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VOL. 7 | NO. 31 | Saturday, July 26, 2014

Daily Digest

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Proposal Surfaces for Ashlar Hall

Ashlar Hall could get new life as a help center for military veterans, according to a recent report.

A team that includes Jerome Hardaway, owner and operator of Frago, a nonprofit startup that takes an active approach to veteran transition, is exploring turning the vacant Midtown mansion into a facility offering veteran-based transition classes, according to a post at Choose 901.

Hardaway and others are hosting a clean-up effort at Ashlar Hall Saturday, July 26, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Multiple organizations have expressed interest in redeveloping Ashlar Hall, the stately but decaying mansion at 1397 Central Ave.

The nonprofit Urban Renaissance Initiative, whose founder, Ken Medlin, acquired the property rights from Robert “Prince Mongo” Hodges in 2013, has expressed interest in turning it into a facility to help military veterans. In May, the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention said it was dropping plans to use Ashlar Hall as a center for the arts, citing disagreements with Medlin.

Ashlar Hall, which was built in 1897 and served as the home of real estate developer Robert Brinkley Snowden, has turned into a dilapidated eyesore.

The city of Memphis and Environmental Court have been working to find a new owner that could make the repairs necessary to bring the 11,114-square-foot building into compliance.

Heritage Trail Project Receive Arts Grant

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded a $150,000 grant to the city’s Heritage Trail project for planning, design and public art.

Heritage Trail is the city’s ambitious project to redevelop a large area south of FedExForum and into South Memphis. It includes the proposed demolition of Foote Homes, the last of the city’s large public housing developments.

The city’s application for federal funding for that part of the project didn’t make the final cut earlier this year. And the city has been reworking its financing plan for the project as well.

The arts grant announced Thursday, July 24, by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, is from the Our Town grant program. It is to be used to develop landmarks within the Heritage Trail area, including Mason Temple Church of God In Christ, the South Memphis church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last speech.

Shelby County Honored for Employee Health

Shelby County’s government has been named a recipient of the Healthier Tennessee Workplace Award.

Healthier Tennessee is a nonprofit agency associated with Gov. Bill Haslam’s office. The agency promotes healthy workplace conditions at businesses across the state.

Shelby County was specifically recognized for the creation of the Total Health Wellness initiative, a program focusing on employee lifestyles and health habits.

During the past several months, government employees have participated in 5K races, volleyball games, various running and walking events, attended cooking classes promoting healthier preparation of foods and have had healthier food choices at government facilities.

Shelby County government will receive a certificate of recognition from Haslam and will be featured in Healthier Tennessee promotions to encourage more businesses to participate.

Memphis Athletics Director Named to NCAA Council

University of Memphis athletics director Tom Bowen has been appointed to the NCAA Division I Leadership Council.

Bowen was voted to represent the American Athletic Conference on the council by his fellow athletic directors from the conference.

Bowen, who has been athletics director for two years at Memphis, also sits on the College Football Playoff organization’s Athletic Directors Advisory Council.

The NCAA Leadership Council is composed of athletics directors, faculty athletic representatives and conference commissioners from every Division I conference. It serves as an advisory body to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.

The council, which meets four times a year, identifies and examines the structure and governance of the NCAA and helps form the agenda for future legislative actions. The group also oversees a number of NCAA committees, including the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, the Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Committee, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the Committee on Women’s Athletics and all NCAA cabinets.

Tunica Roadhouse Announces New Concert Dates

Tunica Roadhouse Casino & Hotel has announced two new dates for its free concert series.

The second in the series, featuring the band Cowboy Mouth, will take place on Aug. 2. The third, featuring FireHouse, will take place on Sept. 6.

Fuel was the first band in the concert series and performed on July 5.

Tunica Roadhouse announced the launch of the concert series a few weeks ago, at the same time it announced the giveaway of a jet ski every Saturday in July.

