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VOL. 5 | NO. 52 | Saturday, December 22, 2012

Daily Digest

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Pinnacle, Pilots Association Reach Tentative Agreement

Pinnacle Airlines Inc. has reached a tentative labor contract agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association as part of the ongoing bankruptcy reorganization of its parent company, Pinnacle Airlines Corp.

Word of the agreement, still to be ratified by the union came Monday, Dec. 17.

That announcement came just hours after the Memphis-based regional air carrier and Delta Air Lines announced an extension of the deadline for a final order approving Pinnacle’s bankruptcy settlement in federal bankruptcy court including new contract agreements with Pinnacle employees.

The previous deadline was Dec. 13.

Delta, which is Pinnacle’s major customer post-bankruptcy, agreed with Pinnacle executives to extend the date to Jan. 17.

The union pilots are scheduled to vote on the new contract in January.

Pinnacle filed for bankruptcy reorganization in April.

The airline’s original reorganization plan was scrapped after Delta reached a new contract with the Air Line Pilots Association in June that allowed Delta to drop flights using smaller 50-seat jets sooner than expected.

Those smaller jets make up a sizeable part of Pinnacle’s fleet. As a result, Pinnacle went back to its employee groups seeking further wage and benefit concessions.

Sandy Hook Lives to Be Remembered

The 26 children and adults who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut will be remembered locally Friday, Dec. 21, with several ceremonies.

One bell of Idlewild Presbyterian Church’s carillon in Midtown, 1750 Union Ave., will ring 26 times at 9:30 a.m. for each of the lives lost.

Shelby County government employees will observe a moment of silence Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. And Forest Hill Funeral Home, 2440 Whitten Road, will hold a remembrance service Friday evening at 5:30. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell will attend.

Also, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is asking places of worship in that state to ring their bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m. Friday. He has declared Friday a day of mourning in Arkansas for the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has issued a proclamation calling for a statewide moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. Friday. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy has asked governors across the nation to make similar proclamations.

Brent Leatherwood Named Director of State GOP

Brent Leatherwood, the spokesman for the state House Republican Caucus, has been named executive director of the state GOP.

Leatherwood succeeds Adam Nickas, who left to run the Tennessee office of the Jackson, Miss.-based lobbying firm Capitol Resources.

Leatherwood, of Chattanooga, is a former congressional staffer and has worked on several U.S. House and Senate campaigns. He joined the state legislative staff after running Republican Scott DesJarlais’ successful campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis in 2010.

State GOP Chairman Chris Devaney said Leatherwood’s expertise in both congressional and state legislative issues will be key to the party’s efforts heading into the 2014 campaign cycle.

Leatherwood begins his new job at the party in January.

City Schools Chief of Staff Leaves for Chicago Job

John Barker, chief of staff for Memphis City Schools, is leaving the school system in January to become chief of accountability for Chicago Public Schools.

Barker was named chief of staff in 2011 by Memphis City Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash. Before that, he was a research evaluator and director of the department of research, evaluation and student information. He began his work with the school system in 2003.

Black Caucus of State Legislators Names New Pres.

Democratic Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville has been selected to be the president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators for the next two years.

Other Tennessee lawmakers will also have leadership positions.

Democratic Reps. Brenda Gilmore of Nashville and Johnny Shaw of Bolivar will serve as executive committee members at-large.

Democratic Rep. Karen Camper of Memphis will continue to serve as Region IV chair for Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The NBCSL was founded in 1977 to develop and promote educational, research and training programs that help African-American lawmakers be more effective when introducing legislation.

US Home Sales Surge to Three-Year High

U.S. sales of previously occupied homes jumped to their highest level in three years last month, bolstered by steady job gains and record-low mortgage rates. The report was the latest sign of a sustained recovery in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales rose 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November. That’s up from 4.76 million in October.

Previously occupied home sales are on track for their best year in five years. November’s sales were the highest since November 2009, when a federal tax credit that was soon to expire spurred sales. Excluding that month, last month’s sales were the highest since July 2007.

Sales are up 14.5 percent from a year ago, though they remain below the roughly 5.5 million that are consistent with a healthy market.

“The report is encouraging, and the positive momentum established in the housing market during 2012 appears likely to continue into 2013,” Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays Capital, said in an email.

