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VOL. 5 | NO. 50 | Saturday, December 08, 2012

Daily Digest

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US Unemployment Aid Applications Drop to 370,000

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid fell sharply last week as a temporary spike caused by Superstorm Sandy has faded. Weekly applications have fallen back to a level consistent with modest hiring.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications dropped 25,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 370,000.

Unemployment aid applications spiked a month ago after Sandy shuttered businesses in the Northeast. Applications jumped to 451,000 in the week ended Nov. 10. People can claim unemployment benefits if their workplaces are forced to close and they aren’t paid.

Some analysts were encouraged by how quickly applications have returned to pre-storm levels. Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics, said the rapid drop suggests companies are quickly re-hiring workers displaced by the storm. Rebuilding and repair efforts could also be creating jobs, he said.

The report is “a positive development for the labor market, which appears to be recovering from the temporary effects of Sandy more rapidly than originally anticipated,” Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said in a note to clients.

The early impact of Sandy can still be seen in the four-week average. It rose to 408,000 last week.

Before the storm hit on Oct. 29, applications had fluctuated this year between 360,000 and 390,000. They topped 400,000 for most of last year. That has coincided with only modest declines in the unemployment rate.

Restore Medical Solutions Raises $2.5 Million

Restore Medical Solutions, a local startup that went through the inaugural season of accelerator program ZeroTo510, has closed on its Series A funding round by raising $2.5 million.

The investors are Innova and MB Ventures, with Innova taking the lead.

Restore, which was launched by Shawn Flynn and Ryan Ramkhelawan, has invented a modular surgical tray and method that increases speed and efficacy in reprocessing sterile surgical instruments.

“Memphis has been very good to us and has a tremendous amount of resources, which everyone throughout the community and the country needs to know about,” said Restore president Flynn in an email to The Daily News. “Memphians should be proud to know that the leaders of this state, both private and public, are taking a proactive stance in job creation and economic development.

“BioWorks, Launch Tennessee and Seed Hatchery are just a few examples of entities that are available for the public to utilize to incubate their ideas, which will directly impact growth and opportunity. We are just one of many success stories that will come as a result of these coordinated efforts.”

Two Way Diner Files Permit For Cooper-Young Locale

A new concept called the Two Way Diner is under way for the Cooper-Young district, in the space that was once the Two Way Inn restaurant.

A $150,500 building permit application was recently filed with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for a renovation and addition to the existing building at 752 S. Cooper St., owned by Charlie Ryan of Central Cooper Gateway Inc.

Gilluly and Associates LLC is listed as the contractor.

Sullivan Branding Adds Three Hires

Memphis-based creative agency Sullivan Branding has added three new members to its team. Mary Cashiola has joined the agency as corporate communications manager, Becky Hensley as account director and Fran Moore as production manager.

Cashiola will write internal and employee communications for clients. She joins Sullivan Branding with 12 years of experience in the field, including her time with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s office as communications manager and with The Memphis Flyer as senior editor.

Hensey will provide oversight to client strategies and internal team management for hospitality, tourism and banking clients. Before joining Sullivan Branding, she managed accounts at GS&F and the Buntin Group in Nashville. Hensley has worked with accounts in the hospitality, financial, restaurant and retail industries for 12 years.

Moore will use her experience with vendor management, quality control and pricing negotiation to guide each step of the production process. She brings 22 years of practice in financial, casino and service industries, with past work at Harland Clarke, Mailnet Services Inc. and Vector Graphics.

Green Ballast Installs Lighting for Tenant in Lenox

Healthcare Trust of America Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Real Estate Investment Trust, has completed a lighting retrofit equipped with Memphis-based Green Ballast Inc.’s patented daylight harvesting fluorescent light ballasts for a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical tenant in Lenox Office Park, a seven-building, 72-acre office park in the 385 office submarket.

Green Ballast’s ballast is a direct replacement for the existing “standard ballast” and adjusts power consumption for each lighting fixture, while measuring and harvesting available daylight to calculate and provide only the amount of needed electricity for proper lighting.

