Textbooks instruct, but they must also dazzle, represent the ethnicity of the students who tote them, please school boards and legislators — and offend no one. The textbook business is tough, rivaling drug discovery in the amount of time and money that must be spent just to gain a shot at the market.
“A publisher can spend two or three years and millions of dollars preparing a textbook series, and then a state can decide to go with another publisher,” says Marcel Chouteau, president of Route 206-based start-up Brunswick Publishing Resources. He explains that states hold “beauty contests” at which several rival publishers present complete textbook packages. It’s “a big box,” he says. Elements include not only the books the children will use, but also teacher’s manuals, and five or six hefty customized ancillary items, including enrichment materials, tests, and guides. The decision makers then choose just one publisher’s product.
Chouteau and Brunswick’s co-founder, Fiona Shapiro, worked for McGraw Hill, one of the biggest players in the textbook publishing business, until that company closed its in-house textbook development department one year ago, laying off 40 employees. “People were talking about freelancing, about continuing to do the same work,” says Chouteau. “Many of them had 25 years experience in developing textbooks. We decided to see if we could pull some of them together and start a company.”
Why did McGraw Hill decide to close the division down?
Chouteau answers the question with a question: “Why did they buy it in the first place?”
In 2001 McGraw Hill purchased Princeton Junction-based Visual Education Corporation, or VisEd, as it was more commonly called. The company had been founded by Dick Lidz and Bill West in 1969. The principals retired, says Chouteau, and McGraw Hill ran the company from its Princeton Junction offices for a few years, and then moved it over to its own offices in Hightstown.
Chouteau says that he guesses McGraw Hill made the purchase simply because it was flush at the time. Doing textbook development in-house is not necessarily cost effective. “Between projects you just sit around,” says Chouteau. “Even at VisEd, there were lots of times when everybody was just sitting around.”
The project-based nature of the work makes it a natural for outsourcing, and capturing some of that work is Brunswick’s mission. The company, using about 12 former VisEd/McGraw Hill employees, is making progress toward that goal as a sub-contractor. It turns out that a good amount of textbook development work is double, or even triple, outsourced. The giant publishing houses often give the work to large contractors, including GGS Book Services (www.ggs-books.com). The contractor then calls in calls in small companies like Brunswick, which has worked with GGS on projects for Harcourt School Publishers, McGraw Hill, and Scott Foresman. Brunswick, in turn, taps into its own network of freelancers, people who have expertise in outlining, researching, writing, editing, fact-checking, or state customization.
Chouteau, a native of New Hope and a graduate of New York University (Class of 1985), says that he would be “happy to work for GGS forever.” He is now able to fill about 50 percent of the time of the freelancers in his network, and says that he hopes to up that figure to 100 percent before too long. But, at least for now, Brunswick has no thoughts of taking on textbook development projects by itself. The new company, says Chouteau, is happy to work on projects for GGS and other contractors. The business of turning out a textbook series has become far too big, and far too complicated, for a small company.
“You need 40 to 50 people,” says Chouteau. “You need to be the size of VisEd.”
Textbook publishing was always big business, and it has been given a huge boost in the years since President George W. Bush proclaimed his no child left behind policy. “You can say bad things about no child left behind, and you can say good things,” says Chouteau, “but it has been great for the textbook publishing business.” States, strongly encouraged to develop measures of success for a range of academic skills, need textbooks that teach to their own particular tests of these skills.
“The states have standards,” says Chouteau. “They want their own books, which meet their standards, and they want those standards spelled out in the books.” So, instead of turning out a one-size-fits-all text for, say, fifth grade science, publishers develop a book specifically designed for California’s fifth grade science curriculum or for New York’s fifth grade science curriculum.
Beyond preparing students for their states’ standardized tests, these texts customize learning to include a particular state’s resources and attractions. “For Maryland,” Chouteau gives as an example, “there’s a section on the National Aquarium.”
Customization is big, but so is conformity. No matter whether it is rich or poor, red or blue, no state will risk offending any of its constituents, says Chouteau. In science texts for grade schoolers, for example, there is no mention of either evolution or of creationism. Not even in the Northeast, not even in the states that voted for Kerry, or for McGovern before him. “You can’t say either ‘evolve’ or ‘create’ about a species,” says Chouteau. “You can’t say ‘the bird’s beak evolved to catch worms.’ You have to dance around it. No state wants to deal with it. You’ve got to make everyone happy, and offend no one.”
Neither can you refer to the individual who puts out fires as a fireman. “It has to be fire fighter,” says Chouteau. “The textbooks have to be PC from top to bottom. The editors know what they can and can’t say. We’ve all gotten very good at it.”