Superstorm Sandy delayed some sales in the Northeast, the Realtors’ group said. Those delayed purchases will likely close in the coming months, though the increase will be modest, the group said.

Even so, sales rose 6.9 percent in the Northeast last month compared with October. Sales increased 7.2 percent in the Midwest, 7.9 percent in the South and 0.8 percent in the West.

Job growth and low home-loan rates have helped drive purchases. Prices are also rising, which encourages more potential buyers to come off the sidelines and purchase homes. And more people may put their homes on the market if they feel confident they can sell at a good price.

In addition, the excess supply of homes that built up during the housing bubble has finally thinned out. The number of previously occupied homes available for sale fell to nearly an 11-year low in November. The supply of new homes is also near its lowest level since 1963.

At the current sales pace, it would take 4.8 months to exhaust the supply of homes for sale. That’s the shortest such span since September 2005.

At the same time, more people are looking to buy or rent a home after living with relatives or friends during and immediately after the Great Recession.

As low supply and rising demand push up prices, builders will likely be encouraged to start work on more homes in coming months, economists said.

Builder confidence rose in December for a seventh straight month to the highest level in more than 6 1/2 years, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.

Amro Music Makes Food Bank Donation

Amro Music made a donation to the Mid-South Food Bank this month as part of a unique food collection.

Amro ran a food drive for the food bank whereby, in exchange for canned goods, people could bring in their orchestra instruments and get new strings put on them for free. New strings on an instrument can cost anywhere from $20 to $90, so bringing in the cans was a great deal for both sides.

On Dec. 1 and Dec. 8, Amro traded strings for cans, replacing strings on nearly 200 violins, violas and cellos in exchange for donations. For as few as three cans, musicians could get a brand new set of violin, viola, cello or bass strings put on while they waited. D’Addario Strings and Amro provided the strings and the specialists to change the strings.

After boxing up more than 1,000 items, Amro employees loaded two trucks to deliver 1,057 pounds of food – or 864 meals – to the Mid-South Food Bank.

Council Accepts Funding for Main to Main

The Memphis City Council has accepted $311,704 in funding from the Center City Revenue Development Corp. for the Main Street to Main Street Multimodal Connector project that links Main Street Memphis to Broadway Street in West Memphis. It includes a Harahan Bridge boardwalk for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The $30 million project has secured $15 million in federal government funding.

In a related resolution, the council accepted $650,000 in funding from Charles McVean, the commodities trading firm founder who has been the major force behind the boardwalk, and the Hyde Family Foundations for the design of the trails connecting to the bridge boardwalk.

In other action, the council approved a planned development on the northwest corner of Union Avenue and Lauderdale Street for an expansion of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car business.

The council delayed to Jan. 8 a final vote on a “wage theft” ordinance that was also delayed Monday by the Shelby County Commission.

The council also put off a vote on a resolution that would either reopen or permanently close Whitehaven golf course during the winter until after the new year as the council seeks an independent audit of golf course operations and finances.

The city golf course and three others – Riverside, Pine Hill and Davy Crockett – will remain closed with a decision to come on their long-term future in March.

School Board Green-Lights Merger Recommendations

The countywide school board gave preliminary approval Tuesday, Dec. 18, to seven merger recommendations in the areas of career and technical education, fine arts programs and schools security.

Of those seven, the fine arts one would mean hiring 61 teachers at a cost of $3.8 million more to the district.

Board approval at this stage is not final. It means that the board will later weigh the items they have approved as they put together a budget for the first year of the schools merger, which begins in August.

The board also approved the closing of Humes Middle School at the end of the current school year. The closing is a first step toward reopening Humes as an optional school in the first year of the merger as a musical arts school open to all seventh and eighth graders in the school system regardless of where they live.

The board also delayed until February action on the charter school renewal application of MASE, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, the state’s first charter school, which was founded in 2003. The board approved the charter school application of Vision Preparatory charter school.

College of Optometry Earns Reaccreditation

Southern College of Optometry recently earned reaccreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commissions on Colleges. The accreditation will last for 10 years, through 2022.

The reaccreditation follows a reaccreditation earlier in the year from the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, the accreditation organization that oversees optometric education.

