Wind Energy Project Receives Tax Freeze
The Economic Development and Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County has granted an 11-year tax incentive to a wind energy firm considering a $259.8 million investment in energy transfer infrastructure in Shelby County.
Clean Line Energy, operating as Plains and Eastern Clean Line LLC, plans on building a 700-mile-long transmission system to deliver around 3,500 megawatts of wind generated in the Oklahoma panhandle to the Mid-South and the Southeast.
The wind power generated in Oklahoma would be sent to the Tennessee Valley Authority system, which supplies Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division and dozens of other utilities, via a station near Millington. The company is in late-stage talks with TVA to allow its system to connect to the TVA grid.
The project would create 16 permanent jobs with an average salary of $56,875. The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive approved Wednesday, Feb. 19, would save the company around $24.2 million. However, the project would create around $36.2 million in new tax revenue over the 11-year PILOT period.
Clean Line would build a station in the city of Millington’s reserve area to convert the direct current wind energy to the alternating current power grid. The site currently pays $2,975 per year in Shelby County property taxes. After construction, Shelby County would receive an estimated $3.2 million annually for the term of the PILOT and $5.4 million annually after the PILOT expires.
The project still needs to get environmental approval from the U.S. Department of Energy. Construction could begin in 2016 and be complete by 2018.
Schools Closing Proposal to Be Released Tuesday
Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson told school board members Wednesday, Feb. 19, he will announce his final recommendations on school closings for the next academic year at the board’s voting meeting Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Hopson proposed a list of 13 schools for possible closure. After two sets of public hearings in the affected areas, Hopson told the board he is considering some scenarios for keeping Alcy Elementary open and may seek county funding to build a new school to replace Raineshaven Elementary and combine two neighboring elementary schools in the process. The condition of the Raineshaven building was a major factor in the exploration of closing the school.
Any funding for a new school building would depend on finding seven votes on the Shelby County Commission.
Hopson also announced seven new principals for the next academic year. Ami Marsh, who had been principal of Millington Middle, was named the new Germantown Middle principal, and Barbara Harmon was named the permanent Germantown High School after holding the job on an interim basis.
Hopson tapped Curtis Weathers, executive director of the Memphis Academy of Health Sciences, to be the new principal of Hamilton High. Millington Central High principal Mark Neal will become principal at Melrose High next school year.
Huey’s Teams with Nonprofit on New Garden
Huey’s has teamed up with local nonprofit GAIA to turn the grassy property at 1895 Madison Ave. next to the Huey’s home office into a garden.
GAIA’s mission is to create awareness about environmental issues, and it will use the property to grow a vegetable, herb and flower garden. The garden will showcase greens, tomatoes, carrots, beans, broccoli, beets, squash, herbs and wildflowers in raised beds, and all products will be donated to local food banks and shelters.
This month, GAIA is planting seedlings into pots, and between March and May will transfer plants into the raised beds. Products will be harvested throughout the year.
GAIA also intends to use the space as a water-collection site and to host field trips for local schools.
Tenn. Houses Passes Supermarket Wine Bill
A years-long effort to allow wine to be sold outside of Tennessee liquor stores easily cleared what was expected to be its toughest hurdle on Thursday when the state House overwhelmingly approved the measure.
The bill would grant authority to cities and counties that currently have package stores or liquor-by-the-drink sales to hold referendums on whether to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.
Debate lasted one hour and 15 minutes, with opponents raising the specter of Nancy Pelosi, crony capitalism and the undue influence of the liquor lobby to try to dissuade colleagues from voting for the bill. But in the end, those pleas were largely ignored and the measure passed on a 71-15 vote.
The measure would allow for local votes to take place as early as this fall, but would not allow supermarket wine sales until at least July 2016. Supermarkets located within 500 feet of an existing liquor store could have to wait an additional year
The bill’s main House sponsor, Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol, said that delay is necessary to give liquor stores a chance to prepare for the change.
The Senate, which passed its version 23-8 last month, is expected to go along with minor changes in the House bill and send the measure for the governor’s signature.
