The Ledger

Making sense of money, 2010

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Cutbacks a necessity this holiday season?

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Black Friday gave retailers a reason to smile, but maybe it’s not enough to get shoppers to spend for this holiday season.

Shoppers like John Revere and John Schroeder are looking to spend less this holiday season and are taking the conservative approach with what they buy.

John Revere of Thomaston uses a Visa debit card to buy gifts for the holiday season.  “I plan to spend less this holiday season than I did last holiday season,” said Revere.  “We have less money this year and the economy isn’t so good.”

John shops more at stores than online for the holiday season, but when he does shop online, he shops at LLBean.com and Cabelas.com.  When he goes out to the stores, he shops at Target, Wal-Mart, Sears, GameStop, and Cabela’s.

“This year I’m probably going to buy the same stuff, but less of it,” said Revere.  Last year, John spent about $2,500 on his holiday shopping.  This year he thinks he will probably spend about $1,800.

Tina and John Schroeder will be looking to cut back what they spend this holiday season.

They use both cash and credit when they buy gifts for the holiday season.  The Schroeder’s are good about paying their bills when they use their credit card.

“Even if we charge it, we try to pay it off relatively quick,” said Tina.  “It’s not like it’s taking us a year to pay it off.”

The Schroeder’s are looking to cut back on spending on them this holiday season.  “It’s the same for everyone else we buy for, but it’s less for us because we’re going on a trip next year,” said John Schroeder.  “So the stuff we said we’d buy for each other we limited.

For the Schroeder’s, the economy won’t be the reason why they plan to spend less this holiday season.  “We don’t have kids, so our spending is pretty constant I guess,” said John Schroeder.  “No the economy didn’t really slow us down for that.”

The only thing different for the Schroeders this holiday season will be spending less on each other.   The Schroeders are gearing up for a big trip to Alaska next year.

Tina and John shop equally out at stores and online during the holiday season, but mostly go out to the stores.  “We’re not like some people where we just shop all online,” said Tina.  When the Schroeders buy online, they buy from Cabela’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“For all my nieces, believe it or not, we go to Rite Aid to get them Visa gift cards,” said John Schroeder.  “The rest are a mix of the mall and sporting good stores.”  They go to Best Buy as well.

The Schroeders buy gifts online for specialty items, back-order items, or stuff they can’t get in the store.  “We bought some stuff at Dick’s that was out of stock in the store so we bought it from Dick’s online,” said John Schroeder.

The Schroeders are looking to spend about $2,000 this holiday season, which is less than what they spent last holiday season.  The Schroeders spent about $1,500 last holiday season.  “What we’re spending on each other will go down, but what we spend on our nephews will be the same,” said John Schroeder.

John Schroeder on his annual pay by jwarrior71789

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Written by ccsu236

December 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

CCSU students voice their opinion on budget cuts and tuition fees

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Full story can read at the New Britain Herald.

Central Connecticut State University Students protested the new budget cuts and tuition fees, but they didn’t protest in ordinary fashion.

Thursday, December 9th brought an atypical to the campus of Central Connecticut State University.  Students were found in outside the Student Center wearing ‘porcine masks’ and chanting “Hey, hey, Ho, ho, tuition hikes have got to go,” and carried signs reading “Bail Out Schools Not Corporate Fools”  and “Learn for Four Years, then Pay for Life.”

Yes, art and theater students were outraged, conducting a campus-wide ‘speak-out’ against, what they described as, attacks on public education, budget cuts, and tuition increases.  A group of 50 students even paraded throughout the Student Center.

I remember walking to my 9:30 class that morning and seeing a group of students chanting protests, holding protest signs.  I was shocked to see this and was unsure of what was taking place.  I looked at students walking by me, not apart of the protesting, and were shocked as well, priceless were the facial expressions bestowed upon them.

“Students from the Street Art course got together with the theater department to speak out.  According to Prof. Mike Alewitz, the event focused public attention ‘on the need to defend public education.'”

“Mark McLaughlin, CCSU spokesman, told The Herald the administration is aware of many of the concerns raised by students and is working on solutions.”

But, I don’t get it.  If the administration is aware of the concerns raised by CCSU students and is working on solutions, why does tuition continue to sky-rocket and go up every semester?  And on top of that, why are they planning to take away essentials that students need to help get an education?

