Friday, July 15, 2016

Martin Agency Watches Staffing After Wal-Mart Loss

But no plans for layoffs, spokesman says.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Comedian Craig Robinson took part in one of the Wal-Mart campaigns.
  • Comedian Craig Robinson took part in one of the Wal-Mart campaigns.

The Martin Agency, Richmond’s premiere advertising firm, will be closely monitoring its staffing now that it's losing the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, as a client. But it has no plans for layoffs, a spokesman says.

Starting in September, Paris-based Publicis Groupe will take over some advertising needs for Wal-Mart, which spends about $1 billion a year on media in total.

“We are proud of the work we did with Wal-Mart and wish them the best,” Martin Agency spokesman Dean Jarrett says. Wal-Mart represented about 5 percent of the agency’s revenues and is its seventh largest customer.

The move appears to be a strategy by Wal-Mart to facilitate global sales.

In a statement, Walt-Mart president and chief executive Doug McMillion, says: “Our ambition globally is to make every day easier for busy families, and having best-in-class marketing is critical to achieving that goal. This relationship with Publicis Groupe will help us think and act differently, which will ultimately enable us to serve our customers even better.”

Among the ads The Martin Agency created for Wal-Mart was one where a little girl watches her grandmother putting beauty cream on her face. “Why do you do that?” the girl asks. Her grandmother says it is to make her look young and beautiful.

In the next scene, the same girl is seen silently slathering beauty cream over the face of her grandfather while he's asleep.

Another ad showed a big conveyor belt dropping a variety of store products into a bin. The motion is interspersed with scenes from throughout the globe.

Jarrett says there are no plans for staff cuts and the company hopes it will generate enough new revenue to make layoffs unnecessary. The Martin Agency has been growing steadily in recent years.

Jarrett says the firm hopes to apply what it has learned with Wal-Mart to other customers.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lawsuits Proliferate Over Exploding Batteries in E-Cigs

Cheap, Chinese batteries seem to be the chief culprit.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 6, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Exploding batteries in electronic cigarettes have resulted in dozens of lawsuits throughout the country, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Plaintiffs have complained that their vaping devices have exploded unexpectedly with bad results.

A California woman, Rachel Berven, suffered a ripping hole in her mouth, cracked teeth and acid burns when she pushed the activation device after replacing the batteries, the Journal says.

Jennifer Ries, another Californian, won $1.9 million in damages after her electronic cigarette exploded when she plugged it into a car recharger. The resulting fire and spraying chemicals caused second-degree burns on her legs, buttocks and hands, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The culprit, according to media accounts, seems to be lithium-ion batteries made in China. The Journal says that this type of battery lacks controls to prevent overcharging or charging that's too low. Information in the lawsuits tends to identify the source as MXJO, a Chinese firm, the Journal says.

A representative at RVA Vapes says that he’s heard horror stories but none of his firms’ customers seems to have been injured in such ways. “It’s a battery safety issue, not one with the device,” said the man, who asked not to be identified.

He says that his firm sells devices that use approved batteries designed for vaping from reputable companies such as Lucky Goldstar and Samsung. “People order stuff online and don’t know how to use it,” he says.

Vaping is a fast-growing, $3.5 billion industry that offers nicotine without the health hazards of tobacco. But problems have been cropping up, such as leaks of potentially lethal nicotine and high levels of formaldehyde in the vapor.

The Transportation Department recently banned e-cigarettes in checked luggage on airlines because some have caused fires.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gov. McAuliffe Splices and Dices on the Green Front

His new carbon control commission has environmental groups abuzz.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2016 at 2:46 PM

“Governor McAuliffe Is Moving Forward on Climate. Are You With Him?"

Thus states an online banner ad by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters running on the homepage of a major Virginia newspaper.

But if you think it shows complete solidarity for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, think again.

McAuliffe is catching it on all sides as he tries to straddle the middle on climate change and energy development.

The governor is under fire from groups such as the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network for backing two controversial natural gas pipelines and offshore oil drilling. But he's using his executive authority to set up a work group to stem carbon dioxide emissions.

Because he is using an executive order, however, prominent Republicans such as House Speaker William Howell are crying foul.

They claim that McAuliffe, a Democrat stuck in constant deadlocks with the General Assembly, has overused executive orders to get past stalemates. He’s deployed them to return voting rights to convicted felons who have served their terms, ban guns in state office buildings and try to expand Medicaid coverage.

What’s more, some conservative legislators want the General Assembly to give the final OK to proposals of how the state will meet guidelines in President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions in coming years.

Perhaps strangely, McAuliffe seems to have split environmental groups.

While younger outfits are critical of him for backing the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline led by Dominion Resources, more traditional green groups are supporting his carbon stance.

