After 13 years of writing editorials and columns, and helping edit The Augusta Chronicle’s Opinion section, I’m going to give you the business.
As deputy business editor, I’ll help Business Editor Damon Cline do what he does best – deliver top-flight coverage of what’s going on in the Augusta area’s business community.
As a columnist, I won’t make any promises.
DADDY ISSUES: Mother’s Day: Flowers, candy, a nice lunch, jewelry, clothes, pampering.
Father’s Day: A tie.
Maybe that’s oversimplifying. But at least it looks like the gap is narrowing.
For the past 15 years, the National Retail Federation has been monetizing how much love we’re lavishing on our parents. As you probably can guess, moms are ahead. The NRF projected that Americans would spend about $23.6 billion on their mothers this year – a record high.
Now it’s Father’s Day. The trend has been for spending on dads to be less than moms, but the good news (and I say that mainly because I’m a dad) is that the spending is projected to be higher than ever – $15.5 billion, also a record high.
I joked about dads getting ties – I’ve never gotten one as a gift – but it’s no joke that Americans plan on spending $2.2 billion on clothing for their (or other people’s) fathers this year. That’s the second-most popular spending category behind “special outing such as dinner or brunch,” at $3.3 billion.
From there, it’s gift cards or certificates (tied for second at $2.2 billion), consumer electronics or computer accessories ($1.8 billion) and greeting cards ($980 million).
“It’s encouraging to see that consumers are spending on special occasions such as Father’s Day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This is a positive sign of strong consumer confidence heading into the second half of the year, and a good deal for all the dads who will reap the benefits.”
If I get a tie, I’ll let you know.
A STRONG WORK ETHIC: Local entrepreneur George Duehring died May 26 at age 74. If you’ve ever dined at an area Zaxby’s, please observe a moment of silence.
Duehring invigorated our business community by owning seven of the fast-food chicken restaurants in the CSRA, and an eighth is planned in Grovetown.
And he did all of that after retiring in 1993 as a Sears executive. After his discharge from the Marines as a young man, he started as a stock boy at Sears and rose to become director of contract sales, customer service and operations. If that doesn’t demonstrate a strong, determined work ethic, I don’t know what does.
He sought that same work ethic in the people he hired. An example of their gratitude is the outpouring of sorrow and best wishes to the Duehring family from current and former Zaxby’s employees. He gave a lot of young people their first jobs and trained them right.
Those sentiments made me recall a splendid example of that.
Almost a year ago, on July 11, The Chronicle printed a letter to the editor from a lady named Terry Knight who wanted to thank Zaxby’s employees for leaping to her aid when her car caught fire. She was in the car, on the phone, and didn’t notice the increasing smoke billowing from the car’s hood. One worker got her out of the car, another one tried to fight the growing blaze with a fire extinguisher and a third called the fire department.
“God bless these guys for being outstanding citizens and exceptional employees of Zaxby’s!” Mrs. Knight wrote. “It is an honor to call you my friends and my heroes!”
Until then, I considered it exceptional customer service when I get extra napkins at the drive-through.
But that level of heroism is a clear testament to the high caliber of employees Duehring sought to hire at his many locations. All fast-food chains have exemplary employees, but those Zaxby’s workers on that summer day last year truly were exceptional.
To young people looking for summer jobs right now: Bosses won’t expect you to fight a car fire, but start with being punctual and dependable.
THE ECONOMIST: I hate to turn my first business column into a pair of eulogies. But until this past week I’ve had my hand in The Chronicle’s Opinion section for more than a decade, and that section recently lost a guest columnist who had one of the keenest grasps on business and economics of anyone I’ve ever met.
William Beranek died June 2 at age 94. He was a child of Czech immigrants, served in World War II, married his childhood sweetheart and earned a Ph.D. in finance.
That launched a long academic career that started at MIT – where Beranek taught on the same faculty as the legendary Paul Samuelson, the first man to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. It ended with a 16-plus-year tenure at the University of Georgia, where he was a Distinguished Professor and held the prestigious Mills B. Lane Chair in Banking and Finance.
He also had written several textbooks and scholarly articles. In 2012, Dr. Beranek – retired in Aiken – called me and proposed he write a guest column about economic issues. I’m embarrassed to say I was hesitant – at that time he was approaching 90, and I had no idea how much longer he’d be around. So instead of making him a columnist I made him a “guest columnist,” which avoided a sense of permanency.
Instead his column lasted nearly five years. All of Dr. Beranek’s columns were about business, economics, finance and government – and how they all intersected.
Well, except one column. In 2013 he wrote a very personal column about losing his wife, Virginia, to dementia in 2007 after 64 years of marriage. She was the girl he fell in love with at age 13.
Dr. Beranek was a kind, intelligent man. But he always meant business.