Texas Water in UT Tower-Shaped Bottle to Raise Millions for Academic Scholarships

Texas Water in UT Tower-Shaped Bottle to Raise Millions for Academic Scholarships

AUSTIN, Texas — H2Orange®, a new purified Texas water in a unique scale-model replica of the iconic University of Texas at Austin Tower, will raise millions of dollars for academic scholarships, fellowships and internships at the university, it was announced today by university President William Powers Jr. and GSD&M co-founders Steve Gurasich and Tim McClure.

Gurasich and McClure, the G and M in GSD&M, created H2Orange to help more deserving students attend The University of Texas at Austin. Every bottle of H2Orange purchased will help reach the goal of raising $1 million annually for the next 10 years and beyond.

“H2Orange represents a first-of-its-kind partnership between a cause-marketing movement and The University of Texas at Austin,” Powers said at a news conference announcing the initiative.

This is the first time that the university’s iconic Tower has been licensed for a consumable product and H2Orange is the first project to combine an iconic water bottle with funding for academic scholarships at a major university.

“Our battle cry is ‘Drink water. Bleed orange.™ Fund scholarships.’” McClure said.

H2Orange fans will be able to see the impact of their purchases online at www.h2orange.com, where the dollar amount raised for scholarships will be updated regularly. Contests, partnerships and other H2Orange news and events will be announced and discussed on the Web site and on Facebook and Twitter.

“Through social media channels, Texas Exes and H2Orange Ambassadors we hope to inspire hundreds of thousands of ‘H2Orangebloods’ to join the cause,” Gurasich said. “Our aim is to take word-of-mouth to a new level by rallying UT fans to not only buy the water themselves, but also to tell friends about it and make sure their grocery stores, convenience stores and other favorite establishments proudly carry H2Orange.”

H2Orange will be introduced with significant distribution in Austin and select distribution in major Texas markets as it rolls out this fall. H2Orange will be available at grocery and convenience stores, in select restaurants, bars and retail outlets, and in multiple locations across The University of Texas at Austin campus. Participating retailers will be updated on the H2Orange.com Web site. Plans are in the works for H2Orange to be available online for University of Texas at Austin fans outside of Texas.

H2Orange has been named the official water of the Texas Exes tailgating parties, and the water will also be available at the Etta-Harbin Alumni Center, home of the Texas Exes in Austin, so that proceeds may also benefit the Texas Exes Scholars program. Among other options are Michigan state scholarships.

“H2Orange is a win-win-win for the university, for Texas Exes and for deserving students,” said Jim Boon, executive director of the Texas Exes.

Gurasich and McClure are life members of the Texas Exes, and McClure recently updated the branding used by the Texas Exes today, including a banner that says “‘Til Gabriel blows his horn.”

H2Orange is “Texas Purified” to achieve optimum purity and taste. Texas rainwater collects in three Texas rivers — the Atascosa, Nueces and Frio — that flow into Choke Canyon Reservoir and Lake Corpus Christi. The Corpus Christi Municipal Water District purifies that water to exacting Environmental Protection Agency standards, then the Oneta Bottling Company further purifies H2Orange, using a combination of activated carbon, ozone, ion exchange, reverse osmosis and deionization.

H2Orange Investor/Ambassadors include alumni such as former national champion quarterback James Street, World Golf Hall of Famer and golf legend Ben Crenshaw and Red McCombs, benefactor of the university’s McCombs School of Business.

The University of Texas at Austin Tower is one of the university’s most recognizable symbols and an iconic architectural landmark for Austinites, Texans and Texas Exes around the world. The 307-foot-tall Tower, designed by renowned architect Paul Philippe Cret, was completed in 1937. Through the years, the Tower has been the university’s most distinguishing landmark and a symbol of academic excellence and personal opportunity. Based on Beaux-Arts principles of balance, axial arrangements and symmetry, the Tower formed, in Cret’s words, “the image carried in our memory when we think of the place.”

For more information about H2Orange, including a list of Texas retail outlets by zip code, go to http://www.h2orange.com/.

For more information, contact: Brenda Thompson, Brenda Thompson Communications, 512-461-5644, or Don Hale, The University of Texas at Austin, 512-471-3151.

CRE Markets Have Moved Away from the Edge, but Not Out of Trouble

The Return of Liquidity Has Eased Industry Fears, but Debt, Fundamentals Still Worrisome
June 23, 2010

While commercial real estate values have not rebounded in the first six months of the year, the fear that 2010 was a disaster waiting to happen has subsided as liquidity has started flowing back into the market, according to new reports out this past week from PIMCO and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The pair of reports suggest that, for institutional quality property at least, property values have found a bottom and cap rates have peaked and could even start to subside. Neither of the reports is projecting a worry-free environment, however, in fact both are projecting a long, long road to full recovery.

