Roundup: Housing bill heads to the White House; drivers trading SUVs for Honda Civics

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The U.S. Senate approved a housing bill this weekend that would help thousands of homeowners avoid foreclosure and creates a rescue plan if mortgage companies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were to collapse.

The move is part of the federal government’s plan to stabilize the housing market. President George W. Bush has said he will sign the bill. (New York Times)

An increasing number of drivers are trading in their SUVs for small, gas-efficient cars. (Richmond Times-Dispatch). 

The Henry County Board of Supervisors plans to meet with an Appalachian Power Co. representative on Tuesday to question its proposal for a 24 percent increase in electricity rates. (Martinsville Bulletin)

Under distress from the weak economy, venture capital funding is falling. (The Washington Post). 

The new owner of discount retailer Lillian Vernon predicts it can bring the company back to profitability this year. Current USA bought the company in a bankruptcy auction in April. (The Virginian-Pilot). 

For the Record: Business deals, announcements and promotions from around the state

Portsmouth reached a franchise agreement with Verizon Communications Inc., allowing Verizon to offer its Fios television service to segments of the city’s 39,000 households. Under the 15-year deal, Verizon will pay a quarterly surcharge of 50 cents for each TV subscriber to the city, as well as a quarterly franchise fee of 5 percent of gross revenues. Verizon is now building out its new fiber-optic, high speed network.  (The Virginian-Pilot)

Norfolk Southern Corp.  is negotiating a deal with Volkswagen to carry shipments of cars from a planned assembly operation to be built on a 1,350-acre site near Chattanooga, Tenn. Norfolk Southern’s rail lines run past the site. The Norfolk-based rail service provider already serves 28 auto production plants. Rail lines belonging to Jacksonville, Fla. rival CSX also connect to the site, so it’s not clear yet how much of Volkswagen’s traffic Norfolk Southern will secure. (The Virginian-Pilot)

The Public Relations Society of America granted an official charter to the PRSA Virginia Peninsula chapter, giving PR professionals in the Peninsula region access to a national network and resources. The local group began meeting in November 2007 and launched a Web site for members with a job bank, accreditation guidance and a blog. Priscilla Caldwell, of Madigan Pratt & Associates, is chapter president.

TowneBank, a Portsmouth-based financial services provider, announced an offering of up to $30 million in convertible preferred stock. The bank will issue 250,000 shares of stock at $100 per share, which will pay an annual dividend of 8 percent and be convertible to 6.667 shares of common stock. Another 50,000 shares will be held in reserve for possible issuance under the same terms. The offering is being made in order to take on new relationships with businesses in Hampton Roads and will allow the addition of $300 million in assets, including $225 million in loans. (The Virginian-Pilot)

Winchester Evening Star Inc., a newspaper company owned by the Byrd family of Winchester, bought the Clarke Times-Courier, a weekly paper based in Berryville, and owned by the Arundel family. The Times-Courier was established in 1856 and was bought by the Arundels in 1981. The desire to transfer the paper to a locally owned family operation led to the deal with the Byrds who own several newspapers in the Shenandoah Valley region, including dailies in Winchester and Harrisonburg. (The Winchester Star)

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