Matt Kempner's Unofficial Business

Kempner: Dumping Rebel flag business not same as same-sex wedding cake

Kempner: Dumping Rebel flag business not same as same-sex wedding cake

The nation’s highest court didn’t solve the gay wedding cake controversy. So I asked Steve Cook to. It was an unfair request. He’s not a legal scholar. He’s a Tucker business owner who, like the Colorado baker at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent case, refused to accept business that would violate his deeply held convictions.
Kempner: Trump and non-Trump business partners agree on refugees, jobs

Kempner: Trump and non-Trump business partners agree on refugees, jobs

I met a Trump supporter and a not-Trump supporter the other day. Funny thing: they were getting along. Even when they were talking politics. It turns out they have a lot in common. Chris Chancey and Luke Keller are friends and co-owners of an unusual and growing for-profit Georgia staffing agency that specializes in placing refugees.
Kempner: Disappearing public companies? Federal regulator concerned

Kempner: Disappearing public companies? Federal regulator concerned

Where did half our nation’s public companies go? If you’ve got a hankering to invest your life savings, it might look as if you have plenty of options, some good and some unnerving. There are stocks, bonds, real estate, gold, and even some cryptocurrency markets that concern regulators. But the number of publicly traded companies has dropped by half since the mid 1990s.
Kempner: Only part of the wait is over for Atlantans at CNN, Turner

Kempner: Only part of the wait is over for Atlantans at CNN, Turner

The future for thousands of CNN and other Turner Broadcasting employees in Atlanta is slightly less uncertain after waiting more than a year and a half to see if AT&T really buys Time Warner. They at least now know that the purchase and a broader remake of the media landscape is almost certainly coming. What it means to their jobs and futures is still unsettled.
Kempner: Tower of blight at Spaghetti Junction has chance for do-over

Kempner: Tower of blight at Spaghetti Junction has chance for do-over

A feud that helped create a 15-story tower of blight near Spaghetti Junction apparently won’t be the final word on one of metro Atlanta’s most visible buildings. It’s not necessarily that two squabbling business partners have ended their years of battling. It’s just that they’ve been cut off from the building they owned and fought over.
Kempner: Little-known Georgia CEOs paid like movie stars, athletes

Kempner: Little-known Georgia CEOs paid like movie stars, athletes

Frank Bisignano and Ronald Clarke were paid last year as if they were A-list actors or among the best pro athletes in the world. They are neither. Bisignano and Clarke are chief executives of decent-sized Georgia public companies. Not the very biggest Georgia companies, mind you. Not ones most people would recognize.
Kempner: Why Amazon might want you more than money

Kempner: Why Amazon might want you more than money

In Amazon’s decision about where to put its second headquarters, nothing matters more than people. Specifically, people who will help delight customers and ultimately make money. The company wants incentives from whatever community it picks for HQ2 (hopefully, Atlanta).
Why Atlanta’s shot at Amazon HQ2 is better than expected

Why Atlanta’s shot at Amazon HQ2 is better than expected

Atlanta’s odds of luring Amazon’s second headquarters look better than I had expected before I visited the company’s Seattle hometown. It was Amazon employees — most of them rank and file, none of whom believed they had any inside knowledge — who made me think Atlanta has a real chance.
How Amazon could revolutionize downtown Atlanta’s grittiest spot

How Amazon could revolutionize downtown Atlanta’s grittiest spot

Cristian Ospina told me he really likes Castleberry Hill, his cool Atlanta neighborhood, just south of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But as he walks the few blocks to a MARTA station in adjacent south downtown Atlanta, he passes what I’ve called one of the the scraggliest, most forgotten parts of downtown, where oases of promise are surrounded by neglect.
Kempner: How this selfie sensation from Cobb took 49 years to graduate

Kempner: How this selfie sensation from Cobb took 49 years to graduate

Larry Johnson is a grandfatherly looking Cobb County guy whose college graduation selfie went viral. “My goal was to graduate before I reached 100 years of age. I made it with 33 years to spare,” he tweeted just before his Georgia State University ceremony began Thursday. It took him 49 years to graduate. Johnson, 66, started taking classes at Georgia State in the fall of 1969.
Kempner: Atlanta needs a no-weaseling-out guarantee from Amazon

