What’s that car button for? Local dealership adds IT desk for customers

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 2:53 PM

When someone bought a new car in the 1990s, they could take the keys and go. Now as cars become more like computers, Lexus of Dayton says car owners need ongoing help from IT staff so they can understand the advanced software that comes with their new vehicle.

A recent $3.5 million remodel of the Washington Twp. dealership includes an IT work station for car owners to get help from full-time staff who help car owners understand everything from working the navigation system to connecting their phone’s blue tooth to customizing a luxury car’s advance climate control settings.

Dealerships across the state are facing the same changes as car buyers increasingly need ongoing tech support to understand all the software that comes with their new vehicle.

“Twenty years ago, when a consumer went into a dealership, the delivery process was ‘here are the keys, gas on the right, break on the left, have fun.’ Today there’s so much technology in these vehicles … you just can’t cover it all at once,” said Zach Doran, president of the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association.

The dealership’s evolution to needing full-time IT staff reflects how today’s car buyers sometimes need ongoing tech help with their vehicles in the same way they might need help with their laptops or phones.

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“This past week we’ve had guests who picked up a car and they’ve been back five times,” said Colin Frake, technology specialist with Lexus of Dayton.

Doran said some dealerships even host classes for car owners to stop by and learn all the safety and convenience technology in their cars.

For Lexus of Dayton, this region is different than some other Lexus markets. People in the Dayton region who have grown their wealth to the point where they are buying a luxury car are often older than people in other markets and typically less technology adept, officials with the dealership said.

Some high tech features that are popular in other markets — like the ability to have the Lexus access mobile apps like Pandora — are features that Frake said most customers he works with have little interest in.

General Manager Jeff Pizza said since the brand began, its gone from heated seats, to heated and cooled seats, to software that’s a “climate concierge” that once the software is programmed you theoretically never have to think about it again as it reacts to your body temperature and ambient temperature in the vehicle and constantly maintains a comfortable level for you and the seat.

“Now its gone to the next level where in our 2018 LS 500, it will now involve a Shiatsu massage and 28 way adjustable seats, and all of this is controlled by software,” Pizza said.

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Frake said when he’s hiring someone for an IT position he asks them to describe how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he sees how they think and explain a topic what might seem like a simple topic. It takes a specific skill set to walk a customer through an IT problem on their car if they aren’t tech savvy enough to describe the problem technology.

Some might need a tutorial of their cellphone first and then get a walk through how the car’s technology can interact with their phone. Frake said he’s talked with customers who bought cars who don’t have email addresses or just have flip phones that aren’t compatible with all the luxury car’s advanced technology.

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“You’ll have people who obviously aren’t unintelligent, but aren’t generationally familiar with how to describe what their issue is,” said Frake.

As the software has gotten more advance, the paper car manuals have grown to 600 to 800 pages for most of their cars with one manual more than 1,000 pages, though most car buyers don’t want the actual manual and some cars like the LC 500 have animated in-car video tutorials that can play on the dashboard so car owners can access those tutorials when they need it.

“Every time they release a new car I have to go through a process of learning and figuring out what the majority of guests are going to gravitate toward and also pick up other stuff for the one or two who will want to know ‘Oh what does all this do,’” said Frake.

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Put that pen down: Why baby boomers should not co-sign college loans 

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:19 PM

The amount of student loan debt you take on could affect when you're able to retire. Here are ways to reduce the amount you’ll pay for college.

We all know that young people should show respect for their elders. In return, those elders should extend all their resources to the up-and-coming generation. Right?

Not so fast, says the Motley Fool. When it comes to co-signing for college loans, parents and grandparents in the Baby Boom generation (born 1946 to 1964) should just say no.

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A risky move

"Tempting as it may be to co-sign a loan for your grandchildren, doing so exposes seniors to significant risk," Todd Campbell, owner of EBCapitalMarkets, warned on Motley Fool. "Co-signing a student loan means that seniors are equally responsible for making payments when those loans come due, and those payments are going to put a significant dent in retirement income if the kids are unable, or unwilling, to pay."

With Reuters describing millennials as facing the greatest risk among all U.S. age groups for defaulting on their loans in 2017, that danger is real. So is the possibility of a reduced income for baby boomers who've co-signed those loans, Campbell noted. "The average Social Security payment to retirees stands at $1,294 per month, but the average student loan payment on $25,000 worth of borrowing works out to about $242 per month, or almost 20% of the typical retiree's Social Security income," he wrote.

