’s 27-year-long water war with Florida and Alabama is over.  We won a crucial round.  But we came out of it looking like jerks, or at least that’s the way it seems from the writings of the man handing us the victory.  That’s just part of the reason I’m having a hard time accepting that the issues behind Georgia&rsquo...
Kempner: More ways to drive someone else’s car in Atlanta

Kempner: More ways to drive someone else’s car in Atlanta

Atlantans just got another way to easily hop into a car that isn’t their own. Car-sharing business Maven officially launched service in Atlanta this week, backed by parent General Motors. It’s apparently the first time a major automaker has entered the car-sharing business locally. That’s car-sharing, not ride-sharing. See how tumultuous the world of getting around has become? The...
Atlanta boring at night? Suburban senator has advice

Atlanta boring at night? Suburban senator has advice

Atlanta’s nightlife has a problem: It’s skimpy. At least that’s the message from a state senator who also heads the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, 25 miles deep into the ‘burbs. “There’s not a lot to do here” at night, State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, told me. And he says it’s limiting our downtown Atlanta convention business. My gut...
Kempner: ‘Welcome to Atlanta: We’ve got craps!’

Kempner: ‘Welcome to Atlanta: We’ve got craps!’

Heard the one about putting a casino at the Atlanta airport? Sounds like a great way to lose your luggage and your wallet in one stop. That’s not really a joke. A developer says casino operators are pushing to put one in an already planned hotel development at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Future Gambling Destination Resort & Emporium. I can imagine the sign at our front...
Kempner:  Big metro Atlanta ‘Sad Mall’ has new plan to get its smile back

Kempner:  Big metro Atlanta ‘Sad Mall’ has new plan to get its smile back

“Sad Mall” is what my wife calls the place that used to be one of metro Atlanta’s go-to places to spend money. Now, there’s a newly revised plan to turn that frown upside down. It’s just hard to see how the company that owns struggling Gwinnett Place mall is going to pull it off any time soon. But wish them luck. Because they aren’t alone. Other aging shopping centers...
Kempner: Another megabank, another federal accusation

Kempner: Another megabank, another federal accusation

Another big bank is again paying to settle allegations of wrongdoing, as if there’s any more misdeeds left to be accused of. The latest is a federal suit filed against JPMorgan Chase, claiming the nation’s biggest bank discriminated against thousands of African-American and Hispanic mortgage borrowers between 2006 and 2009. Independent brokers for the bank charged higher interest rates...
Kempner: A new tax break for golf clubs and fitness classes?

Kempner: A new tax break for golf clubs and fitness classes?

Our folks in Washington want to pay Americans to sweat (or do something that at least has the potential to create sweat). Planning to buy a new golf putter? Ka-ching! That could be a tax write-off. So could paying for a fitness club membership, registering for a road race, signing the kids up for a baseball travel team, hiring a yoga instructor and participating in bunches of other activities. In...
Kempner: Snow and ice? Meet the salt guy

Kempner: Snow and ice? Meet the salt guy

With snow and maybe ice heading toward metro Atlanta, a road salt salesman should be melting under the pressure. “You would think it would drive us crazy,” said Les Brown, the owner of Georgia-Carolina Salt. Yet he had plenty of time to chat about the intricacies of salt for deicing. He fielded a couple last-minute order pickups from government road departments. But there was no tidal...
Kempner: How Georgia officials pantsed you over the holidays

Kempner: How Georgia officials pantsed you over the holidays

Now that you’ve dug out of the long holiday/shopping season, here’s a quick summary of what elected state officials did while you were distracted: They pantsed you. The Georgia Public Service Commission — a body of five officials that most voters don’t even realize exists — yanked Georgia consumers’ pants down to their ankles. One thing they exposed in the...
Kempner: Atlanta’s burbs want their tech back

Kempner: Atlanta’s burbs want their tech back

@Millennials: Sandy Springs and Peachtree Corners really, really want you to come visit soon. Give the burbs another chance, if not as a place to live, at least as a place to work for a tech company and maybe start one of your own. Because, you know, Midtown Atlanta wasn’t always the epicenter of tech cool in Georgia.
Kempner: Who’ll protect us from aisle-seat phone babblers?

Kempner: Who’ll protect us from aisle-seat phone babblers?

A good thing about the world’s busiest airport is that you can quickly ask people from all over the nation for feedback on insane ideas that might one day become reality. And in a country as polarized as ours, it’s nice to have something that so many of us can agree would be an abomination: Allowing other airline passengers to talk on their cellphones in flight. “Horrible idea,&rdquo...
Kempner: Why $40 Yeti cups still make us drool, despite knockoffs

Kempner: Why $40 Yeti cups still make us drool, despite knockoffs

A hardware store owner, who is usually a down-to-earth kind of guy, told his son he wanted an $80 cup for Christmas. “You know, what the hell,” the owner told me. Yeah, $80. For a Yeti Rambler Tumbler to keep his coffee warm. That includes a 20-ounce cup, a $20 after-market powder coating, a $10 Yeti add-on handle and more for one of the store’s Bluetooth tracking devices so...
Kempner: Confessions of a mall Santa

Kempner: Confessions of a mall Santa

Mall Santa has secrets. I tugged on his beard to get them out of him. Here’s what he coughed up: the imperative of popping lots of Altoids mints during his shift. Having squeaky pants and gloves (to get kids to look toward the camera for pictures with Santa). Accepting that nearly every kid under two years old will cry when confronted by a smiling senior citizen with a red suit and a crescendo...
Atlanta cabbies want compensation over Uber rules

Atlanta cabbies want compensation over Uber rules

Atlanta taxi drivers are trying a funky tactic to survive damage from innovative ride-sharing rivals like Uber and Lyft. They want the state of Georgia to compensate cabbies. They claim they’ve been burned by shifting government regulations that they spent lots of money to abide by. State legislation passed in 2015 to regulate ride-sharing services took away a somewhat exclusive right that taxicab...
Kempner: That’s not a candy cane Georgia Power’s handing us

Kempner: That’s not a candy cane Georgia Power’s handing us

State politicians are likely to deliver Georgia consumers a lump of uranium instead of coal this Christmas season. They’ll try to convince you it’s a candy cane. Officially, elected members of the Georgia Public Service Commission haven’t decided anything yet. Unofficially, it looks like some have (based on emails I requested under open records law): You’re going to pay for...
Kempner: Can Georgia-grown coffee take root in Helen?

Kempner: Can Georgia-grown coffee take root in Helen?

At first it might not seem as ridiculous as it really is. Scott Augustine wants to sell you some Georgia-grown coffee. Which, if you pause mid-sip, you’ll realize can’t be. Because coffee grows in places like the tropics. Not Georgia, right? And, yet, he showed me the coffee plants he acquired. (There were fewer than he initially estimated to me and most were shorter than me, which is...
Kempner: Team owners go wild inside the public money machine

Kempner: Team owners go wild inside the public money machine

Imagine the millionaire and billionaire owners of Atlanta’s top pro sports teams standing together in a glass booth, each holding empty pillowcases. A buzzer blares. Cash starts blowing up from gaps in the floor. The owners scramble to stuff as many floating bills as they can in their pillowcases and suit pockets. Metro Atlanta politicians inevitably turn on that kind of public money machine...
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