Political correctness extends beyond words to pictures. “The children in the pictures have to mirror the ethnic make-up of the state,” Chouteau says. “They have to be counted and tracked.” But sometimes the pictures don’t quite tell all. “You have to go the extra mile so show minorities,” he says. Caucasians generally don’t mind being under represented, but no state wants to take a chance on under representing one of its minority groups. (Presumably a strategy for dealing with Caucasions when they are no longer a majority has not yet been worked out.)
Textbooks are meant for children, but developing them is a dead serious adult preoccupation. Chouteau says that all of the big textbook publishers have representatives charged with finding out exactly what boards of education and state legislators around the country want to see in their textbooks. There is a constant back and forth as textbook proposals are prepared, and writers have to be prepared to make last minute changes.
They also must be skilled in writing about the same subject in many different ways. “Maryland may teach magnetism in the third grade, and Virginia may teach it in the fourth grade,” Chouteau gives as an example. “They have to rewrite it for each grade. Everything is different — the length of the sentence, the words you use, the type size.”
Chouteau and Shapiro, a native of Ireland and a graduate of Rutgers University (Class of 1996), are both textbook producers. Their specialty involves bringing together all of the elements that go into a textbook. They coordinate the writers and the editors, the photographers and the people who choose stock photos. They are responsible for seeking approvals at each stage, overseeing revisions, and going back for final approvals.
Chouteau, the son of Azby Chouteau, the founder of the Institute of Children’s Literature, the correspondence school that teaches people to write children’s books, lives with his wife, Lisa, a television producer for Caucus New Jersey, and their five-year-old son, Henry, in New Hope. Shapiro lives in South Brunswick with her husband and son.
Textbooks are evolving — or being created — in a way that Chouteau and Shapiro’s grammar school selves would hardly recognize. “It’s not chapter, review, chapter, review anymore,” says Chouteau. “There are all kinds of splashy activities. They look like magazines.”
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Brunswick Publishing Resources, 1330 Route 206, Skillman 08558; 609-252-1360; fax, 609-252-1362. Marcel Chouteau, President. Home page: www.brunspub.com.
Nuke for NRG?
NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), 211 Carnegie Center, Princeton 08540-6213; 609-524-4500; fax, 609-524-4501. David Crane, president and CEO. Home page: www.nrgenergy.com.
NRG’s application to build two nuclear power plants in Texas has been accepted for review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This is the first time in 29 years that such an application has been accepted.
In a prepared statement on November 30, NRG said that the acceptance review confirms that the application is technically complete and sufficiently addresses all necessary subject areas. But there is still a long way to go before final approvals are granted.
The energy company, which has its headquarters in Carnegie Center, must begin a comprehensive and detailed review process that includes requests for additional information, site visits, company responses, public hearings, NRC environmental impact statements, and NRC safety evaluation reports. Based on this schedule, NRG says that it “would anticipate receiving its license approval in time to begin construction in 2010.” The two units could then be online in 2014 and 2015.
David Crane, NRG’s president and CEO, has become something of an evangelist for nuclear power, describing it as the antidote to global warming.
NRG Energy owns and operates a diverse portfolio of power-generating facilities, primarily in Texas and the Northeast, South Central and West regions of the United States, and also in Australia, Germany, and Brazil.
At Princeton BMW
Princeton BMW, 3466 Route 1 North, Princeton 08540; 609-452-9400; fax, 609-452-7103. Michael Kearney, president of Crown Automotive. Home page: www.princetonbmw.com.
Denise Wood has sold Princeton BMW/MINI to the Crown Automotive Group, one of the largest dealership groups in the East, and a division of Asbury Automotive Group. Crown said in a prepared statement that it plans to break ground on a new sales and service facility for the dealership in 2008.
Princeton BMW/MINI generates annual revenues of approximately $100 million and represents Crown’s first acquisition in New Jersey.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Crown, headed by Michael Keaney, was founded in 1972 in Greensboro, North Carolina. It now operates 19 dealerships and represents 12 different manufacturers in four states.
Schatzman Baker, 731 Alexander Road, Suite 201, Box 2329, Princeton 08543-2329; 609-924-1199; fax, 609-683-5251. G. Christopher Baker, managing director.
With the retirement of John F. McCarthy Jr., McCarthy and Schatzman, founded by John F. McCarthy Sr. in 1927, has changed its name to Schatzman Baker.
John F. McCarthy Jr. joined the firm in 1948 and Richard Schatzman followed in 1967. Its main office was located on Charlton Street from 1927 to 1985. Former Governor William T. Cahill was a member of the firm from 1974 to 1978. John P. Sheridan Jr., former commissioner of the Department of Transportation, was with McCarthy and Schatzman from 1974 until he became Commissioner in 1981.