The accreditation process ensures that Southern College of Optometry maintains a clearly defined mission, succeeds in educating its students to prepare them for work as optometrists and meets all established criteria during external reviews. The designation ensures that Southern College of Optometry students will have access to federal financial aid dollars and to various internship and externship programs reserved for students of accredited institutions.

Southern College of Optometry is one of only 21 optometry colleges in the nation. Founded in 1932 in Memphis, the college awards the post-graduate, four-year optometry degree to approximately 130 optometric physicians each year. The college is currently constructing a $9.4 million classroom and academic project at its Midtown Memphis campus.

EmergeMemphis Names New Board Officers

EmergeMemphis has announced its new board of directors officers for 2013.

The officers include chairman Scott Fountain, senior vice president and chief development officer for Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.; immediate past chairman Amy Howell, CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies LLC; secretary Joey Dudek Jr., attorney with Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada PLLC; and treasurer Joe Lyons, chief financial officer with True Temper Sports.

Two new EmergeMemphis board members include Fadi Kiameh, business development manager of building efficiency with Johnson Controls Inc., and Andy Barger, chief intellectual property counsel with Thomas & Betts Corp.

Adams Keegan Employees Give Back for Holidays

Employees of Memphis-based human resources management and outsourcing firm Adams Keegan are using a fun holiday competition to help the less fortunate.

Five charities are benefiting from a company fundraising contest. Randomly assigned teams brainstormed to select their charity of choice. The ones chosen were the American Red Cross, St. John’s United Methodist Church Soup Kitchen & Food Pantry, Wounded Warrior Project, Bold Initiative and S.A.V.E. (School Advocates for Vision & Education).

Adams Keegan will donate matching funds to the winning team’s charity.

The American Red Cross team raised funds by selling pizza by the slice to fellow employees. The team received support from Brendan Dulin, general manager of Papa John’s on Poplar Avenue in East Memphis, who donated pizzas to the effort. Other teams raised money for selected charities with creative ideas including selling jewelry, home-cooked food and baked goods.

Cooper Hotels Promotes Harrop to General Manager

Hotel development and management company Cooper Hotels has promoted Kurt Harrop to general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton Memphis.

Harrop brings more than 23 years of industry experience, most recently six years as food and beverage director of the 266-room hotel. In his former position he was responsible for all food and beverage services including catering and the hotel’s Lynchburg Legends Bar & Grill. Prior to that he served in management positions with Radisson Hotels and Choice Hotels.

Replacing Harrop in the food and beverage position is Mario Grisanti, who has served as assistant food and beverage director for more than three years. Grisanti’s background includes working at his father’s restaurant Dino’s Grill and at Harrah’s Casino. Grisanti attended the University of Memphis/Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management.

Obsidian Public Relations Selects 180-Degree Winners

Obsidian Public Relations selected The Blues Foundation and the Fire Museum of Memphis as the 2013 recipients of its annual PR 180 Degree Project, a pro bono public relations initiative that provides two Mid-South nonprofits with six months of free PR to help the organizations achieve a 180-degree turn in publicity success.

Both organization will receive about 180 days worth of marketing services based on each groups’ particular needs, from foundation building to event promotion to social media expertise.

“Sometimes, not-for-profits see PR as an expense they cannot handle,” said Obsidian founder Courtney Liebenrood Ellett. “When we’re able to offer pro bono services throughout the year, it’s almost like a luxury they wouldn’t have been able to afford, and so I see great need in that.”

Leaders at Memphis-area nonprofits submitted 25 e-mailed nominations. The public then voted on nominated organizations through Obsidian’s Facebook page. After tallying initial votes, the five organizations with the most votes moved on to a two-day runoff vote to determine the two winners. More than 6,000 people voted. The Blues Foundation received 1,111 likes and the Fire Museum of Memphis received 764 likes in the Facebook voting.

Brentwood Funeral Services Buys Clarksdale Cemetery

Brentwood Funeral Services LLC has acquired Memorial Gardens Cemetery of Clarksdale, Miss., the second acquisition by Brentwood this year in North Mississippi.

Memorial Gardens is the only perpetual care cemetery in Coahoma County.

Last month, Brentwood bought Kimbro Funeral Home of Marks, Miss.

Kimbro had been family owned and operated since the 1930s.

Brentwood is owned by former Shelby County Commissioner and Memphis City Council member Brent Taylor and his wife, Kimberly.

