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VOL. 6 | NO. 40 | Saturday, September 28, 2013

Daily Digest

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National Civil Rights Museum Announces Freedom Awards

The first woman president of Ireland, a pioneering Harlem educator and the publisher of Black Enterprise magazine are the recipients of the National Civil Rights Museum’s annual Freedom Awards

Mary Robinson, the president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, is the winner of the international award, announced Thursday, Sept. 26, by museum officials.

Black Enterprise magazine founder and publisher Earl Graves is the lifetime achievement award recipient.

And Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, is the winner of the national award. Canada transformed a truancy program into an expanded school drawing students from a 24-block area of Harlem.

The awards will be given at a Nov. 6 banquet at The Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. Earlier that day, Canada will speak at the annual Freedom Awards forum at Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ.

St. Jude Names New Clinical Director

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has named a new clinical director.

The Memphis-based hospital said Wednesday that radiation oncologist Larry Kun has been appointed as clinical director and executive vice president. Kun will guide all aspects of clinical care and oversee clinical operations and patient care quality programs for the 7,800 patients who are treated or receive post-treatment care at St. Jude each year.

His responsibilities include developing patient care policies, managing physicians, and planning and managing clinical space and systems.

Kun joined St. Jude in 1984 to establish a department to treat cancer with radiation therapy and to start a multidisciplinary brain tumor program.

Kun has served as chair of the St. Jude Department of Radiological Sciences and will remain in that position.

Terminix Makes Second Canadian Acquisition

Memphis-based Terminix, the world’s largest pest- and termite-control provider, has acquired substantially all the assets of Vancouver-based Care Pest & Wildlife Control.

Care Pest & Wildlife was founded in 2000 and is the largest independent pest- and wildlife-control company in British Columbia. It specializes in general pest, bedbug, bird and wildlife control for residential and commercial accounts, and the company will keep its current brand name after the acquisition is completed.

Terminix president Larry Pruitt said the acquisition of Care Pest & Wildlife control combined with Terminix’s purchase last month of Toronto-based Magical Pest Control, is a continuation of Terminix’s efforts to expand its geographic presence outside the U.S.

Tony Allen to Challenge Pera in Charity Game

Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, famous for his hard-nosed game and for coining the “grit and grind” phrase that has become a mantra for the team and city, will be playing Grizzlies owner Robert Pera in a one-on-one exhibition game to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The “Grindfather” will play Pera Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. at FedExForum. Allen and Pera agreed to donate $100,000 to St. Jude.

Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph will be the special guest referee for the game, which will be streamed live at grizzlies.com and broadcast on ESPN Radio 92.9 FM.

Average Mortgage Rate Down to 4.32 Percent

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week to their lowest point in two months. The decline follows the Federal Reserve’s decision last week to hold off slowing its monthly bond purchases.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 4.32 percent from 4.50 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan declined to 3.37 percent from 3.54 percent.

Both are the lowest averages since July 25.

Mortgage rates are nearly a full percentage point higher than in May, when the Fed first signaled it might slow its $85 billion-a-month in bond buys. But last week the Fed kept the pace steady after lowering its outlook for economic growth.

The bond purchases are intended to lower long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates.

Unemployment Aid Applications Drop

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 305,000, the second-lowest level in six years. Steady declines in applications show that very few companies are laying off workers.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average declined 7,000 to 308,000, the lowest since June 2007.

All states reported their first-time applications on time, a department spokesman said. Applications plummeted three weeks ago because computer upgrades in California and Nevada prevented them from fully reporting their data. Those states have cleared their backlogs, the spokesman said.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Fewer layoffs suggest employers are confident enough to maintain their staffing levels. But companies have been reluctant to take the next step and ramp up hiring.

In fact, job gains have slowed in recent months. Employers have added an average of just 155,000 jobs a month since April. That’s down from an average of 205,000 for the first four months of the year.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent in August, from 7.4 percent in the previous month. But the drop mostly occurred because more Americans stopped working or looking for jobs. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching for work.

Ramsey Predicts Approval of Supermarket Wine Bill

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey predicted Wednesday that lawmakers will approve a bill next session to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

The Blountville Republican told reporters that lawmakers previously uncertain about the proposal were surprised by the backlash to the failure of this year’s bill in a House committee.

This year’s bill died when House Local Government Chairman Matthew Hill, who had supported an earlier version, cast the deciding vote against the measure.

“The debacle that happened in the House with the change of the vote at the last minute I think actually helped,” Ramsey said. “There were several senators that may have been sitting on the fence and saw the reaction that came from that and they realized that now they’re going to be for it in some form.”

Hill, a Jonesborough Republican who has since drawn a primary opponent, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Current law keeps supermarkets and convenience stores from selling beer stronger than 5 percent by weight, which is the equivalent of about 6.5 percent in the more common measure of alcohol by volume. Anything stronger can only be sold in liquor stores, which aren’t allowed to sell any items beyond booze and lottery tickets.

