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How Corporate America Is Readying for Growth 2010


Hoping for the best, with an eye toward expansion.

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, executives at many of the largest corporations will be relieved to bid adieu to 2009 and embrace the hopes that come with the dawn of a new year. The last year of the decade was relentlessly brutal for the private sector, with a seemingly endless stream of cutbacks, layoffs, bankruptcies, and closures. If it weren't for the surge in stock prices since March, corporate America would have almost nothing to be thankful for this year.

But economists are expecting brighter days ahead. The Federal Reserve recently upgraded its outlook for the US economy after seeing improvements in several key areas, such as employment and housing. And 68% of CEOs polled by The Business Roundtable recently said they expect to see their sales increase in 2010, up from just 51% at the end of the third quarter.

Indeed, as they head into the New Year, many companies are preparing to regain momentum. Minyanville checked in on some of the biggest corporations in a cross section of industries to find out what they're doing to get ready for the good times again.

Hearst, one of the many media companies that spent this year cutting back, is placing its bets squarely on the digital future. It recently announced plans to launch a digital service called Skiff next year.

The service, which promises digital publications that are more true to their print counterparts than what current e-readers supply, is sure to stir up the market, which currently includes devices such as Sony's (SNE) e-reader, Barnes & Noble's (BKS) Nook, and Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle.

"The platforms and devices that other people are building are not really appropriate for newspapers and magazines," Kenneth A. Bronfin, president of Hearst Interactive Media, told the Wall Street Journal. "We are going to create an entity by publishers, for publishers."

In addition to adding hope for the publishing industry, Hearst says the new service will have an edge because it can integrate advertising with the products.

Hearst is also part of the recently announced consortium of publishers that's working to create a set of technology standards for the industry as it forges on in digital territory. Other contributors include News Corp. (NWS), Time Inc. (TWX), Condé Nast, and Meredith Corp.

What digital is to the media industry, it would seem, alternative power is to the energy industry. Come 2010, General Electric (GE), which currently tops Forbes' list of the world's largest public companies, will be investing $6 billion in wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric, and geothermal power generation projects.

The company recently said it plans to spend $117 million of that budget on a wind farm complex in Oklahoma. The project could satisfy the demands of about 30,000 homes for an entire year.

Kohl's (KSS) has also recognized that customers are expecting corporate America to have more environmental awareness.

On December 2, it became the first retailer to announce a commitment to reach net zero US greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2010. The goal is part of an ongoing partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Leaders program.
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