Award ranks hospitals among best

A year ago county business and civic leaders said Gwinnett's nonprofit hospital system needed ways to attract more high-income, well-insured patients.

It was an important strategy given the rise in uninsured patients using Gwinnett Medical Center and Joan Glancy Memorial, along with the construction of for-profit competitor Emory Johns Creek Hospital near Duluth.

This week Gwinnett Health System Inc. received an honor that could generate strong marketing momentum - the 2006 Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence. The designation came from HealthGrades, which rates hospitals across the country.

Being selected means Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville and Joan Glancy Memorial in Duluth demonstrated clinical quality ranking them in the top 5 percent of all U.S. hospitals. Only one other Georgia hospital received the award: St Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta, typically given the best grades in the market.

Among medical professionals, the clinical excellence award is as prestigious as it gets, said David Schmidt, a general surgeon at Gwinnett Medical Center for 16 years.

"It means your clinical work is as good or better than anyone's in the country," Schmidt said.

Single-family construction sees slight decline

Construction permits for single-family homes have declined, but not by much. Gwinnett issued 8,291 permits in 2004, but that number dropped to 8,194 last year.

Unemployment claims

on the rise

Gwinnett's jobless claims increased 22 percent from January a year ago, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

First-time claims for unemployment insurance totaled 2,301 last month versus 1,888 in January 2005. Last month's claims dropped sharply from the 3,258 filed in December. Initial jobless claims are a key economic indicator that gauges the stability of the job marker.

Company fights tough

global markets

AGCO Corp. suffered a $63.8 million fourth-quarter loss, or 71 cents a share, as demand for its farm equipment products remained soft in Western Europe and South America.

The Duluth-based company said it made $50.7 million in net income, or 52 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. For the entire year, AGCO reported a $31.6 million profit, or 36 cents per share, compared to $158.8 million in net income, or $1.71 per share, in 2004.

Martin Richenhagen, AGCO president and chief executive officer, said "the significant decline in industry demand in South America was the principal cause of our operating income shortfall in 2005."

Doug Sams can be reached via e-mail at doug.sams