Applications for Jobless Benefits Drop to 336,000
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell a slight 3,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 336,000, a sign that layoffs remain low.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to a seasonally adjusted 338,500.
The average is roughly in line with pre-recession levels and indicates that companies are cutting few jobs. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs.
The number of applicants has stabilized in recent weeks despite modest levels of hiring in January and February. When applications for unemployment benefits remain fairly steady from week to week, it suggests that businesses are confident that customer demand will be strong enough to justify retaining their workers.
A total of 3.53 million Americans received benefits as of Feb. 1 – the latest period for which figures are available – up from 3.52 million the previous week.
In recent months, snowstorms and frigid weather have contributed to a slowdown in hiring, retail sales and home construction. A scant 113,000 jobs were added in January. That follows the addition of just 75,000 jobs in December. Job growth for the past two months is only about half the monthly average for the previous two years.
Some positive signs did emerge in January’s jobs report. The unemployment rate reached a five-year low of 6.6 percent. The decline from 6.7 percent occurred because more of those out of work found jobs. It was an improvement from December, when the rate fell mainly because many of the unemployed stopped searching for work. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively looking for a job.
New CEO Chosen for Methodist University
Jeffrey H. Liebman has been selected as the new chief executive officer for Methodist University Hospital.
A seasoned executive with more than 25 years of health care leadership experience, Liebman currently serves as president of the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Mass. Liebman selected after a national search that included input from a cross-section of physicians and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare senior leaders. Liebman will start on Feb. 24.
“Jeff is an excellent fit with our Power of One mission-driven culture, having devoted his career to enhancing patient satisfaction and clinical quality,” MLH Executive Vice President and COO Michael Ugwueke said in a statement. “He has a strong commitment to financial stewardship, and throughout his career he has built a track record of increasing market share, recruiting and retaining outstanding physicians and improving financial performance.”
In addition to hospital leadership experience, Liebman also has experience with large physician practices, including Affiliated Physicians Group, a community-based Harvard primary care network that he grew from 28 to 220 physicians.
Liebman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queens College in New York, a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago.
Medtronic Spine’s Q3 Revenue Flat
Quarterly revenue for Memphis-based Medtronic Spine was $744 million, down about 1 percent from a year ago. Core Spine revenue of $631 million, also was off about 1 percent.
“Stability in our business continued, as worldwide Spine revenue grew slightly in the third quarter on constant currency basis,” Doug King, Medtronic president, said in a statement. “Customers continue to respond favorably to our new technologies and procedural innovations, and enabling technologies like imaging, navigation and powered surgical instruments are a growing competitive differentiator.”
U of M Professor Honored by Steinway
Victor Santiago Asuncion, associate professor of piano at the University of Memphis, has been chosen as a Steinway artist.
Amro Music, the Memphis area’s Steinway & Sons dealer, will celebrate Asuncion’s honor on Feb. 22. The recognition puts him in the company of other Steinway artists like Duke Ellington, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Franz Liszt.
Asuncion will be listed worldwide on the Steinway artist roster and will be able to use the world-famous Steinway piano bank, which allows Asuncion access to a Steinway concert grand for his performances.
Council Rethinking Streetlight Fee
Memphis City Council members are rethinking the streetlight fee Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division has been charging.
The monthly fee has several different rates for homeowners, renters, small commercial property owners and large commercial property owners.
The council voted Tuesday, Feb. 18, to recommend the utility board consider a new set of rates that would be the same for homeowners and renters.
The key to the formula is that the set of rates have to bring in a total of $12.9 million in revenue to pay the cost of the streetlights.
With that assumption, council member Lee Harris proposed a monthly fee of $3.17 for homeowners and rental dwellers, a rate of $6.67 for owners of “small commercial” properties and $19.54 for owners of “large commercial” properties.
The current rate for homeowners is $4.32. For apartment renters it is $1.08. For small commercial, the monthly rate is $6.48 and for large commercial, the rate is $19.07.
The proposal includes no exceptions for areas of the city that don’t have street lights or planned unit developments where homeowners have already paid for streetlights and their maintenance.
