The Economy and the Job Market – Searching For Growth in Troubled Times

The economy is clearly not in good shape. We may or may not currently be in a recession, and while conditions won’t get nearly as bad as the Chicken Littles of the world would have us believe, they most certainly won’t improve either. Well, dramatically, anyway.

The economy has been under a three-pronged siege of falling housing prices, rising commodity prices and an ever weakening labor market. And each aspect of this siege appears inextricably linked. What makes the current situation so difficult is that all three of these issues are and will continue to have meaningful impact on the average American’s pocketbook. Rising food and fuel costs coupled with lower wages yields a cash flow problem that we will not be able to ignore. That is what makes our current situation so different than that of 2001. That recession, spawned by the “.com” bubble burst, saw peoples overall stock portfolios and retirement accounts diminish or disappear. But in all honesty, who pays any considerable attention to that? Thanks to an increasingly innovative financial market and its willingness and ability to redistribute risk, lenders were right there to lend. And borrowers there to borrow. Consumer spending barely dipped, mortgage applications spiked, and we spent our way out of the 2001 recession.

It seems, then, that the current downturn is much more an extension of the 2001 disaster than a unique, separate situation. Can you ever really exit a recession if you borrowed the money to do so? Our economic doldrums have been a long time in the making, providing a solid base for what figures to be an extended period of zero to slow growth. And that’s why things don’t figure to improve too soon.

To exacerbate all this, the lumbering political machine in Washington has begun talking about the economy, and, more specifically, increased regulation of financial markets. This will only make things worse. It isn’t that taxes and regulations are altogether bad, it’s just that Congress has little, if any, idea how to brandish these tools. What we should expect is a weakened ability for different industries to tap into investment capital, inhibiting their ability to rebound from their current crises, and weakening the outlook overall in financial well-being for fiscal quarters to come.

So which industries stand to improve? To answer this question we need to think critically about what glaring problems the current economic situation has uncovered.

The most striking of these problems is America’s source of and need for energy. As mentioned, oil prices are high and should continue to go higher. China and India, with their burgeoning economies and swarming populations, are now dominant players in the international demand for fuel. And supply isn’t even constant; it’s falling. Our reliance on oil is clearly a very, very expensive habit. Setting aside environmental concerns (which are important), we simply cannot afford to rely on fossil fuels as we once did. The industry with the most long-term growth potential, then, is the renewable energy category.

Renewable energy is comprised of dozens of sectors, each giving rise to yet more sub-sectors. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric power are all growing, not just in the US, but around the globe. Bio fuel seems the heir apparent to gasoline (just look at Brazil), and carbon emission legislation stands on the brink of being passed. Each of these areas, and there are many, many more, represents tremendous job opportunities with long-term growth. And what’s more, they call for a broad spectrum of backgrounds.

Scientists and agriculturalists are obvious. It will become important to devote time and money into research projects, such as ethanol yield from various crops (i.e., corn, sugar, algae, etc.), and what type of return we could and should expect from each.

Carbon emission regulation would force big business to manage a certain number of “carbon credits.” Carbon credits are simply an accounting tool businesses will likely have to adhere to, by law, in an effort to keep their carbon footprint in check. Companies expecting to exceed their carbon credit limit must buy additional credits from companies willing to sell them – companies, of course, who are expecting a carbon credit surplus. Therein lies a marketplace, much like stocks and bonds, where finance and accounting professionals will clearly be in high demand.

Most importantly though, as it relates to career paths and job opportunities, small companies will be born to capture different pieces of this emerging world of renewable energy. And these companies will need the same things as any other company. Human resources, marketing, administration, law, and management are all areas that will see growth – so long they’re within the right business – as these are professional areas that will always be in demand. Exactly how much depends more on a specific company’s positioning within the greater economic landscape than it does the actual current economy.

For my money, any company with a business model that incorporates forward looking thought regarding renewable energy will fare well in the short, medium and long term.

Aiden was born and raised in northern New Jersey. He attended New York University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Finance. He currently lives in New York City and works in the equities trading division of a large investment bank. –Aiden Quinn

The Future of Solar Energy

With the current concentration on global warming, the existence of which is denied by only a few naysayers, developments in solar power are moving at a pace to fill the need for efficient green solutions to our seemingly insatiable desire for energy.

The failure of solar power to be more widely adopted to date seems primarily to be due to cost concerns, where the payback periods are now quoted to be 7+ years, and thus beyond the normal financial horizon for many potential participants, whose average occupancy of any particular house is expected to be 7 years. When a lower cost can be achieved, the benefits of mass production will cause a snowball effect in purchasing systems, and that time would seem to be drawing closer.