And if older co-signers assume they'll never need to take over payments on the loan, they could get hit hard, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "As a co-signer, you're not merely vouching for someone's ability to repay a loan; you're taking full responsibility to pay back the loan. If the primary student loan borrower stops paying the loan, you're responsible for making the monthly payments."

According to CFPB, in the past decade the number of older student loan borrowers quadrupled and the amount of debt per older borrower approximately doubled. In 2015, nearly 40 percent of federal student loan borrowers age 65 and older were in default.

"It is alarming that older Americans are the fastest growing segment of student loan borrowers," former CFPB Director Richard Cordray stated. "Many of these older Americans are helping to finance their children's or grandchildren's education while living on a fixed income. We are concerned that student loans are contributing to financial insecurity for many older Americans and that student loan servicing problems can add to their distress."

From 2005 to 2015, the number of Americans age 60 or older with one or more student loans quadrupled from about 700,000 to 2.8 million, according to CFPB analysis. And the average debt owed by an older borrower roughly doubled from $12,000 to $23,500. Juggling debts and later-life expenses on fixed incomes can prove difficult and an increased number of physical and cognitive impairments can limit an aging borrower's ability to stay in the work force.

Industry practices for reclaiming student loan payments are another headache, according to CFPB, from harassing phone calls to the co-signer when the loan originator fails to pay to delaying or denying co-signers' ability to enroll in reduced payment plans if their income plummets.

The bottom line: co-signing a college loan when you're in your 50s or 60s is not a good idea. "It's okay for you not to co-sign for the kids," Santa Barbara financial planner Andrew Anable told the 30secondsMom blog. "It sounds harsh, but the kids need to know this can impact your retirement as well as your credit." If you do opt to sign for some part of a college loan for a child or grandchild, keep the total loan amount below half of one year's income, Anable advised.

What to do if you're already stuck paying back loans

If you're an older borrower who has already incurred student loans on a millennial relative's behalf and you find yourself on the hook for repaying them, the CFPB offered these four tips for helping baby boomers navigate common problems with student loans:

  • Exercise your right to apply for a repayment plan based on your income. CFPB noted that it received numerous complaints indicating certain student loan services don't tell borrowers about the option to request lower payments if they've had a drop in income. "The Department of Education offers numerous plans to borrowers with federal student loans, including most Parent PLUS borrowers, that help make payments more affordable, including 'income-driven repayment' (IDR) options that can set your monthly payment based on your income." To start an IDR plan, enroll at StudentLoans.gov or contact your loan servicer about enrolling. 
  • Check into co-signer release options. When you first co-signed the loan, if your lender promised an opportunity for you to be released after reaching a set number of timely payments, see where you stand. For more information, check out the CFPB's consumer advisory on release options.
  • Request access to account information. If you're in the dark as to what's going on with the loan repayment plan, you are allowed to request access to account information even though you're not the primary borrower. Keep in mind that missed payments can have a negative effect on your own credit rating, even if it's a surprise to you
  • Register a complaint if your protected benefits are at risk. "Social Security benefits are protected from offset for delinquent or defaulted private student loans." Don't cave to the harassing collection tactics and threats some loan servicers may try when the primary loan recipient fails to pay. "Your Social Security benefit usually may only be offset to pay back an outstanding debt to the U.S. government, like a federal student loan. Debt collectors may not offset your Social Security benefit in order to repay a private student loan."
In any of the above cases, the CFPB can assist consumers with submitting a complaint and receiving a timely response. 

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Port Authority: Hospital ready to build $28M health center

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 2:11 PM

Dayton Children’s Hospital has been planning a new community health center at Stanley Avenue and Valley Street. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Dayton Children’s Hospital has been planning a new community health center at Stanley Avenue and Valley Street. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Dayton Children’s Hospital is ready to build a long-planned $28 million community health center on a former industrial site, Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority officers said Tuesday.

The independent pediatrics hospital last year proposed to build a 50,000-square-foot medical facility by its main campus, to be called the Center for Community Health and Advocacy.

Late last year, the city of Dayton approved rezoning the former Dayton Electroplate property at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Valley Street to make way for the new center, to be built by Beavercreek-based Synergy & Mills Development.

