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Robert Trigaux

Thar's gold in them thar federal bailouts



Wake up and good morning. "We are in an interesting quarter, unparalleled and unprecedented, two words that have been way overused to describe the world economic picture." So said Tampa-based Kforce Inc. CEO David Dunkel in a quarterly earnings teleconference with analysts Tuesday. Here's the complete transcript. Quarterly net income at Kforce dropped 28 percent from a year ago but Dunkel says his staffing company is lean and mean and is prepared to take advantage opportunities in the slower economy.

Most interesting was an exchange between analyst Michael Baker of St. Petersburg's Raymond James & Associates and Dunkel over the possible business opportunities for Kforce from the mega-financial bailout package being assembled by the federal government. Kforce had enjoyed earlier work from the federal Resolution Trust Corp. during the S&L bailout of the 1980s-1990s. Here's Dunkel:

"We have done, actually we did quite a bit of work with the [RTC] and we have drawn on that experience and prepared a strategy to allow us to participate in this program as well... So, we developed a comprehensive strategy and expect to be able to participate in it, although there is quite a bit of difference to what happened before with the [RTC]. We still think of these substantial opportunities."

Dunkel says Kforce does not have a sense of timing yet, but has communicated with certain government agencies directly. He adds: "There is an urgency to move on this -- our standpoint and from the government standpoint." We'll keep track of Kforce's interests here.

If you plan to rely heavily on your 401(k) as your primary source of retirement income, then you are a guinea pig. We all are -- those of us in the boomer generation -- since we'll be the first wave to rely on a self-directed (gulp) retirement fund largely dependent on the whims of the stock market. I wrote about this concern in this St. Petersburg Times column, and here comes a USA Today story pointing out still more companies that have stopped matching employee contributions into 401(k)s. Among them are: Goodyear, Frontier Airlines, commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, broadcast group Entercom and rental car agency Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.

Usually, it's a Tampa Bay business that gets hit with  layoffs by a far-away owner. Not this time. A Tennessee spa manufacturer called Infinity Spas has sold its operations to a Tampa company, Living Water Products, that will close facilities in Johnson City and Elizabethton. That will result in 150 layoffs that Infinity officials announced to workers Monday afternoon, says a report in the Kingsport News-Times in northeast Tennessee. Infinity worked the deal with the Tampa company (formerly Tatum Manufacturing) since severe reductions in demand had hit both companies hard since the spring. Living Water manufactures Lazy Boy- and Coleman-branded spas mostly for pool and spa stores. It will keep the Infinity name on the products, but make them in Tampa.

Where med schools and the economy collide. Alicia Monroe, the vice dean of educational affairs for the USF College of Medicine, said there is a need for young people to go into careers in the health sector, but she worries the economic climate may keep some lower–income students from pursuing dreams in medicine. Monroe told the Independent Florida Alligator:

“Where we are with the economy and where we are with availability of funds to support education — I think we’re at an interesting crossroads.”

Speaking of USF, was Tampa university president Judy Genshaft ever in play to take a public university oversight position with the Florida Board of Governors? The area business community cares because Genshaft is a major player in Tampa Bay's economic development, and her possible shift in duties would have a significant impact here. Here's what the Rattler Nation blog of FAMU reports this week:

"In yet another desperate attempt to repair its credibility problem with the Florida Legislature, the Board of Governors is winding back for a new 'Hail Mary' pass. Its plan: appoint a sitting public university president as interim State University System chancellor when Mark Rosenberg steps down in February."

The blog adds that Board of Governors chairwoman Sheila McDevitt, a former TECO Energy top attorney in Tampa, has revealed that the person she has in mind is a “he,” so that appears to remove Genshaft and University of West Florida interim president Judy Bense from the list. Stay tuned.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist


[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:22am]


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