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Localize, localize, localize and the documents to help you do it

When you are a business reporter anywhere in the US covering public companies, remember that any story in the news can have a business angle. In most cases the challenge is to localize it to your area.

Here are three ideas for how you can do that using data that is readily available in public and company documents online.

Mill Avenue, Tempe

Mill Avenue, the downtown strip in Tempe, Arizona, is near Arizona State University. Photo: Kingdafy on Flicker

With Gov. Mitt Romney the presumptive Republican presidential candidate in 2012, there has been a lot of talk in the news about private equity businesses and what they mean for job creation and retention in the US. There is also a lot of discussion of outsourcing.

Why not turn this into a local story for your market by looking at the companies that are the biggest employers in your area and check out their records on these issues? If you are not in an area where you have big private equity businesses to cover, check out the boards of directors of the public companies that are in your market and see what they have to offer.

The tools for finding board members and using them to tie national and global business stories to your market can be applied to different kinds of stories as well.

CASE STUDY

As an example, I looked at Tempe, AZ.

Using the offering document for the city’s June 2012 issue of general obligation bonds, available for free on the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s EMMA web site which includes information on the city’s largest employers on page A-2 of Appendix A.

The largest private employers are:

Wells Fargo, Safeway, Freescale Semiconductor, Honeywell, JP Morgan Chase, US Airways, Insight Direct, TEAM Security, Express Scripts, IKON Office Solutions, Edward Jones, State Farm, Sonora Quest Labs and ABM Janitorial Services.

The members of their boards of directors can be found at links, usually under investor relations or corporate governance, on the various companies’ web sites.

Wells Fargo’s board includes Elaine Chao, a former US Secretary of Labor. Safeway’s board includes William Y Tauscher, managing member of the Tauscher Group, who according to his bio, “invests in and assists in the management of enterprises in various industries.” Honeywell’s board includes Lord Clive R. Hollick, a former partner of one of the biggest private equity firms in the world, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo

Those leaders of the city’s largest private employers could offer interesting perspective on a variety of stories including the election, the monthly non-farm payrolls report, immigration policy and other that look at the business climate in Tempe, in Arizona and nationally.

Another recent news event that could be turned into a Tempe story by examining the boards of large private employers involves localizing the appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo!, where she joins the 4% Fortune 500 companies that have women as CEOs.

From a board perspective, new research from Catalyst shows that in the US, women hold 16.1% of the seats on corporate boards. For Fortune 500 companies, that falls to 8.3% for 2011.

A quick look at the boards of the six of the largest private employers in Tempe: Wells Fargo, Safeway, Freescale Semiconductor, Honeywell, JP Morgan Chase and US Airways shows that their directors are 15% women.

Similar calculations can be done to calculate board diversity of based on race or nationality as well, to show the community the people who are guiding the companies that help shape its economy.

Given their influence on the community and its prosperity, the data available in business documents make them good candidates for localizing almost any national business story.

Similarly, the same offering bond offering document for Tempe’s June 2012 General Obligation Bond shows that some of the same companies are the city’s largest property tax payers. Given the spate of cities seeking bankruptcy protection in California in recent weeks, knowing what companies can affect the fiscal health of a local government can be important to any business or government reporter.

Table 5, which appears on page A-12 of the Tempe bond document at this link: City of Tempe General Obligation Bonds, shows that 15 companies account for more than 9% of the city’s main property tax base.

Should any of those companies, which include utilities, retailers, technology, telecommunications and financial companies run into financial or regulatory difficulties or merge with another company, knowing
what fiscal impact those challenges could pose for the city’s biggest revenue stream could be critical and could offer a range of great stories.

Emma docs Tempe, Arizona

Digging into EMMA documents can reveal a lot about a city's intentions.

 

 

In Economy, Featured, Investigation, Story ideas.

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