Friday, September 08, 2006

Mommy, is Grandma a trucker?

An article in the Wall Street Journal (no link because you need a subscription to read it) by Stephanie Chen describes how trucking companies are trying to hire older couples to drive their big rigs together:

Faced with a worsening shortage of long-haul truck drivers, freight carriers are turning to the RV generation, aggressively recruiting older couples like the Fords to climb behind the wheel. Schneider National Inc., the Green Bay, Wis., company that hired the Fords and put them through driving school, fishes for applicants through AARP, the advocacy group for people 50 and older, and has a Web page for "mature workers." This fall, the American Trucking Association plans a billboard and television ad blitz to lure older drivers."We just thought if Ma and Pa can drive the Winnebago, maybe they can drive the 18-wheeler," says Tim Lynch, a senior vice president at the trade group...

The hiring binge has dramatically increased the number of husband-and-wife driving teams, and truck makers are trying to make their big rigs feel more like rolling homes away from home. Paccar Inc.'s Kenworth Truck Co. unit introduced a new model in March with leather beds and heated seats. Volvo Trucks North America, part of AB Volvo, has begun production of trucks with a full-size bed in the cab comfortable for couples.

Why do you think trucking companies are facing a shortage of workers? Other than their penchant for driving RVs, why target older couples?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Where is it easiest to do business?

The World Bank publishes a report every year called Doing Business that compares different countries and how easy it is to have a business in each country. They look at regulations on the following factors within a country:
starting a business, dealing with licenses, employing workers, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and closing a business.
They then rank countries in on how easy it is to have a business in the country based on the regulations of the government. For 2007, the top five are as follows:

1. Singapore
2. New Zealand
3. United States
4. Canada
5. Hong Kong

And the bottom five are as follows:

171. Republic of Congo
172. Chad
173. Guinea-Bissau
174. Timor-Leste
175. Democratic Republic of Congo

Here are some interesting facts from the 2006 report (courtesy of economist Greg Mankiw):
If you were opening a new business in Lao PDR, the start-up procedures would take 198 days. If you were opening one in Syria, you would have to put up $61,000 in minimum capital—51 times average annual income. If you were building a warehouse in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the fees for utility hook-up and compliance with building regulations would amount to 87 times average income. And if you ran a business in Guatemala, it would take you 1,459 days to resolve a simple dispute in the courts. If you were paying all business taxes in Sierra Leone, they would take 164% of your company’s gross profit...
Overall, a clear reason why many countries have difficulty sustaining economic growth is that it is so hard to merely conduct business in the country. Reactions to this? Why do you think so many countries burden their industry with regulations like this?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ethnic restaurants: in the city or suburbs?

In the Washington Post, economist Tyler Cowen, who also publishes a dining guide for the DC area, discusses why some ethnic restaurants are in the suburbs and why others are clustered around ethnic communities. The article references a lot of suburbs of DC, so if you are not familiar with the area, the article loses some impact. However, there are a few interesting points:

First, Cowen argues that ethnic restaurants are moving into the suburbs as rents increase in the city, ethnic populations move into the suburbs, and American tastes welcome the new flavors:
This new mobility is weakening the whole notion of the ethnic neighborhood. Forget the old Chinatown paradigm: Diffusion is the new model. As a result, ethnic restaurants are more like scattered outposts, drawing from a wide radius. As Serrano points out, "Our competition is not right next door. We compete with . . . restaurants five or 10 miles away."
Cowen also discusses, however, the types of restaurants that are still clustered in ethnic neighborhoods. They tend to be ethnic foods, like Korean and Filipino, that do not appeal as much to American tastes.
Filipinos, for example, are the second most numerous Asian group in the United States (some 2 million, compared with 2.7 million Chinese). But outside of Little Manila in Los Angeles and parts of San Francisco, Filipino restaurants are unusual. The Washington area -- where there are some 34,000 people of Filipino heritage -- has Little Quiapo in Arlington and Manila Cafe in Springfield. But few non-Filipino Americans have a love for fish sauce, vinegar marinade and oxtail. And, as my Filipino friend John Nye has told me, many Filipinos prefer a home-cooked meal.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Movie Industry in Nigeria

In an article from the July 29th issue of The Economist, the author discusses the emerging film industry in Nigeria (no link because a password is needed to access it). The article discusses how the industry started with one low-budget film in 1992 and ballooned ever since.

"Nollywood, as Nigeria's film industry is known, now makes over 2,000 low-budget films a year, about two-thirds of them in English. That is more than either Hollywood or India's Bollywood.

Today, filmmaking employs about a million people in Nigeria, making it the country's biggest employer after agriculture."

Apparently, the films are mostly straight-to-VHS films, and are watched all over Africa. Furthermore, the industry thrives with little to no help from the Nigerian government.

Nigeria strikes me as an interesting place to develop a thriving film industry. Any ideas on why Nigeria would develop such an industry (what resources it has that would allow them to develop the industry)? Or how it would grow so large so quickly?

Press 1 for English, Oprime dos para espanol

A new business called Bringo! has arisen to alleviate the frustrations associated with calling companies' customer service lines. Below is how one of the founders, Marcin Musiolik, describes the company:
"Our mission is to help users skip phone trees and connect with a real human on the customer support phone lines at many companies throughout the U.S. Users simply choose the company they wish to call, and we’ll dial the company directly, navigate their phone tree, and call them back when they are in queue for an operator or customer service representative.”
Do you think this is a sustainable business idea? Any thoughts on who their real market would be or who they should market to?

(after looking at their site, they don't have a number, address, or email where you can contact them, which would make me nervous if I was giving them my phone number)

(Source: Freakonomics Blog)