Eye Openers in New Jersey: What to “Watch”

Esco Optics Inc. has just opened a new branch in Oak Ridge, N.J.  The optical manufacturer is expanded its presence in the area and the new office will be known as Esco North.  According to Business Development Manager, Ron Schulmerich:

“This is exciting for everyone involved.  As a top optics provider, this office gives us a stronger footprint within the fabric of Rochester. It allows us to continue to foster great experiences with our customers and opens a more formal presence in the area.”

New personnel include:  Michael Vergo who is Custom Optics Design & Development Specialist and Joelle Brunetto who has been opened Sales Operation Manager. According to President of the firm, Lee Steneken: “We have over 60 years of optical heritage and we’re now positioned to grow our company and better serve our customers. It is with great pride that we are able to launch Esco North. This expansion is all due in part by our team in Oak Ridge, NJ.  We are a family that has stuck together because we love what we do. Our manufacturing capabilities continue to thrive in our new headquarters, and the addition of Esco North will be a vital component of our expanded service to all current and future customers, especially within the Rochester area.”

Cara Therapeutics Stock Sale

Cara Therapeutics just closed on Monday with a $145.5 million stock offering. This is their third major public offering in the last 2.5 years and they plan to use the proceeds to fund the work they are doing on a new drug they are submitting to the FDA for Korsuva injections. The funding will help to support the clinical programs for an oral version of Korsuva

Korsuva will become their first drug to make it to market. They are based in Stamford, Connecticut.

Unemployment Levels Keep Dropping

Certainly great news for anyone living in or near New Jersey – the unemployment rate for June indicates a record low of 3.5%. These statistics come from the state Labor and Workplace Development Department, which announced the findings for the month on Thursday. It’s the lowest monthly rate that they’ve seen since they started keeping records in 1976.

In May the figure rested at 3.8% and the national average rate is 3.7%. Most of the gains for June came from the private sector, with the state’s addition of 10,200 total jobs.

Dow Jones Rallies After US Lifts Huawei Restrictions

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained almost 200 points on Tuesday, reaching 25,877. The S&P 500 ended the day at 2,864, after growing by 0.9%. The tech sector did even better, posting a 1.2% climb for the day. Nasdaq also showed strong movement up, rising by 1.1% to 7,785.

Analysts believe the market was reacting to the decision by the Commerce Department on Monday night to allow Huawei to buy American products so they can maintain their existing networks and allow owners of Huawei phones to receive updates to their software. The agreement is only until August 19, but at least for now it means consumers with Huawei handsets will enjoy uninterrupted service.

Investors were worried that the original basket of restrictions was a sign that the trade war between China and the USA was getting worse.

Flight Centre Buys 25% Share in The Upside Travel Company

Flight Centre, the world’s largest travel agency and ASX-listed company, purchased 25% of The Upside Travel Company. The company did not disclose how much they paid, but Flight Centre is now the largest single shareholder of Upside.

Photo courtesy of
Quintin Soloviev

Flight Centre anticipates that Upside’s unique tech platform will add value to its Corporate Traveler brand. They look forward to using Upside to target customers in North, Central and South America immediately, and move on to customers in the UK at a somewhat later date.

“Upside … has the potential to disrupt traditional offerings in the [small and medium-sized enterprise] sector in the future,” said Graham Turner, Flight Centre managing director.

Dean Smith, Flight Center’s president, said the company would gain an edge over its competitors from Upside’s “cutting edge artificial intelligence” technology.

“Its use of machine-learning models to dynamically price business travel packages in real-time to save clients’ money while increasing traveler options is just one example of Upside’s best in class technology,” he said.

Flight Centre’s stock gained two percent after the announcement, trading at $44.07 in the afternoon.

James Haddaway, Crawford Lake Capital & Others

Recently, Nicholas Kapur of SumZero interviewed James Haddaway of Satori Capital about institutional investing and hedge funds. Haddaway oversees more than $1 billion in firm assets including money in a program, Satori XL, that offers acceleration capital to investment managers getting established.

Haddaway explained, during the interview, that his mangers often have a nontraditional background and aren’t your typical financial investors. One example he gave is Crawford Lake Capital Management, their first acceleration investment. As Haddaway explained,

Our first acceleration investment, Crawford Lake, was with two guys with very non-traditional backgrounds. They went to rabbinical school, they were in Lakewood, New Jersey, of all places, they were more technical traders versus bottoms-up investors – they just did not have the traditional pedigree at all. But we thought they were amazing investors and risk managers, and they had an exceptional track record. They were at $12 million in AUM when we invested, and now they’re at $900 million, and they’ve built an institutional-quality business. So all stakeholders have done incredibly well on that one, and we never would have found them if we’d only been looking for the traditional background and only looking in New York.”