“While most investors sense that the worst is over in terms of market deterioration, supply greatly outweighs demand across all property sectors keeping overall vacancy rates high and rental rates on a downward trend,” said Susan Smith, director, real estate advisory practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Top-tier locations are showing the most signs of life with respect to tenant interest and recovery potential. However, inspiring leasing trends have yet to fully materialize, further contributing to this sense of market flux.”

Commercial real estate investors seem frustrated and disappointed at the lack of quality buying opportunities that many expected would have materialized by now, according to the second quarter 2010 findings of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Korpacz Real Estate Investor Survey. The report notes that the unknown speed and strength of the economic recovery has many investors anxious, with the uncertainty surrounding the large debt volume coming due in 2011 and 2012 amplifying their angst.

In the quarterly survey, the average overall capitalization rate, a key measure of investors’ expectations of property income and value, declined in 17 of the survey’s 30 markets over the past three months, an indication that investors perceive less risk in the industry now, particularly for prime properties and better markets, according to the PwC survey.

The ‘bottoming’ of the industry continues to be recognized by investors’ expectations that overall cap rates will either decline or hold steady in most markets over the next six months. Specifically, survey participants forecast overall cap rates to hold steady in 18 of the survey’s 30 markets. Furthermore, the survey data revealed that 13 markets could see overall cap rates decline by as much as 100 basis points in this time period.

Surveyed investors cited potential declines in near-term overall cap rates in the Manhattan office market, the national warehouse market and the national apartment market (all three segments down as much as 100 basis points).

For individual office markets included in the survey, average overall cap rates remain lower for central business district (CBD) submarkets than for suburban counterparts, suggesting that investors continue to see less risk and better investment potential in the major CBDs.

“There is a tremendous amount of capital targeting institutional-grade, quality assets,” Smith said. “In fact, survey participants cited that strong competition among well-capitalized buyers is helping to elevate sale prices and lower overall cap rates for many prime properties. Furthermore, the low percentage of distressed trades as of late reflects investors’ preferences as most buyers are steering clear of ‘junk’ and focusing only on core assets according to survey participants.”

John Murray, commercial real estate portfolio manager and head the PIMCO’s CRE/CMBS team, also reported that capital is clearly returning to commercial real estate, helping to stem the value declines in the sector. But, his report stressed that optimism should be tempered because national price indices are misleading when transactions are limited and fail to reflect the significant uncertainty around property valuations.

“Capital has returned to CRE and high levels of bidding activity in certain sectors have made many observers and participants optimistic,” Murray wrote in his report. “Transactions have generally been limited and capital flows have been concentrated in trophy properties and in properties where below-market agency financing is available. This has provided a false sense of clarity on the real level of property values. A significant volume of weaker and distressed assets has yet to be liquidated and this foreshadows further pressure on values. Against this backdrop, we caution against the presumptions that a rapid broad-based recovery is underway.”

Murray is not as optimistic on the direction of cap rates as PwC survey participants.

“We expect that the spread between cap rates and 10-year Treasuries will remain above its average of 265 basis points seen since 1995, as the litigious deleveraging process leads to a sustained period of risk aversion in the sector,” Murray wrote. “If cap rate spreads remain above their average, the market can expect long-term cap rates near or above 8%. In this case, even if properties with floating rate debt can successfully avoid defaults in the short term, rising longer term rates will create a floor for cap rates and limit recoveries.”

As the deleveraging cycle unfolds, attractive opportunities are likely to be available to investors with capital, Murray wrote. Although, he warned that capital flows alone should not be a gauge of where attractive investment opportunities lie. In VA home loans for veterans are available.

“Many owners in primary markets are perplexed by the extent of non-US capital flowing into their markets. With this in mind, new investors should not expect a continued rapid appreciation in pricing for trophy assets in these markets,” Murray wrote. “Conversely, owners of grocery-anchored retail assets in smaller markets express frustration in securing financing today, despite strong tenant profiles and positive demographics. As capital returns to CRE, we expect this yield spread (as reflected by cap rates) between trophy assets and less liquid, quality assets in smaller markets to eventually tighten.”

Best and Worst Stats for Business 2010

Issue Date: May/June 2010, Posted On: 4/29/2010
Best and Worst States for Business 2010
More than 600 CEOs rated states on a wide range of criteria from taxation and regulation to workforce quality and living environment, in our sixth annual special report.