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In the interim, the hospital asked the Port Authority to take title on the property, hold it and then deed the site back to the hospital at the appropriate time, said Jerry Brunswick, executive director of the Port Authority.

Brunswick believes the hospital may be ready to proceed with the center’s construction, he said.

A message seeking comment was left with a spokeswoman for Dayton Children’s. Another hospital representative declined to immediately comment at length, but said early work at the site has already started.

“We’ve owned it (the property) for purposes of facilitating that process,” Brunswick said. “And now we’re ready to pass title back to” the hospital.

“We’re doing that,” he added.

No action was needed by the Port Authority’s board of trustees to enact the transfer.

The Port Authority was “dragged” into litigation on the site with a former owner, Lexington Ky. developer Garrett Day LLC, but Brad Evers, the authority’s general counsel, said the authority has had very little to do with that lawsuit.

The hospital sued Garrett Day LLC, alleging last year that the developer defrauded the hospital when it didn’t properly clear the site.

Garrett Day principal Michael Heitz had placed a lien on the property for $40,000, claiming he did the site work he agreed to do before turning over the property to the Port Authority.

“They are paying all of our expenses for the litigation,” Evers said of the hospital. “And I think we’ll get out of the litigation now.”

“They’re going to build on it,” he added.

Brunswick said there have been additional environmental reviews at the site. “That now has come to the point where the site is now ready for development.”

Jared Barnett, president and chief executive of Synergy, told the Dayton Plan Board last year that the developers were well aware of the site’s history, which is “something that’s been taken into consideration.”

The land was once home to Dayton Electroplate, but sat vacant for years as an eyesore next to Dayton Children’s Hospital.

“It has been remediated currently to the satisfaction of all parties involved,” Brunswick said.

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Bon-Ton store closing sales start this week

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 7:16 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 12:35 PM

Elder-Beerman warehouse in Fairborn could close, company says

Bon-Ton Stores Inc., parent company of Elder-Beerman, is starting going-out-of-business sales at some of its store this week.

The retailer said that store closing sales are underway at 42 select locations. The closings are part of the company’s previously announced “store rationalization” program. The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Click here for the full list of store closures

The in-store sales will take place at Bon-Ton branded stores including Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s, and Younkers. More store locations are expected to close in addition to the 42 locations previously announced.

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Only one store in Ohio will shut down. Elder-Beerman at the Northtowne Mall in Defiance was named as one of the impacted stores. No Elder-Beerman stores in the Dayton region are impacted by this round of store closures. The stores are expected to close in early 2018.

Bon-Ton has a major presence in the Dayton region. Along with its distribution center in Fairborn, there are Elder-Beerman stores across the region in Dayton, Huber Heights, Kettering, Piqua and Beavercreek. Bon-Ton closed a store location at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville, Ohio in late March.

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Bon-Ton could also reduce the number of distribution centers from three to two, shutting down its facility in Fairborn.

The Elder-Beerman store in Towne Mall Galleria in Middletown, which is in Warren County, also closed earlier this year. The closing impacted 65 employees.

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Meet J.D. Whitlock, Dayton Children’s new executive

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 10:22 AM

J.D. Whitlock joins Dayton Children’s as the new chief information officer. CONTRIBUTED
J.D. Whitlock joins Dayton Children’s as the new chief information officer. CONTRIBUTED

A new face has joined the Dayton Children’s Hospital leadership team.

J.D. Whitlock is the pediatrics hospital’s new chief information officer.

“Most often, the parents of our patients are millennials and they have high expectations for customer service,” Whitlock said in a statement. “They are tech savvy and want to take advantage of new automation and communication technologies. That’s an IT guy’s wheelhouse.”

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Whitlock retired from the Air Force and moved back to the Dayton area after previously having been stationed at Wright-Patt. During his career, he managed system operations at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, held various roles in health care informatics at the U.S. Air Force Medical Service headquarters in Falls Creek, Va., and most recently served as the vice president of enterprise intelligence at Mercy Health.

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“I started out in health care with a public health degree so I am passionate about improving the health status of all children, not just those in the hospital,” Whitlock stated. “I want to help build up Dayton Children’s Health Partners – a collaboration between Dayton Children’s and community pediatricians – in order to keep our kids out of the hospital and emergency department to the extent possible. This requires a whole new level of partnership between doctors, the hospital, and insurance companies, and this partnership requires a whole new level of IT support.”

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