Kempner: Atlanta needs a no-weaseling-out guarantee from Amazon

Georgia officials trying to attract 50,000 jobs and Amazon’s second headquarters to Atlanta should feel queasy about a mess brewing in Seattle. It highlights the hardball tactics of the remarkable company in which we’d be deeply financially invested. And it points to extra precautions we should take if we are to get Amazon’s HQ2.
Kempner: Price of an ugly incident? Waffle House, Starbucks heartburn

Kempner: Price of an ugly incident? Waffle House, Starbucks heartburn

It doesn’t look like a threatened national boycott and sit-ins of Waffle House are getting big traction. The largest local sit-in drew about 20 people on Sunday to one metro Atlanta Waffle House, according to an organizer for the Alliance for Black Lives. But the Georgia-based restaurant chain had already endured a social media hurricane over the incident that sparked the protest calls.
Kempner: Atlanta officials travel well, but how does that fix blight?

Kempner: Atlanta officials travel well, but how does that fix blight?

Tina Arnold is quitting after more than a decade as a volunteer leader fighting blight in her Atlanta neighborhood. She said she’s burned out and has received no help from the city despite her pleas. So imagine how she felt when she heard the latest funny business involving former Mayor Kasim Reed and associates.
Kempner: When the gas station comes to you, why have a gas station?

Kempner: When the gas station comes to you, why have a gas station?

Well, this is bad timing. Now, that we have gas stations and convenience stores all over the place, are we on the verge of no longer needing so many?  Forget hopes for electric cars for a moment. We’re talking about drivers of gasoline-powered vehicles no longer having to hustle to the gas station. Because the station soon may be coming to them.
Kempner: Ignore call from boss? Georgia shifts on distracted driving

Kempner: Ignore call from boss? Georgia shifts on distracted driving

UPDATED:  Georgia’s new distracted driving rules for sort of hands-free driving are confusing and watered down, but they give Georgians a legal excuse not to work in their cars and to ignore calls from bosses and customers. Some workaholics won’t take the hint. Not when they spend all that time brewing in Atlanta’s traffic.
Kempner: Will the Amazon-Trump spat cost you? Beware, online shoppers

Kempner: Will the Amazon-Trump spat cost you? Beware, online shoppers

President Trump pointedly accused Amazon of not paying enough in taxes. That’s an interesting call for our president, who apparently didn’t pay federal income taxes for years and boasted about “brilliantly” working tax laws as a private citizen. If the president is trying to highlight unfairness in our tax systems, he’s right. He’s just off on the target.
Kempner: Big land for big Atlanta dreams is opening up on westside

Kempner: Big land for big Atlanta dreams is opening up on westside

A chunk of railroad land that stretches across more than three miles of west Atlanta is going up for sale. It could be developed for more apartments and homes, which I’m told is the most likely demand for it. Or big thinkers could find a more valuable use. This is a city that hungers to think big, after all. CSX’s Tilford Yard isn’t just any old piece of land.
Kempner: Georgia entrepreneur was wrong about bullet jewelry

Kempner: Georgia entrepreneur was wrong about bullet jewelry

Heather Abbott was dubious when her husband wanted them to create and sell earrings using bullet casings. Because, well, spent bullets as a fashion statement? Really? It became the launchpad for what the Georgia couple says is a million-dollar-a-year business their website describes as “the leader in bullet and shotgun shell style.
Kempner: These Atlanta restaurants are dropping dollars

Kempner: These Atlanta restaurants are dropping dollars

Allison Hill wants success for the Neapolitan pizza chain she’s helping launch in Atlanta. She just doesn’t want cash. Patrons at The Local Pizzaiolo on Atlanta’s Westside can pay by credit, debit or plastic cash cards, but not with the legal tender of the United States. Some nearby restaurants also recently put in place policies to not accept cash from customers.
Kempner: Atlanta company has your secrets; doesn’t like sharing its own