Students will not be looking forward to next year’s tuition at CCSU, costing nearly $8,000.  Students are arguing that they are faced with: “an inability to enroll in classes; facilities in poor condition; faculty layoffs; the loss of funds for clubs and activities; course cancellations; and not being able to graduate in four-years.

All I know is that when registration for classes rolls around every semester, I find myself struggling to choose the classes I need and want for certain times and days because there are not enough provided and to many restrictions for a class you might need.

I’m a journalism minor.  And for journalism classes, four new journalism classes were just introduced to the department, which are all under JRN 418.  With all four being new classes, there is a restriction saying that you can only take a maximum of six credits (two classes) for JRN 418 in your college career, which is ridiculous because all four classes are really good classes and could benefit me for any field I choose to go into for my career.  I understand that they are new classes being offered, but I am a senior and I will be leaving soon, so I want to make the best out of what I have left here at CCSU.  Also, some required classes that you need to take aren’t offered ever semester.  Some classes are only offered in the fall semester or in the spring semester.

CCSU is a public university that isn’t too big or too small; it’s just right.  CCSU is a university that offers hands-on, unique programs that are great.  CCSU shouldn’t bear their students the burden of having to worry about being in so much of a hole of debt to pay back after they graduate.  With that said, CCSU should provide a financial atmosphere to its students to want to come here and stay, not drive them away or protest and be outraged.  CCSU is a great university and needs to stay that way.

– Brian Jennings

Written by ccsu236

December 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

President Obama looking to help out the Middle Class

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Video brought to you by www.whitehouse.gov

More on this story at msnbc.com and also take a look at the NBC/WSJ Poll.

President Obama made a press conference this morning to address that he was convince this tax cut plan would help the middle class.

The President spoke this morning before meeting with a group of CEO’s.  He spoke before the House to try and compromise legislation with lawmakers to Bush-era taxes.

“I am absolutely convinced that this tax cut plan, well not perfect, will help grow our economy and create jobs in the private sector,” said Obama.  “It will help lift up middle class families who will no longer need to worry about a New Year’s Day tax hike.”

This plan will offer relief to help people unemployed until they can find another job.  The plan also offers tax cuts to make college more affordable, help parents provide for their children, and help businesses, big and small, to expand.

“I know there are different aspects of this plan to which members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, object,” said Obama. “That’s the nature of compromise. But we worked hard to negotiate an agreement that’s a win for middle-class families and a win for our economy. And we can’t afford to let it fall victim to either delay or defeat.  I urge congress to pass this as swiftly as possible,” said Obama.

The President sees this tax cut plan to enable hiring of jobs, put Americans back to work, and move the economy forward.  He believes the primary success to the America’s economic success isn’t government, but the ingenuity of America’s entrepreneurs and the dynamism of America’s markets.

The President set a goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years to create more jobs selling more products abroad.  The U.S. came to a trade agreement earlier in the month with South Korea, which is a deal that looks to boost annual exports of American goods by $11 billion.  This agreement gives way to support at least 70,000 American jobs.

The President believes that the U.S. needs to offer its children the best education in the world, spur innovations of new industries, upgrade infrastructure, meaning roads and bridges, update high-speed rail and high-speed internet, and address long-term deficit problems, in order to outcompete its competitors in the 21st century.

The Senate passed legislation in order to prevent a New Year’s tax increase for millions and renew jobsless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

“The legislation provides a two-year extension of the tax cuts at all income levels that Congress approved while George W. Bush was president.  Without action, they will expire on Dec. 31.”

With this bill, 2011 Social Security taxes for all wage earners will be cut, meaning $1,000 in take home pay for an individual earning of $50,000.

If you ask me, I like the incentive that President Obama is taking in order to get this country back on track to where it should be.  This country has lost most of its traditional values, that once have made it to be a super-power of the world.  Steps that President Obama are taking, like updates to high-speed internet and high-speed rail, doubling U.S. exports for the next five years, and innovations for cleaner, smarter industries are all positive steps forward to help bring jobs and success back to the U.S. for a healthy future.  It’s as if the U.S. is behind on a few updates to other countries.  Besides, you can’t just snap your fingers and have change happen overnight.  It doesn’t work like that and I think this is a big misconception from a lot of Americans.

