Ugwueke Named President of Methodist Le Bonheur
After serving more than a year as executive vice president and chief operating officer, the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare board has approved Michael Ugwueke as president and COO of parent company Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, as well as president and CEO of Methodist Healthcare Memphis Hospitals (MHMH).
MHMH includes the five Memphis hospitals licensed as one, including Methodist Germantown Hospital, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Methodist North Hospital, Methodist South Hospital and Methodist University Hospital. The move, effective May 1, is designed to help Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare become a stronger integrated system. Ugwueke will be responsible for operations across the system.
TSA Opening PreCheck Application Center
Navigating the security process at Memphis International Airport could get a little easier for some passengers.
The Transportation Security Administration opened an application site at Memphis International Friday, April 11, for TSA PreCheck, an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belts, keep their laptops in cases and keep compliant liquids and gels in a carryon bag. TSA is currently in the process of expanding to more than 300 application centers across the country.
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents will be allowed to go through a pre-enrollment process online at tsa.gov/tsa-precheck, make an appointment and complete their enrollment at the application center to verify their identity and provide documentation to confirm their citizenship or immigration status, and to provide fingerprints.
The application center will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Applicants with questions can contact the Universal Enrollment Call Center at 855-347-8371 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In other airport news, the Airport Authority on Thursday awarded a $517,356 contract to Belz Construction Services LLC to relocate a small TSA office as part of the airport’s concourse modernization plan. Belz will build a 3,550-square-foot office for the TSA in a space between Concourses A and B.
Under the downsizing plan the airport is pursuing, Concourse B will be improved while excess gates in Concourses A and C will be razed.
Magazine Again Honors Indie Memphis Festival
For the second year in a row, the Indie Memphis Film Festival has been named to MovieMaker magazine’s 2014 list of “Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”
The list will be in the spring issue on newsstands April 22.
The dates for this year’s Indie Memphis festival are Oct. 30 through Nov. 2. The event is marking its 17th anniversary this year and is expanding its footprint with the addition of the new Hattiloo Theatre, scheduled to open in midsummer.
RISE Hosting End-of-Tax Season Event at Wiseacre
If the end of tax season isn’t worth celebrating, then what is?
The RISE Foundation is taking advantage of this sentiment with a “Friendraiser” at Wiseacre Brewing Co. on April 16.
The event runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the brewery, 2783 Broad Ave. Party admission of $20 includes two drink tickets, hors d’oeuvres, a souvenir coaster and a chance to learn more about RISE, a Memphis-based nonprofit that aims to help low-income residents out of poverty.
State House Approves $32.4B Spending Plan
The Tennessee House has approved the state’s $32.4 billion spending plan for the budget year beginning in July.
The measure was approved 68-27 on Thursday. The Senate was scheduled to vote on the plan later in the day.
The legislation removes previously planned salary increases for teachers and state employees to make up for flagging state revenue collections.
Both Democrats and Republicans presented proposals to give teachers and state employees one-time bonuses, but all those amendments failed.
Last year, Gov. Bill Haslam pledged to improve the salaries of the state’s teachers. He says he regrets not being able to offer raises next year, but remains committed to increasing their pay.
Lawmakers are required by the state constitution to pass a balanced budget each year.
Ward Road to Close for Bridge Work
Ward Road between Garnet and Old Millington roads will close April 28 to through traffic for a year as county work crews replace the Ward Road bridge over Big Creek in north Shelby County.
Dement Construction Co. LLC is the contractor for the $1.3 million project funded by the state as well as state gasoline tax money.
The contract was approved in December by the Shelby County Commission.
Wink Spalon Holds Ribbon-Cutting April 11
Wink Spalon, a new salon offering semi-permanent and temporary lash extensions, is holding a ribbon cutting ceremony April 11.
The “spalon” is located at 764 Brookhaven Circle. The ceremony will begin at 3:30 p.m., with a grand opening event to follow. Attendees will be able to tour Wink Spalon, meet owner Chandra Wilson and learn about the services offered.
Memphis Football Spring Game April 11
The Tigers football team’s spring practice will culminate with the Blue-Gray Spring Game Friday, April 11, at 7 p.m. at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Admission to the game is free.
Tailgate activities on Tiger Lane will begin at 5 p.m. and continue until kickoff. The team will hold its traditional Tiger Walk through Tiger Lane at 6 p.m.
Senate OKs House Version of ‘In God We Trust’ Bill
The Tennessee Senate has voted to overrule the sponsor of a bill that originally sought to require the phrase “In God We Trust” to be painted behind the speaker’s podiums in the state Capitol.
Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville urged the chamber to reject House changes to the bill that would instead instruct the State Capitol Commission to study having the phrase painted in the tunnel connecting the building to the Legislative Plaza.