Durham University in the UK, ever photovoltaic solar research project, with more than $12M to be spent in the next four years, starting in April. The principal investigator, Professor Ken Durose, has committed to “make a major contribution to achieving competitive photovoltaic solar energy”. Nine industrial partners and eight institutions will be involved in the project, which is aimed at reducing the thickness, and thus cost, of solar cells.

Much as this may seem to be a promising advance, an alternative approach is being adopted by commercial interests, in the form of a company called G24i which is also in the UK, in Wales. They have developed what are called fourth generation solar cells, which are a thin-film product, the latest buzzword in the solar marketplace.

Their invention is a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC), which is, simply, printing a thin layer of titanium oxide on to a thin-film of metal foil, and then performing some molecular manipulations to achieve the desired reaction to light. The product is manufactured on a roll-to-roll process, similar to that used in the textile industry. They commenced production last year, and are planning to expand this year to a production capacity of 200 Megawatts.

The process by which DSSC works has been compared to that of photosynthesis in plants, and it is more sensitive than conventional silicon cells, producing electricity from a wider range of the light spectrum and lower levels of lighting. It is very flexible and one-fiftieth of the weight of conventional glass silicon cells, and can even be produced in designer colors! The initial market is for devices that could not be made with the older technology, supplying power for portable electronics, particularly for mobile phones in the developing world.

With a growth in the traditional solar cell market of 35% per annum, and a continuing global shortage of silicon projected up to 2010, G24i would seem to be very well placed to take away business from the conventional suppliers. Their technology is available at much lower cost, and expansion would seem to be limited only by their ability to grow in a controlled manner.

On what seems to be a more esoteric front, it’s reported that scientists are considering the possibility of a space engineering project that would dwarf any other that has been attempted to date. While the sheer size of the project would require governments to take the first steps at an international level, researchers from the USA, Europe and Japan are proposing building giant solar arrays in orbit and beaming the energy to Earth.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Damphousse of the Pentagon has spoken of the need for “hundreds of sorties every week” in order to move the tons of material that would be required. A recent study by the Pentagon concluded that such a project was nearly technologically possible right now, and that robots could be used to facilitate the construction in space. More realistically, perhaps, Leopold Summerer of the European Space Agency has projected that the generation of power in space may be about 20 years away, but the concept is being actively pursued.

Finally, what may prove to be the most promising current development in solar energy has just been announced by Global Warming Solutions, Inc. of Houston. Successful tests have been conducted on hybrid solar modules, which produce both heat and electricity from one unit. The combined efficiency of the modules is reported to reach 85%, significantly better than the 40%+, then a record, achieved a year ago by Spectrolab using concentrator solar cells to produce electricity only.

The technologies used include some originally developed for industrial lasers, stated Dr. Alexander Kornaraki, the COO. “The quantum pump separates the heat and the electrical photons of the incident solar light”, giving the most efficient spectra to the photovoltaic process. The modules produce up to 28 Watts of electricity and 93 Watts of heat per square foot. The projected payback period is no more than five years.

Global Warming Systems have several pilot systems, and one with 108 square feet of panels provides 100% of the energy, both electrical and heating, to a single family home. Even more promising, these panels are efficient even as far north as Alaska, which is a new achievement for the industry.

Learn more about Solar Power and how you can use it to produce electric power, to heat, or even cool your home!

Death Before Bankruptcy – No Way – Hope is on the Horizon

In today’s economic conditions death seem to be the only way out for many consumers who are consumed by over whelming debt. Although bankruptcies are up in filings for the third year since reforms went onto effect many consumers feel that their options seem hopeless yet they still plug on through the daily grind. For many alternatives such as the housing bailout seems like it’s to strict on its guidelines or to ambiguous in its terms to clearly point out the pitfalls and loopholes used to gain the upper hand in the situation by the mortgage lenders.

While we are in these turbulent and chaotic times we need to keep out wits up, our spirits high so we can see clearly through the stormy and uncharted waters of our financial status. For many it’s all or nothing, the fight seems hopeless will I ever survive? Lawyers go for blood and prey on those challenged in tough times. Are they really giving you the best advice for you or for them?

If you have ever had to seek counsel for filing a bankruptcy you know it’s a gut wrenching and sickened type of feeling. You know you’re in for a life long time of hurt and suffering. However if you’ve exhausted all of your options and you can’t take the pressure of your creditors calling and demanding terms you are unable to afford then you need to seek shelter.

Seeking shelter doesn’t mean go hide, change your address and telephone number it means legal protection for you as well as your sanity. Stop the annoying creditor phone calls; get the debt goons off of your back and regain your sanity back to a time when life was a bit easier and more joyous for you.