Green Ballast in November announced commercial real estate developer Belz Enterprises is installing vapor tight fluorescent fixtures with Green Ballast’s light ballasts in a Downtown structured parking garage facility.

Oil Drops on Outlook for Europe Economy

The price of oil is dropping after the European Central Bank predicted a bleak year ahead for the region’s economy but stopped short of offering new measures to boost growth.

Benchmark oil fell $1.80, or 2 percent, on Thursday to $86.08 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell $1.87 to $106.94 per barrel in London.

The ECB left its key interest rate unchanged at a record low, and the bank cut its 2013 economic forecast for the region to negative from positive.

The 17 countries that use the euro currency are in a recession after a massive debt crisis followed by government spending cuts and tax hikes that have hurt growth.

At the pump, the average retail price of gasoline was flat at a national average of $3.38 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. That’s nearly 11 cents more than a year ago.

Council Drops Resolution Advancing Vance Plan

The Memphis City Council dropped a resolution Tuesday, Dec. 4, that would have advanced a Vance Avenue renovation plan by the Vance Avenue Collaborative to protect Foote Homes against future demolition.

The rival plan to one being developed by Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration that could include the demolition of Foote Homes, the last of the city’s large public housing developments, was to be sent to the Land Use Control Board for consideration under the resolution.

But council attorney Allan Wade advised council members they couldn’t take the action at least until the Memphis Housing Authority acts on an urban renewal plan. The MHA plan will be for the much larger area including Foote Homes that the city wants to redevelop under the 20-year Heritage Trails plan.

The larger plan has drawn questions from other redevelopment agencies within the area, but not because of the controversy over the future of Foote Homes. Agencies like the Downtown Memphis Commission have said they want to know more about Wharton administration plans to make the larger area a tax increment financing zone to capture property tax revenue for the redevelopment costs.

Such revenues are an integral part of tax breaks and incentives including payments-in-lieu-of-taxes that some of the redevelopment agencies use to leverage private investment within their smaller areas or zones.

Meanwhile, the council approved a rezoning on 37.1 acres of land on the northwest corner of New Frayser Boulevard and New Allen Road for the expansion of the Nike Northridge plant in Frayser.

LEO Events Brings on Two to Open Nashville Office

Event management company LEO Events has hired David Kenyon and Kevin Underwood as senior vice president-production and senior vice president, respectively. They will operate out of LEO’s new Nashville office.

Kenyon and Underwood were formerly with the Nashville office of TBA Global LLC, a New York City-based Top 5 agency for corporate and private events, with nine offices globally.

Kenyon spent 13 years at TBA’s Nashville office, overseeing production for hundreds of events annually for the company, including the annual Walmart shareholders’ meeting and distributors’ conferences for Exxon Mobil.

Underwood spent more than 20 years managing TBA’s Nashville office. He has worked with a variety of corporate and nonprofit clients, as well as private artists from Beyoncé to the Rolling Stones.

LEO Events formed in August following the merger of Memphis-based Destination King, founded by Cindy and Kevin Brewer in 2002, and Quiddity Entertainment, started by Kent Underwood in Chattanooga in 2006.

Lyons Named Interim CEO Of Memphis Symphony

Al Lyons has been tapped to serve as the interim CEO of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

He’ll serve in the position until a CEO search that’s now in progress is completed.

In addition to formerly working with the Bodine Co. as chief financial officer and president, Lyons has been involved as leader in arts organizations including the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, where he served as interim director from 2007 to 2008 and was president of the board of trustees in 2010 and 2011.

His other community involvements include current board membership for the Levitt Shell, the Riverfront Development Corp., the Collierville Chamber of Commerce and several others.

US Productivity Grows at Faster 2.9 Percent Rate

U.S. workers were more productive this summer than initially thought, while costing their companies less.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that productivity grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent from July through September. That’s the fastest pace in two years and higher than the initial estimate of 1.9 percent. Labor costs dropped at a rate of 1.9 percent, more than the 0.1 percent dip initially estimated.