But the Republican-controlled chamber voted 19-8 against Campfield’s motion, which had the effect of agreeing to the House version of the bill and sending it to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.
Campfield was visibly upset by the chamber’s action, and complained off the microphone that one GOP colleague was “messing” with his bill.
US Unemployment Aid Applications Dip to 300K
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level in almost seven years, falling 32,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 300,000.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 316,250.
Fewer Americans sought benefits last week than at any point since the Great Recession began at the end of 2007. Applications are at their lowest level since May of that year.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The decrease suggests that employers expect stronger economic growth in the coming months and are holding onto their workers.
Landmark Community Bank Makes Acquisitions
Collierville-based Landmark Community Bank has completed acquisitions of Cadence Bank branches in Franklin and Brentwood.
As part of the deal, Landmark assumed almost $30 million in deposits and accrued interest and bought about $4.6 million in loans and other assets. Cadence depositors became Landmark customers effective March 24.
Commenting on the deal, Landmark chairman James Farrell said his bank is excited about the possibilities associated with expanding into two dynamic Middle Tennessee markets.
AIA Memphis Hosting Architecture Gala
The American Institute of Architects Memphis is preparing to host its annual Celebration of Architecture Gala.
This year’s event to celebrate the built environment and salute local designers will be held in the Tower Center at Clark Tower. The event includes honoring the best of Memphis architects with the 2014 Design Awards.
The April 26 event kicks off at 6 p.m., and the awards ceremony begins at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $60, and associate AIA and student tickets are $35.
For more information, visit aiamemphis.org or call 525-3818.
Wharton Outlines Possible Beale Board
The Downtown Memphis Commission would continue to oversee day-to-day management of the Beale Street entertainment district for the rest of 2014, with a new five-to-seven member board forming later this year to oversee the hiring of a private management firm to run the district in the future.
That is the tentative proposal Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. outlined in an email to Memphis City Council members this week.
The council would approve any structure for the future oversight of the district.
The board Wharton outlined would include at least one seat each for the council, the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Beale Street Merchants Association and the Downtown Memphis Commission.
The Downtown Memphis Commission began running the district’s daily operations for the city with the new year, using services from various city divisions.
UTHSC to Host PTSD Symposium
The Neuroscience Institute at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will host a symposium on post-traumatic stress disorder April 24.
The symposium will run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and will be held in Room A204 in the General Education Building, 8 S. Dunlap St., on the UTHSC campus.
While PTSD is often associated with the aftermath of war, it can result from a variety of traumatic events, including rape, child abuse, car accidents, natural disasters and traumatic brain injury.
Keynote speakers are Dr. Kerry J. Ressler of Emory University School of Medicine and Dr. Jeffrey J. Bazarian of the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The event is free and open to the public, and lunch will be provided. Visit uthsc.edu/neuroscience/symposia.php to register.
U of M to Host Girls’ Basketball Camps
University of Memphis women’s basketball coach Melissa McFerrin will hold summer basketball camps for girls in third through ninth grades.
The camps begin with a one-day Elite Camp on June 18 for high school girls entering ninth to 12th grade. The Elite Camp will be held at the Larry Finch Center and University of Memphis Student Recreation and Fitness Center.
A team camp will be held June 19 and is for any team 13U or older (varsity, junior varsity, AAU, church, youth, etc.). The Team Camp has a three-game guarantee.
Questions about either camp can be mailed to the U of M coaching staff at email@example.com.
There will also be day camps from June 23-26 for girls entering third through ninth grades. The day camps will be held at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
Online registration for all camps is available at coachmcferrin.com.
Tenn. House OKs Anti-Meth Bill
Supporters of a watered-down version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s anti-methamphetamine legislation approved by the House on Wednesday believe it will help in the fight against the drug’s production across the state, even though it’s not as tough as they would like.
The House overwhelmingly voted 80-17 in favor of the proposal that would set an annual cap of 150 days’ worth of allergy and cold medicines such as Sudafed that could be bought without a prescription. Over-the-counter remedies that include pseudoephedrine are abused by people who make methamphetamine with the ingredient.
The House version is double the amount envisioned under Haslam’s previous proposal that has been adopted in the Senate.
The Republican governor’s original proposal would have established a monthly limit of 2.4 grams of pseudoephedrine, or a 10-day maximum dose, before requiring a pharmacist to authorize another 10 days’ worth before getting a doctor’s prescription.
Facing resistance over that measure, the governor later removed the pharmacist element, and instead proposed a 4.8-gram month maximum and an annual cap of 14.4 grams. That proposal was adopted in the Senate. The House version sets a 5.8-gram monthly cap and annual limit of 28.8 grams.
House lawmakers on Wednesday voted against an amendment to return the legislation to the governor’s proposal.
