Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘league fees

Live from one of America’s unemployment crisis epicenters

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Continuing this blog’s unplanned tour of America’s boomtowns-turned-bust (following Bradenton, Fla.), I come to you from Elkhart, Ind. Well, I think the Starbucks I’m sitting in is in Dunlap, technically, but it’s still part of Elkhart County. That’s where the job market has crashed like an RV hitting a brick wall, quite likely literally, given how the area’s dependence on recreational vehicle manufacturing has dragged it under.

The Elkhart-Goshen area’s (Dunlap is smack dab in between the two cities) unemployment rate in December 2007, the beginning of the recession, was 4.7 percent. Now it’s 18.8 percent. Thanks to so many plants closing down, Elkhart apparently is moving to the No. 1 spot for EPA Superfund sites, a story the Elkhart Truth plans to publish in Sunday’s paper. Elkhart-Goshen’s unemployment isn’t the worst — step right up, Mackinac County, Mich., with your 28 percent — but it’s the highest rise in the country. Hence, that RV-hitting-a-wall metaphor.

But you probably knew all that, thanks to President (and candidate) Obama’s frequent appearances in Elkhart, and the scads of news stories using the area as the living, breathing, nonworking metaphor for America’s economic struggles. Though I would like to alert ProPublica that a grocery store sign advertising 10 cans of Manwich for $10 is not a sign of economic apocalypse.

My job, as I mentioned earlier on this here blog, is to use Elkhart as the living, breaking, nonworking metaphor for how America’s economic struggles are affecting youth sports. As I also mentioned earlier, I won’t be divulging everything I learned, not with MSNBC.com paying me to divulge them as part of its Elkhart Project. I will say this — if you just looked at the scene around the area’s baseball and soccer fields, you would never know there was a recession. The fields are full, the kids are concentrating on the game (or on the dirt), chilly moms are wrapped in blankets, stressed-out dads are standing by themselves and grunting, parents are gossiping, others are telling their kids what a good job they did, others are asking why their kids what they didn’t hear them yelling to pass the ball.

I’ll spare other details, but suffice it to say that Elkhart is a living, breathing, working (not just nonworking — most of the people I talked to are employed, as are most people in Elkhart) metaphor for what parents are doing in these hard times — everything they can to get them on the field. These aren’t pushy parents who dream of pro stardom bringing the family out of its misery. They’re sincere parents who want to give their children the most and best they can, and if the children want to play, they’ll cut back on eating out or something else to get them to play. And if they can’t, there are grandparents, friends, leagues and others willing to help out.

It’s hard not to root for Elkhart after you’ve spent a little time here. Since World War II, it’s been an immigration station for people wanting a better life — first Southern whites, then African-Americans, and lately Mexicans and Central Americans. They know high gas prices and tight credit will probably never bring the RV industry back to what it was. But the story they want to tell is not that they’re victims. It’s that they’re hardworking, skilled people who are ready to punch the clock again once someone gives them a clock to punch.

In fact, some of them are coming back, now that local RV manufacturer Gulf Stream is entering a joint venture to build an electric hybird pickup. Hopefully, that’s not only a sign of a coming turnaround for Elkhart, but also a living, breathing, working metaphor for the rest of the country getting back on its economic feet.

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Belated Terry Drayton update

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Here is a Jan. 28 release from Terry Drayton of Count Me In Corp., which came up about $5 million short in paying back youth sports organizations and others that used its services to collect league fees and such. Drayton continues to assert that everything would have been just fine and dandy had leagues not been so gosh-darn impatient. (Like any reader impatient it took me a few days to get around to this.)

Count Me In Corporation (CMIC) today announced it was unable to prevent an involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and expects the court to appoint a trustee to take over the online registration and league management software company and handle liquidation of its assets.

On January 8, three Alaska-based sports club clients asked the Federal Bankruptcy Court to take over CMIC’s operations on January 28 unless the eight-year old organization could show it was paying its obligations as they became due. Those clubs are among 220 clubs and organizations across the country that CMIC owes about $5 million in outstanding online registration fees.

“We’ve been working for months in this incredibly difficult economy to find a buyer for CMIC that would allow us to repay our clients,” said Terry Drayton, CMIC CEO. “We got very close in November and were very close again this week to securing a deal but the immovable deadline of the involuntary bankruptcy petition put us in an impossible position.

“We asked the three clubs to withdraw their petition, as we didn’t think it was in the best interests of all clients, but they refused,” he added.

According to Drayton, CMIC was working with one well-qualified buyer, but the company withdrew their bid on Monday, concluding it could not complete the transaction by the January 28 deadline.

As part of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the court appointed trustee will now take charge of liquidating CMIC’s assets and distributing the proceeds among the company’s debtors.

Drayton also announced that CMIC’s parent company Arena Group, Inc., which is not part of the bankruptcy filing, will keep all client Web sites up and running and continue to provide technical support, allowing the clubs and teams to continue to function normally while the trustee works to find a buyer.

“At least we can keep supporting the clubs for the time being and minimize their pain, including helping clients process credit card charge-backs,” Drayton added.

“This is an incredibly sad day for our Count Me In Corporation clients,” continued Drayton. “It was my intention to repay every penny we owed to our clients. Unfortunately this involuntary bankruptcy won’t help achieve that, but now it is out of my hands.”

In the company’s eight years of operation, CMIC collected about $175 million for its clients and remitted $170 million, or more than 97 percent.

According to Drayton, the company can account for every penny of the $5 million shortfall, noting the funds went to normal operating costs in incremental amounts such as improving technology and paying staff salaries over the past eight years.

Geez, it gave back 97 percent of the money it was sworn to reimburse. Is that not enough for you jackals?

No.

The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage was one of the three organizations that forced Count Me In into bankruptcy. It’s owed $150,000. From the Anchorage Daily News:

“I don’t see this as a victory until everyone gets their money back,” skiing association executive director Dianne Moxness said.

Moxness said the association has not talked to Count Me In, although there have been written communications.

“They sent us an e-mail, later a letter, asking us to withdraw our petition” to force Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Moxness said. The association e-mailed back that Count Me in should “speak to our attorney,” she added.

“And they never contacted him.”

An 8-year-old company, CMI was set up to handle registrations and online credit card payments for sports and youth programs. The company took a percentage of the payments for handling the online bookkeeping and passed the bulk of the money along to the organizations, many of which are — like the ski club — nonprofits.

Up until this year, the system worked fine, said Moxness. But then Count Me In stopped sending checks even as it continued to collect payments.

It has been reported the company was diverting funds that should have gone back to its clients in order to help pay for a pricey new computer system, although it remains for an independent, court-appointed trustee to determine exactly where the money went.

Written by rkcookjr

February 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm