Regional study to tally green jobs, how to increase number

The federal government is underwriting a $4 million study of how many "green" jobs there are in Maryland, Virginia and Washington and how to increase them, labor officials announced Wednesday. The Mid-Atlantic regional study is the largest among nearly $55 million in grants awarded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Labor. The funds will pay for job training and information to help workers find jobs in so-called "green" industries or related occupations. The O'Malley administration has set a goal of creating 30,000 new green jobs in Maryland by 2012, but estimates of how many such jobs there are now vary widely, from nearly 11,000 to 35,000, said Andy Moser, assistant secretary in the state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The federal grant will help state officials get a handle on how many jobs there are now in such "green" industries as recycling and alternative energy, he explained, so the growth can be tracked. A $97,000 federal grant also went to Episcopal Community Services of Maryland, the U.S. Labor Department announced, to expand job training in Baltimore on energy-efficient construction and building retrofit techniques, as well as demolition.

-Timothy B. Wheeler

Judge to hear arguments over Magna profit-sharing deal

A federal bankruptcy judge agreed Wednesday to hear arguments Jan 5. on whether to reject a profit-sharing agreement related to Maryland's two thoroughbred tracks slated to be auctioned early next year. The hearing will be three days before the auction of Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park. The racetracks' bankrupt owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., wants to terminate the deal that would split any potential slots proceeds with Joseph De Francis and other former owners of the tracks. De Francis initiated an adversary proceeding - the bankruptcy court equivalent of a civil lawsuit - to fight Magna's efforts. De Francis' lawyers have argued in court papers that alternative gaming rights spelled out in the deal are property under Maryland law.

- Hanah Cho

Shipbuilding firm to add up to 125 jobs, expand property

Chesapeake Shipbuilding said Wednesday that it has signed a contract to acquire about three acres of property adjacent to the shipyard. The acquisition would allow the company to expand and create as many as 125 new jobs. The land, located on the Wicomico River, is now an empty lot with a "derelict" bulkhead, the company said in a press release. The company designs and builds commercial steel vessels and has been in Salisbury for more than 30 years.

- Andrea K. Walker

U.S. housing starts fall 10.6% over tax credit uncertainty

New-home construction fell sharply in October, underscoring the fragility of the fledgling housing recovery. Housing starts unexpectedly fell 10.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted 529,000 annual rate in October, compared with the prior month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was a 30.7 percent drop from October 2008. Analysts were caught off guard by the news because many had expected an increase in new construction. Patrick Newport, U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight, called the plunge in housing starts a "shocker" in a note to clients. The stumble probably reflected trepidation from the building industry in October as uncertainty remained over whether Congress would extend the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers beyond its Nov. 30 deadline. Earlier this month, Congress extended the credit through April and expanded it to include move-up buyers. But whether the extension will translate into sales remains the subject of debate. The number of new building permits last month also fell, by 4 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 552,000 from the previous month, the Commerce Department said. It dropped 24.3 percent from October 2008.

- Los Angeles Times

Hershey, Ferrero considering rival bid for Cadbury

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Hershey, hoping to expand its overseas presence, has lined up a potential partner as the most recognizable name in American chocolate considers starting a bidding war for British candy maker Cadbury PLC. Italian candymaker Ferrero International SA could give the Hershey Co. the financial firepower to top a $16.4 billion hostile bid by Kraft Foods Inc. Hershey and Ferrero said Wednesday they are considering a possible offer for Cadbury. Cadbury said it will consider any offer that delivers full value for the company.

- Associated Press

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