Council Hires Actuary Consultant
The Memphis City Council approved hiring its own actuary firm Tuesday, Feb. 18, to review the city’s financial state, namely city government’s unfunded pension liability. The council voted to hire Segal Consulting of Atlanta to advise it as the council prepared for a March 4 committee session in which it will meet with the administration’s actuary and others on the unsustainable trajectory the pension fund is on.
The council won’t employ Segal to come up with an alternate plan as the company originally pitched. Instead the company will advise the council on the administration’s numbers as well as conflicting estimates of the size of the problem by actuaries working for the city’s municipal unions.
The cost for Segal’s services is expected to be $45,000 to $65,000 paid at an hourly rate. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. agreed that his administration would find the money to fund the cost.
Meanwhile, council chairman Jim Strickland announced that Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson and Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard will also attend the March 4 committee session which Strickland and other council members have nicknamed “actuary day.”
Dunavant Hires Nashville Terminal Manager
Chris McMahan has joined Dunavant Transportation Group as the terminal manager of its Nashville location.
McMahan will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the terminal’s operations, including supervision of intermodal dispatchers, driver management, recruitment and retention, customer service and increasing profitably through greater efficiency in utilization and load scheduling.
McMahan previously held administrative and managerial positions with Tombigbee Transport Corp., Medegen Medical Products and Intermodal Cartage.
Dunavant Transportation Group acquired Sea Lane Express, which specializes in regional trucking and intermodal drayage operations, in 2011. The company currently has terminal operations in intermodal and port cities including Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., Norfolk, Va., Charleston, S.C., Charlotte and Wilmington, N.C., and Nashville.
Baptist-Collierville Names Chief Nursing Officer
Denise Ferguson is the new chief nursing officer at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Collierville.
In addition to overseeing the nursing staff and working with the hospital’s leadership team, Ferguson will take a lead role in the hospital’s March 11 rollout of Baptist OneCare, Baptist’s electronic health record, slated to begin in phases throughout the Baptist system by the middle of 2015.
“Denise is a perfect fit for the role of CNO,” said Kyle Armstrong, administrator and CEO of Baptist Collierville. “Her hands-on clinical experience and various roles in administration have given her a keen understanding of what factors go into creating an optimal outcome and experience for patients.”
Most recently, Ferguson served as the administrative house supervisor for Baptist Collierville. Before that, she served as a staff nurse and unit manager in oncology and eventually as the director of oncology services for Baptist Memphis.
Sullivan Branding Makes Employee Changes
Sullivan Branding has made a few personnel moves to build out its account service and digital departments.
Bob Vornbrock is the agency’s new executive vice president and director of client development. Susan Ewing is now vice president and director of client services.
In his role, Vornbrock leads the agency’s new business strategy. His responsibilities will mainly focus on developing relationships with clients and identifying new opportunities where the agency can help clients solve problems and meet goals.
Ewing’s new role involves leading the development of Sullivan’s account service department. In addition to her role as account director of Fred’s Super Dollar, she is an adviser on client strategy and leads account service employee education.
In other agency news, Amy Wolfe has been promoted from office manager to manager of operations. Amanda Lewis also is now a digital strategist.
Lewis’ new responsibilities include crafting email marketing strategy, managing social media accounts and writing digital content.
Ross McDaniel has also changed responsibilities at the agency after moving from account service to the digital department. His role as a digital strategist now involves writing copy for digital media and devising content strategy, assisting with overall digital account strategy, executing ideas and assisting with website development.
Pending Bill Would Make Tennessee Time Uniform
A bill pending in the Tennessee legislature would have the state adopt a uniform time system.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville, would take effect in July if passed, and so would make daylight savings time permanent in Tennessee. The state currently moves clocks forward an hour each spring and back an hour each fall.
Todd told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he thinks the bill would have only positive effects.
“It will be great for the farmers. It will be great for the school kids,” Todd said. “I’ve talked to many businesses and folks across the state about this and I’ve not got one negative comment about this bill.”
Although a couple of lawmakers expressed reservations about the change last week, the bill passed out of subcommittee with only two no votes.
Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, voted against it after expressing concerns that having a time difference with neighboring states could lead to a negative impact on commerce. Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, said he wanted more time to review impacts of the potential change.
It is scheduled for a vote this week in the House State Government Committee.
New Memphis Institute Unveils Exec. Committee
The New Memphis Institute has announced Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. CEO Jason Little as its board of trustees chair for 2014.
The organization’s 2014 executive committee also includes a broad cross-section of leaders from the private sector in Memphis. They include Universal Commercial president Darrell Cobbins; Dunavant Enterprises president and CEO Bill Dunavant; Southeastern Asset Management chief financial officer Steve Fracchia; FedEx vice president Neil Gibson; Chism Hardy Investments LLC owner and CEO Carolyn Hardy; KIPP Memphis executive director Jamal McCall; Independent Bank co-chair and president Susan Stephenson; and Duncan-Williams Inc. president Duncan Williams.
EPA Recognizes Medtronic for Green Power Use
The Medtronic Spine/Pyramid Campus appears at No. 52 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Fortune 500 list of the largest green power users.
Medtronic Spine/Pyramid Campus is using 8 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, which is enough green power to meet 49 percent of the organization’s electricity use.
“This is a huge honor and we are proud to be recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said Julia Kniesly, principal environmental health and safety engineer at Medtronic Spine. “Using green power helps our organization become more sustainable, while also is sending a message to others across the U.S. that supporting clean sources of electricity is a sound business decision and an important choice in reducing climate risk.”
UTHSC to Offer Online Nursing Degree Programs
The Tennessee Board of Nursing has approved a proposal from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to offer a new degree program all online – the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree Program.
Starting immediately, the UTHSC College of Nursing will begin to accept applications for its fall 2014 online class of RN to BSN students. The online RN to BSN class has a capacity of 30 students per cohort. The current on-campus RN to BSN program at UTHSC accepts 30 students every year.
RNs can select full-time and part-time options, which would entail roughly 12 months or 17 months of study to earn the BSN, respectively. Registered Nurses who live in Mississippi and Arkansas but who work in Tennessee are eligible for in-state tuition at the UTHSC College of Nursing, if they enroll in the part-time RN to BSN program.
Students can choose between online or hybrid classes. The RN to BSN application submission deadline is April 15 for the class that starts in fall 2014. The application deadline is Sept. 15 for the class that begins in January 2015.
To learn more about the UTHSC RN to BSN program, contact Jamie Overton in the Office of Student Affairs, UTHSC College of Nursing at 448-6125 or JOverton@uthsc.edu. Or for more information, visit www.uthsc.edu/nursing.
Memphis Area Loses Construction Jobs in Dec.
The Memphis area lost construction jobs in December, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
Local construction jobs dropped by 1,200 to 20,100 for the month, a 6 percent decline from the 21,300 jobs during the same month a year ago.
The construction industry employed 107,400 people statewide in December, down 1 percent from the previous year. Construction employment in metro Nashville increased 6 percent in December to 34,900, up from 32,800 in December 2012.
Baptist Names First System Nursing Director
Susan Ferguson will be the first system nursing director for clinical value analysis/specialty care/patient safety at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.
Ferguson has been with Baptist for more than 35 years and in her new position will lead initiatives for supply chain management and peri-operative services. She will also manage patient safety and quality initiatives and will work closely with the emergency department.
“With her long history at Baptist and wide breadth of experience, Susan is a perfect fit for this position,” said Dana Dye, vice president of nursing and chief nursing executive for the Baptist system.
Wedding Services Bill Sparks Opposition
Two Tennessee lawmakers have proposed a bill that would protect wedding-related businesses from lawsuits if they refuse to provide services based on religious beliefs.
Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville and Knoxville Rep. Bill Dunn are sponsoring the proposal.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports it is expected to be reviewed by the Senate on Tuesday in the wake of recent court rulings in other states striking down bans on same-sex marriage.
Bell says he thinks Tennessee’s ban will be overturned eventually and the bill would protect the religious beliefs of business owners.
American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said the bill “is clearly written” to target gay, lesbian and transgender couples and is discriminatory.
