The Economy Today: Venturing Capital

News from Portsmouth, Chattanooga, Boise, and more

National headlines focus on a commitment from groups in the health industry to lower health care costs. By trimming inefficiencies, they are volunteering to save $2 trillion in costs, making it cheaper for Congress to enact comprehensive health care reform. But, writes The New York Times, “At this point, administration officials said, they do not have a way to enforce the commitment, other than by publicizing the performance of health care providers to hold them accountable.” The Times also looks at the “lag between recovery and falling unemployment” (the fact that even if signs point to a slowly recovering economy, the unemployment rate is likely to continue to rise for the next year), and how that might affect President Obama’s political clout.

The New Hampshire Union-Leader runs a Q&A with Dianne Mercier, the incoming president of Ocean Bank, the ninth largest bank in the nation by market capital, and the bank’s first female top executive, about taking the reins during a severe economic downturn. “I don’t think that it’s an unattractive job description at all, but maybe I take a contrarian view,” Mercier says.

Will an incentive being offered to consumers to trade in less fuel-efficient cars for more fuel-efficient models, including hybrids, be extended to cities and businesses as well? Chattanooga city officials are wondering, and hoping that it will.

“Most of the crowd tuning in to NBC Sports’ coverage probably won’t notice anything unusual at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course,” notes the Louisville Courier-Journal, referring to the 134th Preakness Stakes taking place this Saturday. But the track’s owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and the future of the famed race course is uncertain. Louisville’s Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby takes place, is watching closely. Thus far, Maryland legislators have passed a law aimed at “keeping the race in the city” through a possible purchase of Magna’s properties in the state.

Internships, flexibility, and organization are the qualifications touted for young job-seekers in a story in the Times West Virginian today, which brings attention to the 4.6 percent unemployment rate among recent college graduates.

The lead business story in The Oklahoman explores the difficulty that local entrepreneurs are having attracting venture capitalists to fund early stage companies, and the need for the state to focus on building a niche, in order to better attract them. Oklahoma has a reputation as a “fly-over” state when it comes to such investment; in recent years it has “received just a small fraction of 1 percent of the nation’s venture capital funding.”

“Push the Button to Escape” is a promotion that the state of Delaware, in conjunction with local businesses and in a bid to boost tourism during a recession, is offering through its state tourism site. By offering cheap ways to temporarily escape the worrying daily grind, the News-Journal reports, it “focuses on people’s need to get away from their troubles.”

An article in the Idaho Statesman offers up Boise as an example of where the U.S. economy is headed: venture capital is slowly beginning to flow again, there is renewed interest from first-time home buyers, and local startups are reaping some of the benefit from federal stimulus funds—say, by making solar-powered street lights and high-efficiency conventional lighting, products that communities across the country are “adding with their stimulus money.” Also, though local economists guess it’s only temporary, the statewide unemployment rate (7 percent) has stopped rising—the first time in eight months that it hadn’t increased.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.