JPMorgan Chase & Co.
is pitting 100 small U.S. nonprofit groups against one another in a
The winner gets $1 million, from the bank's charitable foundation, after a second round of Facebook voting next month.
JPMorgan named the 100 groups chosen in the first round yesterday. Each gets $25,000 and a chance at the big prize. Some will get runner-up grants, said Paul Hardwick, spokesman at the company's Wilmington-based credit card arm.
Local groups that won Round One include NephCure Foundation, of Berwyn, which fights kidney disease; Andrew McDonough B+ Positive Foundation, of Wilmington (childhood cancer); and Feel Your Boobies Foundation, Middletown, Pa. (breast cancer).
"We made a serious effort to mobilize our Facebook 'friends' and encourage them to vote. We sent out e-mails and posted messages on Facebook and Twitter," NephCure spokesman Greg Wiley told me.
Just two of the 100 first-round winners had gotten money from the bank before. The bank has been looking for ways to spread its giving beyond traditional targets, at the same time it is selling its credit cards to higher-income borrowers, after the government made it harder to lend to people with damaged credit.
Ritz Camera Centers Inc.
once boasted 800 stores, but that was before the chain, founded in Atlantic City in 1918, declared bankruptcy last year, after a badly timed expansion.
David Ritz promised to keep at least 164 stores open when he and his backers brought his family company out of bankruptcy with help from SSG Capital Advisors L.P., of West Conshohocken, in July.
It is now up to 300, and "We're looking to reopen" more in the next few years, says Stephen LaMastra, the new chief executive of what's now called Ritz & Wolf Camera & Image (local stores are still "Ritz Camera").
Two deals helped this happen: a $25 million line of credit from PNC Bank's Philadelphia business-loan group, arranged by PNC's Dan Stella and serviced by Susanna Siskind, and an arrangement to handle Verizon phones through Ritz stores.
But isn't Verizon the competition? LaMastra says he's positioned Beltsville, Md., Ritz - and its new Web site, RitzPix.com - to be the place you go to turn those phone-camera snaps into blown-up framed portraits, books, archives. Stuff you still can't make at home.
Verizon had been pushing for a partnership for years, Armen Dermarderosian, director of strategic alliances for Verizon, in Basking Ridge, N.J., told me.
Verizon also has "agency relationships" with Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy. The Wal-Mart deal, in particular, took years to negotiate because of concerns about specialized customer service. But Ritz, he says, is an immediate fit.
"I grew up with Ritz. They got themselves into some challenges based on not changing as quickly as they needed to," Dermarderosian explained. "We have a high confidence level that their leadership understands that many of the cameras in our phones rival what you get from a midlevel digital camera."
The problem was getting Ritz to see it that way. Dermarderosian says he approached the new management after reading my column about Ritz emerging from bankruptcy last July. "We don't partner with everybody."
Building cleaners at Wilmington's big credit card banks have approved what their unions says is their first labor contract in recent memory, in an acclamation vote Tuesday at a Wilmington church.
About 800 workers for ABM Industries Inc. and at least four other contractors who maintain office complexes for Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., PNC Bank, and ING Direct, among others, are covered by the contract, which sets a minimum wage of $8 an hour, increasing to $9.25 at the end of two years, and includes health benefits for full-time workers, SEIU Local BJ32 spokesman Eugenio Villasante told me.
Workers at nonunion contractors that clean two Wilmington-based companies, DuPont Co. and Wilmington Trust Co., aren't covered. ABM spokesman Tony Mitchell said the company didn't comment on contract terms.