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In the RegionBWI growth slows into single...


In the Region

BWI growth slows into single digits for 1st time in 28 months

Baltimore-Washington International Airport continues to lead the region's major airports in passenger traffic, moving more than 1.7 million travelers in March and 4.7 million passengers in the first three months of the year.

In keeping with the slowing economy, the airport's rate of growth slowed to 9.6 percent in March, compared with March 2000, marking the first time in 28 months that BWI did not post a double-digit gain in passenger traffic. However, it was still enough to put BWI ahead of Washington's Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, the busiest carrier at BWI, continues to drive much of the growth. The no-frills airline handled 662,734 passengers in March, a 27.7 percent increase over March 2000. US Airways, the airport's No. 2 carrier, flew 425,157 passengers, up 7.9 percent from March 2000.

Firm designing new chip gets $6 million investment

Two venture capital firms announced yesterday a $6.3 million investment in a Beltsville start-up company that's designing a semiconductor chip they said will reduce bottlenecks of broadband data on the Internet.

Mohr, Davidow Ventures and Novak Biddle Venture Partners invested in Zagros Networks Inc., a company founded by the University of Maryland's dean of the Clark School of Engineering, Nariman Farvardin, and three doctoral students.

Zagros will use the financing for hiring, product development and business operations.

New York group buys 8 Columbia buildings

R. S. Columbia Holding LLC, a New York investment group, has purchased eight multi-use buildings in Columbia, the seller's commercial real estate broker, Colliers Pinkard, said yesterday. The purchase price was not disclosed.

The properties, known as Rumsey Center and Snowden Center, include eight "flex" buildings totaling 275,000 square feet on 22.5 acres. Flex buildings can accommodate a range of uses including distribution, office and light manufacturing.

Rumsey Center, in the Oakland Ridge Business Center, was built in 1980. Snowden Center, in the Sieling Business Park, was completed in 1987.

Group 1 Software buys Texas company

Group 1 Software Inc., a Lanham company that specializes in customer management software, has purchased HotData Inc., a developer of online services for data quality, for $2 million in cash and a percentage of revenue.

Group 1 said the purchase will help it expand its e-business products. HotData's 17 employees will remain in Austin, Texas. Twenty-year-old Group 1 employs more than 500 people.

Two weeks ago, Group 1 purchased TriSenseSoftware Ltd. of Minneapolis, which develops digital billing and payment software, for $8.1 million.

2 local marketing agencies win awards for creativity

Two local marketing agencies have won Summit Creative Awards in an international competition that recognizes excellence in firms with limited budgets.

The Leffler Agency Inc., which has offices in Baltimore and Tampa, Fla., won three silver awards and a bronze award for work it did for the Denver Broncos' new stadium and for Rover Wireless Corp.

Madison Media Inc., of Savage, received a silver award for work done for CloseCall America, a multistate telecommunications provider, and a bronze for a television spot promoting holiday shopping at Historic Savage Mill.


Pay-phone calls are rising to 50 cents in Rockies, Northwest

The cost of a local call from a pay phone is being raised to 50 cents, up from 35 cents, across the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains.

The switch to the new rate begins today, but it will take up to four months before the change is made on all 96,000 pay phones operated by Qwest Communications International Inc. in the company's 14-state region.

Qwest announced the move yesterday, explaining that maintenance costs have been increasing while the popularity of wireless phones, calling cards and toll-free numbers have slashed local pay-phone use by 50 percent. Emergency 911 calls will still be free, the Denver-based phone monopoly said.

Supreme Court lets stand ruling against pilots' union

The Supreme Court turned away yesterday an appeal from the Delta Air Lines pilots' union over unauthorized protests waged by some unionized pilots.

Without comment, the justices let stand a lower court ruling that held the union must act to end the individual pilots' protest. The pilots refused to work overtime, which disrupted airline operations while the union and the airline were negotiating a new contract.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents Delta's 9,800 pilots, said it did not support the no-overtime protests and should not be made to answer for them. Delta claimed the pilots were trying to force a better deal.

The issue is probably moot, because the airline and the union have since tentatively agreed on a five-year contract. Pilots will begin voting next week on whether to ratify the contract.

Jenny Craig Inc. considers sale of the company

Weight-loss company Jenny Craig Inc. said yesterday that it is considering a possible sale.

The 18-year-old company, based in the La Jolla area of San Diego, has hired Koffler & Co., a Los Angeles investment banking firm, to advise it on its options.

With 20.7 million shares outstanding, Jenny Craig's market capitalization is about $32 million.

EarthLink's founder alleged to bilk investors

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged yesterday that EarthLink Inc. co-founder Reed E. Slatkin bilked investors out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme.

The SEC alleged that Slatkin, 52, mishandled at least $230 million belonging to about 500 clients between 1985 and April 2001, telling them he would trade securities on their behalf when, in fact, he used the money "for improper purposes" such as paying fees at two country clubs, credit-card bills and pool maintenance fees.

Slatkin used at least $7 million of new investor money this year to pay returns to existing investors, which is the hallmark maneuver of a Ponzi scheme, the SEC said in its complaint, which was filed with a federal judge in California.

Slatkin's lawyer, in Los Angeles, couldn't be reached for comment. Slatkin resigned from the board of EarthLink, one of the largest U.S. Internet providers, on April 26, the SEC said.

Southwest Airlines adds five years to pact with GE

General Electric Co., the biggest maker of jet engines, won a five-year extension of an upgrade and maintenance contract with Southwest Airlines Co. valued at $1.2 billion.

The service unit of GE Aircraft Engines will install upgrade kits on 300 CFM56-3 engines, used on older-model Boeing Co. 737s and made by a joint venture between General Electric and Snecma of France, General Electric spokeswoman Jamie Jewell said. GE Engine Services will maintain the Southwest fleet through 2012.

GE Aircraft Engines provided $10.8 billion of the parent company's $130 billion in sales last year. The unit is based in Evendale, Ohio.

Kerr-McGee seeks to raise natural gas reserves 77%

Oil and gas producer Kerr-McGee Corp. plans to acquire HS Resources Inc. for about $1.25 billion in cash and stock in a deal that would greatly expand its reserves of natural gas.

The Oklahoma City company will acquire 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in the Denver-Julesburg Basin of northeast Colorado. The deal is expected to boost Kerr-McGee's natural gas reserves by 77 percent.

This column was compiled from reports by Sun staff writers, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Reuters.

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