SC business notebook, Mar 1

March 1, 2014 

King Machine to open plant in Sumter County

King Machine, a Continental Tire servicer, will open a $3 million plant and create more than 20 jobs in Sumter County, economic development officials said Friday. The Charlotte-based molds manufacturer and servicer will service and repair the company’s tire production equipment. King already is working with Continental out of a leased building as it prepares to build a new facility, company officials said.

Economy’s growth slower than expected

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate last quarter, sharply less than first thought, in part because consumers didn’t spend as much as initially estimated. Severe winter weather is expected to further slow the economy in the current quarter. But as temperatures warm, most economists think growth will rebound beginning in the spring. The Commerce Department on Friday reduced its estimate of economic growth in the October-December quarter from an initial 3.2 percent annual rate. The revised estimate of 2.4 percent annual growth is the weakest quarterly showing since the first quarter of 2013.

Mt. Gox bitcoin files for bankruptcy protection

The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange in Tokyo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday and its chief executive said 850,000 bitcoins, worth several hundred million dollars, are unaccounted for. The exchange’s CEO Mark Karpeles appeared before Japanese TV news cameras, bowing deeply. He said a weakness in the exchange’s systems was behind a massive loss of the virtual currency involving 750,000 bitcoins from users and 100,000 of the company’s own bitcoins. That would amount to about $425 million at recent prices. The online exchange’s unplugging earlier this week and accusations it had suffered a catastrophic theft have drawn renewed regulatory attention to a currency created in 2009 as a way to make transactions across borders without third parties.

Airlines struggling to hire pilots

The nation’s regional airlines are having trouble hiring enough pilots, the government says, suggesting one reason may be that they simply don’t pay enough. A pool of qualified pilots is available, but it’s unclear whether they are willing to work for low entry-level wages, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Friday. One key economic indicator supports the emergence of a shortage, something regional airlines have complained of and point to as a reason for limiting service to some small communities. But two other indicators suggest the opposite is true, GAO said. Also, two studies reviewed by the GAO “point to the large number of qualified pilots that exist, but may be working abroad, in the military or in another occupation, as evidence that there is adequate supply,” the report said. Eleven out of 12 regional airlines failed to meet their hiring targets for entry-level pilots last year, the report said.

Kristy Eppley Rupon and The Associated Press contributed.

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