Day Of Week Is The Key To Valentine Business

Valentine’s Day is best when hearts align. But on the business side of things, the date needs to line up with the correct day of the week for money to flow as freely as sentiments.

Feb. 14 falling on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday makes for happy florists. But falling on a Monday this year limits the options for workplace flower deliveries because early deliveries won’t come during the workweek.

Traditionally, buyers of Valentine’s Day flowers are men who want their sweethearts to get their bouquets at work for everyone to see. Of course, the optimum delivery day is the day itself. But florists often offer senders incentives for deliveries a day or two early, freeing up time for day-of deliveries.

Union vs. Non-union

Good news came to Jacksonville last year when two companies announced in one week that they would move their operations and 1,350 jobs here from Northern cities.

Economic development officials and chamber of commerce people praised Kaman Aerospace Corp. and C.F. Gomma USA for selecting Jacksonville.

Company officials responded with praises for the city and all it has to offer, such as great port facilities.

What no one talked about was the 275 workers put out of work at the C.F. Gomma plant in Indiana and how much the company would save with non-union labor.

Kaman’s Connecticut workers were non union. But C.F. Gomma, the unionized maker of vehicle brake hoses, has declined to comment on the union issue.

C.F. Gomma said the move would initially create 250 new jobs, 125 of those assembly positions paying $6.50 an hour and benefits.

At the Gomma plant in Columbia City, Ind., members of the United Auto Workers started at $8.50 an hour and earned up to $15 an hour.

The pay difference raised the question if such companies are coming to Jacksonville because of the moderate union presence. Some unions are hurting, some are thriving. Overall, numbers are dwindling.

The region’s umbrella organization for labor unions has lost one-fourth of its members during the last five years.

Port director gets 30 percent raise

Executives at the two authorities that used to be part of the old Jacksonville Port Authority are receiving some substantial raises this year.

The Jacksonville Port Authority gave Executive Director Rick Ferrin additional pay and bonus compensation of $50,218 Monday, a 30 percent increase. The raise follows a 19 percent performance bonus last year.

The Port Authority’s former aviation division, the Jacksonville Airport Authority, made its executive director one of the highest paid in the state this year. And the director gave raises and promotions to several top administrators. One of them has tripled her salary in less than three years.

By contrast, 7,400 city employees are expected to receive pay raises that average 2 percent this year, according to the proposed budget.

JPA board Chairman Marty Fiorentino, chairman of the old Port Authority before it split in October 2001, said the public is still saving money because the restructuring eliminated one top position overseeing the old authority’s two divisions.

That job paid $168,000 in 2001.

But John Draper, spokesman for the watchdog group Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, said: “The new positions are causing pay inflation because the individuals consider themselves more important than they were two years ago. It’s ridiculous. It’s exactly what we thought would happen.”

Cool Concept, Hot Business

Buddies Harry Jackson and Jim Skipwart loaded two coolers filled with 20 pounds of ice apiece into the back of a truck off Atlantic Boulevard.

Price tag for their haul of ice: $2.50. The two were going fishing near Gainesville and needed to keep food and beer cold during the trip. They fed the money into the large white machine next to Fisherman’s Seafood & Bait, pulled the lever and watched the ice fill both coolers.

”It’s a lot more convenient than going in a store, and it’s twice the ice,” Jackson said. ”It’s a wonder someone didn’t come up with this idea a long time ago. Whoever came up with it is going to make a million dollars.”

Actually, they did.

JAA now a Super Bowl sponsor

The Jacksonville Airport Authority decided this week to spend $300,000 to sponsor the 2005 Super Bowl, joining city-owned utility JEA and other public organizations sponsoring the event.

Approval of the deal came one month after the JAA reported a $1.4 million revenue shortfall for its current fiscal year, and a month after Jacksonville International Airport raised its daily parking rates citing financial problems.

But the JAA board said the decision to sponsor the Super Bowl was a good one.

Board member Ron Weaver said the parking rate increase was needed mostly to pay for additional security costs and had nothing to do with the sponsorship deal.

“You have to spend money to make money,” he said. “The Super Bowl will benefit all four [Jacksonville] airports.”

Half of JAA police finalists lack airport experience

The Jacksonville Airport Authority advertised for a new police chief with airport organizations and not law enforcement groups because the authority said experience with airport operations is more important than previous police work.

But three of the six candidates on the JAA’s short list for the job have no airport experience.

Industry observers said limiting the search to airport organizations contributed to below-normal number of responses.

They also said the JAA didn’t advertise in the places typically monitored by qualified police executives: law enforcement publications and Web sites.

“If you’re seeking out these people, you should seek them out where they reside,” said Joseph Akers, spokesman for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. “I would think you’d go with a law enforcement publication.”

Remote control rules around the rail yard

It was a Thursday morning and train conductor Wayne Caruthers spent it pushing tons of steel around Baldwin.

Using a bright-green remote control device attached to a vest, called a belt pack, he moved railroad cars around CSX Transportation’s switching yard.

It was a job that Caruthers used to do with the help of a locomotive engineer and a switchman. The engineer’s locomotive would provide the power. Caruthers and a switchman would be on the ground throwing track switches and coupling cars.

The men communicated with hand signals or over the radio. But that was before remote-controlled locomotives were introduced at the Baldwin yard last year.

Now, it’s just Caruthers and a switchman, both with belt packs.

The change isn’t only at CSXT. It’s happened at most railroads and sent shock waves through such a tradition-filled, old-economy industry. It also pitted railroading’s two dominant labor unions against each other by assigning jobs previously done exclusively by higher-paid engineers to less experienced trainmen.

Many free JIA parkers unknown

More than 150 public officials and private business people received free parking passes at Jacksonville International Airport during 2001.

Free parking isn’t unusual in Florida, where all major airports offer such passes. But the number of passes given out at JIA was disproportionate to its size.

And because of poor record-keeping and vague written policies, airport officials in Jacksonville don’t know how many people received the passes. In some cases, the airport violated its own guidelines by allowing free valet parking.

The tally for free parking tabs in 2001 totaled more than $30,000, a fraction of the airport’s annual parking revenue total of $44 million. Nevertheless, parking fees make up about 25 percent of the airport’s revenue, and rates have been increasing for the rest of Jacksonville residents and travelers who don’t have passes.

Bar pilots keep watch over St. Johns River

Scott O’Connor recently stood on the bridge of a ship called the Cosmo Spirit and just watched.

The 46-year-old bar pilot watched everything. After 26 years sailing on ships around the world, O’Connor now spends his working life watching Jacksonville and the St. Johns River from the bridges of massive vessels such as the 574-foot Cosmo Spirit.

As the ship approached the mouth of the St. Johns River, O’Connor watched the Mayport Naval Air Station on the left. To his right, he watched swimmers and recreational fishermen at Huguenot Park.

JAA spends $13,000 for 2-day retreat

The Jacksonville Airport Authority spent nearly $13,000 on a two-day retreat for staff and board members on Amelia Island in January.

But the head of the authority said he plans to conduct such retreats every six months, and board members said the expense was justified.

Costs for the Jan. 18-19 retreat at the Amelia Island Plantation included $35.95 for 14 soft drinks and a $1,444.50 dinner bill for 25 people.

“I thought it was well worth the money,” JAA executive director John Clark said. “To get the board members away from this environment to figure out where we are and where we want to be was well worth it.”