Tennesseans to Share $10 Million in Refunds

More than 336,000 Tennessee residents will split $10 million in refunds from health insurance companies because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act.

The Tennessean reported the refunds will average $53 per family and came about because of the medical loss ratio rule in the law. That provision requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of insurance premiums on patient care and quality improvement efforts. The refunds are for premiums paid in 2013.

For 2012, refunds to Tennesseans totaled $5.6 million.

The actual total for refunds in Tennessee is $10,037,932.

“The 80/20 rule is bringing transparency and competition to the insurance market, ensuring that consumers are continuing to receive value for their premium dollars,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.

Casino Revenue Stable After Harrah's Closure

Gambling revenues tumbled in Mississippi’s river region in the first month after Harrah’s Tunica Hotel & Casino closed, but the trend didn’t worsen much. Meanwhile, Gulf Coast casinos posted their best June in years.

State figures show casinos statewide won $174 million from gamblers in June, up less than 1 percent from June 2013.

The 18 river casinos won $78.7 million, down 12 percent from a year earlier. The 12 coastal casinos won $95.7 million, up 13 percent from June 2013.

Revenue statewide fell 4 percent over the last 12 months. Mississippi casinos winnings are down about 25 percent from 2007’s peak.

Overall revenue has fallen from the year earlier in 21 of the last 24 months.

The numbers exclude Choctaw Indian casinos, which don’t report to the state.

Trustmark Grows Income in Second Quarter

Trustmark Corp. has reported net income of $32.9 million for the second quarter.

That represents earnings per share of 49 cents, up 14 percent from the prior quarter and 6.5 percent from the same period last year. Trustmark president and CEO Gerard R. Host said the solid results included a 7.5 percent increase in total revenue and represented the fifth straight quarter of growth in the company’s legacy loan portfolio.

Mortgage loan production for the quarter was $322.2 million, up almost 40 percent from the prior quarter because of seasonal factors, lower mortgage rates and expanded originations in Trustmark’s Alabama markets, among other things.

During the quarter, Trustmark also opened new banking centers and regional administrative offices in Memphis and in Montgomery, Ala.

UTHSC Receives $3.1 Million in Federal Grants

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded the University of Tennessee Health Science Center nine federal grants totaling more than $3.1 million for a variety of programs and research projects.

The federal funding includes $1.1 million from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the Health Care Innovation Challenge – Project SAFEMED to help CMS treat patients and improve medication for a variety of health conditions.

Research funding allotments include separate $315,375 and $300,000 grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and separate $371,171 and $178,125 grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Other research grants include $375,000 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, $328,125 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, $75,000 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and $72,500 from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Elvis’ Last Cadillac on the Auction Block

Elvis Presley’s last Cadillac is among 72 items being auctioned next month at Graceland during the annual celebration known as Elvis Week.

Graceland announced details of the Aug. 14 auction on Tuesday. The items are being offered from third-party collectors.

Among the items being auctioned are Presley’s signature on a library card; a 1976 Cadillac Seville that Graceland says is the last one Presley purchased for his personal use; Presley’s copy of the original script for his first movie, “Love Me Tender”; a 1969 Las Vegas show agreement; a 1975 Martin D-28 guitar; and a gemstone, diamond and gold lion mask pendant and chain worn by Presley when he met President Richard Nixon at the White House.

More information about the auction is available at www.graceland.com/auction.

University of Memphis Selects New Women's Tennis Coach

Hayden Perez, a three-time ITA Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year who has been on the coaching staff of teams that have made NCAA Championship appearances each of the past five years, has been named the women’s tennis coach at the University of Memphis.

Perez was the associate head coach at Texas Tech University in 2014 after eight years at Nebraska, where he also served as associate head coach. In his one season at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders advanced to the NCAA Championship for a third straight year. Three members of the 2014 Texas Tech squad were named First-Team All-Big 12.