The Senate was scheduled to vote on the tax compromise bill this afternoon.  The House will be responsible for taking up tax deal after it passes senate procedural vote.

The Senate voted 81-19 on this on this tax cut plan and is expected to be voted on by the House by Thursday.

– Brian Jennings

Written by ccsu236

December 15, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Once a Manufacturing Giant

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Once a Manufacturing Giant by jwarrior71789
(Audio version of this story above)

Manufacturing saw some of its best years when the Naugatuck Valley was the brass and copper capital of the world; this isn’t the story today.

ITW (Illinois Tool Works) Highland is a manufacturing company in Waterbury.  The company produces high precision, deep drawn, metal stampings to sell to the rest of the world.  The company has such highly skilled toolmakers, which is the value that separates them from other companies in the manufacturing industry.  However, the manufacturing industry that was at the height of its peak about 30 years ago has rapidly fallen from the top since then.

Everything has a value to it.  If you don’t have anything to sell, how are you going to raise money, what are you going to be worth to the rest of the world?  Nothing.  Once manufacturing leaves the U.S., goods will cost ten times what they cost today.  For example, the U.S. used to have one of the biggest garment industries in the world; soon, a pair of pants will cost almost $100, like they do in Canada, because everything will have to be imported in, at a high cost.  There will be no bargaining.

One of the biggest causes for manufacturing leaving the U.S. is that goods can be made cheaper overseas.  Labor is cheaper and they don’t have the environmental restraints that our country has here.  Company owners benefit with higher profits from having most of their product being made overseas.  U.S. manufacturing companies are rapidly selling out their skills and technology to the rest of the world.  As a result of this, Americans are losing jobs, financial security, and “buying-power” as a nation.  Generations to come will be the innocent victims of industrial conspiracy.

Tom Zabo is the Chief Engineer at ITW Highland.  He has been working there for 31 years now.  Zabo started out at ITW Highland by accident when his father got him a job doing painting and maintenance one summer.  He had no intentions of staying and didn’t even know what eyelet toolmaking was.  All he knew was that he wanted to be an engineer.  So, he went to school for computer drafting and found himself working at ITW Highland.

A typical day for Zabo consists of coming in at 7 a.m. and leaving around anywhere from 5-6 p.m., depending on what he is working on.  His day usually starts out with checking to see what was going on during the night shift and see if there were any problems that arose from any of the cell leaders.  Then, he would move on to making sure that his designers are where they need to be with their projects, taking on the task of project management, making sure they get what they need.  After that, he’ll move onto the emails and any crisis that happens throughout the day.  And if he has a little time left, he’ll do some design work as well.

75 percent of what ITW Highland makes are automotive components, deep-drawn.  The company makes a lot of airbag components, antilock brake systems, and fuel injection parts.  Some of the major companies ITW Highland is a supplier to includes Bocsh, Magneti Marelli, Auto Leave, and Continental; mostly big players in the automotive industry.  If ITW Highland doesn’t make the components, there won’t be any cars for the public.

Zabo says that cost is the main cause of manufacturing leaving the U.S.

“It probably would be cost, the value of a dollar, that’s typically what we see,” Zabo said.  “It comes in cycles… I’ve been here for 31 years.  And I‘ve seen this… this is probably about the third time and it happens as an industrial country that’s not as developed as the U.S. starts to become developed… then they realize the resources are there like the United States and people that are buying in the United States realize that hey the labor force is there… they’re willing to work and learn for a lot less wages than what we would have over here.

“So therefore, it’s cheaper to make the part somewhere else and have it shipped back here, which is probably the biggest factor driving the whole thing.  It comes from the top… it’s all cost-based.  I had an example where it was actually cheaper for a company to buy a part from China… the buyer was from the United States… buy the part in China, have it shipped, packaged, transported back for cheaper than we could buy the raw material alone in the U.S.  So, they got a finished product versus raw material.”

Zabo says with Connecticut being a big industrial state is probably the biggest factor why there is a big loss of jobs in Connecticut.

