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VOL. 123 | NO. 167 | Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Daily Digest

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Baptist Begins $10 Million Emergency Dept. Expansion

Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis has filed a $10.1 million permit for application with the city-county Department of Construction Code Enforcement to expand and renovate its emergency department.

The hospital broke ground last week at 6019 Walnut Grove Road and is slated to complete the project by March 2010, said Gary Fowler, director of facility services for Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.

The three-phase, 19-month project was created to accommodate growth at the hospital. It begins with an increase in emergency room parking and shifting of the emergency room’s driveway farther west to accommodate the expansion in phase two.

That second phase calls for the addition of 21,000 square feet of new floor space to the emergency department, which includes the construction of a second floor that will be reserved for future expansion.

“We’re improving the flow in the patient areas and we’re increasing the waiting room area, which is much too small right now to accommodate the traffic that we have,” Fowler said.

The third phase is the renovation of existing emergency department space, roughly 20,000 square feet. Once complete, the emergency department will have all private rooms, plus new CT and MRI services.

The state of Tennessee approved in March the renovation and expansion.

The emergency department will remain open and will be fully operational during construction, Fowler said.

Nashville-based Earl Swensson Associates Inc. is architect and Tulsa, Okla.-based Flintco Inc. is contractor for the project.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports


MMBC to Hold Economic Dev. Fair This Week

The Mid-South Minority Business Council is holding the 2008 Economic Development Fair running today through Thursday at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, 255 N. Main St.

The fair’s theme is “Increasing Prosperity Within Inner-City Neighborhoods.”

A franchising seminar will be held Wednesday from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Miriam Brewer, director of diversity for the International Franchising Association (IFA), will facilitate the seminar.

Panelists will include executives from D’bo’s Buffalo Wings n’ Things, Dunkin Brands and ServiceMaster Clean.


Science Foundation Gives U of M $2 Million Grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Memphis a five-year $2 million grant as part of its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program.

The goal of NSF-STEP is to increase the number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents with undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The STEP project concentrates on all stages of the undergraduate’s experience including recruitment, retention and persistence toward graduation to increase the number of majors and graduates throughout those programs.


Existing Home Sales Up 3 Percent in July

Sales of existing U.S. homes rose 3.1 percent in July as buyers snapped up deeply discounted properties in parts of the country hit hardest by the housing bust.

However, the number of unsold properties hit an all-time high, the latest indication that the worst housing market slump in decades is far from over.

The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5 million units. Sales had been expected to rise by only 1.6 percent, according to economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR.

Home sales were 13.2 percent lower than a year ago and prices were down dramatically. The median price for a home sold in July dropped to $212,000, down by 7.1 percent a year ago.

Despite the third monthly sales jump this year, the number of unsold single-family homes and condominiums rose to 4.67 million, the highest number since 1968, when the Realtors group started tracking the data.

That represented an 11.2 month supply at the July sales pace, matching the all-time high set in April.

Sales were up in all regions of the country except the South, which posted a 0.5 percent decline. Sales rose by 5.9 percent in the Northeast, 0.9 percent in the Midwest and 9.7 percent in the West.

Analysts say that until the inventory level is reduced to more normal levels, the housing slump is likely to persist. The inventory level is being driven higher by a massive wave of mortgage foreclosures.

Even with government help, nearly 2.8 million U.S. households will either face foreclosure, turn over their homes to their lender or sell the properties for less than their mortgage’s value by the end of next year, predicts Moody’s Economy.com.


Auto Industry Asks Congress For $50B in Loans

Automakers plan to urge Congress to support funding up to $50 billion in low-interest loans over three years to help them modernize their assembly plants and develop next-generation fuel-efficient vehicles.

Industry officials said the loans, which are twice the amount authorized in last year’s energy bill, are a top priority when Congress returns next month because of the declining fortunes of Detroit’s automakers and tightening credit markets.

“The amount of concern and urgency from the Detroit companies has increased in the last month and significantly ratcheted up what they’re communicating what their funding needs are,” said Alan Reuther, legislative director for the United Auto Workers union.

Congress authorized $25 billion in low-interest loans in last year’s energy bill, but the auto industry’s allies in Congress have been unable to get funding for the plan.

The loans would provide low-interest credit for up to 30 percent of the cost of retooling facilities to build hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric cars and other alternatives.

Detroit’s automakers have struggled this year amid a sluggish economy and consumers shunning large sport utility vehicles and trucks because of high fuel prices. General Motors Corp. reported a second-quarter loss of $15.5 billion and Ford Motor Co. reported an $8.7 billion loss.

Auto industry officials have said that the loan program would not represent a bailout, but would be similar to aid lawmakers have given to Wall Street investment banks and struggling mortgage firms. They also note that auto companies face tens of billions of dollars in costs from new fuel economy regulations.

“We don’t see it as a bailout. We see it as government assistance to help retooling tied to the production of these advanced technology vehicles,” Reuther said.

Congress would need to appropriate $3.75 billion to provide up to $25 billion in low-interest loans to car companies and their suppliers, according to a July 25 letter to House Democratic leaders.

The plan, which is still being discussed, calls for $25 billion in loans to be available in the first year, followed by an additional $15 billion in the second year and $10 billion in the third year, industry officials said. To activate the full $50 billion in loans, Congress would need to set aside about $7.5 billion to guard against a loan default.

GM and Ford spokesmen declined to comment on whether their companies would be pushing Congress to raise the loan limit, but expressed support for the program.


Alzheimer’s Advocates Push ‘Silver Alerts’ for Seniors

Advocates say Tennessee should join other states in establishing alert systems for elderly people suffering from dementia who wander unknowingly into harmful situations.

The Alzheimer’s Association, a national advocacy group, is pushing state lawmakers to invoke Silver Alerts for older Americans with the disease, similar to Amber Alerts used for missing and endangered children.

The association reports eight states, including Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia, have such alerts.

Tennessee Alzheimer’s Association officials say they have lobbied the Legislature to implement the warnings. However, no Silver Alerts bill was introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008, records show.

Sally Brewer, a director with the association’s Chattanooga office, says about 60 percent of people with the disease will wander. They often have a tendency to roam streets, drive aimlessly and hide in backyards and other areas.

Kristin Helm, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said the main barrier to starting the Silver Alerts is lack of personnel and noted the state is reducing its work force through a voluntary buyout. The TBI now issues all Amber Alerts in the state.

Renee Trent, an Ooltewah resident, said she was lucky when her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, roamed from their home because he had more than a milelong walk before reaching the closest highway. But every time he walked away, she panicked. He now lives in an assisted living center.

Although Trent never went missing for so long that Renee Trent needed to call police, with many victims of dementia, that’s not always the case.

An 86-year-old Memphis woman, Elizabeth Ferguson, who had early-stage dementia vanished earlier this year. She left her home in a 1993 Mercury Sable, headed to a doctor’s appointment, and neither she nor the car has been seen since.


RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 74 74 17,939
MORTGAGES 95 95 20,660
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 8 8 2,701
BUILDING PERMITS 141 141 36,977
BANKRUPTCIES 59 59 11,485
BUSINESS LICENSES 17 17 5,865
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 27 27 6,857
MARRIAGE LICENSES 41 41 4,090