Brentwood owns six funeral homes and two cemeteries in West Tennessee and North Mississippi.

Paragon National Bank Hosts Student Artwork

Paragon National Bank’s Saddle Creek branch at 7600 Poplar Ave. is showing art pieces from Dogwood Elementary School students through January.

The display marks the fourth student exhibit hosted this year by Paragon, which also featured monthly art installations from Houston Middle School, Bodine School and St. Louis Catholic School.

Paragon partnered with Dogwood Elementary art teachers Dotty Coulson, Aimee Jones and Norma Powell to select and display artwork created by 27 students. The inspired artwork was created using various mediums including chalk pastels, oil pastels, watercolor and tempera paint.

In addition, students used printmaking techniques to create the fall leaf projects and the collaged compositions were constructed with cut or torn paper.

State Offers Free Mortgage Assistance Hotline

Tennessee homeowners facing possible foreclosure can call a free hotline for help.

According to the state attorney general’s office, Tennessee’s Mortgage Assistance Hotline offers reliable information and referrals to free foreclosure prevention counseling.

The hotline is staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Callers can get free counseling or get a referral for in-person counseling at a local nonprofit.

The hotline is a partnership between the state of Tennessee and the Homeownership Preservation Foundation – a nonprofit that has been operating a national hotline for the past five years.

The number for the Mortgage Assistance Hotline is (855) 876-7283.

New Technology Needed for Online Student Testing

Tennessee schools need to upgrade technology in time for new online student assessments in the 2014-2015 school year.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, there’s no clear indication yet where the money is coming from.

The state committed to students taking a new, more universal exam when it applied to get federal funding through the Race to the Top education initiative.

State officials then joined the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career consortium.

There are 23 states working together to create a common assessment in reading and math skills.

State officials say it’s too early to talk about possible technology funding in the new fiscal year budget. Cash-strapped local school systems would be hard pressed to bear the expense.

Seedco Mid-South Brings Operation JumpStart

Seedco Mid-South is bringing the nationally acclaimed Operation JumpStart program to the Memphis area. Enrollment for selection is now open through Dec. 31.

Operation JumpStart helps entrepreneurs realize the dreams of small-business ownership, and the 36-hour curriculum called Operation JumpStart: First Step is a training model delivered to individuals considering starting or expanding a small business.

The curriculum teaches small-business planning and preparation skills with hands-on training. The fee for Operation JumpStart: First Step is being offered at a reduced rate of $375, and a limited number of scholarships are available.

To apply, contact Genarda Wright at 255-2955 or midsouthoperationjumpstart@seedco.org.

Office Depot Relocates Poplar Avenue Store

Office Depot opened its new Poplar Avenue store Monday, Dec. 17.

The Delray Beach, Fla.-based office products company relocated its East Memphis store from 5014 Poplar Ave. next to Whole Foods to 5510 Poplar Ave. near Yates Road. Office Depot took 18,666 square feet of the 22,000-square-foot space vacated by Samuel’s last year. The balance was filled by Hollywood Feed.

The Office Depot store No. 3297 employs 28 associates and houses nearly 9,800 products. Store manager Brandon Kee has managed this location for most of his five-year career with Office Depot.

Store hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Home Builders Association Presents Lifetime Awards

Memphis Area Home Builders Association presented lifetime achievement awards to Jim Reid, Dudley Schaefer Sr., Monroe Pointer and Tommy Cox at the trade organization’s annual holiday gala earlier this month.

Other winners included Spike of the Year, Joe Callaway of The Callaway Group Inc.; Associate of the Year, Myra Kissire with Boral Building Products; and Builder of the Year, David Clark of David Clark Construction LLC.

The 2012 Presidential Award was given by 2012 president Jimmy Moore to Pat Mahoney of Remodeling Consultants Inc.

Rock Blasting Set on Mississippi River

Barge traffic along a key stretch of Mississippi River is about to be restricted as crews prepare to begin blasting large rock formations that have threatened shipping on the drought-plagued waterway.

The Army Corps of Engineers says contractors will undertake urgent demolition of the submerged granite pinnacles near Thebes, Ill., as early as Tuesday. That means that portion of the river south of St. Louis then will be closed to shipping for all but eight hours each day.