“When it started out I think a lot of it has to do with the people that have changed the industry a lot,” Zabo said. “Naturally the technology, and the new advancements, and all the computerated design, and drafting, and manufacturing and all that… because that obviously has changed it quite a bit and made it very technical… and I think by doing that it required a lot more technical expertise from the people working either out on the floor, in the engineering offices… they needed to become more technically educated instead of more hands-on… the old school lathes, bridge ports, mills…. typical tool room equipment.  It was what you needed way back when I started.  Now, you need a background in computers, you need to know how to do some programming… things of that nature.  So, I think what happens is that as the younger crowd starts to develop their skills, they want to look in and instead of getting their hands dirty, so to speak, out in the shop, they’d rather be sitting in an office.

“That’s what I’ve seen over 30 years… people had no problems going in and fixing their own equipment, building their own little pieces, jury-rigging something to make it work.  Now, you can’t do anything without a print, it’s got to be computer-generated, it can’t have… everything is kind of… very formalized now and it’s not as go-get-it-done kind of thing, and that’s costing a lot of money in the long run.”

Manufacturing about 30 years ago was thriving, healthy, innovative, and top-of-the-line in the world.  Quality was not compromised.  When you bought something in the U.S., you thought of quality, because it was held at its highest standard.  Today, when you buy product from overseas, you think of price, not quality.  A product from overseas is not made under the same skill levels, nor is it made under the same quality standards.  For example, overseas, if they have 50 good parts out of 100 parts they made, they are satisfied.  But here, 100 parts made means 100 good parts.

Zabo also expressed how apprenticeships have almost vanished through ITW Highland.

“We used to have one of the top apprenticeship programs in the state of Connecticut,” Zabo said.  “And when it started, there were about 30 apprentices going through here… that has long since been abandoned.  Again, it boils down to money… when the economy goes sour, the first places they’re going to cut is the non-value added people, and those are the apprentices because they are just learning… which is unfortunate because now our workforce is getting older… and I’m going to be 50 next year… and

“I’m one of the younger in the next wave of people going through, and when I leave, I don’t know who’s going to be behind me.”

The forecast for manufacturing in the U.S. is overshadowed with dark, rainy clouds for years to come.  The cost to produce goods is too high today, especially with labor laws, EPA restrictions, and medical costs.  Unless, the field levels out with the rest of the world, you will no longer see manufacturing in the U.S.  Overseas, there is no minimum wage, EPA restrictions, or high medical costs.  They have the power to pay their employees whatever they feel.  There are no unions.  The U.S. can’t compete with that.  It’s almost like the U.S. has become teachers to the rest of the world.  With that said, the average age of a toolmaker at ITW Highland is 45.  So, in about 20 years, it’s hard to say if there will even be any toolmakers once those toolmakers retire.  There will be no one left to carry the manufacturing torch, so to speak.

Chris Topazio is a cell leader at ITW Highland and has been working there for 22 years.  Topazio sees manufacturing getting worse and finds it hard for manufacturing to make a comeback in the U.S.

“I’m hoping that it stays the same, Topazio said, “but as the other countries become more technologically advanced and their skill levels raise that in conjunction with the lower salaries… I don’t foresee it getting any better here… again, I still have twenty something more years before I can retire.

“So, I’m hoping that it maintains well past that, but I’m not that optimistic.”

He believes manufacturing in Connecticut will never be restored to what it used to be.

Most people don’t realize that it takes about ten years to develop a fully skilled toolmaker.  An apprenticeship takes four years, or in other words, 8,000 hours.  Then, it takes them another five to six years working in the field, in order to become a fully skilled toolmaker.  In the long run, the outlook on toolmaking for the future of the U.S. is dim, at best.  Most of what we use and touch in our daily lives, is somehow tied to toolmaking.  Now think about this:  what will happen to national security in the U.S. once toolmaking has died out.  Toolmaking has a huge impact on national security in the U.S.  Who’s going to make our weapons?  Our ships?  Our Submarines?  Our radar?  And even our satellites?  Manufacturers in the U.S. make most of the parts that serve our national defense.  Which is why, it is making manufacturers in the U.S. sick and disgusted to see manufacturing walk right out the door.