Rep. G.A. Hardaway said he opposed the governor’s version because of the hardships it would place on people who want to purchase the medicines legally, like some seniors who would be forced to get transportation to try to see a doctor.
Tenn. Spending Plan Headed to Full House
Tennessee’s annual spending plan is headed to a full House vote.
The House Finance Committee approved the measure on a voice vote Tuesday night. The Senate is hoping to also take up the legislation this week.
Gov. Bill Haslam has said planned increases in higher education funding and pay raises for teachers and state employees will have to be abandoned to balance the books.
The Republican governor said an ongoing decline in revenue collections is the main reason for not being able to give the increases and raises.
House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley proposed an amendment in the House Finance Committee Tuesday night to take money from reserves to give a one-time bonus to state employees and teachers, but the measure failed.
Panel Consolidates Pilot Flying J Lawsuits
A federal panel has consolidated seven lawsuits against Pilot Flying J, the truck stop company owned by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The suits claims Pilot cheated trucking companies out of promised rebates and discounts.
Knoxville-based Pilot already paid $85 million to 5,500 customers in a November class-action settlement of similar claims.
Attorneys for the seven companies with federal suits pending against Pilot had argued against consolidation, saying there were too few suits to make it necessary.
But the federal Panel of Multidistrict Litigation ruled Monday to consolidate in Kentucky’s eastern district, headquarted in Lexington. The panel noted that another 50 companies opted out of the settlement and could still sue.
A federal investigation of the nation’s largest diesel retailer is ongoing.
Evolve Bank Taps New CFO
Memphis-based Evolve Bank & Trust has added John Copeland as its new chief financial officer.
Copeland has 39 years of banking experience in a range of management positions that includes experience in audit, treasury management, controllership, financial management and mergers and acquisitions.
For the last decade, he’s worked as the CFO at M&F Bank.
Free Tuition Plan Goes to Key Panel
Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature proposal to create a program that would cover a full ride at two-year colleges for any high school graduate was scheduled to be heard by a key legislative committee on Tuesday.
Called “Tennessee Promise,” the plan is on the calendar of the Senate Finance Committee.
It’s a cornerstone of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” campaign to improve the state’s graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025 to help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state.
Haslam wants to pay for the program by using $300 million in excess lottery reserve funds and join it with a $47 million endowment.
However, one of the main concerns of higher education officials and lawmakers is making sure the plan is adequately funded.
Employers Post More Job Openings in Feb.
U.S. employers posted more job openings in February, a sign that hiring will likely improve in the months ahead.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that employers advertised 4.2 million job openings, up 7.7 percent from January. That’s the highest number of postings since January 2008, when the Great Recession was just beginning and the economy had yet to suffer the full shock of the downturn.
There are roughly 2.5 unemployed Americans for each open job, the report shows. That average has slowly been approaching the 2 to 1 ratio is typical of healthier economies, after peaking at 6.7 unemployed people for each available job in July 2009, just after the recession ended.
Hiring has accelerated over the past two months after a winter slowdown. After factoring in job losses, employers added 192,000 jobs in March and 197,000 in February, the government said last Friday.
That was significantly higher than in December and January, when snowstorms reduced job growth. The unemployment rate has stayed at 6.7 percent for the past two months.
Tuesday’s government report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, offers a more complete picture of the job market. It includes additional data on hiring and the number of people quitting or being laid off.
Total hiring rose 1.5 percent to 4.6 million in February. That’s still less than a healthy job market, where around 5 million people are hired each month.
The number of people who quit their jobs rose slightly last month, the report said, while layoffs declined.
The additional data in the JOLTs report illustrates how much turnover is happening in the job market. Stronger job markets usually include a greater amount of churn, with more people quitting and greater overall hiring.
Summer Gas Price to Dip 1 Cent
Drivers will get the slightest of breaks on gasoline prices this summer, according to the Energy Department.
The national average price is forecast to fall – by just one cent – to $3.57 per gallon between April and September, the months when Americans do most of their driving.
Still, that would be the lowest average since 2010. For the year, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration expects gasoline to average $3.45 per gallon, down from $3.51 last year and also the lowest since 2010.
World demand for oil is growing, but supplies are growing faster than demand, thanks to higher production in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere. That will keep a lid on the price of crude and gasoline.
The price of Brent crude, a benchmark used to price oil used by many U.S. refineries and the most important factor in gasoline prices, is forecast to fall 4 percent this year.
UTHSC Realigns Dept. of Dental Hygiene
The Department of Dental Hygiene at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Allied Health Sciences will be realigned under the UTHSC College of Dentistry.
By July 1, the seven full-time faculty, 16 adjunct faculty and four staff members of the department will relocate across campus from their 930 Madison Ave. offices to the Dunn Dental Building at 875 Union Ave. The leadership of the dental hygiene program will remain in place, reporting to Dr. John D. Seeberg, assistant dean for Clinical Affairs in the College of Dentistry.