During his eight seasons at Nebraska, Perez was named the ITA Central Region assistant coach of the year three times – in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

Kelsey Calls for Tennessee to Join Obamacare Suit

State Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown called Tuesday, July 22, for Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper to join a lawsuit over federal subsidies in the form of tax breaks for those who buy health insurance on an exchange established in the Affordable Care Act.

Kelsey called specifically for the state to join the lawsuit Halbig vs. Burwell, in which a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., ruled this week. The ruling is expected to be appealed.

The Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled there can be no federal subsidies for those who buy in an exchange set up by the federal government instead of one run by a state government.

The same day, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled federal subsidies apply to both types of exchanges, setting up a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, with other appeals courts considering lawsuits over the same issue.

Kelsey has been a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act in all its aspects.

Commission Approves Houston Levee Widening

Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, July 21, an $18 million widening of Houston Levee Road between Walnut Grove Road and the Wolf River Bridge as well as another $10.3 million to widen Walnut Grove Road between Rocky Point Road and Houston Levee Road, both with grant money from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The commission delayed for two weeks a final vote on proposed pay raises for Shelby County Schools board members proposed by Commissioner Mike Ritz and delayed a vote on a $1.1 million school facilities study also until the first commission meeting in August.

The commission voted down a resolution by Chairman James Harvey urging the city of Germantown to release $273,080 in funding for the Germantown Community Television Foundation, the group that funds the television studio at Germantown High School. The high school will remain part of Shelby County schools in the coming school year.

And the commission approved the reappointment of Dr. Karen Chancellor as the county’s chief medical examiner.

Crazy Beautiful Moving to Overton Square

A locally owned boutique clothing store will be the newest tenant at Overton Square. Crazy Beautiful signed a lease on 1,531 square feet at 2111 Madison Ave. in Overton Square, between Breakaway Running and Sweet Noshings.

After nearly a decade of operating in the University of Memphis area, owners are moving the shop to Midtown to join the area’s retail resurgence.

“Two years ago, we began looking into moving to Midtown, and have watched the steady growth of the Square,” said owner Erika Smith in a statement. “We couldn’t be more thrilled about the opportunity to finally be located among other new thriving businesses.”

Since its inception in 2004, Crazy Beautiful has offered a select choice of clothing, shoes and accessories, sourcing the latest styles from current and emerging fashion labels. The shop features brand names such as BBDakota, Ark&Company, Flying Tomato, REVERSE and more.

Smith and her staff will operate a pop-up shop in Overton Square at 2092 Trimble Place while their permanent home is under construction. The Crazy Beautiful pop-up shop opens Friday, Aug. 1, and will be open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. The permanent Crazy Beautiful store at 2111 Madison Ave. is expected to open in October.

Polo Match to Benefit Wings Cancer Foundation

Wings Cancer Foundation and Panera Bread will host the inaugural Wings Pro Classic on Sunday, Sept. 14, at the Memphis Polo Club. The event will benefit Wings’ programs designed to help underserved cancer survivors across the Mid-South by providing free lymphedema garments, breast prostheses and mastectomy supplies.

The polo match will take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 at the club, 2650 Stinson Drive in Rossville. Individual tickets are $25 to $100. Reserved tables/tents range from $300 to $2,500.

For tickets and more information on the Wings Pro Classic, visit wingscancerfoundation.org/polo or call 322-2984. There is a 10 percent discount on tickets purchased before Thursday, July 31.

UTHSC Doctor Receives Mental Health Study Grant

Kazuko Sakata, an assistant professor in the pharmacology department at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received a two-year grant totaling $147,500 from the National Institute of Mental Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to research whether an enriched environment early in life is more effective than later in improving or preventing depression.

Sakata is also studying gene mechanisms in the brain that respond to the enriched environment. The goal is to develop effective interventions that can not only treat depression, but provide resilience in the brain to keep depression from developing.

AutoZone Celebrates 35th Year at First Store

AutoZone Inc. celebrated the company’s 35th anniversary this week at the company’s Forrest City, Ark., store to thank the community where the auto parts retailer’s story began.