In order for the U.S. to be more competitive and help bring back and restore manufacturing, the U.S. has to start by leveling the field.  The U.S. needs to raise taxes on imports that come into the country.  Foreign goods are barely taxed when shipped to the U.S., but when they are sent overseas, the U.S. is limited to how much they can send, as well as being taxed very high.  The U.S. needs to give tax breaks to companies that produce product in this country.  The U.S. is giving tax breaks to businesses that are shipping their work overseas.  There is no incentive to keep work or jobs in the U.S., just from that.  The U.S. needs to control medical costs.  Medical costs are rising at an alarming rate, which in turn, costs companies more money to supply medical benefits to their employees.  As a result, this raises the cost to produce product in the U.S.

Rich Newsome couldn’t agree more with Topazio.  Newsome is a supervisor of department 23 in the tool room at ITW Highland as well as an expeditor.  He has been working there for 28 years.

Does Newsome think manufacturing will ever be restored here in Connecticut to what it used to be?

“No… never,” he says, “it’s gonna be smaller businesses… you’ll never see the big, big places ever I don’t think.”

Newsome thinks that the U.S. needs to help out businesses and give them a reason to want to stay in this country.

“They gotta help the businesses out and somehow relieve the tax burdening and make it easier for them to want to do business here,” Newsome said. “Give them more breaks to buy equipment, give them more breaks to buy land, building, whatever they need to do… to set them up because once they’re there, they’re going to stay there… they’re not gonna leave.  Once they make a big commitment they’re probably gonna stick it out… but if you make it too hard, then there’s not enough money available and it’s not gonna work… I think.

“There’s a lot of very, very talented people in the United States.  It’s hard for a small guy to start out and become bigger… it’s very difficult”

The U.S. also needs to invest in their future by providing government paid training programs for apprentices.  If you don’t have enough people to do the job, it doesn’t matter how much work you have.  Companies used to bear the burden of cost to train people through their apprenticeship programs, which years ago, were booming when toolmaking was one of the better trades to go into.  Today, apprenticeship programs have slowly disappeared.  There is no desire for a young kid coming out of high school to go into a trade that may not have a future.  What kid wants to invest all of their time into that?

Michael Parian is a toolmaker at ITW Highland and has been working there for 27 years.  Parian does not see manufacturing coming back any time soon to the U.S.

“They sold us out, the politicians, I guess,” Parian said.  “I don’t know how it’s going to come back… I do not know.  They say Waterbury was the brass capital of the world… look at Meriden, they were the silver capital of the world.  They manufactured spoons and forks and all that stuff… gone… they’re all gone.”

Parian does not know where manufacturing will be ten years from now.

Where does Parian ssee manufacturing in the U.S. ten years from now?

“I do not know… I do not know,” he says.  “I hope the economy gets better… I know people that don’t have jobs and I know people that are losing their homes… personally, I know people that are losing their homes because of what’s going on.”

The popular response to where toolmaking is seen ten years from now has been that it will grow and thrive, just not in the U.S.  No, the outlook on a trade that was once part of the brass and copper capital of the world in the Naugatuck Valley has not been good.  And if this isn’t a wake-up call to the U.S., what is?

– Brian Jennings

Written by ccsu236

December 15, 2010 at 12:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Foreclosures Causing Families to Split

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Most of us are aware of how the current economy has the power to destroy businesses and affect the job market, but not too many of us realize how it can also destroy families.

Wendy Zinzalet, 44, is taking a direct hit from the struggling economy.

“If I lose the house, the girls will have to live with their fathers for awhile until I have enough money for another place,” she said. Zinzalet has been working at Michael Francis Salon and Day Spa in Middletown, CT for over 15 years. As a result of the suffering economy, the salon hasn’t been doing as well as it could be. “I could just barely afford to pay for everything on a good week,” she said, “but if I don’t have enough clients one week it gets really tough.”

Zinzalet has been living at her house on Durwin Street in Middletown since 2006. She lives with her two daughters, 21 and 17, and her one-year-old grandson. If she loses the house, the three girls will all be living in seperate houses as her daughters will go with their fathers and she will either stay with her sister or a close friend.

So why is it so difficult for a single mother to find the help she needs to keep her family together?

“After the divorce I couldn’t afford it on my own,” she said. “The market fell out from under us so it wasn’t worth what we payed for it.”