Every year, UTHSC dental hygiene students contribute 2,300 hours of services and care to underserved children through the Urban Smiles initiative. Founded in 1926, the department is one of the earliest units established in the country to teach dental hygiene. In 2004, the department developed the first Master of Dental Hygiene program, the only online graduate program curriculum dedicated to preparing dental hygienists to serve as faculty and educational administrators.
Memfeast Attendees to Vote on Water Tower Design
Those attending the April 13 Memfeast next to the Broad Avenue Water Tower, 2532 Broad Ave., will vote on the coming redesign of the arts district icon.
The dinner, being held on the loading dock by the water tower and prepared by chef Miles McMath, will feature live performances as well as presentations by the artists who are finalists for the tower redesign.
At the end of the event, which is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., participants will vote to select the winning project.
For more information, visit urbanartcommission.org/news or call 552-3934.
First Tennessee Bank Expands to Houston
Memphis-based First Tennessee Bank has expanded to Houston.
The company has tapped longtime Houston banker Gary Olander to be its Houston market president. He joined First Tennessee March 25 and is building a team of top Houston bankers for First Tennessee.
Already, First Tennessee bankers have built strong relationships with several large Houston businesses, the company said.
Olander said he liked First Tennessee’s model of hiring experienced local bankers rather than buying banks to fuel an expansion.
Tate Uncontested in Tenn. Senate Race
The day after the filing deadline for the August state and federal primaries, Democratic state Sen. Reginald Tate became an uncontested incumbent, winning another four-year term representing District 33.
Possible primary challenger E. Jefferson Jones disappeared from the Shelby County Election Commission’s listing of contenders Friday, April 4, the day after the filing deadline. Jones’ bid to run for a County Commission seat was derailed last month when the election commission ruled that she didn’t live in the district.
Meanwhile, former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn’s petition to run in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate was reviewed and certified in Nashville the day after the filing deadline. He is one of eight challengers in the August GOP primary to incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
In other post-filing deadline action, Cookie Drake’s petition to run for District 6 on the Shelby County Schools board was disqualified after election commission staffers examined the signatures on her petition. And David Winston’s petition was accepted in the District 5 school board race that matches Winston against former Memphis City Council member Scott McCormick.
Haslam Unveils $1.5B Transportation Plan
Gov. Bill Haslam and Transportation Commissioner John Schroer have released the state’s three-year, $1.5 billion transportation program.
The Haslam administration said the plan unveiled Thursday takes a conservative approach because of uncertainty over future federal transit funding. It contains no money to pay for early engineering work on new projects.
The spending plan includes $600 million to maintain, replace or repair roads and bridges around the state. It also envisions interstate projects, including truck climbing lanes, interchanges and capacity expansion on major routes.
The three-year program runs from 2015 to 2017.
About half of the state’s transportation budget comes from the federal government, while most of the rest is generated from the state’s tax on gasoline.
Alexander Has $3.1 Million For Senate Campaign
Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander raised $614,000 in the first quarter, leaving him with $3.1 million on hand for his bid for a third term.
Alexander said he received formal notification on Thursday that he has qualified for the Aug. 7 primary. His eight opponents in the GOP nomination contest include state Rep. Joe Carr of Murfreesboro and former Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn.
Four candidates have filed to run for the Democratic nomination, including Knoxville attorneys Gordon Ball and Terry Adams, and Gary Davis and Larry Crim of Nashville.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has three challengers, including perennial candidate Basil Marceaux and Mark "Coonrippy" Brown, who is angry at the state for confiscating his pet raccoon.
Health Care Bill Helps Add 3 Million to Medicaid
Three million Americans signed up for Medicaid under President Barack Obama's new health care law as of the end of February, the administration said Friday, offering its first full accounting of how much the safety-net health program has grown since implementation of the law.
Many were newly eligible because of the law's Medicaid expansion, while others already eligible but not yet enrolled came forward due to publicity around the law and its requirement for individuals to carry insurance or risk paying a fine, analysts said. It brings to around 62 million the total number of people covered under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
The 3 million figure is incomplete because a handful of states didn't report their numbers, and it doesn't include sign-ups in March.
But together with the administration's announcement earlier this week that more than 7 million Americans had signed up for private insurance through the law's new online marketplaces, it allows administration officials to boast that the nation's new health care program has already covered 10 million uninsured Americans even in the face of unflagging Republican opposition.
About half the states have accepted a Medicaid expansion in the health law, and Sebelius said the administration would continue to work to get more states on board.
And although open enrollment just ended for the private health plans offered through the health law's online exchanges, people can sign up for Medicaid anytime.