Barely a year after opening the nation’s first smartphone manufacturing factory in Fort Worth, Motorola has announced plans to close the plant by the end of this year. The Google-owned device maker is chalking up the closure to “weak sales and high costs” of labor and shipping, falling short of its objective to “challenge conventional wisdom that manufacturing in the U.S. is too expensive,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
But conventional wisdom ultimately prevailed, as the company consistently struggled to compete with overseas manufacturers. The Fort Worth factory, which produces various lines of Moto X smartphones, had already undergone a drastic workforce reduction, dropping from a peak of about 3,800 employees last fall to a current total of about 700.
The Bottom Line: Google is cutting bait on Motorola Mobility, which it bought in 2012 for $12.5 billion and is now preparing to sell to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd. for just under $3 billion while holding onto several Motorola patents, according to the Journal.
One Plant’s Trash, Another Plant’s Treasure
As Texas GOP officials push back against the Obama administration’s new emissions reduction targets, some entrepreneurs in the state are turning carbon into carbon-ade. An Austin-based company called Skyonic Corp. is building a system that converts captured CO2 emissions into products such as baking soda and hydrochloric acid, which it then sells to customers in the energy and agriculture sectors, Businessweek reported this week.
The $128 million SkyMine project, which is expected to begin operating at a San Antonio cement plant this fall, is capable of processing about 75,000 tons of CO2 per year—enough to produce roughly fifteen percent of the U.S. baking soda supply at a fraction of the cost.
The Bottom Line: At first glance, SkyMine may seem like an environmentalist’s pipedream, but with several client contracts already in place, as well as a $25 million grant from the Department of Energy and projected annual sales of $50 million, Skyonic seems to have solid footing. The project also has some big-time supporters in the energy sector, including BP and Houston-based ConocoPhillips, Businessweek reports. Those companies are looking ahead at cost-effective options for complying with future regulations — and it doesn’t hurt that SkyMine can also produce some of the chemicals commonly used in fracking wells.
Winners of the Week: Water-Wise Frackers
Amid persistent drought and tightening conservation regulations, South Texas drilling companies are looking to scale back the amount of water they use, and experts predict that as much as half of the wastewater from Eagle Ford Shale fracking wells could be recyclable within five years, the San Antonio Business Journal reports. Drillers inject three million to six million gallons of water to frack a single well, and only about thirty percent of that is recycled. The remaining wastewater, which is contaminated with chemicals and other materials used to break up underground shale formations that hold oil and natural gas, must be pumped into disposal wells.
The Business Journal reports that several new water-recycling partnerships and services have been popping up in the region. And a number of new technologies are in the research and development phase at nearby universities, including Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, which has partnered with a company called Arana Water Technologies to create a new type of wastewater sterilization system, according to KIII-TV in Corpus.
Losers of the Week: RadioShack Shareholders
RadioShack CEO Joseph Magnacca had some less-than-encouraging things to say at the company’s annual shareholder meeting this week. The Shack’s situation is becoming dire it struggles to regroup after lenders shot down a proposal to shutter 1,100 stores back in March, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. The electronics chain now plans to close 200 stores this year and another 600 by 2017, the maximum its lending contract will allow.
After losing more than $400 million in 2013, RadioShack is fighting off bankruptcy rumors as it attempts to turn things around, according to the Dallas Business Journal. (First-quarter numbers are due out next week). In addition to the store closings, its cost-cutting strategy involves scaling back inventories and remodeling about 100 locations. Magnacca’s assessment of the situation, as quoted by the Star-Telegram: “I don’t know if we can overcome this impasse, but we’ll continue to work at it.”