McCarthy and Schatzman moved to 228 Alexander Street in 1985, and then to 731 Alexander Road in 2000.
New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners, 186 Princeton-Hightstown Road, Building 4B, West Windsor 08550; 609-799-5101; fax, 609-799-5141. Paula Gould, director of administration. Home page: www.njawbo.org.
NJAWBO’s Women’s Center, the organization’s education and counseling arm, recently received an offer that it could not refuse — free rent. So the center, headed by Penni Nafus, moved from Hamilton to an office at Peapack-Gladstone Bank, which is located at 311 Main Street in Chatham (973-507-9700), and NJAWBO moved its administrative office to Princeton- Hightstown Road.
“With the Women’s Center gone, we needed less space,” says Paula Gould, NJAWBO’s executive director. “In fact,” she adds, “we had a lot of space, more than we needed, but the price was right six years ago when we signed the lease.”
The lease was up in October, and NJAWBO decided to look for a smaller space. The organization knew that affordable space would not be easy to find. “Everything is $20 a square foot, or more, plus utilities,” says Gould. But NJAWBO, with lots of help from Hilton Realty, not only found affordable space, but found space that works perfectly.
Gould credits Jon Brush and Mark Hill with making the move possible. “They got right to work,” she says, “and offered us two options.” The offices at Windsor Business Park were nearly perfect, but were still too big, so Hilton reconfigured them, “at no cost.”
Happily settled in 1,400 square feet, Gould remarks on what a difference a space can make. “Our old offices were long and narrow,” she says. “Everyone was in cubicles, and the walls were paper thin.” The offices were short on privacy on the one hand, and too spread out on the other. “We had to get up and walk just to talk to anyone,” she says.
Now everyone has a private space with real walls, but at the same time, everyone is close enough to call out to solicit advice. It’s a congenial arrangement, and one that is conducive to collaboration.
The new offices also include a comfortable conference room. Among other things, it will serve as a second space for the Women’s Center. So while the Women’s Center’s offices are now in the northern part of the state, it can still offer one-on-one counseling for new entrepreneurs in a location that is convenient for central New Jersey residents, and not an impossible drive from southern counties.
A Touch of Ivy, 743 Alexander Road, Suite 5, Princeton 08540; 609-987-0001; fax, 609-987-0021. Ivy Weitzman, owner.
A Touch of Ivy, a wholesale fabric company with a specialty in sachets, has moved from 51 Everett Drive to 743 Alexander Road. Founded by Ivy Weitzman, the seven-person company is 23 years old.
The sachets, some in the shape of exquisitely detailed miniature chairs, range in price from about $9.50 for strappy sandal to $68 for a wedding chair or a bride.
Weitzman and her sachets have been featured in national publications, including InStyle and Oprah’s “O” list.
Joint Venture For
Data Search FIrms
Signature Information Solutions, 300 Phillips Boulevard, Suite 400, Box 8488, Ewing 08618-0488; 609-538-1000; fax, 609-883-0677. Stephen Phillips, president. Home page: www.signatureinfo.com.
Charles Jones LLC, which searches and retrieves information from public documents, has entered into a joint venture with Data Trace, a company doing similar work. Data Trace left its offices at 11 Princess Road, and moved into Charles Jones’ Ewing offices. The combined company has been renamed Signature Information Solutions.
A Signature spokesperson says that most of Data Trace’s employees, about 40 people, are working for the newly-formed company. Joe O’Gorman, who had been in charge of the Data Trace office, has joined Signature, where his title is judgment search operations manager.
The company does many kinds of information searches. A spokesperson says that examples include works for attorneys, who routinely need to run child support searches on clients who are about to receive money, and for mortgage companies searching for judgments, clouds on property titles, and flood plain status prior to closing on loans.
Charles Jones was founded in 1911. The company was run by the family of Charles Jones until about two years ago, at which time it was acquired by ChoicePoint, which is based in Alpharetta, Georgia. Signature has 100 employees at its Phillips Boulevard location and 100 more employees at an office in West Orange.
ChoicePoint (NYSE: CPS) is a 5,500-person company. Founded in 1997, it has offices in 60 locations. It also has a fascinating website, www.choicepoint.com. ChoicePoint does more types of searches than does Signature Information Solutions. These include Adam Searches for missing children, and searches for “blocked” persons as defined by the Patriot’s Act.
Reflecting a sensitivity about how information is being used, the website includes a “Top Myths about ChoicePoint” section. They include “ChoicePoint maintains a dossier on every adult American” and “ChoicePoint conspired to elect George W. Bush in 2000.”