Kempner: Atlanta company has your secrets; doesn’t like sharing its own

Equifax, which controls sensitive personal information on nearly a billion people, becomes a bumbling mess when it comes to quickly and clearly sharing its own troubling information. Either that, or the data and credit reporting agency acts as if it’s trying to hide something.
Kempner: Why gun shop owners need to turn away more customers

Kempner: Why gun shop owners need to turn away more customers

Ken Baye sells guns, including assault-style rifles. But sometimes when a customer comes in Stoddard’s Range and Guns to buy a firearm or shoot at targets, Baye and his team go beyond what gun control laws require and turn down the sale if they think the person seems off.
Kempner: How a cool Georgia food company met Whole Foods reality

Kempner: How a cool Georgia food company met Whole Foods reality

“My heart is broken,” The Big Cheese told me. Ron Marks, who used the titles president and “The Big Cheese” on his now-unnecessary business cards, launched a fancy Greek yogurt venture in Gwinnett County in 2009.
Kempner: Delta, NRA and Cagle’s political litmus test for taxpayers

Kempner: Delta, NRA and Cagle’s political litmus test for taxpayers

Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is being bad for business. Which means he’s being bad for jobs in Georgia. That’s a problem for a guy running to be governor. Cagle’s economic sin isn’t that he’s critical of Delta Air Lines — the state’s largest private employer — for ending a travel discount it offered to NRA members.
Kempner: Uber Eats murder in Buckhead? Old trouble in new economy

Kempner: Uber Eats murder in Buckhead? Old trouble in new economy

Who doesn’t like a shortcut? Uber, Airbnb and other cousins of the sharing and gig economy help make our lives easier and, sometimes, more affordable. But digital technology also has reset our tolerance levels. We now accept realities that would have seemed crazy before. People happily get in the personal cars of strangers late at night.
Kempner: Big Delta squeezes Georgia and metro Atlanta’s poorest county

Kempner: Big Delta squeezes Georgia and metro Atlanta’s poorest county

Here’s what we should never forget about Delta: it is fabulously good for Georgia’s economy, and it never tires of squeezing fellow Georgians for more profits. Picture more than 500 local high school students showing up at the headquarters of mighty Delta Air Lines to protest.
Kempner: What if ‘the-customer-is-always-right’ is wrong?

Kempner: What if ‘the-customer-is-always-right’ is wrong?

Just how much abuse do employers expect their workers to take from customers? I’ve seen recent accounts of people supposedly being pretty awful to fellow humans on the job. Like the male business customer who allegedly went on a racist rant against a female employee at an AutoZone store in South Georgia.
Kempner: Another reason for health hope? Three rich titans make a leap

Kempner: Another reason for health hope? Three rich titans make a leap

Now that we’ve had time to ponder the initially wonderful-sounding idea of Amazon and two powerful friends fixing health care, it’s become clear that … yeah, it still sounds great. Not “great” as in they’ll definitely succeed in some sweeping way. They may not at all.
Kempner: Not Amazon; another big ‘A’ bets on bringing Atlanta HQ jobs

Kempner: Not Amazon; another big ‘A’ bets on bringing Atlanta HQ jobs

When locals dream of recruiting hot employers to Atlanta, hearts flutter over landing cutting-edge tech companies such as Amazon or luxury global brands, like when Mercedes-Benz’s chose Sandy Springs for its North American headquarters. But it’s time to appreciate things at a more gut level. Such as a chicken sandwich combo, a pecan waffle or a basket of wings.
Kempner: Coke softly crosses the ‘them’ gender line in Super Bowl ad

Kempner: Coke softly crosses the ‘them’ gender line in Super Bowl ad

Coke, the like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing beverage giant, has a new Super Bowl 2018 commercial in which one of the people is highlighted as a “them.” That’s a pronoun sometimes preferred by some people who don’t identify with traditional gender definitions. Except that the company doesn’t say all that.
Kempner: Why a daring grandpa sold his Georgia winery and golf resort