They include the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, Environment Virginia and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, which took out the digital ads asking that viewers click their support for the governor.

Meanwhile, a coalition of groups including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition plan a July 23 protest march to the Executive Mansion in Richmond. Note: This version clarifies an earlier one that stated that Appalachian Voices is critical of McAuliffe for his executive order on the Clean Power Plan. The group supports it, but still is critical of the governor for his stances on pipelines and offshore drilling

Friday, June 17, 2016

In Coal Ash Case, Dominion Scores Win

State of Maryland drops opposition to permit near Dumfries.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 10:44 AM

Maryland had opposed conditions of the permit at the Possum Point Power Station, one of four plants with coal ash ponds in Virginia.
  • Maryland had opposed conditions of the permit at the Possum Point Power Station, one of four plants with coal ash ponds in Virginia.

In a victory for Dominion Virginia Power, the state of Maryland is dropping its opposition to a wastewater discharge permit as a step to close coal ash ponds at its Possum Point Power Station near Dumfries.

Maryland had appealed a State Water Control Board permit to dump treated coal ash wastewater into Quantico Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River.

“We are engaged in and encouraged by the ongoing discussions with Virginia and Dominion to do even more testing for fish tissue, water quality and sediment in the river beyond the current testing and monitoring in current or soon-to-be-proposed permits,” Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s secretary of the environment, said in a release.

The Potomac Riverkeepers group still opposes the permit. Dominion faced strong opposition after it won permits for Possum Point and its Bremo power stations. It then agreed to add extra measures for wastewater treatment and monitoring. The James River Association ended its opposition for thr Bremo permit, which allows effluent to be disposed of in the James River.

Meanwhile, a group of environmental groups has joined forces to protest what it says is Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s pro-fossil fuel policies.

They demand that the governor end his support for offshore oil drilling, two natural gas pipelines and that he oppose granting permits to allow Dominion to permanently close coal ash pits without providing a bottom barrier to prevent leaching.

Dominion is due in federal court in Richmond Monday for a trial involving coal ash at its Chesapeake Energy Center. It is being sued by the Sierra Club.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Protesters Expected at Dominion's Annual Meeting

Clash expected over activist shareholder proposals.

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2016 at 1:54 PM

Environmental activists are expected to travel from Virginia to Columbia, South Carolina, where Dominion Resources will hold its annual shareholders’ meeting Wednesday.

Activist shareholders have filed several proposals asking the utility to prepare reports on practices they believe deserves scrutiny. Dominion recommends denial of all of them.

They include:

1. Requiring Dominion to disclose its lobbying practices and how much it pays for groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, which create model legislation of pro-business bent and grass-roots organizations.

2. Ask Dominion to explain how it would deal with financial issues should plans for a new nuclear reactor at North Anna be denied by the State Corporation Commission. The state attorney general’s office says that the reactor would cost $19.3 billion – the most expensive in the country so far. The proposal asks how the ratepayers might be affected if the SCC denies a permit for the reactor. Consumer activist Irene Leech said in a press release: "The massive $19 billion cost for the North Anna 3 nuclear reactor project makes it the biggest single threat posed today to the pocketbooks of Virginia consumers."

3. Require Dominion to choose for its board of directors one person with expertise in environmental affairs.

4. Report to shareholders the financial risks caused by events related to climate change, such as hurricanes Isabel and Irene and a June 2012 windstorm that affected Dominion’s electricity service area.

5. Report on how rising, renewable technologies such as solar might have a financial affect on Dominion, which relies on fossil fuel and nuclear power for most of its power.

Dominion recommends voting down all of the proposals, saying that it participates in the political process to boost its “business strategies and goals.” It also claims that its current practices are “effective.”

Protesters are expected to picket the Hilton hotel, where the meeting will be held. They include groups concerned about climate change, coal ash ponds and a $5 billion natural gas pipeline in which a Dominion Resources subsidiary is a partner.

Friday, May 6, 2016

FDA Issues Sweeping Rules on E-Cigarettes

Sales to minors banned, all products must get approval.

Posted By on Fri, May 6, 2016 at 7:41 AM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued sweeping new rules today affecting the nascent electronic cigarette industry, including banning sales to people younger than 18 and requiring that all products receive regulatory approval.

The rules had been anticipated by e-cigarette makers, some of whom worry that the requirement that products obtain federal approval would be too expensive for them, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Some e-cig people are taking the rules in stride. “We do not sell to people under 18 and we card people who come into the shop,” says Kim Huff, assistant manager at AVAIL Vapor’s Carytown store.

The firm also has gotten rid of some of its highest nicotine products, she says, and has improved its containers for potential harmful chemicals.