“I think it’s happening, but it’s happening the other way, by the government, through the courts,” Bell said. “The courts are discriminating against people of faith who have deeply held convictions.”
Weinberg said the ACLU is lobbying against the proposal.
Bell said shop owners in other states have been sued for refusing to do business.
“It’s been the proponents of same-sex marriage who have brought this to court in other states,” he said, adding that the proposal’s purpose is “protecting the religious beliefs of the business owners.”
Woof Gang Bakery Opens in Cordova
Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming has opened a new location in Cordova.
The store at 714 N. Germantown Parkway offers full-service grooming and a wide selection of pet foods and supplies.
Woof Gang Bakery is a leading retailer in raw frozen diets, kibble, canned and dehydrated dog and cat food. The store also carries stylish essentials, fashionable accessories, a variety of toys and doggie spa products, and head-to-tail grooming is offered.
Memphis Team Part of New Pro Hoops League
Attention basketball fans: A new professional basketball league is making its debut this year.
The Central Basketball Association is scheduled to play its first games on March 1.
The CBA will include seven teams, with additional teams to join in 2015.
The focus of the CBA will be to give players the exposure they need to build their resumes and possibly make an International NBA D-League or even NBA roster.
The first seven teams are: the Bowling Green (Ky.) Hornets, Chattanooga Rail Runners, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Flite, Memphis Soul Kings, Middle Tennessee Storm, River City Panthers and Saint Louis Hawks.
Additional teams for 2015 will be in Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Lexington, Ky.; and South Bend, Ind.
TVA Sees Big Demand During January Freeze
The head of the Tennessee Valley Authority says five of the top 10 energy usage days in TVA history occurred last month as the region saw three waves of low temperatures.
TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson says January was demanding for the nation’s largest public utility, which serves about 9 million people in seven southeastern states. During a board of directors meeting Thursday in Chattanooga, Johnson thanked the public for helping reduce demands and TVA and power company employees for operating the system reliably.
With plunging temperatures across the Southeast last month, TVA appealed to consumers to reduce power usage to help avoid outages.
Johnson said increased power usage will lead to higher bills during the next couple of months for consumers, adding that affordable energy is TVA’s priority.
Cold Weather Causes Factory Output to Drop
Harsh winter weather led to a steep drop in U.S. factory output in January. Manufacturers made fewer cars and trucks, appliances, furniture and carpeting, as the recent cold spell ended five straight months of increased production.
The Federal Reserve said factory production plunged 0.8 percent in January, reversing gains of 0.3 percent in both December and November. Automakers lost days of production because of snowstorms, as their production plummeted 5.1 percent, the report said.
Factory output rose a modest 1.3 percent over the past 12 months.
Overall industrial production, which includes manufacturing, mining and utilities, fell 0.3 percent in January. Output for utilities rose 4.1 percent last month as the freezing temperatures boosted heating demand.
Factories responded to the weather by running at a lower 76 percent capacity, a 0.7 percentage point drop over the month and 2.7 percentage points below the long-run average.
The repeated battery of winter storms has slowed down the pace of economic growth, ending momentum that has boosted gross domestic product in the second half of last year. Cold weather last month delayed shipments of raw materials and caused some factories to shut down.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, reported earlier this month that its index of manufacturing activity fell to 51.3 in January from 56.5 in December. It was the lowest reading since May, although any reading above 50 signals growth.
Factory orders also fell 1.5 percent in December, according to the Commerce Department. That could have contributed to less output in January.
The figures suggest that U.S. manufacturing is slowing after strong gains at the end of last year. Auto sales approached 15.6 million last year but buying has since decelerated. Businesses are spending cautiously on machinery and other large factory goods.
Campus Recreation Director Appointed at UTHSC
Junius L. “J. Lee” Taylor has been named director of campus recreation at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Before his appointment, Taylor was the interim director of campus recreation at UTHSC. He has previously held positions as a coordinator, clinical trial interventionist, health educator and exercise specialist at UTHSC.
He has a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and recreation, and a master’s degree in health, physical education and recreation.