Chin Up in the Downswing


Chin Up in the Downswing: Some Companies Bolster Perks; Opportunities for Green Energy, Agriculture

March 19, 2009 05:15 PM
by Anne Szustek
To keep up spirits among remaining employees—and to keep them from leaving, some U.S. companies are offering low-cost fringe benefits. Green energy and agriculture are also showing some positive indicators.

Employers Offering Plush Fringe Benefits

Over recent months, several major corporations, including tech firm Intel; Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s; wine and spirits company Brown-Forman and Cardinal Health have introduced small perks to boost employee morale. Back massages, subsidized child care and benefits for domestic partners are among the items companies are doling out to help remaining staff cope with post-layoff survivors’ guilt and recession-induced tension. These are “programs that help employees balance their lives, and that don’t have a huge price tag,” consultant Carol Sladek told The Wall Street Journal. 

Wheels Turning for Green Energy

Stimulus tax credits for green energy initiatives coupled with state-backed loans could help expand the development of wind farms in the United States, and eventually double the nation’s renewal energy capacities. In an interview with Reuters, CEO David Corchia of French energy firm EDF said that the stimulus plan offered opportunities to develop both energy capacity and new projects in the United States, home to about one-third of the company’s wind farms. 

Better Nourishment, Fuller Agricultural Sector

Prices on agricultural goods have largely dropped from their all-time high last summer; however, they remain “30–50% above their averages over the past decade,” reports The Economist. While at first glance this would seem more of a boon for farmers rather than consumers, there is a silver lining. It means that developing economies such as China are eating more balanced diets and healthier fats—such as vegetable oil rather than pork fat, for example—meaning there is a higher global demand for milk and meat. It also means long-term investment opportunities in agribusiness. Agrochemical producer BASF reported total agricultural sales growth last year of 9 percent, with its Asian business seeing 16 percent sales growth.

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