Statewide public opinion polls have shown strong support for supermarket wine sales, but opponents have raised fears about wider availability of stronger alcohol and the effect the change would have on existing liquor stores.

$2.2 Million Grant Adds to Main to Main Funds

A $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the Memphis Area Transit Authority brings the federal funding for the Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Connector Project to $17.2 million.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis on Tuesday, Sept. 24, announced the new grant to refurbish and enhance the Main Street Trolley line, which opened in 1992.

The trolley is part of the Main Street Memphis improvements, which are scheduled to begin construction in October in several places along Main from Uptown to South Main, as well as along Broadway Street in West Memphis and a boardwalk along the Harahan Bridge to connect the two thoroughfares.

The new federal funding goes with the $15 million transportation grant Memphis and West Memphis leaders were awarded in 2012 for the multi-part project.

Earlier this month, a project coordinating committee sent the first contract – $1.9 million to Ferrell Paving Inc. of Memphis for street improvements at Carolina Avenue and Main Street – to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. for approval.

Ferrell’s contract bid was 15 percent below cost projections for that part of the project.

Tennessee Health Premiums to be Among Lowest

Average premiums for Tennesseans seeking coverage under new health insurance markets launching next week rank near the lowest among the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead to cover uninsured residents.

Before tax credits that work like an up-front discount for most consumers, sticker-price premiums for a mid-range benchmark plan will average $245 a month, well below the national monthly average of $328. Only Minnesota’s average premiums are cheaper, at $192 per month.

Premiums under the cheapest plan offered in Tennessee would average $181 per month, the third-lowest rate in the country. The premiums unveiled Tuesday don’t include tax credits. The bottom line will depend on income, location, plan type, family size and even tobacco use.

Board to Review Historic Register Nominations

The State Review Board will meet Wednesday in Nashville to examine nominations for the National Register of Historic Places, including Memphis’ Sears Crosstown building, formally known as the Sears Roebuck and Company Catalog Distribution Center and Retail Store.

The board will vote on nine nominations from across the state. Those nominations that meet a certain criteria will be sent for final approval to the National Register of Historic Places at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Norris Elected Chairman of National Council

Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris has been elected chairman of the national Council of State Governments based in Lexington, Ky.

The Collierville Republican is the first Tennessean elected to the leadership post.

Founded in 1933, the Council promotes the exchange of ideas to help state officials shape public policy as states’ advocates within the federal system of government.

The bipartisan organization also has an office in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in Atlanta, New York City, Chicago and Sacramento.

Norris, an attorney, served as chairman of the southern region in 2010 and 2011.

Orders for Factory Goods Rise Slightly in August

Companies placed slightly more orders in August for U.S. long-lasting manufactured goods, stepping up demand for cars, trucks and machinery. Even with the gain, business spending on factory goods may not be strong enough to accelerate economic growth in the July-September quarter.

Orders for durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, increased 0.1 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That comes after orders plummeted 8.1 percent in July, which was largely because of a steep drop in volatile commercial aircraft orders.

The August orders were held back by a decline in demand for defense aircraft and other military goods. That could be related to steep government spending cuts that took effect in March. Excluding defense spending, orders rose 0.5 percent.

Auto factories reported a 2.4 percent increase in orders, the biggest in six months.

And demand for so-called core capital goods rose 1.5 percent, after falling 3.3 percent the previous month. Core capital goods are a good measure of businesses’ confidence in the economy and include items that point to expansion, such as machinery and computers. Still, economists said the gains weren’t enough to reverse declines in previous months.

“It was definitely a mixed month,” Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note to clients. “The gains in core orders and shipments in the month do not offset weakness in the last couple of months.”

Durable goods shipments rose 0.9 percent in August, after two months of declines. The shipments figures are used to calculate economic growth.

After seeing the report, Lee said she cut her forecast for economic growth in the July-September quarter to an annual rate of 1.8 percent, down from 2 percent.

Home2 Suites by Hilton Opens in Southaven

Home2 Suites by Hilton has opened a new all-suites hotel in Southaven.

The Hilton Worldwide brand caters to business travelers and extended stay guests. The four-story, 105-suite hotel is located at 6750 Southcrest Parkway, strategically located near local attractions and business destinations, including Southaven Towne Center, Snowden Grove Amphitheatre and Snowden Grove Park, Downtown Memphis and Graceland. The property is owned by Cohen Realty Inc. and is managed by Vista Host Inc.

“The Home2 Suites Memphis/Southaven will cater to two unique markets and serve a diverse group of travelers, from sports fans looking to enjoy the Dizzy Dean World Series Baseball Tournament, to families looking to get away and enjoy the comforts of the hotel’s hip and humble approach,” said Bill Duncan, global head, Home2 Suites by Hilton.

Home2 Suites operates 22 hotels, including the Southaven location, and 70 more properties are in the company’s development pipeline.

University of Memphis Journalism Alumni Club to Honor Five

The University of Memphis Journalism Alumni Club will honor five people during its annual awards luncheon Oct. 18 at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave.

The event, scheduled for 11:30 a.m., will honor Mark Henry, Signature Advertising president and founder, and Bonnie Kourvelas, communications adviser with FedEx Services, both of whom will receive the Charles E. Thornton Award. University of Memphis vice provost, dean and professor Dan Lattimore will receive the Herbert Lee Williams Award. Angela Craig, a vice president at St. Jude Medical, will receive the Young Alumni Award, and senior broadcast journalism student Joshua Bolden will be honored as the university’s “emerging journalist.”

The keynote speaker will be Sonny Albarado, who currently serves as the city editor and projects editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Tickets to the event are $35 per person or $300 for a table of 10. The final deadline for reservations is Oct. 12. For more information, to buy tickets or reserve a table, contact Shannon Miller at semiller@memphis.edu or 678-3043.

US Consumer Confidence Dips as Jobs Outlook Dims

Americans’ confidence in the economy fell slightly in September from August, as many became less optimistic about hiring and pay increases over the next six months.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dropped to 79.7 in September. That’s down from August’s reading of 81.8, which was slightly higher than previously estimated.

Consumers’ confidence is closely watched because their spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

The September reading was only slightly below June’s reading of 82.1, the highest in 5.5 years.

While confidence has bounced back from the depths of the Great Recession, it has yet to regain a reading of 90 that typically coincides with a healthy economy.

Nineteenth Century Club Demolition Appealed

The planned demolition of the Nineteenth Century Club building on Union Avenue has been halted by an appeal of a Chancery Court decision upholding the sale of the historic property.

Preservationists and former club members filed an appeal Friday, Sept. 20, challenging Chancellor Walter Evans’ ruling to uphold the sale of the property.

While Evans upheld the sale, he left in place until Sept. 20 a temporary injunction that prevented demolition of the building and froze the cash involved in the sale in order to give plaintiffs in the civil case time to appeal.

Current and former members of the club filed suit over the sale, saying it did not meet the organization’s bylaws or follow state law.

The Union Group LLC acquired the property for $550,000 in January after winning a competitive bidding process. The Nineteenth Century Club decided to donate the sale proceeds to the Children’s Museum of Memphis.

The fate of the property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has ignited a long-smoldering debate over the proper design and use of property in the city core, pitting everyone from preservationists to architects and community members against The Union Group, which has said it intends to raze the structure and build a commercial property in its place.

Metropolitan Bank Raising Capital

It’s full steam ahead at Metropolitan Bank, which is completing a rights offering as part of a move to raise capital to support the bank’s growth for the next few years, according to Metropolitan founder, president and CEO Curt Gabardi.

A Metropolitan spokesman said the amount of capital raised will be $5.6 million.

“We didn’t want to raise too much or too little,” Gabardi told The Daily News. “Just enough for organic growth purposes, because we were already well-capitalized by regulatory standards.

“(The offering) was well-received, and we should have it finalized over the next few weeks.”

Metropolitan celebrated its fifth birthday earlier this year.

“We continue to be well-pleased and proud of the year-to-date performance in spite of the economy and record low interest rates,” Gabardi said.

“That’s in spite of the fact we have been spending heavily especially in Nashville, with the opening of our new West End office, and bringing on a significant number of new bankers. We could be dropping a whole lot more to the bottom line, but we’re investing in the business. Expanding geographically in Memphis – that plan is underway now. It comes from a continued desire to take on talented bankers.”

TDOT Lists Projects for October Bids

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has released the projects for which it will accept bids next month.

The department plans to open bidding Oct. 18 on a total of 53 contracts, including 86 projects in 95 counties. TDOT will initiate resurfacing projects on several Tennessee interstate corridors, and bids will also be received on a number of maintenance projects such as cable barrier repair, intersection improvements and bridge repair.

Recent federal data show dozens of Tennessee bridges are among the thousands nationwide that have advanced deterioration or are at risk of collapsing.

A Transportation Department spokeswoman says at least 25 of those bridges in Tennessee have been replaced with new structures, repaired, or either under construction for replacement or repair.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 32 344 10,222
MORTGAGES 52 452 13,327
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 10 86 2,624
BUILDING PERMITS 0 783 24,307
BANKRUPTCIES 60 359 9,892
BUSINESS LICENSES 23 133 3,736
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 76 595 14,558
MARRIAGE LICENSES 23 104 3,167

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