In brief: Wireless Toyz buys Beepers N' Phones

By Times staff, wires
Published March 21, 2007

Wireless Toyz buys Beepers N' Phones
Wireless Toyz, a fast-growing Detroit chain that sells a variety of wireless goods and services, has acquired Tampa-based Beepers N' Phones from its founder Ron Pownall for an disclosed price. All 33 Beepers N' Phones stores in central Florida will be converted to franchised Wireless Toyz outlets by the time the deal closes this summer. Pownall's managers, who each own a substantial interest in their stores, have first right of refusal to convert their units. Otherwise, Wireless Toyz, which already has a dozen stores in the area, will find a franchisee to take over the lease. Wireless Toyz brings a wider line in a one-stop-shopping environment.

Urgent Office may provide refunds
A Tampa company accused of having unfair and deceptive lending practices has agreed to shut down for good, the Florida Attorney General's Office said Tuesday. Tampa Investment Services Inc., which also did business under the names Urgent Office and Cyber Cash, allegedly lured customers into signing leases for office services, such as copying and word processing, and then charged interest rates that often exceeded 300 percent. Partial refunds may be available from Urgent Office and the Attorney General's Office.

Report blames OSHA, BP for refinery fire
HOUSTON - The U.S. agency responsible for worker safety failed to inspect plants with enough care and frequency to prevent an accident like the 2005 explosion at BP's Texas City refinery that killed 15 people and injured 170, the worst U.S. industrial accident since 1990, a government report said Tuesday. Companies have plenty of safeguards for individual workers' safety but have a potentially deadly lack of sound procedures to measure process safety, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which released the report. The 335-page report also blamed BP, the London-based oil giant, for cost cutting that left the plant vulnerable to catastrophe. The board said that although the Texas City plant had several fatal accidents over the last 30 years, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration had done only one process safety management inspection at the refinery - in 1998.

Housing starts grew in February
WASHINGTON - New home construction rebounded in February following a steep January slide. But analysts pointed to a further decline in building permits as a worrisome signal for the troubled housing industry. Construction of homes and apartments rose 9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.525-million units, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Construction had fallen by 14.3 percent in January to the slowest pace in more than nine years. Even with the better-than-expected rebound, activity remained 28.5 percent below a year ago, underscoring the steep downturn. Patrick Newport, an economist with Global Insight, forecast that housing construction would fall by 19 percent this year, shaving overall economic growth by nearly 1 percentage point.