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D.C. Hotline: Swipe fees and debit dollars

BY Jeremy Stine

"It is one of the most active lobbying efforts I have ever seen,” quipped Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recently when asked about the fight over debit card swipe fees. 

And that’s saying a lot, considering he’s been on Capitol Hill for 28 years. 

The “Swipe Fee Fix,” which was passed as part of the sweeping financial overhaul legislation last year, caps the debit card fees that banks may charge retailers, requiring such charges to be “reasonable and proportional” to underlying costs.  Retailers had long sought limits on these "interchange fees," which represent billions in revenue for banks —  $14 billion in fact.

The Federal Reserve is considering a proposal due to be finalized in April that would force banks to reduce their debit interchange fees to 12 cents per transaction, down from roughly 44 cents — a difference that amounts to about $14 billion annually. This is why the banks are spending heavily on misleading ad campaigns that state the following: “Washington is helping giant retailers clean out your wallet; Washington is about to hand giant retailers a $14 billion pay day funded by you — and your debit card.”

It’s part of the banks’ latest scare tactics to make the big bad retailers the boogeyman.  Unfortunately for the banks, however, thousands of local businesses — from restaurants to florists, convenience stores to lumberyards — like the newly passed law just the way it is.  The banks’ hope, of course, is to overturn this provision in the law. But once Congress has done something, it is not easy to turn it around.  

Jeremy Stine is manager of government and public affairs for the NLBMDA (dealer.org).

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Former California nursery destined for housing project

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A coalition of city, state and federal agencies are forming a partnership with private developers in Northern California to develop three former flower nurseries into a new housing development and open-space area. The project will create about 300 “green jobs” in construction and remediation in the San Francisco Bay area, according to the announcement.  

The Miraflores project, located in Richmond, Calif., will include affordable senior apartments and new market-rate single-family homes. The open space will include creek restoration, an urban forest of trees and the preservation of historic structures, including greenhouses and homes dating back to the early 1900s.

Before construction begins, the site will require cleanup and revitalization of the Miraflores site, which is contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals like lead, benzene and perchloroethylene (PCE, a solvent). The U.S. EPA awarded the Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency three grants totaling $600,000 in 2006. The State of California’s Pollution Control Finance Agency also awarded $2.6 million to clean up the property, which is expected to be completed by the fall of 2011. It is anticipated that residents will move into the new housing community in 2014.

The state’s Strategic Growth Council (SGC) awarded a $1.66 million grant for the urban greening aspect of the project. More information about the partners involved can be found by clicking here.

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PACOA hires Beaudoin as VP sales

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Port Washington, N.Y.-based PACOA hired Michael Beaudoin as VP sales.

In his new position, Beaudoin will have responsibility for management of PACOA’s sales force, along with driving the future growth of PACOA and G-Force Brands.

Beaudoin brings more than 16 years of industry experience. He has held several positions with increasing responsibility throughout his career, starting with Harvey Gerstman Associates, The Flood Co. and his most recent position as director of sales for Sherwin-Williams Diversified Brands.

"We look forward to the leadership and energy Mike will bring to our team," the company said in a prepared statement.

PACOA, or Paint Applicator Corp. of America — is a leading wholesale distributor of paint, hardware, lumber, janitorial and building supplies to independent retail dealers in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

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