Vaping has grown quickly into a $3.5 billion industry. Proponents say that it provides addictive nicotine without the cancer-causing smoke. Opponents claim that vaping can lead users into deadly cigarette smoking and that some of the e-cigarette devices can be easily broken and toxic nicotine can fall into the wrong hands. It has been shown to be deadly to young children.

Until recently, the e-cigarette business was largely unregulated. Some of the early products were imported from China where safety could be spotty. E-cigarette makers say they have become more sophisticated in their manufacturing.

The bulk of the industry consists of small producers and sales outlets. Tobacco behemoths such as Philip Morris USA, based in Richmond, make and sell e-cigarette products but were late getting into the market because of concerns over regulation.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wireless Recharging Firm Makes Mark in Scott's Addition

Evatran merges young lifestyle with growth for electric cars.

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 5:30 PM

Rebecca Hough co-founded Evatran Group with her father not long after she graduated from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce in 2008. - SCOTT ELMQUIST / FILE
  • Scott Elmquist / File
  • Rebecca Hough co-founded Evatran Group with her father not long after she graduated from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce in 2008.

Pop quiz.

What’s a good location in Richmond for a rising high-technology company that's interested in lifestyle amenities for its employees, including breweries and restaurants, and is also a couple of minutes from two interstate highways?

Scott’s Addition, of course.

“It’s incredibly important for us to put an emphasis with our growth and being in a place with a good lifestyle and buzz,” says Rebecca Hough, chief executive officer of Evatran, a Richmond-based firm that makes wireless recharging devices for electric cars.

The firm, now based in Shockoe Bottom, has announced it will consolidate its headquarters and manufacturing operations at the HandCraft Cleaners building at 1501 Roseneath Road in Scott’s Addition.

Hough says her firm scouted locations for several months as the HandCraft building, built in the 1940s, became available.

Evatran, founded in 2009, needs more space to accommodate its growth. The firm has 37 employees with 27 in Richmond. With the new space, Hough hopes to expand her staff in Richmond to as many as 55 people. Some of those will be manufacturing engineers.

The people Evatran is targeting tend to be young and technology-proficient, which is one reason Hough and her team wanted to stay in Richmond and not move to a suburban industrial park.

Scott’s Addition has blossomed with new restaurants, stores, breweries and other services in recent months. Its future seems even brighter now that the City of Richmond finally seems to be getting on track with plans to build a new stadium for the Richmond Flying Squirrels and put a mixed-use project on the 60-plus acres now occupied by The Diamond and other entities.

The move also signals Evatran’s growth. Hough notes that 2015 “was not great” as a year for electric cars in this country, but that’s not the story in other parts of the world where Evantran hopes to expand.

“I’m not worried long-term about the American market," she says, "but globally E-car sales grew 40 percent from 2014 to 2015.”

While manufacturing will be consolidated in Scott’s Addition, Evatran’s research and development will still be located in Raleigh, North Carolina. That operation is also looking for more engineers, she says.

Evatran makes devices that can be included as either original equipment or aftermarket installations that allow electric cars to be recharged without wires.

One problem with early models was that owners had to physically plug a cable into the car to recharge it. Evatran makes devices that allow recharging without wires.

Its wireless recharging brand, Plugless Power, is available in aftermarket packages for such electric or hybrid vehicles as the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, the Cadillac ELR, BMW I3 and the Tesla Model S.

It costs $1,240 to install one in a Volt at one of 50 dealerships in the United States and Canada now trained by Evatran officials. Some installations cost $2,800.

Bitcoin ATM Makes Richmond Debut

Digital money deals can be transacted in Union Hill.

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 4:30 PM

What seems to be the first ATM in Richmond to use bitcoins started operating May 1 at a deli in Union Hill.

Bitexpress announced in a press released that it had installed an ATM in Richmond, among several other cities including Norfolk and Pittsburgh, that will use bitcoins, which is a peer-to-peer currency. In other words, it is a digital money.

Richmond’s ATM machine is at D Express Deli at 2001A Venable St. Attempts to call the deli were unsuccessful.

Bitcoins were developed by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 as a way to conduct financial purchases and transactions digitally with no intermediaries charging extra fees. They were introduced in 2009.

But the concept has been slow to catch on. Only about 100,000 stores and other enterprises accept them.

Financial institutions in Europe have warned that the goods and services bought by them might have problems if the buyer is unhappy with the deal and wants his money back.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Carytown Association Cautions Capital One

Questions company's intent to move into the shopping district.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 5:11 PM

Capital One isn't off to a great start making friends with its future neighbors in Carytown. Area business owner Camille Bird, head of the Carytown Merchants Association, is questioning the company's plans to open a cafe-bank on the corridor.

Bird accuses the company of pushing out three longtime business owners in a letter posted on the association’s site this afternoon, as first reported by NBC-12. It has started to make the rounds on social media.

