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Obama appoints GE chief Immelt to top jobs post

The president visits GE in Schenectady following the appointment of CEO Jeffrey Immelt to his jobs council.
Mykl Roventine
via Flickr
The president visits GE in Schenectady following the appointment of CEO Jeffrey Immelt to his jobs council.

Presidential visit
The president will be in Schenectady today to visit a GE plant, and get a tour from his newly designated chair of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness: GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt (Times Union).  Word from the Capitol Confidential blog is that Schenectady's mayor, Brian Stratton, will fly in with the president, after a conference at the White House this morning.  The Innovation Trail's Emma Jacobs will be at the event and will bring you details this afternoon.

National grid rate hike decided
As expected, National Grid didn't get its wish (to raise rates by $390 million), according to the Times Union.  Instead the Public Service Commission approved a smaller, $112 million hike.  But the utility may exploit the wishing-for-more-wishes loophole: the firm is likely to ask for another rate hike later this year.

The state comptroller is a big time investor in his role as the trustee of the state pension fund.  So when he talks, companies have to listen.  And what he's saying now is that that he wants to know more about the potential dangers of fracking.  Capitol Confidential has the story:

But DiNapoli said companies still haven’t been forthright about all of the risks. “Oil and gas firms are being too vague about how they will manage the environmental challenges resulting from (hydraulic fracturing),” he said. “The risks associated with unconventional shale gas extraction have the potential to negatively impact shareholder value.” DiNapoli filed a shareholder resolution with Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas in his role as the sole trustee of the New York state common retirement fund and the administrator of the retirement systems for New York state, police and fire employees.

In West Virginia, at a summit held by the Independent Oil and Gas Association, the CEO of Chesapeake Energy declared that Marcellus shale natural gas "is going to be the key" to the future of West Virginia.  AP reports.

But the Switchboard blog at the Natural Resources Defense Council argues that fracking is locking out profits for realtors, who are having trouble selling homes in gas drilling regions.

Meanwhile Broome County will pay $80,000 to market Binghamton's airport.  Airports in natural gas drilling areas have seen increases in traffic in recent years, so seeking out a piece of that market could be a smart move. But as the Press & Sun-Bulletin reports, some are concerned about the expense:

[Democratic county legislator Mark] Whalen said it was difficult to justify spending the money when the county is facing department cuts again in 2012 and potential layoffs. "Is there anyone in Broome County who doesn't know we have an airport?" Whalen asked before the vote was cast. Carl Beardsley, the county's aviation commissioner, said the company [Vibrant Creations] was selected from five others to market the airport online, something airlines were pushing to gain passengers.

Employment round-up
Employment numbers are out for December.

In Buffalo, the Buffalo news reports private sector growth for the seventh straight month, and an overall drop in the jobless rate:

The jobless rate in the Buffalo Niagara region -- Erie and Niagara counties -- fell to 8.2 percent last month, a 10th of a percentage point from a year earlier. In figures not seasonally adjusted, it remains well below the national rate of 9.1 percent.

Jim Stinson (farewell and good luck in Florida from everyone at the Innovation Trail!) at the Democrat and Chronicle reports similar private sector growth in Rochester:

The overall net increase was a more modest 2,500 jobs because governments in the region cut 700 positions. The regional unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, down from 8 percent a year earlier but up slightly from a revised 7.6 percent in November.

The picture in Binghamton was a little more mixed, according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin:

In Broome and Tioga counties, unemployment was at 8.5 percent in December, down slightly from 8.6 percent the same time the previous year, as the region added 300 private jobs during the period. Private jobs totaled 85,000 last month. Job losses continue in certain areas, such as manufacturing, which had 14,500 jobs in December, a decline of 100 jobs over the year.

And in Albany things were decidedly not great, with state worker layoffs continuing to negatively affect employment numbers. The Times Union reports:

State government shed 3,300 Capital Region jobs over the course of last year, or 6.4 percent of its total local employment, according to new numbers from the state Department of Labor. The private sector added just 300 jobs during the year, a number that surprised and disappointed analysts who had hoped non-government employers would carry the economy through to better times.

Committee chair assignments
The new Republican congress is sorting out the leadership of various committees and subcommittees.  Here are a couple of updates:

(Under the) Twitter influence
Syracuse University lost out to Stanford University for the title of "most influential university on Twitter" (h/t San Francisco Business Times).  What good is coming in second?  Consider that the Dalai Lama is slightly less influential (on Twitter at least) than Justin Bieber. How on earth is this determined?  Klout, which measures the metric, fills us in:

Twitter influence is a revealing metric for colleges.The most influential ones must be both tech-savvy enough to have a well managed Twitter account and have the most influential professors, alums, and others engaging with them.

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