STATELand acquired for new Nome area hospital NOME -- Norton Sound Health Corp. has purchased a 42-acre parcel to build a long-awaited new hospital.The corporation, which has eyed a new facility since 1994, bought the land from Alaska Gold for about $900,000, according to Joe Cladouhos, corporation president. Construction on the new hospital, depending on federal funding, could begin between 2003 and 2005 and be completed by 2007."We’re very pleased about purchasing the land," Cladouhos told the Nome Nugget. "We’re kind of landlocked here so we’re really happy about obtaining it."With the purchase, the health corporation may have improved its status among communities needing new facilities. Currently, the Indian Health Service ranks the Norton Sound region third nationally in terms of need.Cladouhos said a new hospital could cost as much as $85 million and provide the region with significantly better care.Home Depot purchases Fairbanks land for storeFAIRBANKS -- Home Depot representatives have signed papers giving the company ownership of 12.7 acres of land off the Johansen Expressway to build their second Alaska superstore.The papers were signed last week and contractors have begun grading the site for the 130,500-square-foot building. Roger Hickel Contracting of Anchorage is the general contractor, said Chuck Sifuentes, Home Depot spokesman.Home Depot announced in January its intention to build a Fairbanks store. The company said it would start construction in the spring and open by the end of the year. However, company officials said cleanup of contaminated soil on the site took longer than anticipated.The store will now open in spring 2002, Sifuentes said.NationWorried consumers shut their wallets in MayWASHINGTON -- Consumers, worried about their jobs in the face of layoffs, were a bit tightfisted in May, borrowing money at the slowest pace in 19 months.Consumer credit rose by a seasonally adjusted $6.5 billion in May, or a 4.9 percent annual rate, the Federal Reserve reported July 9. That was a much smaller increase than the $9.5 billion rise in credit that many analysts had forecasted.The 4.9 percent growth rate was the slowest since a 4.7 percent rate of increase registered in October 1999.The slowdown in borrowing "reflects job insecurities and the impact of actual layoffs, which are making consumers more cautious," said Paul Taylor, chief economist at the National Automobile Dealers Association.Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has said one of the biggest factors determining whether the economy slips into recession is how well consumers hold up during the slowdown. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity and has been a key force in keeping the struggling economy afloat.Cities fuel growth, mayors tell CongressWASHINGTON -- Metropolitan areas powered the nation’s economic good times during the 1990s, said a U.S. Conference of Mayors report aimed at persuading Congress and the White House to pump more money into cities and suburbs.America’s 319 largest metro areas accounted for 85 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and 84 percent of the country’s jobs, according to the report July 10.Nationally, the census showed that 226 million people lived in metro areas in 2000, up 14 percent from 1990.Suburban population grew 22 percent to 140.6 million, while the number of Americans living in central cities increased 10 percent to 85.4 million.Maker of Chuck Taylors tries for a comebackNORTH READING, Mass. -- For more than half a century, Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers -- canvas, with a trademark star logo -- ruled every schoolyard, high school, college and pro basketball court in America.But Converse Inc., the company that invented basketball shoes, continues to struggle under a full-court press of problems.Since January, the company has sought bankruptcy protection, closed three North American factories and moved production to Asia, and then was sold at auction for $117.5 million to cover debts.Chuck Taylors, once worn by 70 to 80 percent of hoops players, are now more often seen on counterculture teens and baby boomers. Converse’s basketball shoes account for about 2 percent of athletic footwear sales.New chief executive Jack Boys says there’s room for Converse in a world dominated by Nike Inc. and Reebok International Inc.Safeway beats estimates for 2nd-quarter earningsPLEASANTON, Calif. -- Grocery chain Safeway Inc. met Wall Street’s expectations July 9, reporting a 9 percent increase in second-quarter earnings.For the three months ended June 16, Safeway posted net earnings of $307.3 million, or 59 cents per share, compared with $280.9 million, or 55 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.Safeway is one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America, with 1,688 stores in several Western states.WORLDIMF pins Germany’s growth at 1.25 percentBERLIN -- Germany’s economy will likely grow just 1.25 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said July 9, joining other experts in predicting deeper trouble for Europe’s largest economy.In a report released by the German government, which has been counting on sturdy growth to help it cut unemployment and state borrowing, the IMF withdrew its earlier forecast of 1.9 percent.Europe’s biggest economy is being hit harder than expected by a global slowdown. Private sector economists already cut their 2001 growth forecasts to as little as 1 percent, though the government is still officially aiming for 2 percent.Euro officials see sunnier economic forecastBRUSSELS, Belgium -- Euro-zone finance chiefs expressed guarded optimism July 9 that the European and world economies might be about to rebound after months of slowdown."We are realistic but also optimistic about the next two quarters," said Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders, who chaired the monthly meeting with his euro-zone colleagues.European ministers at the G-7 meeting July 7 in Rome were encouraged by U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s assessment that American growth should accelerate to above 2 percent in the fourth quarter and grow by 3 percent in 2002.Japan trade surplus shrinks againTOKYO -- Japan’s trade surplus with the world plummeted 86.1 percent in May from a year ago for the 11th straight month of year-on-year decline, the government said.The merchandise trade surplus -- the measure of all goods exported minus those imported -- came in at 80.1 billion yen, or $651 million, the Finance Ministry said.Imports rose 14 percent in May from the same month last year while exports fell 0.9 percent, the ministry said.High global prices pushed the value of crude oil imports up 19.6 percent in May, from last year.Compiled from business wire services.