3 best weekend stories: Second mortgages, second job lost overseas, high-speed rail push
Wake up and good morning. Three business stories stand out over the weekend and today that Floridians ought to know about. One is about how some Florida homeowners fighting foreclosure are paying their lawyers. Another is about a Tampa woman who watched her job go overseas. And the third is about today's gathering Orlando by contractors vying for a big piece of the high-speed rail project between Tampa and Orlando -- just as last week's election raises new questions about the political support of the ambitious program. Let's get to it:
* This New York Times story says some Florida residents are taking out second mortgages to pay for attorneys trying to help them save their homes from sloppy or fraudulent foreclosure practices. Sounds odd: Add a mortgage to prevent the first one from ruining you? The story says the new mortgage takes effect only if the foreclosure is dismissed and the homeowner’s debt to the bank is reduced. But some defense lawyers who call it "creepy" and "crass" acknowledge it offers a solution to a vexing question: How do they get paid? The story interviews Florida lawyer Peter Ticktin (photo, right, courtesy of Ticktin Law Group) of the Ticktin Law Group in Deerfield Beach: "We thought, 'Why don’t we use a bit of ingenuity to find an affordable way to represent them?' " Ticktin tells the Times. "It’s a new model, a new paradigm." Here's the full story.
* This Wall Street Journal story portrays the plight of Tampa's Lela Cherry, 49, who suspected her job might be over at J.P. Morgan Chase when her supervisor asked for a report detailing how she did her work. There was no reason her duties -- preparing paperwork in the import/export business -- had to be done in Tampa, so in June 2009, about six weeks after putting her occupational secrets to paper, Ms. Cherry's job indeed vanished. It's the second job she's lost to somebody working overseas for less. Cherry says she has since filled out hundreds of applications and only landed two interviews. It's a classic tale of global competition and the too-easy offshoring of jobs -- and a serious reminder why Tampa Bay is spinning its wheels when it tries to create better-paying jobs here. Create one here, but outsource two or three more? Here's the full story.
* And this Orlando Sentinel story points out that major companies -- including Siemens (that's the company's Velaro train, left), General Electric, Parsons, Skanska, Bombardier and Bechtel -- from all over the world convene in Orlando this week to figure out what it will take to build a $2.6 billion high-speed train linking Orlando with Tampa. The firms will meet Tuesday and Wednesday with officials from the Florida Department of Transportation, which is in charge of building a train system linking Orlando International Airport to downtown Tampa in as little as 44 minutes by 2015. The $64,000 question? Will last week's election of Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott and other increasingly conservative, shrink-government-budget types move to scuttle the mostly (but not all) federally-backed high-speed rail plan for Florida? Kevin Thibault oversees the FDOT's high-speed efforts. He tells the Sentinel that he is confident Scott and others will back the train once he explains the thousands of jobs it will create and that the federal government is paying for most of it. Hmmm.... Good luck. Here's the full story.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist