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VOL. 124 | NO. 45 | Friday, March 6, 2009

Daily Digest

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Bellevue Baptist Buys Frayser Church

Bellevue Baptist Church has bought the former Georgian Hills Baptist Church at 3759 N. Watkins St. in Frayser for $800,000 to house its Impact Ministry Center and Impact Baptist Church. The transaction also included a small adjacent apartment complex at 1768 Dabbs Ave.

The new location will be home to Impact Baptist Church, a 500-member congregation run by the Rev. Michael Ellis, and Impact Ministry Center, an inner-city mission that provides “outreach to the Frayser community including a food pantry, computer classes, GED classes, children’s ministries, a thrift store and more,” according to a Bellevue Baptist release.

Bellevue formerly ran its Impact ministry and church at Northgate Shopping Center, 3160 N. Watkins St. The ministry and church are moving because of the larger space offered at the Georgian Hills property, a multibuilding campus on 6.18 acres. The Dabbs Avenue property includes one building on 1.12 acres.

“Impact’s new location will provide almost four times as many seats in the sanctuary, plus a large fellowship hall and great educational space,” the release stated. “It will allow Impact to continue all of its current ministries and begin to move into new areas of ministry that were previously impossible due to space limitations.”

Bellevue financed the purchase with a $640,000 loan through the seller, Georgian Hills Baptist Church Inc., which has moved to another location in Frayser.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports

Delta-Northwest Traffic Declines 11 Percent

The combined system traffic of Delta and Northwest airlines saw an 11 percent decline in February compared to the same month a year ago, Delta Air Lines Inc. reported Thursday.

Capacity decreased 7.8 percent, while the load factor decreased 2.7 points to 74.3 percent, the report stated.

Delta’s traffic declined 9.2 percent for the month, while Northwest’s traffic declined 13.3 percent. The two airlines, which merged last fall, are being integrated into one airline. Northwest is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta, which operates a hub at Memphis International Airport.

Fred’s Same-Store Sales Rise 1.8 Percent

Memphis-based Fred’s Inc. reported Thursday that its February same-store sales climbed 1.8 percent, easily beating Wall Street’s expectations.

The discount chain attributed the results to better traffic and more prescriptions filled at its pharmacies.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters predicted a 0.5 percent decline in same-store sales for the month.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, are a key indicator of retailer performance because they measure growth at existing stores rather than newly opened ones.

Total sales for the month dipped 2 percent to $146.4 million, pulled down by the closing of 74 underperforming stores and 22 underperforming pharmacies as part of a restructuring effort.

The company opened three new stores and two pharmacies during the month.

Fred’s runs 666 discount general merchandise stores, including 24 franchised Fred’s stores in the southeastern United States.

First M&F Corp. Sells $30M in Stock to Govt.

Another local bank has closed on its investment of money from the U.S. Department of Treasury as part of the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

First M&F Corp., the holding company of Mississippi-based M&F Bank, which has locations in the Memphis metro area, has sold $30 million worth of preferred stock with warrants to the government. The banking company applied for approval of up to $40 million.

The bank, like other participants in the program, will pay a 5 percent dividend on the shares for the first five years and 9 percent after that until the shares are redeemed. The idea behind the federal program is to infuse banks around the country with new cash they can use to maintain the flow of lending to consumers and businesses.

Olive Branch Hospital Still Goal for Methodist

Gary Shorb, president and chief executive officer of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, said the institution is still committed to building a hospital in Olive Branch despite a setback this week when a bill died in the Mississippi Legislature that would have given direct authorization for the hospital. Methodist Le Bonheur sought to bypass the normal certificate of need screening process through the Mississippi Department of Health after a staff report from the state agency recommended denial of a CON.

However, the state Health Department is revising the rules for how it evaluates hospital certificate of need applications, which could improve chances for approval.

Shorb said Methodist Le Bonheur is likely to file a certificate of need again this summer or fall, pending a vote on the new regulations by the state agency’s board. He noted that Olive Branch is the fastest-growing city in the fastest-growing county in the state.

New Jobless Claims Drop to 639K

The number of new jobless claims and the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits both dropped more than expected last week, though they remain at elevated levels and are unlikely to fall substantially in the coming months.

Few economists expect a turnaround in the battered labor market anytime soon, with companies laying off thousands of workers weekly.

Still, the tally of initial requests for unemployment benefits fell to 639,000 from the previous week’s figure of 670,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. Analysts expected a smaller drop to 650,000.

The 670,000 new job claims total reported a week ago was a new high for the current recession and the most since October 1982, when the economy was emerging from a severe downturn, though the labor force has grown by half since then.

The number of people claiming benefits for more than a week fell slightly to 5.1 million in the latest report from 5.12 million, after rising to record-highs for five straight weeks. Analysts expected 5.15 million continuing claims.

But an additional 1.4 million people were receiving benefits under an extended unemployment compensation program approved by Congress last year. That tally was as of Feb. 14, the latest data available, and brings the total jobless benefit rolls to about 6.5 million.

That’s up sharply from a year ago, when 2.8 million people were receiving benefits.

The four-week average of new claims, which smooths out fluctuations, increased 2,000 to 641,750, the highest since October 1982.

Four Memphis Firms Win Engineering Awards

Four Memphis-area firms have won category awards in the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee’s 2009 Engineering Excellence competition.

Allen & Hoshall Inc. received the Energy Category Honor Award for the Davy Crockett Park Energy Conservation Project in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. Askew Hargraves Harcourt & Associates Inc. received the Small Projects Category Honor Award for the Highland/Getwell Force Main and Pumping Station. EnSafe Inc. received the Environmental Category Honor Award for the brownfields remediation of the Smarthouse Way Southern Track in North Little Rock, Ark. Parsons Transportation Group received the Structural Systems Honor Award for the U.S. 90 bridge over Biloxi Bay in Biloxi Ocean Springs, Miss.

The Memphis firms EnSafe, Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., and SSR Ellers also received merit awards in several categories.

The annual Engineering Excellence Awards competition recognizes engineering firms for projects that demonstrate a high degree of achievement, value and ingenuity.

The winners were announced at the annual awards banquet this week in Franklin, Tenn.

US Productivity Falls; Wage Pressures Rise

The deepening recession caused worker productivity to slide by a worse-than-expected amount in the fourth quarter while wage pressures shot up at the fastest clip in two years.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, fell at an annual rate of 0.4 percent in the October-December period. At the same time, unit labor costs were surging by 5.7 percent.

While the combination of falling productivity and rising wage pressures would normally raise alarm bells about inflation, the threat of any resurgence of price pressures is seen as remote given the severity of the current recession.

The 0.4 percent decline in productivity was far weaker than the 1.5 percent increase that economists had expected. It represented a revision from the government’s initial estimate a month ago that productivity in the fourth quarter was rising at an annual rate of 3.2 percent.

IRS Issues Warning About Stimulus Scam

The Nashville office of the Internal Revenue Service has issued a warning about people receiving e-mails that appear to be from the IRS and promise the recipient a stimulus payment in return for disclosing personal information.

IRS spokesman Dan Boone said the IRS never sends e-mails to people about their taxes. Replying to the e-mails could expose a taxpayer to identify theft, Boone said.

PROPERTY SALES 97 418 8,253
MORTGAGES 112 508 9,293
BUILDING PERMITS 194 1,059 18,126
BANKRUPTCIES 46 208 5,367