Two other examples he gave with nontraditional acceleration partnerships include with Atlas in Charlotte, North Carolina and Payise in Mayway, New Jersey. Neither company had Ivy League workers or investors, just “great people and fantastic long-term track records.”

Haddaway and his team have been willing to take a risk on managers that others may have overlooked. As he explained, “Our Crawford Lake investment is a perfect example. They were completely off the radar. Others in our industry definitely questioned our decision. But they had a seven-year track record that we thought was exceptional: Mid-teens net returns. Made money in ‘08. Made money in ‘11. Worst drawdown: 5.8 percent. Low volatility. Great risk managers, very disciplined. And when we looked at the stocks they were trading, we could see that they could scale. They just needed help. It was a no-brainer to us.”

Haddaway and his team have invested a great deal of time creating specific criteria for what they seek – this includes behavioral indicator questions and other attributes. Interestingly, he explained that the major red flag for them is a company that is arrogant. And of course, compliance problems and poor references are disqualifies as well.

New York Firms Rebranding

It’s more than a name obviously but when a successful company changes it, one has to wonder why.  New York & Company – the successful corporate women’s apparel firm – will soon become RTW Retailwinds next Monday. As part of its rebranding move, this will be the name under which it will be traded on the NYSE on November 20; with the RTW ticker symbol.

It’s not just the name that is changing though. For rebranding purposes there are other transformations being undertaken such as an expansion of Fashion to Figure (its plus size brand) as well as a brand new lingerie lifestyle brand and a Kate Hudson casual lifestyle collection.  Greg Scott, CEO of the firm explained:

 “RTW reflects our vision to maximize the power of our platform to create destination celebrity and lifestyle brand assortments across categories and channels. We move forward strongly positioned to continue our expansion of NY&Co, expanding celebrity brands with the upcoming launch of Kate Hudson and entering intimate apparel – a core competency of our team.”

Over in Buffalo, We Care Transportation (Buffalo’s most expansive non-emergency medical transportation provider) is ditching its name to become Cedar Bus Co.  In its explanatory press release it was written that:

“The change reflects the organization’s evolution and ongoing commitment to clean energy and the communities they serve.”

In time for its 5th anniversary, Figliulo & Partners will simply become Fig, in some measures “to tie together the agency’s many developments since it opened in 2013.”

Tech Success in NYC

As Sam Natapoff recently explained in an article in Salon, “Fifteen years ago, New York City was a tech afterthought.” A lot has changed though over the last decade and a half with it being ranked as “the second highest performing startup ecosystem in the world after Silicon Valley.” Statistics show that New York City features:

  • More than 280,000 tech jobs in the city
  • More than 128,000 tech jobs in the state
  • A 57% increase in tech employment between 2010-16
  • 7 meter square feet of Manhattan office space occupied by tech tenants in 2016
  • 7,500 New York based tech companies (23% increase since 2010)

And even more than that, New York is actually beating Silicon Valley in some sub-industries.

New York has successfully resuscitated its economy resulting in the recruitment of human capital and the promotion of technology and VC financing.  What’s also impressive is that New York has done this without having “a strong engineering base;” rather, it utilized “the natural strengths of its existing economy, its diverse industry base, its human capital diversity, and its desirability as a place to live.”

New York has always had a good business background.  According to an article by Gerrit De Vynck and Julie Verhage earlier this year part of the city’s success can be attributed to diversity vis-à-vis gender and race as well as “the metropolis’s centuries-old status as a center of global commerce. New York provides a contrast to Silicon Valley, which has been criticized for tunnel vision, being insular, out of touch with the rest of the country and overly homogeneous–both company employees and the people for whom they create products.”

NY Economic Growth

According to Xinhua News Agency, this month New York encountered a substantial growth in its business activity.  There was an increase to 20.1 points for its main index number, with the general business conditions index surpassed expectations by of 15.5.

In terms of people’s level of satisfaction/happiness at the office it was hard to tell as 40 percent claimed conditions had improved throughout May but 20 percent said they had worsened. There are more employees though with the index for the number going up to 8.7

The index for number of employees edged up three points to 8.7, with a drop in hours for the average workweek.  Perhaps even more importantly, there has been an increase in optimism for the next six months.

New York International Auto Show

With the start of the New York International Auto Show on 1stof this month, attendees were subject to some wonderful new SUVs, trucks and some supercars.

With self-driving cars stealing a lot of car-lovers’ attention, one show stopper was the Genesis Essentia. This has actually been in the works since shortly after last year’s Auto Show with a design team led by Luc Donckerwolke. With its “fully retro-futuristic bubble roof,” it definitely commanded a lot of stares.

But that’s not all.  Featuring over four floors of displays spanning international automakers, close to a thousand vehicles were displayed at “North America’s first and largest-attended auto show dating back to 1900.” Held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, from Friday March 30 to Sunday April 8, a $3 million Bugatti was among the most expensive vehicles featured.