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The Lighter Side of Business

August 11, 1998

STATE FAIR TIME: State, county and regional fairs draw millions of visitors _ both rural and urban _ because they provide Americans with a different kind of tourist destination, according to researchers at the University of Illinois and Hampshire College. Carla Corbin, a landscape architecture professor at the University of Illinois, says fairs and fair attendance are growing, perhaps because the fairs can offer families unexpected and unplanned experiences _ the opposite of theme parks, which are highly controlled and programmed. She noted that at a fair, while visitors are walking around the agricultural exhibits, it’s possible for them to see calves and other animals being born.

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HAVE HIGH-TECH GIZMO, WILL TRAVEL: The laptop computer has become a piece of standard operating equipment for business travelers. An American Express online survey of 546 business travelers who are also online users found that 65 percent always or almost always use a laptop on overnight business trips. The laptops are used for keeping in touch as well as getting work done _ many respondents reported they access e-mail and they log into the Internet while they’re on a trip. Cellular phones are not quite as popular _ one-quarter of the respondents said they always or almost always have a cell phone with them on the road.

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THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR THAT NEW-CAR SMELL: Web sites that sell cars and trucks are doing well, but they’re not about to put the nation’s auto dealers out of business, according to industry analyst Chris Cedergren, writing in Ward’s Dealer Business, a trade magazine. Cedergren says customers _ even those who buy online _ want to ``experience″ a vehicle close-up. That means test driving it, looking at paint and upholstery choices and looking at the different combinations of options and features. ``Cyberspace will never be able to replace seeing a showroom vehicle up close and personal,″ Cedergren says.

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KEEPING EMPLOYEES: The tight labor market is putting pressure on employers to keep valued workers. George Paajanen, a vice president at the consulting firm Personnel Decisions International, says companies should start out by being sure they hire the right people for the job. ``Choose people with characteristics that point to productive behavior,″ he says. Employers should also give their workers a supportive environment, and remove obstacles such as a management structure that stifles creativity. Employees should also get the necessary job training and skill enhancements they need.

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