ATLANTA | The Georgia House has adopted a resolution supporting the deepening of the Port of Savannah as well, as the one across the state line in Charleston. The House endorsed the measure 167-3 on Tuesday. It already passed the Senate. The rival ports in Savannah and Charleston are both scrambling to deepen their harbors to accept supersize cargo ships. But Georgia’s project is years ahead of South Carolina’s. South Carolina lawmakers in February approved a resolution again declaring their opposition to Georgia’s plans to deepen the Savannah Harbor. But the Georgia resolution’s sponsor, state Rep. Ron Stephens, said deepening both ports would improve the whole region’s economy. The resolution is similar to one adopted by the Georgia Ports Authority in January pledging cross-state cooperation.
Consumer Confidence Index drops in March
NEW YORK | Shoppers’ worries about juggling rising gas and food prices and other household costs pushed the Consumer Confidence Index down sharply in March. The decline, which followed a three-year high in February and reversed five straight months of improvement, raises questions about shoppers’ ability and willingness to spend in coming months. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell more than expected to 63.4 from a revised 72.0 in February. Economists expected a decline to 65.4, according to FactSet. A reading of 90 indicates a healthy economy. The index hasn’t approached that level since the recession began in December 2007.
Energy Department eases path to patents
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BOSTON | U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is making it easier for start-up companies to license groundbreaking technologies developed by the National Laboratories. Chu announced Tuesday the department will reduce the total upfront cost of licensing patents in a specific technology to a $1,000 fee for portfolios of up to three patents. The department also is reducing the paperwork requirements for start-up companies to obtain an option agreement to license some of the 15,000 patents and patent applications held by 17 National Laboratories. Chu says the goal of the “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge is to double the number of startup companies coming out of the National Laboratories. To be eligible, entrepreneurs must identify the technology of interest and submit a business plan for consideration. The program kicks off May 2.
Fed releasing list of banks that received loans during crisis
WASHINGTON | The Federal Reserve plans to release documents on Thursday identifying financial companies that received Fed loans to survive the financial crisis. The central bank is being forced to take the action because commercial banks had lost a court battle to keep the information private. The Fed had argued that releasing the names of banks that drew the emergency loans could cause a run on them, defeating the purpose of the program. At its peak during the crisis in the fall of 2008, the Fed loaned as much as $110 billion through its “discount” loan window. The program provides low-cost loans to banks when they can’t obtain financing from private sources. During the crisis, the Fed temporarily extended the program to investment houses.
Aaron’s creating 1,000 new jobs
ATLANTA | Lease-to-own retailer Aaron’s Inc. said Tuesday that it plans to create almost 1,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada this year. The company, which sells and leases residential furniture, consumer electronics, home appliances and accessories, said it has added 50 workers so far this year.