Then known as Auto Shack, the company opened its first store in Forrest City on July 4, 1979. That day, the store rang up $300 in transactions. Since then, Auto Shack has become AutoZone, and the company has expanded to include more than 5,200 stores with 77,000 employees.

AutoZone is a Fortune 500 company and in 2014 was named to the Fortune “Most Admired Companies” list.

Judge: Davis Can’t Use Public Bond for Appeal

A judge won’t let former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis use his $100,000 public official bond to cover his appeal in a case with the state auditor’s office.

The Commercial Appeal reports Hinds County Chancellor Dewayne Thomas issued his order Monday. An appeal bond is required when a defendant wants to delay payment of a judgment until his appeal is heard.

Thomas said he could find nothing in state law or court cases that allows a public official bond’s to be used as a bond.

In May, Thomas ordered Davis to repay over $73,000 for improper personal expenses billed to the city for trips, expensive dinners, alcohol and clothing. Davis has appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Davis has told the court he is “financially incapable” of posting the appeal bond.

Thomas lowered the appeal bond to $25,000.

“Accordingly, the monetary judgment set forth by this court shall be stayed during the pendency of appeal so long as a $25,000 bond is secured by defendant Davis,” Thomas said in his order.

Davis’ appeal bond would have been $92,394.

Robata Ramen Bar Opens at Overton Square

The latest offering from prominent Memphis restaurateur Jimmy Ishii opened Monday, July 21, at the former Griffin House, 2116 Madison Ave. in Overton Square.

Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar, named after the Japanese word for “fireside,” is an izakaya bar and grill serving kushiyaki skewers of grilled meat and vegetables, bite-sized fried chicken, ramen noodle soups and other traditional Japanese items.

The interior features a granite-top yakitori bar with a visible cooking area for customers to experience food preparation. To preserve the charm of the historic Griffin House, the original hardwood floors and windows were restored. Customers waiting for a table can enjoy swings and lounge furniture on the front porch.

A typical Robata-style meal is usually shared by everyone at the table and begins with traditional light appetizers before progressing towards more robustly flavored items like yakitori grilled chicken, shishito Japanese peppers, grilled sardines and savory steamed clams. The meal usually concludes with a hearty noodle dish.

Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar is open seven nights a week from 5 p.m. to midnight. Weekday lunch service is expected to be added in the fall.

UTHSC Researcher Gets Neonatal Project Grant

Dr. Adebowale Adebiyi, assistant professor in the physiology department at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health.

The award, which will be distributed over a five-year period, will support a project titled “Regulation of Neonatal Renal Hemodynamics.”

Disruption of blood flow to the kidneys is associated with life-threatening ailments, including hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease. The long-term goal of Adebiyi’s research is to understand mechanisms that control blood flow dynamics in the kidneys and the roles they play in cardiovascular and kidney diseases. His laboratory investigates the functions of cell membrane proteins known as “ion channels” that are located in blood vessels and glomeruli (delicate units where blood is cleaned and filtered) within the kidneys.

This particular study will investigate kidney functions in newborns.

Amro Adds West Memphis Teacher to Walk to Fame

Amro Music is honoring a longtime school band director in West Memphis as the latest addition to the music shop’s Walk of Fame at the entrance to its Poplar location.

Williams served as band director for West Junior High School in West Memphis for 17 years. She’s spent more than 30 years educating young musicians in Arkansas and currently holds an instrumental music administrative position for the West Memphis School District.

Amro’s Walk of Fame honors local music educators who have made an impact in the Memphis area. Nominations are made by the public, and members are chosen each year by a select committee based on the educator’s impact, years of service and other contributions.

Tennessee Supreme Court Rules on Surety Bond

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Monday, July 21, that an unlimited surety bond is not required for an appeal of a civil case from General Sessions Court to Circuit Court.

