BUSINESS NOTEBOOK: Artificial intelligence, gas prices and Illinois' richest

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 10, 2017 12:01 am

There was an eye-opening seminar a few days ago at John Wood Community College's Workforce Development Center.

The impact of artificial intelligence in the business world was the focal point, specifically the role such technology plays now and what its presence will be in years to come.

Jayger McGough Tomasino, an analytics technical specialist for IBM Watson, was the featured speaker. Tomasino showed the importance of uncovering otherwise hidden patterns and relationships contained in data available on the internet and on social media that can make a huge difference in the bottom line of a business.

"It takes guessing out of the whole process," Tomasino said. "You can discover insights."

Tomasino demonstrated how the proper gathering and analysis of information can assist in:

Prioritizing leads and planning advertising campaigns.

Allocating resources and more effectively predicting performance.

Targeting customer bases and retaining those customers.

For more information, call Gordon Forbes of the Workforce Development Center at 217-641-4929.

Gas prices climb

When the price of gasoline in Quincy rose to $2.64 a gallon as August turned into September, the 30-cent overnight hike provided a jolt to the checkbook, but it matched the average cost nationwide, according to GasBuddy.com.

"Thanks to (Hurricane) Harvey shutting down an extensive amount of refining capacity, the national average gasoline price saw its largest weekly jump since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, when the national average jumped 49 cents in a week," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. "Every state has seen average gas prices rise. Texas saw shortages at hundreds of stations. It's been one of the most challenging weeks faced in years."

Until Texas can recover from Harvey, gasoline prices will likely continue to remain elevated, DeHaan said.

"The situation is beginning to look up, with many refineries either back online or in the process, and gasoline production is ramping back up," he said. "While it may be weeks or longer before all refineries are back online, we now turn our attention to Hurricane Irma" to the east.

For those who find historical data of interest, here's a look at the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Illinois at this time of year for the past five years:

2016: $2.27.

2015: $2.64.

2014: $3.58.

2013: $3.75.

2012: $4.12.

What others are saying

The Naples (Fla.) Daily News: "The Energy Department is cracking open the nation's emergency stockpile of oil reserves for the first time in five years to help ease the impact of Hurricane Harvey on gasoline prices. ... The Energy Department's release of Strategic Petroleum Reserve oil marks the first time it has been tapped since Hurricane Isaac in 2012."

WTOP, Washington, D.C.: "Anyone who has ever bothered to drive out of the way to reach gas pumps with lower prices knows that a gas price can vary widely from state to state, city to city, and even from neighborhood to neighborhood. Gas prices track crude oil prices, but there are many other factors that affect prices at the pump. ‘The biggest factor on retail prices is the wholesale price, and wholesale prices can vary widely,' said Jeff Lenard, vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores. ... A gas retailer's wholesale cost can vary depending on whether the fuel is a name brand or not, the length of the retailer's contract with the supplier, and the volume of fuel the retailer tends to pump. ... Taxes (also) have a big impact on gasoline prices, with taxes varying from state to state. But local taxes, too, including property taxes, can play a role."

MSN.com: "North Korea may very well have the ability to kill millions of Americans without directly firing on U.S. soil. For the first time, the pariah country's state news agency warned it could hit the U.S. with an electromagnetic pulse onslaught, a threat that experts contend is both very real and comes with catastrophic consequences. ‘The biggest danger would be shorting out of the power grid, especially on the East Coast,' Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told Fox News. ‘Imagine a situation where large sections of the U.S. had no power. Imagine New York or Washington, D.C., with no power for just a week. The implications would be hard to fathom. The casualty rates would be off the charts.' According to Kazianis, an EMP delivered by a nuclear weapon would not just fry power grids but also carry the destructive power of an atomic device."

The top five

The five richest people in Illinois, according to celebritynetworth.com:

1. Ken Griffin, 48, entrepreneur, $6.5 billion.

2. Sam Zell, 75, financier, real estate entrepreneur, investor, $4.9 billion.

3-tie. J. Christopher Reyes, 63, beer distributor, $3.9 billion.

3-tie. Jude Reyes, 62, beer distributor, $3.9 billion.

5. J. Robert Pritzker, 52, venture capitalist, $3.4 billion.

Words of wisdom

Bronze medal: "If you don't drive your business, you will be driven out of business." -- B. C. Forbes.

Silver medal: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." -- Thomas A. Edison.

Gold medal: "It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure." -- Bill Gates.