* The French building-materials company Lafarge is moving its U.S. headquarters from Virginia to Illinois. This should make urbanists happy:
The manufacturer, which employs 76,000 people worldwide, selected the state due to its transportation network, central location and skilled workforce, according to Quinn's office.
Location, location, location.
* Then again:
About a third of the workforce at Lafarge Cement in Joppa lost jobs Thursday morning as one of two kilns at the facility was mothballed.
Lafarge Communications Director Joelle Lipski-Rockwood said the layoff of 36 out of 105 employees was because of the state of the economy and its failure to rebound.
Lafarge is doing fine of late, even if it carries a heavy debt burden. The contrast between the cutbacks in America and its profits is unsurprising:
“We’re remaining cautious for 2012,” with a “contrasted situation” between growth in cement demand in emerging nations and a stabilization in developed nations, Lafont said on a conference call with journalists. “Debt will be significantly reduced” as Lafarge improves its cash flow, he said.
Between overbuilding, the winding down of the stimulus package, and transportation-legislation gridlock, demand for building materials is flat here, and for similiar reasons in Europe. In developing countries, there's substantial growth, with more expected in the future. So while production is flagging in this country, things remain stable at the management level. The same sort of thing has been going on with Caterpillar:
Demand in developing countries may reaccelerate by the middle of 2012, after having cooled as central banks, including those in China and India, raised borrowing costs earlier this year to tame inflation, he said.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised Caterpillar, the world’s largest construction and mining-equipment maker, to “conviction buy” from “buy” on Nov. 13, with a 12-month price estimate of $118 a share. It was $97.55 at 11:43 a.m. in New York. The Peoria, Illinois-based company forecasts revenue will climb as much as 20 percent in 2012, assuming “not a worldwide recession, but actually quite poor growth,” Michael DeWalt, director of investor relations, said in a Nov. 8 teleconference.
Update: See also:
Output at U.S. factories slipped in March and builders started construction on fewer homes, offering cautionary signals for an economy that appeared to be gaining traction.
* The mayor wants to cut back on the number of licenses required to run a business, tapping into an old point of contention:
Mr. Emanuel's announcement came at Logan Square Kitchen, a commercial kitchen for small food vendors, which he said would benefit from just that type of city flexibility. The proposal follows a series of public hearings and meetings with business groups.
In 2010, Martha Bayne wrote a long piece for the Reader about Logan Square Kitchen and the immense hurdles that have to be cleared to open a business. This, being an urbanism dork, struck me:
Logan Square Kitchen wasn't a restaurant, the department decided. It was a banquet hall, and as such was required to provide parking. This zoning rule, says Stein, is designed to accommodate the convergence of large numbers of people on an area at a given time; a restaurant, she says out, has "a flow of traffic over a given period of time." Murray says she's gotten different figures from different people in the zoning department, but it seems Logan Square Kitchen, capacity 70, has to provide anywhere from four to 15 parking spots (city code says 10 percent, which would be seven spots). Revolution Brewing, down the street, with a capacity of 150 at any given time? No parking required.
Revolution owner Josh Deth—who has a master's in urban planning and is the former head of the Logan Square chamber of commerce—explained in an e-mail that before he started the building-permit process, he got the zoning on his parcel changed to a classification called C1-5. "In this zoning classification, restaurants under 20,000 square feet do not need to provide parking," he wrote, describing it as "a creative solution to the parking issue that I discovered because I'm an urban planning geek."
* Then again, what the city taketh away from food kitchens, it giveth to liquor stores ("a cancer"):
Whenever there’s a string of problems, arrests or a pattern of complaints against an establishment, the city “will move to revoke the liquor license and any other city business licenses,” officials said. The city may also ask the Illinois General Assembly to “strengthen legislation so the city’s authority in this area is strong,” officials said.
Watson did acknowledge there is drug-dealing from time to time outside the store. But manager Ray Fakhouri said the store can’t be responsible for what happens on “the streets.”
“Whatever happens outside, I cant control it. I have to watch my back. I have four kids at home. I cant go outside and stop what I’m doing.”
I can't help but wonder if the decades-long crackdown the city made on taverns exacerbated the situation, in the sense that having business owners have more responsibility for the use of the intoxicants they sell is preferable to the alternative.
Photograph: Proxy Indian (CC by 2.0)