Productivity was revised higher because economic growth was faster in the third quarter than first estimated, while hours worked were unchanged. Productivity is the amount of output per hour of work.

The report suggests companies are finding ways to squeeze more out of their existing workers. While that’s a good sign for corporate profits, it can be discouraging for people who want a job.

Still, the trend in productivity has been fairly weak. It has grown only 1.7 percent compared with a year ago. That’s half the average growth that companies saw in 2009 and 2010, shortly after many laid off workers to cut costs during the Great Recession. And it’s below the long-run growth of 2.2 percent a year dating back to 1947.

Growth of US Service Firms Accelerated Last Month

U.S. service companies grew at a slightly faster pace in November because sales and new orders rose, a good sign for the economy.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 54.7 from 54.2 in October. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. November’s figure is above the 12-month average of 54.4.

The report measures growth in a broad range of businesses from retail and construction companies to health care and financial services firms. The industries covered employ about 90 percent of the work force.

A measure of employment fell to the lowest level since July but still showed companies added workers last month.

One reason for the decline was that Superstorm Sandy forced many businesses to close in November, economists noted.

And some companies may be postponing hiring because of worries over the “fiscal cliff.” That’s the name for automatic tax increases and spending cuts that are scheduled for early next year, unless the White House and Congress can negotiate a deal that averts them.

“For many businesses, hiring plans are on hold until the New Year, when – we expect – the fiscal cliff will be resolved,” Paul Edelstein, an economist at IHS Global Economics, said in a note to clients.

Other economists said the small increase in the services index points to underlying strength in the economy.

RedRover Co. Receives Pro Bono Service Award

Memphis sales and marketing firm RedRover Co. was one of 10 Pro Bono award recipients at a recent recognition event in Downtown Memphis as part of Celebrate Pro Bono Month in October.

The event was held by the Memphis Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee, the Community Legal Center and Memphis Area Legal Services Inc. to honor their outstanding volunteers.

RedRover has volunteered to help with several Memphis Area Legal Services projects throughout the year, including a video campaign to raise awareness of the need for more pro bono legal services and private donations. RedRover Co. designed the 2012 “We’re All In” campaign to put a face to the legal aid Memphis Area Legal Services provides to those in need and to encourage the community to contribute.

Commission Approves Pidgeon Land Purchase

Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, Dec. 3, the purchase of 33.6 acres of land in the Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park by Carolyn Hardy for the Hardy Investment Trust.

Hardy intends to open a business to store and stage modular containers on the land. She is paying $12,000 an acre for the land or a total of $403,980.

The Memphis-Shelby County Port Commission and the City Council approved the sale of the land earlier.

The commission approved the purchase with no discussion on an 11-0 vote.

In other action, the commission approved $2 million in additional funding to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for school resource officers in what are now Memphis City Schools. The funding allows the sheriff’s department to put commissioned law enforcement officers in the city schools next school year when the county’s two public school systems merge. The Memphis Police Department now provides those officers to city schools but is to stop with the merger.

The commission also approved an agreement for the Shelby County Trustee’s office to collect taxes for Lakeland, which recently implemented its property tax.

A “wage theft” ordinance was approved on the second of three readings. Commissioner Steve Mulroy said he intends to amend the ordinance before third and final reading, which would push a final vote into the first commission meeting in January.

And the commission appointed Quran Folsom as the commission’s chief administrator. Folsom is a senior executive assistant at Memphis City Schools who begins her job in January.

Donato Named Catholic Schools Superintendent

Memphis Catholic Bishop J. Terry Steib has named Janet Donato as the new superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Memphis.

Donato had been serving as interim superintendent after Mary McDonald left to form an education consulting firm and write more about education reform.

Donato served most recently as associate superintendent of the parochial school system. She helped develop the evaluation process used across the state for the professional licensing of teachers in Catholic schools in Tennessee.

