Entrepreneurs Make Millions from Selling Cheaper Ice Cream

(p. A25) Curtis and S. Prestley Blake opened Friendly (the chain became Friendly’s in 1989) with a $547 loan from their parents in their hometown, Springfield, Mass., in the summer of 1935. With the Depression gripping the country, the brothers enticed customers by selling two scoops of ice cream for a nickel, about half the price their competitors charged (and the equivalent of about 95 cents today).

“Our customers didn’t have any money, and neither did we,” Mr. Blake told The Republican, a Springfield newspaper, in 2017.

Their shop was an instant success, with a line out the door on opening night. But it required constant labor.

. . .

Mr. Blake and his brother sold Friendly to the Hershey Foods Corporation in 1979 for about $164 million (nearly $580 million in today’s dollars).

For the full obituary, see:

Daniel E. Slotnik. “Curtis Blake Dies at 102; Built a Friendly Empire From Nickel Ice Cream.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, June 2, 2019): A25.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date May 30, 2019, and has the title “Hong Kong Protesters Descend on Airport, With Plans to Stay for Days.”)

When Labor Market Regulations Increase, Firms Hire Fewer Workers

(p. B5) “It’s serial stagnation,” said Nicola Borri, a finance professor at Luiss, a university in Rome. “The economy doesn’t contract, it doesn’t grow. Italy is a country that is weak, that is old, where there is no investment in new ideas.”

. . .

Thirty-five miles east of Naples, in the town of Avellino, Sabino Basso has halted plans to hire 30 more people at the olive oil bottling plant started by his great-grandfather.

Mr. Basso’s company buys olive oil from growers in Italy, Spain and Greece, exporting 80 percent of its wares to countries around the globe — especially the United States, where Walmart is a major customer. He had planned to increase marketing and online sales.

But then Five Star tightened legal requirements for companies that hire workers on temporary contracts, effectively limiting stints to one year. The change was aimed at forcing businesses to hire permanent workers.

Mr. Basso was aghast. All but five of his 100 workers are permanent, he said. The others are apprentices, a status that has allowed him to hire using temporary contracts.

“In order to understand if I want to keep people their whole lives, I have to test them,” he said. The new rules did not allow him sufficient time. “I just stopped hiring.”

For the full story, see:

Peter S. Goodman. “History, Views and ‘Serial Stagnation’.” The New York Times (Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 9, 2019, and has the title “Italy’s Biggest Economic Problem? It’s Still Italy.”)

A.I. Needs Human Beings to Collect Right Data and Write Sound Algorithms

(p. A1) SEATTLE — The company called One Concern has all the characteristics of a buzzy and promising Silicon Valley start-up: young founders from Stanford, tens of millions of dollars in venture capital and a board with prominent names.

Its particular niche is disaster response. And it markets a way to use artificial intelligence to address one of the most vexing issues facing emergency responders in disasters: figuring out where people need help in time to save them.

. . .

But when T.J. McDonald, who works for Seattle’s office of emergency management, reviewed a simulated earthquake on the company’s damage prediction platform, he spotted problems. A popular big-box store was grayed out on the web-based map, meaning there was no analysis of the conditions there, and shoppers and workers who might be in danger would not receive immediate help if rescuers relied on One Concern’s results.

“If that Costco collapses in the middle of the day, there’s going to be a lot of people who are hurt,” he said.

The error? The simulation, the company acknowledged, missed many commercial areas because damage calculations relied largely on residential census data.

For the full story, see:

Sheri Fink. “A Tech Answer To Disaster Aid Is Falling Short.” The New York Times (Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019): A1 & A14.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 9, 2019, and has the title “This High-Tech Solution to Disaster Response May Be Too Good to Be True.”)

“Charging Scooters Is a Great Job for Independent-Minded Entrepreneurs”

(p. 1B) Downtown Omaha resident Rob Luhrs spends his early mornings and late nights hunting for scooters.

Luhrs, 41, is a “juicer” of Lime scooters (“Lime juicer” — get it?) who charges scooters and then sets them out again around town. He said he makes about $60 a day, seven days a week, doing the work. During the College World Series, he said, he was making between $80 and $90 a day.

Luhrs also is an instructor of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a part-time real estate broker who works for a grocery delivery service. But he said he hopes to make charging scooters his primary source of income.

(p. 2B) “I want to work when I want to,” he said. “When I want to take a day off, I don’t want anybody complaining about it, and if I work extra hard, I want to get paid more. I can’t just go apply to somewhere and get that job.”

. . .

Luhrs said charging scooters is a great job for “independent-minded entrepreneurs.”