In August 2009, Zinzalet was granted a loan from Taylor, Bean, & Whitaker. “I went through the modifications, I was approved, and I made the trial payments,” she said. But shortly after, the company was shut down for fraud and she was again forced to find help from another company. She chose to go with Ocwen, which she now considers a huge mistake.

“I have actually been told that Ocwen was the worst by other companies,” she said. “Ocwen kept telling me denied, denied, denied. They kept making my reapply for the same thing, and it would get denied again. And then they would tell me to apply again!”

Also in 2009, President Obama started a Home Affordable Modification Program, which was set up to help homeowners at risk of foreclosure stay in their homes.

“HAMP was a joke too,” Zinzalet said. “Out of the millions of people who applied, only a few percent got approved.”

Zinzalet is not the only one in CT who is at risk of foreclosure. Danae Stoane, of Sterling Realtors, says that she often works with people who are being forced out of their homes.

“Divorce is one of the most common issues,” Stoane said. “People find it impossible to afford a house on their own, especially when they have children. It is always hard to see a family being forced to move after they’ve lived in the same house forever.”

Even when there are not children involved, many people can’t afford to live on their own.

“There was one older woman who lived in the same house practically since the day she married her husband,” Stoane said. “Her husband died a few years ago, and she’s been trying to hold onto the house, but she just can’t afford it. And there was another guy who had to pay for speech therapy for his son, which is really expensive, so they had to move so they could afford it.”

However, Stoane does not believe that the poor economy is always to blame.

“Some people just can’t afford it in the first place,” she said. “But I do love when there are happy endings for people. When someone loses a job but then gets another job and is able to keep their house. I wish there were more of those.”

Don’t we all?

Connecticut is not the only state that is suffering either. In New Hampshire, there were 377 foreclosures in June 2010. The article points out that experts say the high number of foreclosures is a direct result of the poor economy and homeowners not being able to make payments because of job loss and hours cut. (Click here to view the full article and to watch video).

So who do we blame for forcing hard-working people out of their homes? Most people choose to look at banks as the monsters of foreclosure, but Terry Savage places blame elsewhere in her article “Congress Can Take the Blame for Foreclosures.”

“It’s time for leaders in Washington to stop blaming lenders, borrowers and everyone but themselves. We need a sensible system that aims to keep people in their homes until the economy turns around,” Savage said.

As for Zinzalet, regardless of who might be to blame, she struggles to keep her home and her family together in this rough economy.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve tried everything,” she said. “More than once. And even when I have gotten approved for something in the past, it never works out in the end. I just think its sad that I won’t be able to afford living with my daughters even when I’ve been working full-time for like 20 years. If they could only see what they’re doing to my family…”

I’m not sure who “they” are, but I agree that they need to do something to help innocent people keep their homes, and their families, even with the shaky economy.

Jen Fazzino

Final Paper

Written by ccsu236

December 11, 2010 at 1:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A rare guitar shop

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By Charles Desrochers

“A hole in the wall” may not be the best way to describe Tom Baxter Music but it certainly the most literal. On West Main Street, New Britain, operating out of the back of Warren’s Music is where Tom Baxter has been repairing instruments for Connecticut for the last 21 years.

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“Buried treasure” might be the better suited name since his store/repair shop is covered from wall-to-wall with wrappers, strings, guitars and clutter. It’s so messy it has a charm to it; like the customer stepped out of the cold and into their grandpa’s garage with so many various pieces and parts lying around it’s hard to know what is a piece of a mandolin and what’s an old lighter at a glance.

“What you do with the parts is what’s important,” says Tom Baxter, the owner and sole employee of the store that shares his namesake, “That’s why I do it. I’m pretty (eclectic) here. Most stores; they give you a box and take it home and play it but half of the time you can’t even play it because the guitars aren’t even adjusted when they come from the factories.”

And that’s how he envisions what he does, not as a luxury but a necessity. Baxter’s been playing and repairing some sort of instrument for more than 50 years. He’s played at The White House for George HW Bush and opened for Tony Bennett at Bill Clinton’s first Inaugural Dinner in the Army Reserve band.

