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VOL. 10 | NO. 8 | Saturday, March 08, 2014

Daily Digest

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Baptist Selects First Chief Quality Officer

Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. has hired Dr. Mark Swanson to serve as chief quality officer.

Swanson’s duties in this new role include working with leadership in hospital administration, Baptist Medical Group, Select Health Alliance, medical staff, nursing and risk management to implement and monitor quality initiatives, design quality measurement systems, enhance employee safety efforts and oversee regulatory compliance.

Swanson comes to Baptist from Orlando Health, an eight-hospital, not-for-profit health care system where he has spent the past 28 years. His most recent position was chief quality officer of the organization’s physician group and physician clinical integration initiative.

Before going to Orlando Health, he served in the U.S. Navy, spending five years working in naval hospitals. He has been actively engaged in academic medicine, serving 11 years as a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the Florida State University College of Medicine while on staff at Orlando Health.

Start Co. Promotes Staff, Launches New Accelerator

Start Co. has added Memphis businessman Scott Vogel to its operation as vice president of civic entrepreneurship, and the organization has promoted current mentorship leader Al Pickett to vice president of diversity.

In addition, Vogel will be responsible for managing Start Co.’s newest accelerator, SkyHigh, which will be geared around social innovation. Along with that, Vogel will help Start Co. build public-private partnerships to scale the group’s effort. He’ll also help facilitate relationships with local and national universities and social groups, and will focus on business development.

The SkyHigh accelerator program is accepting applications through April 15. Applications to the rest of Start Co.’s accelerators are open through March 15.

Meanwhile, Pickett in his new role will help grow and lead Start Co.’s minority and women inclusion efforts, conduct community outreach and operate Launch University, a weekly founder development program. He’ll also continue to lead Start Co.’s mentoring platform.

Valero Delays Memphis Plant Maintenance

Valero Energy Corp. has moved maintenance work on its Memphis plant to April from March after a key parts supplier went out of business, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

The six weeks of work will begin April 7, according to Bloomberg, which cited a source with knowledge of the situation.

Bloomberg said the maintenance work will require about half of the refinery to be idled.

Valero announced in October that it would start eight weeks of work at the refinery in March.

The 195,000-barrel-a-day Memphis plant runs primarily light and sweet crude oil delivered by the Capline pipeline, which runs from St. James, La., to Patoka, Ill.

Indie Memphis to Celebrate Fashion Week

Indie Memphis helps celebrate Memphis Fashion Week this month by screening three fashion-industry-related films over three Tuesday evenings.

The films, all of which will be shown at 7 p.m. at Malco’s Studio on the Square, are “Girl Model” on March 11, “Ultrasuede in Search of Halston” March 18 and “Bill Cunningham New York” on March 25.

Memphis Fashion Week runs from March 24 to March 29.

Supermarket Wine Sales Bill Headed to Governor

Legislation that would let voters decide whether their cities or counties allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores has been sent to the governor, who is expected to sign the measure into law.

The Senate, which passed its version of the bill 23-8 in January, on Monday approved minor changes made by the House when the lower chamber passed its version of the bill 71-15 last month.

“This bill has been around a long time,” said Senate sponsor Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro. “I think the members of this body and members in the House actually listened to the people who are going to have that opportunity to purchase wine in grocery stores.”

The proposal would grant authority to cities and counties that 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.

It also allows local votes to take place as early as this fall but would not allow supermarket wine sales until July 2016 at the earliest.

Under current law, supermarkets and convenience stores can sell beer containing up to 6.5 percent alcohol by volume. Anything stronger can be sold only in package stores, which can’t sell anything beyond booze and lottery tickets.

In working out their differences, lawmakers agreed to require convenience stores to have at least 1,200 square feet to qualify for a wine sales license, and for the licensing fee to be $1,250.

Shelby County Schools Extends Open Enrollment

Shelby County Schools leaders have extended the open-enrollment period through March 21 for students under the general choice transfer program.

Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said last month the deadline for the applications would probably be pushed back so parents could consider their choices with attendance zone changes the school board is considering.

The transfers are on a space-available basis for schools that will be in the Shelby County Schools system in the 2014-2015 school year, after the separation of school districts in the county’s six suburbs.

Because of the demerger, Shelby County Schools cannot renew general choice transfers for students who live outside the suburbs’ borders and currently attend schools in the new suburban school systems.

Each of the suburban school systems has its own open-enrollment policies for such instances.

SCS students already on a general choice transfer at a school that remains part of Shelby County Schools next year are automatically renewed to attend that school.

Bad Weather Hurts Fred’s February Sales

Memphis-based discount retailer Fred’s Inc. said Thursday that February sales at stores open at least a year fell 2.2 percent, hindered by severe winter weather.

The performance surprised analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who were expecting a 0.2 percent increase in the metric.

This figure is a key gauge of a retailer’s health. It excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

CEO Bruce Efird said in a statement that cold temperatures, ice and snow in the southeast in February were “major factors” in its same-store sales decline. The executive said that the weather conditions led to store closings and fewer operating hours at a significant number of its shops.

Still, Efird said that Fred’s did see better February same-store sales in the pet, pharmacy and hometown auto and hardware departments.

Total sales for the four weeks ended March 1 dipped 1 percent to $157.5 million from $159 million.

GTx Reports Net Loss, Improved Cash Position

Memphis-based GTx reported a net loss of $7.8 million for the quarter ended Dec. 31 and an annual net loss of $42.1 million for 2013.

That compares to net losses of $10.7 million for the last quarter of 2012 and a net loss of $27.1 million for all of 2012.

However, a recent stock sale will improve GTx’s cash position by about $21 million.

The company’s Capesaris drug, in development for prostate cancer treatment, is entering phase 2 of a clinical study.

GTx also has learned that Enobosarm, a drug being developed to treat muscle wasting, did not produce the necessary data in current trials that would enable the company to file a new drug application.

Dr. Mitchell Steiner, CEO of GTx, said in a conference call that while Enobosarm did not meet the statistical criteria required by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, data from the studies “clearly showed that Enobosarm had a consistent positive effect on maintaining or improving lean body mass compared to placebo in both studies.”

The company is expected to continue development efforts.

Real Estate Road Show Set for March 18

Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir has announced the next Shelby County Real Estate Road Show to promote Shelby County’s tax sale and Land Bank will be March 18.

The event will be held at the Germantown Great Hall, 1900 S. Germantown Parkway. Check-in will begin at 1:30 p.m. with the two-hour program starting at 2 p.m.

Real estate information company Chandler Reports is sponsoring the Real Estate Road Show and providing refreshments. Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.

Attendance is free, however advanced registration is encouraged because space is limited.

Representatives from the Chancery Court Clerk and Master’s office and a title attorney from the Trustee’s office will be available to answer questions.

The county conducts four tax sales a year. The next is scheduled for April 9 at Memphis City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

To register, visit shelbycountytrustee.com and click on the Real Estate Road Show item under Events.

Public Invited to Weigh in on Sustainability Plan

Planners from the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Sustainability are inviting members of the public to review the vision plan and concept map for connecting local green space that’s a result of the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan.

The first major milestone of that three-year planning project was completed in late October with the development of the regional vision plan. The public is being asked to weigh in on that vision and share their priorities and ideas at a series of meetings from March through June, with the first held March 11 at the Bert Ferguson Community Center in Cordova.

Meetings in March will also be held in Raleigh and West Memphis. The full schedule of meetings can be found by visiting midsouthgreenprint.org/meetings.

The Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan is expected to be completed in December.

City Mid-Year Budget Clean Up Totals $48 Million

With lots of questions, the Memphis City Council approved Tuesday, March 4, a “mid-year clean-up” budget resolution that includes shifting $48 million in city funds.

While many of the transfers are revenue-neutral transactions for accounting purposes, the shift also includes moving $1 million to pay for continued testing of the Memphis Police Department’s rape kit backlog.

The money would come from the Midtown corridor fund, a $1.3 million pool of federal dollars that was originally to be used for the construction of Interstate 40 through Overton Park.

Last year, the city considered using the fund to settle money owed for Handy Park improvements that were a part of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings over control of the Beale Street entertainment district. Other city funding was used to resolve the matter.

Construction-period rent from The Pyramid totaling $2.5 million was also transferred to Housing and Community Development under the general heading of “Pyramid redevelopment.”

Court: Exempt Funds Protected in Bankruptcy

The Supreme Court says a bankruptcy court may not go after property or funds that are legally exempt from creditors.

The justices in a unanimous opinion ruled Tuesday in favor of a California man who declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The man claimed $75,000 of the value of his home was covered by California’s homestead exemption and was therefore exempt from the bankruptcy estate.

The man was later found to have fraudulently shielded some of his assets from creditors. A federal bankruptcy court said the exempt funds could be used to defray the attorney fees associated with uncovering the fraud, and a federal appeals court agreed.

But the Supreme Court reversed. It ruled that a bankruptcy court may not tap into exempt money to punish debtor misconduct.

FedEx Freight Rates Increase March 31

FedEx Freight, a less-than-truckload subsidiary of FedEx Corp., will increase shipping rates by an average of 3.9 percent effective March 31, 2014.

FedEx Freight said its “fuel surcharge will remain unchanged and is one of the lowest in the LTL industry.”

The rate increase is for FedEx freight shipments within the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico

The new rate hike comes after FedEx Freight raised prices by an average 4.5 percent July 1. Rate increases for FedEx Express and FedEx Ground shipments went into effect Jan. 6.

Council Approves Plan for Raleigh Springs Mall

Memphis City Council members approved an urban renewal plan Tuesday, March 4, for the Raleigh Springs Mall that will start the process of locating city government offices at the mall, starting with the Memphis Police Department traffic precinct. The resolution, sponsored by council member Bill Morrison and approved without debate, also sets the stage for a public hearing on the larger plan.

Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration has also talked of building a new Raleigh branch public library at the mall site and moving the Old Allen Station police precinct, the oldest police precinct building still in use in Memphis, to the mall.

A plan to set a new fee structure for streetlights went back to square one as the council couldn’t find a second to approve a resolution setting the new rates proposed by the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division board.

Several council members said they will likely try to bring the issue back to life in committee meetings later this month.

The council outright rejected the resolution by council member Bill Boyd to exempt approximately 1,700 newly annexed residents of South Cordova from paying the fee. That part of Cordova does not have street lights.

Boyd cast the only yes vote in favor of the resolution.

The council approved a long-delayed resolution to spend $300,000 from the city solid waste fund to build six community trash compactor pads in the Downtown area as part of a plan to eliminate Dumpsters in public alleys. Sustainable Solutions Group of Atlanta will run the compactors for the city, including collecting fees from those who use them, and would get a percentage of the fees under terms that are still being negotiated, said city Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom.

Paradigm Marketing Taps New Associate Partner

Michael Ganda has been tapped as associate partner/partner of strategic influence at Paradigm Marketing and Creative.

Ganda has been with the firm for eight years and was formerly Paradigm’s brand developer.

Firm president Charles Gaushell said Ganda will continue to develop the firm’s market strategy and branding services while expanding his focus on new client development.

Paradigm recently won two Gold Addy Awards and a Silver Addy Award at this year’s Memphis AdFed (American Advertising Federation) award show.

Library Expands Digital Audiobook Selection

Memphis Public Library and Information Center customers now have access to more digital audiobooks through OneClick Digital, one of the library’s newest online resources for customers on the go.

More than 1,000 new e-audiobooks are available thanks to funding from the city of Memphis and a partnership with Recorded Books’ RBdigital. To use them, readers create an account on the library website using their library card number and PIN. Then, they download the OneClick Digital app, which is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Nook Color and Kindle Fire.

Books are available to download from authors such as John Grisham, Stephen King, Sue Monk Kidd and more.

Overton Square Bikram Yoga Hosts Grand Opening

Bikram Yoga Memphis is hosting a grand opening for its Overton Square location Sunday, March 9.

Students are invited to take free classes at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and to attend an open house party from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Students can purchase class packages and retail items at 25 percent off, and the studio is also offering a presale of a six-month membership for $500.

The Overton Square Bikram Yoga Memphis, located at suite 205 of the building that formerly housed the ice skating rink and Palm Court Restaurant, will offer 90-minute classes seven days a week.

Contracts to Buy Homes Barely Budged in January

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes was essentially flat in January, a possible sign of a softening real estate market.

The National Association of Realtors said Friday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index inched up 0.1 last month to 95. The index has fallen 9 percent over the past 12 months as sales momentum has faded.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale.

Higher mortgage rates, rising prices and a tight supply of homes have restricted sales in recent months. Snowstorms across much of the country also delayed purchases. The Realtors project that sales will total 5 million this year, down from 5.1 million in 2013.

Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Marcoeconomics, thinks home buying could slow further through March.

"The bad news is that existing-home sales need to fall a bit further to move fully into line with the pending-sales index," he said in a client note.

The rising costs of buying a home have contributed to a slowdown in signed contracts over the past seven months. Sales of existing homes plummeted in January to the weakest pace in 18 months, the trade group said last week.

Some of the price pressures will be eased if more homes come onto the market in the months ahead. One way to increase the supply is through the construction of new homes, a sector not measured by the Realtors' indicator on sales.

Construction Spending Up 0.1 Percent in January

U.S. construction spending showed a tiny increase in January as strength in housing helped to offset declines in nonresidential building and government projects.

Construction spending edged up 0.1 percent in January, significantly slower than an upwardly revised 1.5 percent gain in December, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

Home building was up 1.1 percent in January with single-family construction rising 2.3 percent and apartment building up 1 percent.