Click here to visit the Best/Worst States 2010 Resource Center

In Chief Executive’s annual survey of best and worst states for business, conducted in late January of this year, 651 CEOs across the U.S. again gave Texas top honors, closely followed by North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. They gave the booby prize for worst state to California, with New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts filling out the bottom five-a line-up virtually unchanged from last year. Florida and Georgia each dropped three places in the ranking, but remain in the top 10. Utah jumped six positions this year to sneak into the top 10 at No. 9.
The business leaders were asked to draw upon their direct experience to rate each state in three general categories: taxation and regulation, quality of workforce and living environment. Within each category respondents graded states in five subcategories, as well as ranking each in terms of its importance to the respondent and how individual states measure up (Click here to see How CEOs Grade the States chart).
For example, Texas fares competitively with Nevada and Delaware in terms of taxation and regulatory environment, but scored best overall, in no small measure because of the perception that its government’s attitude to business is ideal. Runner-up North Carolina edged Texas slightly in its living environment, but scored somewhat below the Lone Star state in terms of government attitude to business and work ethic, which is a sine qua non for the business leaders. (Click here to see the chart) After employee work ethic, CEOs most highly prize lower tax rates and perceived attitudes toward business, followed by living environment considerations, such as real estate costs and education.
“Texas is pro-business with reasonable regulations,” one CEO respondent remarked, “while California is anti-business with anti-business regulations.” Another commented, “California is terrible. Even when we’ve paid their high taxes in full, they still treat every conversation as adversarial. It’s the most difficult state in the nation. We have actually walked away from business rather than deal with the government in Sacramento.”

Click here to view the full chart
Best and Worst States for Business 2010
“The leadership of California has done everything in its power to kill manufacturing jobs in this state,” observed another CEO. “As I stated at our annual meeting, if we could grow our crops in Reno, we’d move our plants tomorrow.”
How is it that the nation’s most populous state at 37 million, one that is the world’s eighth-largest economy and the country’s richest and most diverse agricultural producer, a state that had the fastest growth rate in the 1950s and 1960s during the tenures of Democratic Governor Pat Brown and Republican Governors Earl Warren and Ronald Reagan, should become the Venezuela of North America?
Californians pay among the highest income and sales taxes in the nation, the former exceeding 10 percent in the top brackets. Unemployment statewide is over 12.2 percent, higher than the national average. State politics seems consumed with how to divide a shrinking pie rather than how to expand it. Against national trend, union density is climbing from 16.1 percent of workers in 1998 to 17.8 percent in 2002. Organized labor has more political influence in California than in most other states. In addition, unfunded pension and health care liabilities for state workers top $500 billion and the annual pension contribution has climbed from $320 million to $7.3 billion in less than a decade. When state employees reach critical mass, they tend to become a permanent lobby for continual growth in government.
Bill Dormandy, CEO of San Francisco medical device maker ITC, summed it up: “California has a good living environment but is unfavorable to business and the state taxes are not survivable. Nevada and Virginia are encouraging business to move to their states with lower tax rates and less regulatory demands.”
Lone Star Leader
By contrast, Texas, the second-most populous state and the world’s 12th largest economy, is where 70 percent of all new U.S. jobs have been created since 2008. Unsurprisingly, it scores high in all the areas CEOs value most. “You feel like state government understands the value of business and industry to create jobs and growth,” observed one CEO. Its tax credits and incentives to business choosing to locate or expand are among the most aggressive. The Texas Enterprise Fund is by far the largest deal-closing fund of any state, with grants totaling $377 million disbursed in 2008.
Little wonder then that while Texas gained over 848,000 net new residents in the last 10 years, according to the Census Bureau, California lost 1.5 million. New York State’s net loss exceeded 1.6 million – the highest of any state. High-tax, big- government New Jersey ranked fourth, with a net loss of almost 460,000, enough to drop it from 10th to 11th place in population.
“The New York state legislature is the most dysfunctional in the land and one of the reasons why New York is the worst,” one exasperated New York City business leader volunteered. The political elites in the states that dismiss out-migration trends overlook the radical demographic adjustment underway. As higher-income earners leave, they are more often replaced by those with lower incomes and lower skills, many needing public assistance. Gone too are the entrepreneurs and risk-takers, off seeking regions where their job creating abilities are rewarded.
Another more daunting reality is in store. The so-called de-leveraging of America hasn’t reached government. U.S. cities and states have issued over $2 trillion in new debt since 2008, with another $1 trillion scheduled this year. The problem is that state revenues in real terms may not reach 2008 levels until late in 2012, according to John Thomasian of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. As he emphasizes in his paper, “The Big Reset: State Government after the Great Recession,” states will have to rethink and redesign government in terms of what is essential and what can be made more efficient if their citizens are to have much of a future.
The results of this survey may point the way.
Click here for more information on the Chief Executive’s Best and Worst States for Business survey and other economic indicators.