ChoicePoint does provide employers with reports on potential hires, but only with signed acknowledgement from the candidate that such a report is being requested, and anyone on whom it has provided a report can obtain a copy through the website. The same is true for people on whom ChoicePoint has delivered “loss reports,” documenting a history of insurance claims.
ChoicePoint is also a one-stop shopping site for vital records. Anyone who has not yet gotten a New Jersey digital driver’s license might like to know that the company will retrieve and ship certified copies of birth, marriage, and divorce certificates.
Fees for this service vary. The charge for obtaining a marriage certificate from Indian Lake, New York, a hamlet in the Adirondacks, is $54. That’s more than it costs to call the town clerk, but the transaction can be conducted at any hour of the day or night with a few simple computer clicks.
University Expands To Carnegie Center
Princeton University, 1 Nassau Hall, Princeton 08544; 609-258-3000; fax, 609-258-1294. Shirley M. Tilghman, president. Home page: www.princeton.edu.
Princeton University’s office of information technology will move to Carnegie Center West on Route 1 South by August 2009 when it leases a four-story building that will be constructed there next summer.
The building will be built just south of the Princeton Overlook office development. Owned by Boston Properties, Carnegie Center West won approval for office construction nearly 30 years ago, so the 71-acre lot slated for the university’s building has nearly all of its approvals in place.
The original plans for the site called for an L-shaped building. The new proposal calls for a 112,000-square-foot, four-story rectangular building that will be positioned between Route 1 and Canal Pointe Boulevard. The change needs to be approved by West Windsor.
A concern raised by that municipality is that the university, as a non-profit, would not have to pay property taxes on the building. The township is seeking an agreement under which it would collect some form of payment in lieu of taxes.
Lawsuit Filed In
Credit Card Dispute
Heartland Payment Systems (HPY), 90 Nassau Street, Second Floor, Princeton 08542; 888-798-3131; fax, 609-683-3815. Robert Carr, CEO. www.heartlandpaymentsystems.com.
Payment processing company Heartland Payment Systems has filed an antitrust lawsuit against three companies, claiming the businesses caused higher card processing costs for restaurants and tried to block competition.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey seeks a permanent injunction against alleged unlawful tying arrangements between Micros Systems Inc. and Merchant Link LLC. The lawsuit alleges the tying arrangement forces independent competitors to pay for the use of Merchant Link’s gateway to process credit and debit card payments on the Micros platform.
The complaint claims Micros and its dealers do not disclose all the costs associated with Merchant Link to restaurateurs. Heartland chief executive Robert Carr said in a prepared statement that the arrangement makes it nearly impossible for many restaurant owners to use another card processor.
Chase Paymentech, owner of Merchant Link, is also named in the lawsuit. The complaint claims Chase Paymentech uses its Merchant Link ownership to raise processing costs for all restaurants using Micros software. The lawsuit also alleges the tying arrangement allows Chase Paymentech to collect revenue from every card transaction on the Micros system even if the transactions were processed by a competitor.
New in Town
American Pioneer Electronics, 101 Interchange Plaza, Suite 106, Cranbury 08512; 609-860-0000; fax, 609-860-9090.
American Pioneer Electronics, a 17 year old electronic component distributor specializing in semiconductors, passive and interconnect components, has opened an office at Interchange Plaza in Cranbury.
The company stocks and sells a wide range of electronic components, including integrated circuits, transistors, diodes, optoelectronics, connectors, switches, relays, resistors, and capacitors. It also stocks obsolete components.
American Pioneer’s customer base includes companies in the telecommunications, networking, consumer electronics, industrial and instrumentation electronics, automotive, medical, and computer industries.
Stan Kephart, on December 2. An artist and an illustrator and a Princeton resident since 1965, he was U.S. 1 Newspaper’s longtime cover designer (see page 2).
Kay Krites Swaim, 68, on November 30. She was a real estate agent with Prudential Fox & Roach.
Thomas Cahill, 42, on November 28. He was a lineman with PSE&G.
John R. Willis, 69, on November 25. An expert in West African history and Islamic law, he recently retired from Princeton University, where he had taught for 35 years.
Bytech Inc., 51 Everett Drive, Suite B-10, West Windsor; 609-799-5366; fax, 609-799-5344. Home page: www.bytechinc.com.
Bytech Inc. has opened a sales office on Everett Drive. The company, which is based in Taipei City in Taiwan, sells power supplies, small displays, and other items for use at trade shows.
Betsy Ryan was just named to replace Gary Carter as president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Hospital Association; she will assume her new position at the end of June. In the meantime, she says, “I get to have one of best hospital executives in the nation show me the ropes.”
Ryan, who has been with the Alexander Road association since 2000, has always had a healthy interest in the political process and public policy, but she had her mind set on becoming a lawyer as early as her freshman year at Rutgers University’s Cook College. After graduating with a degree in political science in 1982, she went straight to Seton Hall School of Law, followed by a clerkship with a Mercer County judge and two years in private practice with a small Mount Holly firm.
In the late 1980s she stepped over into the policy realm, taking a job with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, which regulates money issues concerning New Jersey candidates for public office.
Next she joined Governor Jim Florio as his assistant counsel, focusing on health-care policy and legislation, and for the last two years of his term, she became chief of staff at the Department of Health. Over the next decade or so, Ryan served in a number of positions where she honed her skills in healthcare: senior vice president for corporate policy for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation; regional representative of the American Hospital Association for New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania; and a joint appointment for the American Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association of New York State.
In 2000 she moved to the New Jersey Hospital Association, where she has moved up the ranks from general counsel to chief operating officer.
Ryan names the two top issues facing New Jersey hospitals today as insufficient reimbursement and patient safety and quality improvement.
Insufficient reimbursement of hospitals, in particular by government payers but also by some commercial ones, is destroying hospitals’ viability. “In New Jersey one of the big payers for the disadvantaged is Medicaid, and the reimbursement rate is woefully inadequate,” says Ryan, explaining that Medicaid covers only 69 percent of inpatient costs. Medicare is a little better, but still does not cover costs. As a result, New Jersey has had five hospital bankruptcies in the past several months and several hospital closures.
The hospitals’ hands are tied. Under New Jersey law, they are required to treat anybody, regardless of their ability to pay, not just in emergency rooms but in all settings. “If anyone presents, we must provide soup to nuts care, including surgery and treatment in outpatient clinics,” says Ryan. “It is laudable but we are woefully underpaid to provide care.”
According to a New Jersey Hospital Association press release, the state’s hospitals provided roughly $1.6 billion in charity care services to needy New Jerseyans in 2006,.and the state budget for 2008 allocates only $716 million to reimburse hospitals for this care.
Another critical area for healthcare, where both the public and policy makers are now focused, is patient safety. To deal with safety issues, the New Jersey Hospital Association has established what it calls “collaboratives,” which bring together experienced personnel from different hospitals. One success was reducing the incidence of bedsores, or pressure ulcers, by 70 percent in the nursing homes and hospitals that participated. Once acquired, these sores are difficult to get rid of, painful, and subject to infection.
The participants in this collaborative first agreed on best practices, which were not always being followed. “It wasn’t routine to immediately do an assessment of the skin of all patients of a certain age in certain clinical categories and to always insure the patient is moved a certain amount of times,” says Ryan.
The model developed by the collaborative has gotten national attention; it has been recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and speakers from the New Jersey Hospital Association have been invited to other states and even to Europe to discuss its efforts. Other collaboratives are working to reduce the incidence of infections related to catheters and central lines.
Another area of focus is MRSA infections. The association, for example, strongly supported a bill recently signed into law that requires reporting of infections in four disease categories, which will make reporting more uniform across the state. Another bill, passed by the New Jersey legislature in August, requires all patients in intensive-care units to be tested for MRSA. Of course, the top way to prevent MRSA infections is to have both professionals and patients wash their hands. “We’re doing everything we can,” says Ryan. “Don’t forget that the incidence of MRSA has gone down in New Jersey despite everything you are reading. We’re on top of it.”
Both individual hospitals and the state government are now working to bridge the gap between the high costs for patient care and the low level of reimbursement.
“Hospitals are doing all they can to try to improve themselves,” says Ryan, “to market themselves to patients who can pay.” As a result, they are having to make capital expenditures to stay current with available technology, in order to attract the paying patients who will help keep their doors open.
To advise the state about the health-care system, Governor Corzine created the Commission on Rationalizing Health Care Resources, headed by Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University. Its interim report, released at the end of June, analyzes the financial condition of the state’s acute-care hospitals and outlines a method for determining which hospitals are essential. The final report, due this December, will address access and equity for the medically underserved, among other issues.
Although competition may be generally good for hospitals, Ryan is concerned — with 18 hospital closures in the last 10 years — that it is no longer a matter of the herd being thinned. “I’m worried that we’re getting beyond the thinning stage,” she says.
New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA), 760 Alexander Road, Box 1, Princeton 08543-0001; 609-275-4000; fax, 609-452-8097. Gary S. Carter, president & CEO. Home page: www.njha.com.