You can follow the campaign on Twitter at #SAVE2933WESTCARY.

Style originally reported the bank’s plans to move into the current locations of Secco Wine Bar, Sheppard Street Antiques and an acupuncture studio.

It's still unknown whether Capital One will demolish 2933 West Cary St. or use the existing building. An article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch indicated that it would be torn down, but that information has been changed and a correction is scheduled, the reporter said.

Here’s the letter:

28 April 2016

Dear Capital One Café,

As President of the Carytown Merchants Association I would like to welcome you to the neighborhood. I’m sure you chose Carytown for it’s many unique and appealing qualities. We hope you will opt to preserve the character and charm of this historical meeting place in Richmond.

“Richmond’s first shopping center is still a bustling Mecca of consumerism. Cary Court, in the Carytown area, first opened in 1938. The Byrd Theater, a National Landmark, is an excellent example of turn of the century opulence, and Carytown’s unique shops and restaurants add charm and activity.” (*From The Official Tourism Offices: Richmond, Virginia – A City of Monuments).

Capital One Café we ask you this simple question: Did you choose Carytown to be a part of our community or to be apart from the community? The deal you struck already pushed three longtime Carytown merchants (or as we call them family) from their shop homes. We hope you will take more care for the community when you make decisions about that beautiful 100+ year old piece of history you are threatening to bull doze.

I would love to have coffee with you at any number of the delightful locally owned cafes in Carytown.

Kind Regards,

Camille Bird

President of Carytown Merchants Association


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Capital One Moving into Carytown

New Café-Bank will push out local retailers.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 11:13 AM

Is Carytown going corporate? Capital One is the latest national company with plans to set up shop in the longtime bastion of local retail.

The concept is nontraditional -- a blend of coffee shop, technology and banking services.

Capital One has floated plans to open another in a series of banking centers that it calls cafes at the location of the Secco Wine Bar -- which is leaving for the former Buddy's in the Fan. The cafe also will take over the Sheppard Street Antiques space behind Secco and an acupuncture practice above it.

Bill Bridgforth, who owns the parcel, says Capital One will be leasing the properties and says that the bank intends to employ a multi-use concept that it has established in Boston. A company representative said that Capital One will discuss plans publicly in a few weeks.

Capital One has five such cafes in Boston, and six others in major U.S. cities, according to the company’s website. But Bridgforth says he doesn’t know whether the properties will be demolished in favor of new construction or re-purposed. The bank would have the advantage of using a large parking lot in the block.

Bridgforth says that the company will take possession of the parcel July 1. A company representative says that Capital One will be ready to speak publicly about the plans in a few weeks.

A Capital One cafe could take Richmonders by surprise. If you’re expecting to open a checking account, make a withdrawal or take out a loan, you’d be mistaken, according to a report in Boston.com.

The news site says that the coffee branches are focused on introducing patrons to the company’s online banking system. The teller baristas apparently serve espressos and help customers set up online accounts and learn about bank services. Those who want to make deposits are given stamped envelopes to mail to the bank or guided through downloading smartphone apps to deposit electronically.

Word has gotten out that Capital One is coming to Carytown. Some of the corridor’s retailers and restaurateurs say they're concerned that the shopping and eating destination, which prides itself on local offerings, is going in a more corporate direction.

Wells Fargo has a banking branch in the 3200 block. There’s also a Verizon coming to the old location of the Helping Hands veterinary practice, which is adjacent to a McDonald’s. A Subway, 7-Eleven and Smoothie King have been in the area for years.

“It’s changing the dynamic of Carytown,” says Olivia Lloyd, who works at Bygones Vintage Clothing, nestled next to the Byrd Theatre.

Sara Garza, who has leased 103 S. Sheppard St. to run her antique store for 20 years, says that the Capital One deal was unexpected. She says she’s looking for a building to purchase in the area but says that it’s hard to find properties to purchase in Carytown.

But Garza remains optimistic about the future of her business, she says: “Last year was the best year we’ve ever had and we’re growing.”

Julia Battaglini has rented part of 2933 W. Cary St. since 1998, when she first opened River City Cellars. The store later became an event space for the larger Secco nearly two years after the wine bar opened in 2010.

Battaglini says that the changes won’t affect her much because the business is slated to move this summer. She will lease the new Fan spot, at 325 N. Robinson St., from developer Charlie Diradour. Ann Furniss, who runs the acupuncture practice above Secco, plans to sublet an office in the Acupuncture Clinic of Richmond, at 4801 Hermitage Road. She's making the move after 15 years of business in Carytown.

The Secco and Sheppard Street properties are listed under separate addresses but are located in the same building. The property has a combined land and building value of about $1.1 million, with square footage of 4,800.

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