At the end of 2011, Apple had a very enviable problem. It's not too many companies that have more cash than they know what to do with, and for the electronics giant, that amounted to nearly $100 billion burning a hole in its pocket.

So it certainly pleased current and potential investors when Apple announced that, for the first time since the mid-1990s, the company will start paying a dividend.

145,000 businesses start-up each year in the US.  Many launch in garages, home offices, or in the case of Stonyfield Farm, a drafty old farmhouse on a New Hampshire hilltop with seven cows, and a dream. Like most entrepreneurial ventures, the company also had vision, tenacity, some capital, market research, and an understanding of expenses, competition and supply chains. How a new business will affect the personal lives of its leader, or the lives of their families and spouses, however, rarely figures into a business plan.

Shell Oil Co. has chosen a site near Pittsburgh for a major, multibillion-dollar petrochemical refinery that could provide a huge economic boost to the region.

Dan Carlson, Shell's general manager of new business development, said Thursday that the company signed a land option agreement with Horsehead Corp. to evaluate a site near Monaca, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Part of a series

Thanks to high commodity prices and surging productivity, U.S. farmers earned a net income of nearly $98 billion last year — a record, according to the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.

On Utah's 'Silicon Slopes,' Tech Jobs Get A Lift

Mar 12, 2012

Last year, Utah created jobs at a faster pace than any other state in the country — with the single exception of North Dakota. While the boom in North Dakota is being driven by oil and gas, the hot job market in Utah is being powered by technology companies.

Computer-system-design jobs in Utah shot up nearly 12 percent in 2011. Scientific and technical jobs jumped 9.7 percent. With job opportunities expanding, the state is having little trouble attracting new residents.

For Jill Layfield, the decision to move here from Silicon Valley was not a tough call.

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Economists say many industries are looking up this year. But perhaps none has a better outlook than the energy sector.

New drilling technologies and rising fuel prices have generated a boom in drilling — and lots of high-paying jobs for people with the skills to work in the oil patch. On some college campuses, companies are so eager to find petroleum engineers that they are offering jobs to students even before they have graduated.

Optimism is growing about the U.S. jobs market. Fewer people are applying for unemployment benefits, and hiring is up. The lion's share of new jobs are coming from small and medium-sized firms. But even if the economy comes roaring back, many small businesses aren't likely to hire with wild abandon.

"It's a huge commitment, when you're a very small firm, to add someone," says Kate O'Sullivan, director of content for CFO magazine. "And I think that the outlook is still not completely firm."

Doing More With Less

The agricultural port city of Stockton, Calif., has made national and international news in recent years — for all the wrong reasons. In a new record, the city recently marked its 56th homicide in one year. And the BBC recently reported that a greater proportion of Stockton residents face the loss of their homes to foreclosure or repossession than anywhere else in America. If that's not enough, it ranked No.

Looking at media rankings of companies–“Most Innovative,” “Fastest-Growing,” or other roundups of various firms–we aren’t often surprised.  Take the magazine Fast Company.  For this month’s issue, they’ve listed “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.”  Dominating the Top 4 are the perennial occupants of the corporate Cool Kids’ Table: Apple,

You've heard of identity theft — someone using a person's credit information or a Social Security number for ill-gotten gains. Well, experts say similar crimes are also affecting businesses.

Business identity theft involves posing as a legitimate business in order to get access to credit lines or steal customers. Experts believe that the practice has become more prevalent in the past two years.

Business Boot Camp Gives Veterans A New Start

Feb 28, 2012

The pullout of American troops in Iraq and those returning from Afghanistan have brought many service members back to their families and into the civilian job market.

While there is a new law that offers incentives to employers who hire them, many veterans across the country are trying to start their own businesses. A rigorous, free program started at Syracuse University is giving them the tools to be their own boss.

One day Chris Woehrle decided to finally leave his corporate job and pursue his dream: to become an artisanal food craftsman. And so, every day at home, he'd basically pickle stuff.

"I had a refrigerator full of plastic food buckets that were full of pickles and kimchee and sauerkraut and harissa and salsa and ketchup and mustard and, you know, any kind of craft food you could make," Woehrle says.

Mitt Romney says his experience in private equity taking over troubled companies would make him a good manager of America's economy. So we're reporting on companies that Bain Capital bought while Romney was in charge of the firm. This morning, we told the story of one that went bust. Here's the story of one that succeeded.

How A Private-Equity Firm Turns A Company Around

Not all that long ago, many Americans thought of Chinese food as fried rice, chow mein and orange chicken. And one reliable place to find it was at the mall, at places like Panda Express.

But food court mainstay Panda Express is now in the midst of a major transformation. That means moving from mall basements to stand-alone restaurants and keeping pace with an increasingly sophisticated American palate.