Sean King is a customer of Baxter’s for the past 20 years. He says, “I live up in Enfield and drive down here because I know Tom will take care of me.” King said he comes to Baxter because he offers intangibles most places don’t.

He said, “Tom’s a great guy, he’s an outstanding businessman. I’ve gotten the best deals I’ve gotten from anybody, from Tom. Cus I’ve been everywhere… They can’t compare to the service that Tom offers and the prices Tom offers.”

What places like Guitar Center in Manchester and Lasalle’s Music and Sound in West Hartford do have that Baxter doesn’t, though, is walking traffic.

“There’s very little downtown traffic,” Baxter said, “ I’m a destination point for somebody with a guitar. Outside of that, New Britain doesn’t have a lot of destination points for anything else for the most part.”

Once Westfarms mall opened along the New Britain, Newington, Farmington, West Hartford border in the 1970’s, shoppers stopped making trip into downtown, opting for the convenience.

He said, “The malls killed all of the footwork and all of the traffic downtown. There’s very few shoe stores or clothes stores or anything else in New Britain.“

Even his sales have taken a hit in recent years, luckily it’s not the only part of his store.

“Retail business is quiet,” he said, “My repair business is very good because I just happen to be apart of a click that knows a certain amount of knowledge to my particular craft and there are lots of good repair people out there and we’re all a family so to speak.”

Following some flooding in his building, which was bought by and currently listed for sale by Bank of America, Tom’s store became a little less cluttered but not in the way he would have wanted. He says some of his merchandise became water damaged and was forced to clear off the top row of guitars from the wall.

But if it ever came to him having to move his operation he thinks he would be all right. He said, “I am in New Britain, it just happens to be where I am I could be I West Hartford, I could be in Newington. People would still find me for what I do.”

His most recent repair, he said, was a school teacher from Scotland, CT wanted her guitar worked on.  As he said, “She found me.” In fact, before being married six years ago, King’s wife had known of Baxter from friends in church from Manchester.

The day he was in he walked away with a Johnson guitar after finding the cost of the guitar he brought would have been too much. Tom said he realizes that the players aren’t making the livings they were when he regularly played along the east coast and that’s why he makes a point of providing inexpensive guitars that anyone could afford.

“It just comes down to carrying what people want to spend, not what I want to carry,” Baxter said, “but I have some high priced guitars, obviously. Most people are going to be a flash in the pan, gonna try it out and see what they can do with it. On the other hand a kid that wants to play a clarinet has to pay $500 for a plastic clarinet.”

He says guitars manufactured overseas provide such a lower labor cost that it’s hard for American factories to compete (the Bureau of Labor Statistics has the average hourly cost of musical instrument manufacturing in the as 17.44 per hour. Stephen Roach, Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and Senior Research Fellow, Yale University told Economist magazine China’s average labor wage per hour was under two dollars) but he has no problem carrying a chinese guitar versus an American.

“Against even Ovation, which is in New Hartford…they were trying to do All-American, even in their student line and they finally ended up going to japan and going to korea and now they’re in china now, but they still make good American made guitars. The problem is; stuff is $1000, $2000. The average person person can’t break that mold and get into that kind of price range. They also make Guild at the factory and they also make Hamer guitars at ovation.”
“People are playing for free,” he says, “breaks my heart that you can’t make a living anymore but years ago you could if you taught some lessons… These guys don’t realize the bartenders- the bar owners-  are making a lot of money and the musicians are getting free beers or not getting anything and it’s just really tragic.”
And that’s why one of Tom Baxter’s priorities is to do honest work before anything else. He works on every guitar he sells before it goes out of the door making sure that it is playable. If a customer thinks it’s isn;t they can return it to have it set up again to their liking.
The difference between a $150 overseas guitar bought at Baxter’s shop is that his hands have worked on every single one, cigarette lit, with customers perusing around him surrounded by the clutter. It’s a personal type of store and may be the reason why after 50 years he still does it.

Written by ccsu236

December 11, 2010 at 12:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Central Connecticut State University Looking to Upgrade

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Final Blog Post

Central Connecticut State University is looking at some fairly hefty upgrades within the next few years.

These upgrades, which can be found on a list of projects priced at over $500 thousand on Central’s website, include entire projects that are going to take years to finish. But the time and money being put into them should hopefully even out in the long run, and not allow for much loss of funds.

