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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 12, 2003 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

This week's items: FNB joins Big BoardEconomic development shift from chamber a good thingBeware the pitfalls of workplace technologyHillsborough County Clerk of the Court quashes an unauthorized interpretation

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

FNB joins Big Board

First National Bankshares of Florida Inc., which is being spun off from FNB Corp., debuts on the New York Stock Exchange this week.

The stock will initially trade under the ticker symbol FLB on a "when issued" basis, starting Dec. 17. Shares of the Naples-based subsidiary of FNB won't start regular trading until at least next month, when all the regulatory approvals for the split of FNB's Florida and Pennsylvania operations are expected to be in.

With the division, FNB will have $4.6 billion in assets in Pennsylvania and $3.8 billion in Florida. FNB anticipates Florida assets to increase substantially through branch expansion and acquisition of other financial institutions.

FNB, which is moving its headquarters to Hermitage, Pa., spun off the Florida operations to take advantage of the higher valuations that the First National unit is expected to achieve for its new issue by serving the Sunshine State. The western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio areas where FNB also does business aren't growing nearly as rapidly.

FNB shares have been listed on Nasdaq under the symbol FBAN. The parent's new ticker symbol will be FNB. Thanks to the split, FNB expects the combined cash dividend for the two stocks to rise about 25% in 2004. "We believe that the market quality of the NYSE will be of significant value, improving the visibility and liquidity of our stock for investors of both companies once the spin-off is completed," FNB President and CEO Gary T. Tice says in a news release.

Economic development shift from chamber a good thing

Recent daily newspaper reports painted the proposed shift of control of economic development efforts from the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce to Sarasota County as a blow to the chamber. But chamber leaders don't see it that way.

Chamber chair-elect Charlie Murphy says the chamber will still have an economic development role through the Internet. "The Chamber Web site is still the first stop for visitors to the area," says Murphy. "We get millions of hits on our Web site. The new economic development organization is a great change for the county; it will take those efforts to the next level. That group really needs a couple million dollars to participate in real economic development, not the hundreds of thousands the chamber was able to provide."

The consultant group that conducted the county's five-year economic development study and plan recommended the change to address issues not dealt with under chamber control. John Tylee, executive director of the Downtown Partnership of Sarasota and a member of the chamber's Small Business Council, was one of those consultants.

"The CED was in a difficult position, reporting to four different entities - the county, the ECB, the chamber and their own board," says Tylee. "That was an untenable position. There is also the issue of north-south county divisiveness that this will address."

Steve Queior, new president of the chamber, says the new economic development entity will be able to address broader issues that were outside the chamber's realm of authority. "The consultant's report goes beyond the scope of our traditional EDC-type activities," says Queior. "It goes into business climate issues - transportation, permitting, government regulations, workforce housing. Those issues are beyond what the chamber can do, though the chamber will always be involved with those issues."

A transition team is being formed to help identify the appropriate members of the new entity and its new name. Though many similar agencies, like the one in Manatee County, are called the "Committee for Economic Development," watch for Sarasota's to have a catchier name. That will help spark the entity's efforts but it also helps unite all county interests. "South County feels it has been slighted over the years with economic development efforts," explains Murphy. "There needs to be no sense that the new entity is connected to the old, by name or otherwise. There needs to be a clear sense that the new entity is all-encompassing."

Beware the pitfalls of workplace technology

Akuwa Solutions Group's December e-mail newsletter includes a warning to companies that they need to implement an Internet usage policy for their employees pronto. To demonstrate the consequences of failing to implement such a policy, Akuwa cites the following:

× Hewlett Packard recently dismissed 15 staff and suspended more than 100 other employees on full pay pending an investigation into the misuse of its corporate e-mail system to circulate pornographic material.

× About 27% of Fortune 500 companies have fought harassment claims concerning e-mail.

× About 42% of staff is unaware that actions such as e-mail harassment of fellow employees could land their employer in court.

× Fighting a single dismissal case at an employment tribunal can cost over $25,000.

× In 2002, about 14% of corporations involved in litigation were required to produce e-mails.

× About 30% to 40% of employee Internet activity is not business related.

× About 70% of Internet pornography traffic occurs between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

× Employees earning more than $100,000 are twice as likely to download pornography as those earning less than $50,000.

× About 8 million working hours are lost every year by staff surfing the Internet (per the Black Box Network Industry).

Incorrect interpretations

Uncertainty continues over the meaning of the recent Florida Supreme Court order that prohibits access of some court records on the Internet.

The Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court quickly quashed an unauthorized interpretation of the order that prohibited access of certain court records across the Internet.

Earlier in the week, a technician in the Hillsborough clerk's management information services department told GCBR all access to the clerk's online, paid-subscriber court index would cease as of Jan. 1. Well, that's not true, says Helene Marks, legal counsel to Clerk of the Court Richard Ake. She says Ake and his staff are particularly concerned now with interpreting the exceptions listed in the court order.

"The concern that we have is in the second to last paragraph in the order," she says. "It says any existing Internet or dial-up service, including subscriptions, should be terminated as soon as possible but no sooner than Jan. 1. But to read that as a wholesale blanket statement negates the need for any exception."

The goal is to protect citizens from identity theft and unwarranted intrusions by limiting the release of confidential personal information such as Social Security numbers. So expect further delays in any effort by the clerk to make images of court documents available across the Internet.

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