Photo: Amanda Loder / StateImpact-NH

First of all, if you haven’t read

How Communities Are Reclaiming Vacant Malls

Feb 17, 2012

Since the economic collapse, the commercial real estate market has been faced with a glut of vacant buildings. And that chief icon of American consumerism–the shopping mall–hasn't been spared. But that's not to say these massive markets can't be reclaimed. Recently, NHPR's Word of Mouth host Virginia Prescott dished with a New York Times reporter about the rising trend of "repurposing" the American mall.

This is one of those stories that reminds us that everything really is connected to everything else.

Here's the web of connections: a threat to California's booming almond business; hard times for honeybees in North Dakota; and high corn prices.


OK, let's start with the almonds. They come from an old-world tree that migrated to California and prospered in the hands of farmers like James McFarlane, who lives right outside the city of Clovis.

Certificate Of Need--Is It Still Needed?

Feb 14, 2012
Auntie P / flickr

New Hampshire lawmakers are proposing a law that would do away with the Certificate of Need process. This is a state requirement for hospitals and other healthcare facilities that want to expand or establish new medical facilities. The aim of CON is to keep redundant healthcare out of the system.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America is eyeing a spot in New Hampshire. The for profit chain wants to build a hospital in the Northeast.

Gene Gregory and Wayne Pacelle are the odd couple of American agriculture.

"We were adversaries. Some might say bitter adversaries,"
says Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America is eyeing a spot in New Hampshire. The for profit chain wants to build a hospital in the Northeast. CTCA successfully lobbied Georgia to change its regulations so a specialty hospital could be built in that state. The company is hoping lawmakers in New Hampshire will make similar changes. A proposed law would exempt specialty cancer hospitals from certain regulations and also from Medicaid taxes.

Photo by dennis_p via Flickr Creative Commons

Here’s something else you’re bound to hear somebody say before kickoff on Sunday,“I don’t really watch football, but I like the ads and maybe the halftime show.” With bazillions of viewers watching "sans Tevo,” advertisers pull out all the stops for the big game, rolling out their most creative, edgy, and, hopefully, memorable campaigns.  This year though, Superbowl advertisers are adding a new offensive move to their playbooks – digital integration.  Here to tell us more is Sean Owen, CEO of the marketing and ad agency Wedu.

To Grow Business, Starbucks Thinks Outside The Cup

Jan 26, 2012

Just four years ago, Starbucks seemed to be losing its mojo. Howard Schultz, the man who made Starbucks a household name, returned to the company as CEO. He closed hundreds of stores, streamlined operations and set the company on a path to record revenues and strong profits.

Starbucks serves 60 million beverages a week, which adds up to big profits. The company reports its earnings Thursday. In a bid to further expand its consumer base, Starbucks has a new roast and plans to produce more retail products to sell outside of its coffeehouses.

In the world of weight loss programs, Weight Watchers rules, with more than a million members worldwide. New CEO David Kirchoff is credited with increasing meeting attendance in North America by fourteen percent, and upping online membership by 64%. Those numbers mean money, of course. Weigh Watchers is valued at an estimated at five billion dollars…double that of a year ago.

Chris jensen for NHPR

Concerns about a government that can’t work together to solve problems and possible cuts to valuable federal programs were top concerns of about a dozen North Country businessmen who met Thursday with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R).

“Our whole society and our economy needs greater confidence,” said Peter Powell, a realtor from Lancaster who attended the meeting held by the North Country Council in Bethlehem.

With Christmas and Hanukkah wrapped-up, we've officially reached the pre-New Year's lull. This brief respite from the regularly scheduled holiday cheer is when many people take the opportunity to consider their accomplishments and failures over the past year, and resolve to do better in the future. Other people just go to work for a few days and get really, really bored at their desks as they countdown to their next party.

Either way, it's a bit of a restless period, isn't it?

(Photo by Owly via Flickr Creative Commons)

Contrary to the buy now messaging of the season, kids aren’t looking only for instant gratification. Take Lego.  In 2005, Lego Corporation came back from the brink by capitalizing on research showing  that kids are inspired by the difficulty and process of mastering a complicated model. So, rather than dumbing down to compete with the plug-in immediacy of video games, Lego ramped up the sophistication of its models.

Millions of Americans wake up each morning without a job, even though they desperately want to work. It's one of the depressing legacies of the financial crisis and Great Recession.

NPR and the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll of people who had been unemployed or with an insufficient level of work for more than a year. The results document the financial, emotional and physical effects of long-term unemployment and underemployment.

Each year the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire surveys business owners to guage the state’s economic climate and what’s on the minds of business owners.