The focus for this, however, is specifically on the residence halls of Central. Some of the halls are better equipped for living than others. Not to say that select halls are unlivable – they’re not, by any means – it’s just that larger halls, like Gallaudet and Sheridan, are more “luxurious” than smaller halls, like Seth North and Carroll, in that they have newer furniture and the like.

But because many students, myself included, consider the campus their home away from home, the higher-ups are looking to upgrade those smaller halls. But perhaps more important than those upgrades, the biggest project of them all is a brand new residence hall that is looking to house over 600 students.

A 3D model of the new hall, located next to the Student Center parking lot.

The project isn’t going to be only a few million dollars. I know, “only a few million” is, in reality, a lot of money. The new residence hall’s projected cost, however, dwarfs a few million, coming in at an estimated $82 million for a building of 220 thousand square feet.

In comparison to previous years, that’s a lot, for lack of a better phrase. Based on the 20th Annual Residence Hall Construction Report, which recorded the 2008-2009 academic year,  from the American School & University, the $82 million for 220 thousand square feet is almost $50 million more than the average residence hall around the nation (Check out the table below).

Variable Median Average
Cost ($ millions) $8.5 $13.5
Size (Sq. Ft.) 60,000 80,627
Residents 242 279
Cost/Sq. Ft. $142 $167
Sq. Ft./Resident 248 289
Cost/Resident $35,124 $48,387

 

Even with that amazing amount of cash potentially going into the project, Jean Alicandro, Director of Residence Life at Central, talked about the new hall, which is currently unnamed, with high hopes:

“Several years into being filled to capacity, the building should probably pay for itself. And I’m sure that will be in under ten years. It will also create positive public relations with prospective students and their parents due to the fact that at this point in time, we have a waiting list for housing students. Because we use every space possible on campus, we’re hoping that a new residence hall will change this.”

This hall will have a huge impact on Central financially. While the hall should pay itself off, other factors come into play when examining the situation, such as more staffing and faculty members, more parking issues for students, and meal plans and extra dining areas.

“We’ll be taking on as many as 30 more resident assistants, possibly two new resident directors, and potentially another clerical support in the office to manage all of the backroom operations for things like billing,” Alicandro said.

However, the new hall will also effect New Britain as a whole. But when it comes to that area, Alicandro also feels that the new hall could be saving the town’s resources and money in the long run as well, saying that it plays out to more than just a money issue, and becoming more an action of goodwill. By putting students back on campus and possibly out of houses in neighborhoods, it leaves disciplinary sanctions up to the trained university resources, rather than New Britain’s.

The new building’s impact brings us back to the smaller projects, like renovating older buildings to upgrade their utilities. While some student residents are excited to hear about the plans for a new building, there is a catch: The older buildings will be temporarily closed once the new hall opens, and future students will live there until the other upgrades are finished. And again, this could take years, with some project’s costs up to $13 million in renovations. So the idea of the costs weighing themselves out seems, to me, a stretch. But my forte is definitely not in financial areas, so I’ll leave that guessing to the experts.

Still, there is reason to be optimistic about new buildings even if it means something as simple as never living in them.

Michael Torelli, a first semester senior who has lived in the smallest building on campus, Seth North, for his entire college career, is happy to see the campus finally changing.

“It just shows that the university has the money to spend on upgrades,” Torelli said. “I never thought that a building the size of some of UConn’s would be here at Central. And even though I’ll probably never step foot in there, it’s still good to see that the money that Central makes is going toward something more useful than a football field.”

While I could not agree more about the football field comment, it shows that some students might question where Central puts its money. That is a story for another time, however.

I suppose that when it boils down to the cost efficiency of building a new hall and making renovations to old ones, time will be the only deciding factor in weighing the benefits. It’s safe to say, however, that it’s going to put a big dent in Central’s wallet. And that’s not taking into account the simple idea that any project could be halted if more money is needed than originally intended – which actually happened with previous building renovations. Again, another story for another time.

But, it’s probably a good thing I won’t be here next year at this time to see what could go wrong. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that nothing does, though.

-Zach Perras-Duenas-

Written by ccsu236

December 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized