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Kmart closes Athens store for final time

ATHENS, Ga. - The Kmart store in Athens along Barnett Shoals Road closed for the final time Sunday.

The store was among a list of 120 stores nationally that Kmart's parent, Sears Holdings, said late last year they would be shuttering nationwide. Locations in Douglasville, Jonesboro and on Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta have already closed.

RELATED | 4 Metro Atlanta locations among Kmart stores to close

Employees in the store were offered the opportunity to apply for positions at other Kmart stores.

Kmart stores in Marietta, Covington, Canton, Mableton, Snellville, Hiram, Peachtree City, Cartersville, Carrollton and Rome remain open.

UGA No. 14 in football spending, Tech No. 47

ATLANTA -- Another season of college football kicks off Thursday night with teams vying to wrestle the national title away from the state of Alabama and the Southeastern Conference.

According to an analysis of Equality in Athletics data from the U.S. Department of Education, competing at the highest level of football comes at a steep price.

Auburn University, the biggest spender in Division 1-A college football in 2010, racked up $39 million in expenses on its way to a Division 1-A best 14 wins and a 2010 BCS national title. Like a Cam Newton fourth-quarter rally, Auburn went from the fourth biggest spender in 2009 to the top spending spot in 2010 and from an 8-5 record in 2009 to a perfect 14-0 in 2010.

Zaxby's named 5th largest 'fast casual' chain in U.S.

WATKINSVILLE, Ga. - Oconee County-based Zaxby's has been recognized as the number five "fast casual" restaurant chain in the nation in the new Fast Casual Top 150 Chain Restaurant Report, which lists the performance of 400 brands nationally.

"Fast-casual operators continue to outshine every other segment within the U.S. restaurant industry," said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic, the organization who created the report. "Fast-casual restaurants fill the gap between quick service and casual dining. People want fast, fresh, quality meals at a fair price point. This segment seems to hit that sweet spot right now."

In addition to being among the top chains in the U.S., Zaxby's is the market segment leader among chicken restaurants, with reported 2011 sales of $840 million, distinguishing it alongside other segment leaders like Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Kenny Rogers' retreat going to highest bidder

NICHOLSON, Ga. -- For the right price, you can live like a celebrity right here in metro Atlanta.

Grammy Award-winner Kenny Rogers' luxury estate will hit the auction block on June 26. 

The artist and entertainer used to escape the hustle and bustle of the city at his 5,600-square-foot Polynesian-inspired home in Nicholson, outside Athens.

Dept. of Labor launches system to improve unemployment insurance

Dept. of Labor launches system to improve unemployment insurance

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Department of Labor recently rolled out a new electronic system designed to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the state's unemployment insurance program.

Georgia is one of 10 states to adopt the State Information Data Exchange (SIDES) E-response. It allows employers to respond promptly to the Department of Labor when a former worker files an unemployment claim, according to state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

"This new online capability is part of our continuing effort to make the Georgia Department of Labor more user-friendly and technologically up-to-date," Butler said in a statement. "This will significantly speed communications between the labor department and employers. At the same time, it will help prevent some overpayments to people who might not be eligible for benefits, saving us from having to go back and try to collect money from ineligible applicants."

ATHENS | Caterpillar could break ground on new plant within weeks

ATHENS | Caterpillar could break ground on new plant within weeks

ATHENS, Ga. -- Caterpillar could break ground on its new Georgia plant within the next two weeks as more details emerge about the project's timeline.

RELATED | Caterpillar to hire 1,400 people for new plant

Land planner Jon Williams says he submitted plans for the $200 million facility Friday afternoon, just hours after the Peoria, Ill.-based firm announced they would build it near Athens.

Williams says the Athens-Clarke and Oconee County governments are expected to approve the plans by March 5, and Caterpillar could start clearing the land as soon as the following day.

Caterpillar has said that initial production at the plant is expected to begin in late 2013. Officials say they plan to ramp up to full production over a five-year period.

Caterpillar plant latest in string of wins for Ga.

ATLANTA -- The $200 million Caterpillar manufacturing plant set to open in northeast Georgia next year is the latest in a string of economic development victories for Georgia officials.

RELATED | Caterpillar to hire 1,400 people for new plant

The Illinois-based heavy equipment maker's announcement on Friday is the latest sign Georgia is trying to position itself to compete amid a U.S. manufacturing resurgence.

Chris Cummiskey, the commissioner of the Department of Economic
Development, said Georgia has boosted its effort to attract manufacturers since KIA Motors opened its plant in West Point two years ago.

He says "our pipelines are as full as they've ever been."