Kempner: Why a daring grandpa sold his Georgia winery and golf resort

It sounds French, but it isn’t. Chateau Elan, the brainchild of a pharmaceutical baron from West Virginia, started as a Georgia winery before Georgia wineries were cool or even taken seriously. It grew into a sprawling resort along I-85 at the edge of Gwinnett County, with big-time golf courses, hotels, restaurants, convention space and a spa.
Kempner: Pay bonus boom isn’t because the boss just wants to be nice

Kempner: Pay bonus boom isn’t because the boss just wants to be nice

Just a few weeks into Republicans’ delivery of hefty federal tax cuts for businesses, the impacts keep piling up for employees. Most of it looks quite nice, as hundreds of thousands of Home Depot hourly workers are finding out with “one-time tax reform” bonuses of up to $1,000.
Kempner: Amazon, thanks for sort of picking Atlanta, but …

Kempner: Amazon, thanks for sort of picking Atlanta, but …

Amazon, it’s not that we’re ungrateful for Atlanta being one of your Top 20 choices for your second headquarters and 50,000 delicious jobs. We’ll hold off celebrating or feeling like we’ve gotten some kind of affirmation until we figure out if you just like us a good bit or really love us. Yes, we do think we are all that.
Kempner: Close counts in horseshoes and, maybe, UGA football

Kempner: Close counts in horseshoes and, maybe, UGA football

Maybe the university affiliated with the Georgia Bulldogs won something after all from the college football championship game, no matter what the stupid scoreboard said. Some economics professors say winning lots of games in a big college sport and landing on a national stage can goose up university admissions applications, improve the quality of admitted students and boost financial donations.
Kempner: Body unnoticed in Atlanta area mall for weeks? A mall fades

Kempner: Body unnoticed in Atlanta area mall for weeks? A mall fades

The body of a deceased 19-year-old Lawrenceville woman may have been decomposing unnoticed for two weeks in a back room beside the food court of a Gwinnett mall during the height of what should have been the Christmas shopping rush. The news is a personal tragedy. It’s also might seem shocking, just feet from public space in what’s supposed to be a major shopping center.
Kempner: These Georgians found a way to profit from championship game

Kempner: These Georgians found a way to profit from championship game

Who will make money on the national college football championship game? Certainly, a bunch of out-of-town companies that work closely with playoff organizers and then often farm out business to subcontractors and subcontractors of subcontractors. But some Georgia entrepreneurs have snagged financial nuggets from the game, too.
Kempner: Some green is missing from the Georgia-Alabama championship

Kempner: Some green is missing from the Georgia-Alabama championship

It looks like the neighborhood college football championship game between Georgia and Alabama won’t be nearly as juicy for the state’s economy as it could have been. Too bad Monday’s national championship doesn’t involve two out-of-town teams we absolutely don’t care about.
Kempner: Christmas ‘cookies’ Georgia Power will be eating for decades

Kempner: Christmas ‘cookies’ Georgia Power will be eating for decades

Some people think about cutting weight at this time of the year. Not Georgia Power. The most influential company in Georgia just got a fresh batch of its own special recipe for Christmas cookies. With your help, it expects to be chewing on them for decades to come.
Kempner: Goodbye, signatures? Credit card firms make big change

Kempner: Goodbye, signatures? Credit card firms make big change

UPDATED Don’t take this too hard: your autograph isn’t worth what it once was. American Express, Mastercard and Discover have each announced that, starting in April, they will no longer require signatures on any North American credit card purchases. (Actually, American Express is making the change for all its transactions worldwide.
Kempner: Georgia underdogs confront power, get smacked 

Kempner: Georgia underdogs confront power, get smacked 

Steven Prenovitz, who once successfully nagged me into digging through more than 1,000 pages of state records, can be irritating when he’s pursuing what he considers a grand cause. But he’s been called worse. “You are an abomination to this process,” Stan Wise, the chairman of an elected body of Georgia regulators, sputtered during a recent hearing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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