And she led the team that secured AdvancEd accreditation for the system, making it only the second Catholic school system in the country to earn it.

Donato has also been a teacher and principal during her 34 years as an educator in Memphis Catholic Schools.

The school system has 28 schools in Memphis and West Tennessee that serve 8,300 students from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Steib selected Donato after a search committee recommended her.

Financial Federal Bank Makes Major New Closings

Financial Federal’s Commercial/Multifamily Division has arranged financing for five new major projects in markets throughout the Southeast.

The projects are a $6.6 million, 332-unit project in Memphis; a $17.5 million, 350-unit project in Knoxville; a $21.8 million, 413-unit student housing facility at University of North Carolina Wilmington, in Wilmington, N.C.; a $24.7 million, 172-unit student housing facility at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas; and a $5.6 million, 72-unit student housing facility at University of Mississippi in Oxford.

These closings follow the bank’s recent announcement it financed five office developments in Memphis and Jackson, Miss. Total fundings in 2012 for the Commercial/Multifamily division will exceed $200 million on properties in Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

Financial Federal’s Commercial/Multifamily Division services more than $1 billion in commercial loans with properties across the U.S.

Ken Moody Appointed to Hutchison Committee

Ken Moody, director of community relations for Central Defense Security, has been chosen by Hutchison School to serve on its diversity steering committee as a parent committee member.

Moody will serve a one-year term on the committee, which is responsible for working with the Hutchison administration to generate ideas to strengthen parent engagement and develop recruitment strategies to reach multicultural families.

Moody has been affiliated with Hutchison for 13 years as a parent of three students. He also chaired the school’s first Tastes of Hutchison Food Festival, which celebrated the multicultural background of Hutchison families and featured different cuisines from around the world.

Wunderlich Acquires Branches, Adds Advisers

Wunderlich Securities Inc. has acquired three wealth management branches from Sanders Morris Harris Group Inc., which is getting out of the retail branch office business.

As a result of the deal, 35 people will join Wunderlich including 27 financial advisers with more than $800 million in assets under administration.

The deal is expected to close Dec. 14, and Wunderlich after that will have 25 offices in 15 states.

Wunderlich, based in Memphis, was established in 1996.

Pinnacle Recesses Talks with Pilots Union

Executives of Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines Corp. have recessed contract talks with the Air Line Pilots Association as the company anticipates Delta Air Lines will begin its move away from 50-seat jets “sometime next year.”

The information was in a Thursday, Nov. 29, letter from Pinnacle CEO John Spanjers to employees.

Spanjers said Delta executives gave a time for the phase out of the smaller jets to Spanjers in its latest update to the carrier on its plans.

Pinnacle is seeking wage and other concessions from union pilots “to create a competitive cost structure, avoid liquidation and successfully emerge from bankruptcy.”

The regional air carrier filed for bankruptcy reorganization in April, but its original plan was scrapped when Delta negotiated an agreement in June with its pilots that permits it to phase out 50-seat jets used for regional flights faster than anticipated.

Delta is moving to jets with more capacity as they and other carriers find the smaller jets more expensive to operate given higher jet fuel prices.

Pinnacle’s plan depends on its relationship and contract as a regional carrier for Delta remaining. And the 50-seat jets in the Pinnacle fleet put it at a disadvantage to compete for the Delta business.

“While Pinnacle and ALPA have continued to negotiate toward a consensual agreement, we are taking a few days away from the table to assess the impact of the anticipated fleet plan changes and what is needed for Pinnacle to survive,” Spanjers said in the letter that was released Friday, Nov. 30.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 87 87 14,804
MORTGAGES 80 80 19,410
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 22 22 3,817
BUILDING PERMITS 142 142 35,472
BANKRUPTCIES 62 62 14,096
BUSINESS LICENSES 62 62 5,053
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 99 99 21,532
MARRIAGE LICENSES 37 37 4,594

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