“For me personally, I’m willing to spend time during the day picking up scooters and make it a full-time gig,” he said. “I see other people out there, during the daytime, picking up scooters, so I know that they’re trying to make it a full-time gig, too.”

For the full story, see:

Adam Cole. “Lime ‘Juicer’ Doesn’t Feel Squeezed by Late Hours Charging Scooters.” Omaha World-Herald (Thursday, Jul 4, 2019): 1B-2B.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jul 3, 2019, and has the title “Unorthodox working hours don’t steer Lime ‘juicer’ away from job charging scooters in Omaha.”)

75% “of All Wealth Is Created Anew in Each Generation”

(p. A17) Despite the liberal background of the author, however, “A Century of Wealth in America” offers comfort and support to those who favor less wealth taxation. A core element of Mr. Piketty’s indictment of contemporary wealth inequality was his claim that inheritance is the major source of wealth; he estimated that, given the slower economic growth that most economists anticipate in the future, inherited wealth would soon constitute 90% of wealth in economies such as that of the United States. But Mr. Wolff finds that, for modern America, wealth inheritance explains a much more modest share of private wealth: In 1989-2013, it was 23% on average. In other words, more than three-quarters of all wealth is created anew in each generation in the U.S. . . .

Even more surprising, inherited wealth is much more important in the lives of those who have relatively little wealth than it is in the lives of the super rich. For the top 1% of wealth holders from 1989 to 2013, inherited wealth accounted for only 17% of their assets. (The 1%, in this analysis, is an overwhelmingly self-made group.) By contrast, for those with assets of just $25,000-$50,000, inherited wealth accounted for 52% of their worth.

As a bizarre consequence of this pattern, African-Americans, who have low levels of net worth on average, are the social group for which inherited wealth represents the largest share of their net worth. Another odd implication is that inheritances tend to make overall wealth-holding more equal. Were inherited wealth to be completely abolished, the wealth of the poor would decline more than that of the rich. Inherited wealth is the great equalizer. Who knew?

. . .

. . . , Mr. Wolff calculates that the rich are not systematically generating higher returns on their assets than more modest wealth holders. The top 1% had a real return on net worth of around 3% over the 30 years from 1983 to 2013—the same return as the average wealth holder.

For the full review, see:

Gregory Clark. “BOOKSHELF; How the Richest Got That Way; In the U.S. more than three-quarters of all wealth is created anew in each generation, and the ‘1%’ is an overwhelmingly self-made group.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, December 12, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 11, 2017, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Review: How the Richest Got That Way; In the U.S. more than three-quarters of all wealth is created anew in each generation, and the ‘1%’ is an overwhelmingly self-made group.”)

The book under review is:

Wolff, Edward N. A Century of Wealth in America. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2017.

Regulators Allowed New York City to Exploit Taxi Medallion Buyers

(p. A1) . . . The New York Times published a two-part investigation revealing that a handful of taxi industry leaders artificially inflated the price of a medallion — the coveted permit that allows a driver to own and operate a cab — and made hundreds of millions of dollars by issuing reckless loans to low-income buyers.

The investigation also found that regulators at every level of government ignored warning signs, and the city fed the frenzy by selling medallions and promoting them in ads as being “better than the stock market.”

The price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million before crashing in late 2014, which left borrowers with debt they had little hope of repaying. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, (p. A20) and thousands more are struggling to stay afloat.

For the full story, see:

Niraj Chokshi. “New York’s Top Lawyer Begins Inquiry Into Reckless Taxi Loans.” The New York Times (Tuesday, MAY 21, 2019): A1 & A20.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 20, 2019, and has the title “Inquiries Into Reckless Loans to Taxi Drivers Ordered by State Attorney General and Mayor.” Where the online version includes a few extra words, or slightly different wording, the quotes above follow the online version.)

Amazon Will Fund Employees to Quit and Found Delivery Startups

(p. B6) First, Amazon made two-day shipping the norm. Now, as it aims to cut that to a single day, the company is encouraging its employees to quit and start their own delivery businesses.

Under a new incentive program, announced on Monday, Amazon said that it would fund up to $10,000 in start-up costs and provide three months of pay to any employee who decides to make the jump.

The new incentives build on a program the company started last June to encourage anyone, employee or not, to get into the competitive business of last-mile package delivery.

“We’ve heard from associates that they want to participate in the program but struggled with the transition,” Dave Clark, senior vice president for worldwide operations, said in a statement. “Now we have a path.”

For the full story, see:

Niraj Chokshi. “Amazon Has A Novel Idea For Delivery.” The New York Times (Tuesday, MAY 14, 2019): B6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 13, 2019, and has the title “Amazon Will Pay Workers to Quit and Start Their Own Delivery Businesses.”)