Months of drought have left water levels up to 20 feet below normal along a 180-mile stretch of the river from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill. The problem worsened when the corps recently cut the outflow from the Missouri River, meaning far less water flowing into the Mississippi.

And amid the concerns, the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from an Illinois lake to add to the flow of the Mississippi.

Corps of Engineers officials on Saturday began releasing water at Carlyle Lake in southern Illinois, saying the additional water will provide the depth needed for barge traffic to safely pass Thebes.

The corps says the additional water from Carlyle Lake is expected to fully reach Thebes by Christmas Eve, providing an additional six inches of depth to the river.

Economists Forecasting Moderate 2013 Growth

Business economists believe the country will see modest growth in 2013 with strength coming from a further rebound in housing, which will help offset weakness in business investment.

In its latest survey of top forecasters, the National Association for Business Economics says it is looking for the economy to grow in 2013 by 2.1 percent after 2.2 percent growth in 2012. That would continue the same tepid growth the country has seen since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009.

Growth at that pace is not strong enough to make a significant improvement in unemployment. The NABE economists believe unemployment will average 7.7 percent for all of next year, right at the level it reached in November.

The 48 NABE economists on the survey panel had essentially the same outlook as their previous forecast in October. While they have modest expectations for 2013, they do see growth slowly improving as the year progresses.

The economists forecast growth in the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, at 1.6 percent in the current October-December quarter, down from 2.7 percent growth in the July-September period. Part of that slowdown, the economists believe, will reflect the disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy, which slammed into the Northeast on Oct. 29.

About half of the economists surveyed believe Sandy will cut growth by 0.2 percentage point to 0.5 percentage point in the current quarter and about one-third of the survey panel believe rebuilding from the storm will increase growth by a similar 0.2 percentage point to 0.5 percentage point range in the first three months of next year.

Rep. Todd’s Hearing on DUI, Gun Charges Delayed

A delay in state Rep. Curry Todd’s court case on drunken driving and gun charges will move proceedings until next month.

The Collierville Republican was arrested in October 2011 after failing a roadside sobriety test. A loaded .38-caliber gun was found stuffed between the driver’s seat and center console.

Todd is best known for sponsoring a law that allows people with handgun carry permits to be armed in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of drunken driving, possession of a firearm while under the influence and refusing a breath alcohol test. Todd had been scheduled to appear in court on Friday, but the hearing was moved to Jan. 11. His attorney said he was still in talks with prosecutors.

Morris Joins Husch Blackwell in Memphis Office

William Sherman Morris has joined Husch Blackwell LLP as the newest partner in the firm’s Memphis office.

Morris joins the firm’s aviation group and brings more than 11 years’ experience handling business transactions.

For the past five years, Morris served as in-house counsel with FedEx Express, most recently as senior counsel in the business transactions group. Morris served as the lead counsel for FedEx’s air operations, where he was responsible for all aspects of aircraft transactions. Before FedEx, Morris practiced commercial transactions and commercial real estate law at Bass, Berry & Sims PLC.

Plea Change Set in Teacher Test Fraud

A lawyer for a former Memphis public school assistant principal said Friday he’s seeking a plea change to federal charges that he helped current or aspiring teachers cheat on tests they must pass to prove they are qualified to lead their classrooms.

A lawyer for Clarence Mumford Sr., Coleman Garrett, asked District Court Judge John Fowlkes for a new hearing in which Mumford could change his plea to either guilty or “no contest.” Garrett said he did not anticipate a trial in the case and said that he and prosecutors are in the process of trying to work out a plea agreement.

Federal prosecutors say teachers from three states paid Mumford to send someone else to take the exams in their place at testing centers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The judge set the hearing for Jan. 25.

Authorities have said for 15 years, teachers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee paid Mumford to send someone else to take the tests in their place. Mumford would get a fee between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam.

Fourteen people have been charged with mail and Social Security fraud, and four people have pleaded guilty to charges associated with the scheme.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 38 349 15,066
MORTGAGES 111 449 19,779
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 30 88 3,883
BUILDING PERMITS 0 512 35,842
BANKRUPTCIES 62 309 14,343
BUSINESS LICENSES 18 138 5,129
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 69 385 21,817
MARRIAGE LICENSES 13 106 4,663

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