Although finding an attorney who is both ethical and sensible to your needs is often an oxymoron in the true sense of the meaning of the word they do exist. When in doubt seek them out. This is when having direct access to a professional organization of seasoned attorneys who are both smart and compassionate to your needs is essential.

We’re not suggesting you seek out a well known discounted legal firm or county legal aid for your personal or commercial situation, we’re merely suggesting you have access to a knowledgeable professionals so that if you don’t like the individual your dealing with you have a back up or two or even three.

Consultations are usually free and can be very informative, although some firms may have a hidden agenda to get your commitment on the dotted line; don’t sign anything until you get all of your facts answered and you feel that bankruptcy will have your best interests covered.

If you have not sought out financial counsel this may be up your alley instead. Remember a professional’s whole status depends on the not only the advice given but the business received. Having a selection of more than one professional can make the difference in your outcome financially as well as mentally.

Get the facts you deserve and never jump to a conclusion, instead rely on a trusted group of professionals dedicated to your overall success, not theirs. Remember no matter where you are today there will always be a brighter tomorrow. Learning the options, facts and different solutions for you are your responsibility. Seek out a close friend or family member even a co worker if you have this type of rapport with the individual; ask them about their experiences and pitfalls.

Ask them about personal triumphs then ask them what advice you might need when consulting with an attorney. Once you have scoured your inquisitiveness and come up with questions you are now armed to tackle the interview. You’re confident and sure about your needs and desires.

Learn the secrets of saving money, making money and creating wealth by maximizing protecting and growing your income. Receive trusted, unlimited advice from our financial counselors, attorneys, and financial mentors that will save you literally thousands of dollars and tons of frustration. You owe it to yourself to seek out qualified advice. Stop walking around in fear and get empowered. Maximize your wealth today.

Capital Campaigns – Roadmap to Success

If your nonprofit is considering expanding or renovating, you’re probably thinking about launching a capital campaign. But how do you create an effective campaign? How many donors do you need? How much money should you try to raise? Here’s a quick tutorial to outline the answers to these questions and more.

A capital campaign is a significant project for a nonprofit organization. A successful capital campaign, and the completion of the project for which funds are raised, can be a transformational event. Ideally, when viewed in retrospect the capital project will appear as a logical and inevitable step in the development of the organization as it strives to fully serve its audiences and community.

With careful planning and keen attention to detail, a capital campaign can be a powerful bridge to the future.

A successful campaign is the result of many constituencies working together for a common goal, including the board, staff, volunteers, donors, and community representatives. As the project grows from an idea to a proposal to reality, a Campaign Planis key to success. A comprehensive plan provides a framework for action and a template that is transparent and universally accepted. It is a document that speaks both internally (to those who are managing the campaign) and externally (to those who may be asked to contribute or who may be impacted by the project). As campaigns are multi-year, a clear plan also serves as a guide if key team members drop out and new team members are brought in.

1. The Goal

A key element of success is to accurately estimate the amount of money needed to be raised.

The costs of planning, acquisition, renovation, and endowment must be carefully determined. In addition, the following items need to be added to any actual cost of building, buying, or starting an endowment.

? Ten percent for campaign materials, cost of consultants and staff time, office extras.
? Ten percent for building project extras like insurance, building permits, design costs, and estimates for cost overruns or unforeseen delays.
? Ten percent additional for people who pledge but cannot or will not finish paying, or whose stock gift depreciates.
? An additional ten percent for added protection.

2. Timing

Many nonprofits hesitate to undertake capital campaigns because board members believe that the timing isn’t right; typically, if the national economy is slow, or if the stock market is underperforming. While there may be good reasons for postponing a campaign, board members should remember that the national economy is cyclical, and donors make annual appeal gifts from discretionary cash and capital campaign gifts from assets. Most organizations do not run a major campaign more than once every few decades. Your supporters will be enthusiastic about supporting a transformative project and will plan accordingly.

3. Organization

The nonprofit must have the capacity to undertake a capital campaign. A successful capital campaign must have the full faith and support of the organization’s board of trustees.

However, support grows incrementally. The following action groups are formed as the campaign progresses:

? Steering Committee. Typically composed of not more than twelve, including board members, the executive director, a campaign consultant, and perhaps major donors who are not on the board. The steering committee organizes and spearheads the campaign.

? Outside Consultant. Generally, capital campaigns require the participation of a part-time fundraising consultant who can help manage the campaign, train staff and volunteers, and interview prospects during the feasibility study.

? Campaign Committee. This group may be very large and include board members, donors, and community supporters who want to take an active role in the campaign. The campaign committee grows as the campaign gains traction. Subcommittees may include finance, fundraising, architecture and building, and public relations.

? Volunteers. These are campaign supporters who participate sporadically. They may include community leaders who host fundraising events in their homes, or who have a connection to a potential donor.