Ruling in a 2007 Shelby County case in which Wilma Griffin sued Campbell Clinic for substandard medical treatment, the court ruled a cash bond covering the amount of court costs and litigation taxes is enough to permit an appeal.

Griffin posted a bond of $211.50 with her appeal the day after a General Sessions Court ruling in favor of the clinic. Attorneys for Campbell Clinic sought to have the case dismissed in 2012, claiming she posted an inadequate bond under case law on the matter.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling held that courts could request additional security under state law if necessary.

US Companies Report Rising Sales, Employment

Rising sales helped boost hiring and wages at U.S. businesses in the second quarter, and companies are optimistic that the trends will continue this fall, according to a new survey by the National Association for Business Economics.

Fifty-seven percent of the 85 respondents to the quarterly survey said sales at their companies rose in the April-June period. That was up from 53 percent in the first quarter and 35 percent in the same period a year ago. Just 5 percent of firms said sales fell during the second quarter.

Respondents also said the outlook for the coming period is strong. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they expect sales to increase during the third quarter, and just 1 percent expects sales to decline. Respondents from the finance, insurance and real estate sector were most optimistic about sales increases, while the service sector lagged.

As sales picked up, so did hiring. Thirty-six percent of firms said they hired more workers during the second quarter, up from 28 percent in the first quarter and 29 percent in the second quarter of 2013.

The employment outlook was steady, with 37 percent of respondents expecting their companies to hire more workers in the coming period. Finance, insurance and real estate companies were most likely to say they expect employment increases, at 48 percent; service companies were the least likely, at 28 percent. Less than 10 percent of respondents expect employment declines in the third quarter.

For the first time since October 2012, no respondents reported falling wages. Forty-three percent said their firms raised wages during the second quarter, which was than double the share that reported raising wages during the same time period a year ago. More than one-third of respondents – 35 percent – expected wages to continue to increase in the third quarter.

US Airlines Add Jobs for 6th Straight Month

U.S. airlines have been adding jobs for six straight months, though the gains aren’t big ones.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Monday that the nation’s passenger airlines had the equivalent of 385,619 full-time workers in May, up 1.1 percent from May 2013. That’s the highest level since September 2012.

Delta, American, US Airways and JetBlue added jobs while United shrunk 2.5 percent and Southwest slipped by 0.3 percent.

Some smaller low-fare airlines are growing faster than bigger airlines in percentage terms. Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air increased jobs by nearly 13 percent.

All the major airlines except United made money in the first quarter on strong travel demand. All are expected to post profits for the second quarter, including United.

The government counts two part-time employees as one full-time worker.

Memphis Chamber's Strickland Awarded Scholarship

The American Chamber of Commerce recently awarded a scholarship to Ernest Strickland, director of economic development of the Greater Memphis Chamber.

As director of economic development, Strickland is responsible for recruiting new companies to Memphis and Shelby County and assisting local companies with expansion plans.

The scholarship is part of the national organization’s Leadership Diversity program, which seeks to encourage leadership diversity among member chambers. The scholarships have three-year terms and will aid in providing information, training and other resources to enhance the leadership skills of women, members of racial/ethnic minorities, those who identify as lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender, or those with a disability.

Strickland, a native Memphian, is one of nine chamber professionals from across the country participating in the program.

Libertas School to Join Achievement District

The Libertas School, a charter organization approved this month to operate in Shelby County, will run a school for the state-run Achievement School District in the 2015-2016 school year.

The district is for schools in the bottom 5 percent statewide in terms of student achievement. Some schools are run directly by the district while others are run by charter companies under contract with the Achievement School District.

No location has been determined for the school Libertas would operate. A matching process involving public hearings with different communities begins in the fall.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 66 153 14,870
MORTGAGES 64 144 19,474
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 22 3,817
BUILDING PERMITS 217 359 35,689
BANKRUPTCIES 59 121 14,155
BUSINESS LICENSES 24 86 5,077
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 71 170 21,603
MARRIAGE LICENSES 22 59 4,616

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