Trend Radar: August 2008

By the numbers: The newest stars in corporate America are the number-crunchers and bean counters that form the chief financial officer ranks, says an Atlanta headhunter specializing in tracking down CFOs who keep the books and sign the checks.

“More and more companies are realizing how important it is to have a strong, responsible CFO as a business partner at the table with the senior management teams,” says Bill Reeves, managing director of Spencer Stuart, an Atlanta executive search firm. And it’s not just the current need to run a tight ship through the shoals of today’s economy.

“The [2002] SarbOx legislation which followed the Enron fiasco is what elevated CFOs to a different level of respect,” and also cost some of them their jobs, Reeves says. SarbOx is the acronym for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which demanded public companies maintain more stringent internal controls and better accounting procedures. The bottom line, Reeves says, is that the CFO is now a prime candidate for the CEO job, and the number of CFOs on corporate boards is growing.

“Under SarbOx, there’s been an increasing demand for CFOs to be on the boards of directors and serve as chair of the audit committee,” Reeves says. “And SarbOx has called on companies to have a higher caliber of executive, someone who is up to the scrutiny and demands of the current business climate.”

As with any commodity, demand increases value. “CFO salaries have risen by as much as a third since Enron,” Reeves says. Notable Geor-gians who moved up the ladder from CFO to CEO include Scott Davis at UPS, Tom Smith of Oglethorpe Power and Dan Hendricks of Inter-face. “And Derek Smith at Choice-Point was the CFO at Equifax,” Reeves says. “And David Ratcliffe, the CEO of Southern Company, was CFO at Georgia Power earlier in his career.”

Look for CFOs to have a larger role in the overall operations of a company. “The CFO will be someone who is contributing to the strategy, as well as financing the strategy,” Reeves says.

Candid camera: Last year when Ray City Mayor Carl Camon launched a one-man anticrime crusade to get drug dealers off the streets in his town of 774, his reward was having the windows of his car smashed.

Camon then did what he says he had to do: install surveillance cameras in two crime-plagued neighborhoods – and publish a book of poetry. The cameras were funded by a $30,000 USDA grant that also included money for a moveable camera.

“[The crime] has gotten a little bit better,” Camon says. “And we’ve hired two new police officers. Just their presence is cutting down on a lot of the [drug] activity. The neighborhood cameras will help us monitor street activity and ingress and egress and help us build up the information we need to eradicate this problem, or at least reduce the activity. We are using one camera for sting operations.”

The book, Poetic Infinity, is based on his experiences as a city council member, mayor and high school educator, Camon says, and is available on

Something fishy?: Georgia saltwater fishermen are reeling following the June announcement that they may be required to register and pay a fee to angle offshore. The idea was floated out in June by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a means of improving the accuracy of its database. NOAA officials say it’s just a means of measuring the ocean’s fish species and numbers hooked or speared.

But Georgia coastal fishermen say it’s a bait-and-switch come-on. “I basically feel it is an additional tax,” says Mark Noble, president of Brunswick’s Golden Isles Charter Fishing Association. “And I do not feel like the information they receive will be treated in a forthright fashion that is favorable to recreational fishing.”

The registration fee concept includes a number of exemptions including one that “recognizes that many indigenous people fish for food as part of ancient cultural traditions,” according to Conservation News, NOAA’s official publication. NOAA will act on the proposal later this month. Annual registration could begin in early 2009.

Categories: Economic Development Features, Features