4. Campaign Case

The campaign case is the key document that provides a rationale for the project. It is both an internal summation of the organization’s goals and a marketing tool to help inform prospective donors. The case must be prepared early in the process and may be revised periodically.

5. Gift Pyramid

Once the total monetary goal has been set, a gift pyramid is created. This shows the number and size of gifts needed to meet the goal. Gifts may range in size from millions to under a hundred, depending upon the goal of the campaign.

The figures are set to reflect the giving potential of the highest donors and the total number of donors expected.

6. Prospect List

Once the gift pyramid is established, the names of prospects must be attached to each of the gifts. This is the task of the Steering Committee. Acting in complete secrecy, the committee compiles a list of prospects. Next to each prospect name is the amount projected, and the name of a person who will solicit the prospect.

If the prospect list cannot be filled with prospects to reach 50% of the goal, then the project must be reconsidered.

7. Interviews with Prospects

If there is the slightest uncertainty about prospect support for the project, a feasibility survey is required. An impartial consultant who is not directly involved with the organization is selected to conduct confidential interviews with key board members and donors. The interviews are about a half-hour in duration and are conducted at the interviewee’s convenience, in home or office.

8. Solicitation of Key Donors

The “Quiet Phase” is an initial private solicitation. It should begin only after certain conditions have been met, including if the project has been approved by the board of trustees and if the feasibility study is positive. During the Quiet Phase, it is expected that 50% of the goal will be reached.

9. The Public Phase

During the Public Phase, the solicitation effort is broadened to include anyone not directly involved with the organization, including charitable foundations, corporations, and government agencies.

10. Conclusion

A well-prepared organization need not be apprehensive about considering a capital campaign. If the appropriate incremental steps are taken, conditions can be assessed at every stage. If at any time conditions are considered unfavorable the campaign can be postponed. If conditions continue to be positive, the campaign can be allowed to progress to the public phase and then to a successful conclusion.

Thomas Hauck Communications Services provides writing and editing solutions for businesses and nonprofits. Visit us at http://www.thomashauck.net/ for information on how THCS can impact your bottom line.

Better Not Be a Non Profit Business

Non Profit organizations are often criticized for not being run “like a business”. What that means is pretty murky but seems to imply that the Non Profit is wasteful and could do better by following general business practices. This assertion has always amused me. Especially now as we see so many For Profit businesses closing or being bought by others for a small percentage of their worth a few weeks ago. It seems as if being run “like a business” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Non Profit organizations are often run by people who aren’t business majors. They are former teachers, social workers, ministers, etc. Their primary interest in the Non Profit organization is that of providing services. Often the organization was started by volunteers who have a strong interest in a specific social concern such as homelessness, eradication of a disease (breast cancer, heart disease), services to people who have experienced a disaster (Katrina, 9.11.01). Their expertise lies in the direction of providing these services. The lack of business management training among the staff may lead certain observers to criticize the way business is done. In fact a few problems may arise if the staff does not pay sufficient attention to the legal and accounting standards associated with Non Profit management. However, many times these skills can be found in the person of volunteers such as attorneys and accountants. By using volunteer expertise, the Non Profit saves their meager income for the provision of the service which is the core of the mission of the organization.

The advantages which a Non Profit organization has include that it has fewer expenses of doing business. Many Non Profits have free or low cost housing provided by a benefactor. Supplies are often available at lower cost than For Profit business and may be donated. Some staff may be volunteers including fund raisers, officers of the Board of Directors, a speakers bureau who make presentations on behalf of the Non-Profit, and the professional volunteers mentioned above. It is important to hire staff who have expertise in the service which constitutes the core mission of the Non Profit. This means that the quality of the service provided will be top notch. Many Non Profits have a group of dedicated volunteers who have helped the organization for many years. Without these volunteers the organizations would not survive.

It is uninformed to imply that the many Non Profit organizations which are run very competently by a small, dedicated staff and loving volunteers could improve if they adopted the business standards which are rampant today. Perhaps business should consider imitating Non Profits. Being dedicated to a service which is provided could transform many businesses.

When businesses saw their role in the community as very important – important enough to consider the effect of closing the business on the town where it was located, for example – they received more respect and may have been more stable. The employees and town folk are more likely to support such businesses. This same spirit could transform our communities and businesses where profits are the only motive leading to the demise of both.

Imagine the country economy today if the standards of Non-Profits were combined with those of For Profit businesses to the betterment of all!

Maggie Sadler, Retired Non Profit Manager, Teacher and wife of Presbyterian pastor. Worked over 40 years in Non Profit organizations. Recognized by United Way as a successful Non Profit Manager. Most recently Executive Director of a Foundation with net worth of $18 million.