However, there was widespread weakness outside of housing. Non-residential construction fell 0.2 percent and office building was flat, with bad weather likely a factor in the weakness.

Total government construction was down 0.8 percent in January compared with December.

Construction spending totaled $943.1 billion in January at a seasonally adjusted annual rate.

The 1.1 percent rise in housing construction was just half of the 2.5 percent gain in December.

Economists had expected the January weakness, believing that construction, like other parts of the economy, would be slowed by the unusually cold weather. However, the expectation is that builders will see better gains once spring and warmer weather arrive.

Most economists are looking for sales of new and existing homes to show further gains in 2014, bolstered by an improving economy and steady job growth.

Consumer Confidence Ticks Up in February

A rising stock market and a more optimistic outlook among younger Americans pushed up a measure of U.S. consumer sentiment in February.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment rose to 81.6 from 81.2 in January. It's still slightly below December's figure.

The harsh winter weather had only a modest impact. The survey found Americans are more upbeat about their prospects than at any time in the past six months. And those under age 35 were the most optimistic in six years about their future incomes.

At the same time, the cost of home heating caused some older Americans to take a dimmer view of their finances.

Survey director Richard Curtin says that consumers' resilience in the face of cold weather bodes well for future spending.

Energy Costs Boosted Consumer Spending in Jan.

Americans spent more in January, but the increase came from a surge in spending on heating bills during the harsh winter. Spending in areas such as autos and clothing declined.

Spending rose 0.4 percent in January after a 0.1 percent gain in December the Commerce Department said Monday. The December figure was revised down from a 0.4 percent increase.

Income grew 0.3 percent in January after no increase in December.

The overall spending increase in January reflected a 0.8 percent jump in spending on services, the effect of higher heating bills. It was the biggest increase in spending on services since October 2001.

Spending on durable goods such as autos fell 0.3 percent. And spending on nondurable goods, covering things like clothing and food, dropped 0.7 percent.

"Spending looks great but is not," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. Without an 11.3 percent surge in spending on utility bills, Shepherdson said consumer spending would have been close to flat.

Consumer spending is closely watched because it drives about 70 percent of economic activity. On Friday, the government said the economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter, down sharply from an initial estimate of a 3.2 percent rate.

Election Commission Urges School Board Ruling

The Shelby County Election Commission isn’t taking a stand on the Shelby County Commission’s plan to convert the Shelby County Schools board to a nine-member body.

But the commission will file a brief urging U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays to rule soon on the plan.

Candidates in the August nonpartisan Shelby County Schools board and judicial races have until April 3 at noon to file their qualifying petitions for the ballot.

Election Commission attorney John Ryder said the commission is filing a brief in Memphis federal court that will urge Mays to act quickly in his review of the new districts.

Mays has to rule on the redistricting plan under terms of the court consent decree governing the reformation of public education in Shelby County.

Election commissioners have said they need word from Mays on the plan at least a month from the filing deadline to be able to adjust the ballot. Candidates have been pulling petitions since January for a 13-district school board that covers all of Shelby County, including the six suburban cities and towns that are excluded from the nine-district school board plan.

Mays has not indicated when he might rule.

Dunavant Adds Charlotte Terminal Manager

Dunavant Transportation Group continues to add to its ranks.

Patrick Ellrich recently joined Dunavant Transportation as the terminal manager of its Charlotte, N.C., location.

Ellrich 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 profitability through greater efficiency.

Ellrich joins Dunavant Transportation from the Atlanta offices of Comtrak, where he oversaw load planning, customer service, and dispatch for more than 150 trucks in the Atlanta and Charlotte markets.

Dunavant also recently hired a new terminal manager in Nashville and driver recruitment and relations manager for its Dunavant Sea Lane Express subsidiary.

No Threat of Mississippi River Floods So Far

This winter's record snowfalls haven't been widespread enough to create anything more than typical high water farther south on the Mississippi River, National Weather Service hydrologist Jeff Graschel said.

The river was expected to be at or near flood stage Sunday in Cairo, Ohio, where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet, but that's likely to be brief, and effects farther south are unlikely so far, said Graschel, at the weather service office in Slidell, La.

Although rain in the next three to five days in parts of the Ohio River Valley might change the prediction, he said, "Right now we're looking at about a day right at flood stage levels."

That would cause minor flooding typical of the season in that area, affecting mostly farmland, he said.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 72 218 10,440
MORTGAGES 91 293 13,620
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 43 2,687
BUILDING PERMITS 0 393 24,700
BANKRUPTCIES 62 184 10,076
BUSINESS LICENSES 25 62 3,798
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 90 338 14,895
MARRIAGE LICENSES 10 68 3,235

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