News Hole



Macy’s to Cut Jobs

August 1—Macy’s announced plans to cut fifty-one jobs in the Twin Cities area over the next six months, as it continues to struggle with sluggish sales and buyout rumors. Macy’s North will cut 165 jobs across its sixty-four Midwest stores. It also plans to adjust pay levels to bring them in line with stores in other regions, which could mean reduced wages for some workers.

Earlier this year, the company eliminated about 300 jobs, mostly administrative positions, in the Twin Cities. The latest rounds of cuts will affect employees company-wide, including those who work in the stores.

The department store chain formerly known as Marshall Field’s was bought out in 2005 by Federated Department Stores. The company also purchased several other store chains and brought them under the Macy’s umbrella last fall. The transition has been difficult, and it’s rumored that at least two companies, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., are now considering purchasing the Cincinnati-based retailer. —BV


Coal Plant Halted

August 2—Excelsior Energy will take its plans for a $2 billion coal gasification plant on the Iron Range back to the drawing board after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ruled against a proposed power contract with Xcel Energy, stating that “the operating plan is not in the public’s best interest.”

The MPUC asked Excelsior to return to talks with Xcel Energy, citing several problems with the contract, including Xcel’s exclusive rights to purchase the six hundred megawatts the plant is expected to produce.

Commissioners suggested that Excelsior sell power to other companies outside of Xcel, saying that it shouldn’t ask Xcel customers alone to take on the risk of rate increases, should the plant not perform as expected. Representatives with Excelsior said they would attempt to renew talks with Xcel, but suggested the ruling could potentially end the company’s four-year effort to build the plant.

The plan has already come under fire from some state officials and environmentalists, who have argued that Excelsior’s plant would contribute to global warming and doesn’t represent a good fit for a part of the state already dominated by the mining and timber industry. —BV


Northwest Airlines Profits Feed Law Firm

August 1—The lead law firm that handled Northwest Airline’s bankruptcy case has requested $3.5 million in additional fees from the airline. The firm called the figure a “fee enhancement,” claiming that the Eagan-based airline will be able to repay nearly three-quarters of its unsecured creditors, a much higher figure than other recently bankrupted airlines.

The request, announced Wednesday afternoon, is in addition to the $35.4 million the New York-based Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP have already billed the airline. It came one day after Northwest announced a second-quarter pretax profit of $273 million, a fifty-three percent increase from second-quarter earnings last year. The profit is the airline’s first since declaring bankruptcy in September 2005.

Northwest said recently that it lost nearly $25 million in June because of flight cancellations due to a variety of factors, including pilot shortages. —BV


Scott Goldberg, KARE 11-TV

I was at the station logging tapes for my interview with Doug Steenland [CEO of Northwest Airlines]. We had teased it on the five, and it was scheduled for the ten that night. When the calls started coming in about the bridge I raced downtown. First I got out on the cantilevered bridge at the Guthrie, then we moved down as close as we could get to the school bus. Like everybody else we were wall-to-wall til past midnight.

I didn’t get back to the Steenland interview for eight days, and this is a guy who rarely talks to the press. I was pretty pleased to have gotten him to sit down. I had a to-do list of other stories, “Extras” for sometime down the road. All that got put on hold.


Summer’s rash of recalls

On August 3, Lunds and Byerly’s recalled all of their Chinese gingerafter the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s residue monitoring program detected the presence of posticide aldicarb sulfoxide in some batches.

On July 31, Whole Foods Market recalled its 365 Organic Every Day Value Swiss Dark Chocolate Bars because they may contain undeclared almonds, putting people with nut allergies at risk.

On August 1, Lakeside Foods, Inc. of Manitowoc, Wisconsin initiated a voluntary recall of 15,000 cases of French Style Green Beans, sold under a number of labels, due to possible contamination with Clostridium botulinum, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning.

On August 2, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled eighty-three different plastic Fisher-Price toys—including Big Bird, Elmo, Dora, and Diego dolls—that “could contain” toxic levels of lead paint. The recall involved close to a million units sold in the U.S. between May and August. A week after the recall, Cheung Shu-hung, the head of Chinese manufacturer that produced the toys, committed suicide. —CC



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