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VOL. 6 | NO. 34 | Saturday, August 17, 2013

Daily Digest

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Yellin Appointed Chief of School Communications

Emily Yellin, who wrote a bestselling book on customer service titled “Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us,” is the new chief communications officer for Shelby County Schools.

Yellin’s appointment by interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson was announced Thursday, Aug.15, and is effective immediately.

Yellin takes the job as the school system has struggled with the opening of the first year of the unified school district, with parents complaining they can’t reach school officials to handle complaints about transportation problems and other issues.

Because of the success of her book about customer service, Yellin has worked as a consultant to companies across the nation on such issues.

The Central High School graduate, who lives in Memphis, has also worked as a reporter covering the Southeastern United States for The New York Times. She has also written for Time magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Smithsonian magazine, Memphis magazine and The Memphis Flyer.

Downtown Marriott Rebrands as Sheraton

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. has rebranded the Memphis Marriott Downtown hotel as a Sheraton, and the property is undergoing renovations to bring that brand’s amenities and services.

“Sheraton is delighted to be part of the Memphis community with the opening of this terrific Downtown property, as we continue to aggressively expand the brand in dynamic destinations worldwide,” said Hoyt Harper, global brand leader for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. “Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel will welcome travelers with a stylish, comfortable and social atmosphere where they can enjoy all the brand’s recently enhanced signature services and amenities in a convenient location near leading Memphis attractions.”

Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel, at 250 N. Main St., is connected to the Memphis Cook Convention Center and is within walking distance to Downtown restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and nightclubs. The hotel was originally a Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza before being converted to a Marriott.

Owned by Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel features 14,000 square feet of meeting space, 600 guest rooms, a full-service restaurant and lounge and an indoor pool. The hotel is managed by Atlanta-based Davidson Hotels & Resorts.

The Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel will feature the brand’s Link@Sheraton experienced with Microsoft social hub and a Link Café.” The guest rooms will be upgraded to include Sheraton Sweet Sleeper beds, oversized work desks, ergonomic chairs, high-speed Internet and LCD flat-screen televisions.

MRI Interventions Posts Strong Second Quarter

Memphis-based MRI Interventions posted record disposable product revenue, added to its installed base, advanced its activities in drug delivery trials and continued to expand its sales and marketing platform in the quarter ended June 30, the company announced.

MRI is a commercial-stage medical device company focused on creating innovative platforms for performing the next generation of minimally invasive surgical procedures in the brain and heart.

The company reported $497,000 in total product revenue in the second quarter, up 71 percent from $291,000 in the second quarter of 2012. MRI Interventions CEO Kimble Jenkins said the company’s ClearPoint installed base also continues to expand, as it added three new installations in the second quarter.

BankTennessee Buys Downtown Bank Building

BankTennessee has bought the bank’s Downtown Memphis office building at 30 N. Second St.

The property, once known as the Welcome Wagon building, also has been renamed the BankTennessee Building.

In related news, the Memphis Bar Association is relocating its offices during the fourth quarter from Brinkley Plaza, 80 Monroe Ave., to the building.

Tennessee Exports Increase $300 Million in First Half

Tennessee’s exports increased 1 percent in the first half of the year, setting a new record for the state.

The International Trade Administration says exports were $16 billion, up $300 million from the same period last year.

The biggest export gains were increases of 60 percent to Singapore, 26 percent to the United Arab Emirates, 26 percent to South Korea and 17 percent to the Netherlands.

The Intentional Trade Association’s Commercial Service has 100 offices in the United States – including in Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis – and in American embassies and consulates in more than 70 countries.

Golden India Renews Overton Square Lease

Overton Square restaurant staple Golden India has renewed its 1,690-square-foot lease at 2097 Madison Ave.

“Golden India has been a part of Overton Square for more than 15 years,” said Carey D. White, senior vice president of asset management for Loeb Properties, who represented the landlord. “We’re happy that the Singh family’s cuisine will continue to contribute to the unique Overton Square experience.”

Bob Loeb, president of Loeb Properties, is one of the restaurant’s customers.

“I’m a regular at their lunch buffet,” Loeb said. “They grow many of their own herbs and vegetables, and they are a delightful host family.”

Loeb is pumping more than $20 million into Overton Square to transform the area into a vibrant theater, arts and entertainment district.

Collage Summer Social Celebrates 2013 Successes

Collage dance Collective’s 4th Annual Summer Social and Jazz Brunch is scheduled for Aug. 25 and will include performances by Kirk Whalum and Otis Faithful, as well as dishes prepared by Erling Jensen.

The event, happening from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Memphis Botanic Garden, showcases Collage’s professional dance company and the Collage Ballet Conservatory, comprised of local students.

Collage recently moved to the Broad Avenue Arts District, and donations from a Kickstarter campaign helped to update the dance studio for the company and students.

Collage dance Collective was founded in New York City in 2006 and relocated to Memphis in 2007.

University of Memphis Offers Teacher Residency Program

Memphis schools in the state-run Achievement School District will use teachers from the University of Memphis College of Education, Health and Human Sciences in a residency program agreement.

The residencies in the Ready2Teach program are for a year. The program itself is a four-year undergraduate teacher-preparation program that includes Common Core standards.

Memphis Teacher Residency and Teach for America are already operating teacher residency programs across the consolidated Shelby County Schools, charter schools and the Achievement School District.

US Home Foreclosures on Track for 6-Year Low

The U.S. is on track to end the year with the fewest homes repossessed by lenders in six years, a trend that should help limit the negative impact foreclosures have on home values.

Lenders repossessed 36,964 U.S. homes last month, down 31 percent from July last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

At the monthly average pace through July, completed foreclosures are projected to total nearly 490,000 this year, down roughly 27 percent from last year, the firm said. That’s also the lowest since 2007, when 404,849 homes were taken back by banks.

Foreclosures peaked in 2010 at 1.05 million and have been declining ever since. The trend has been accelerating as U.S. home prices have increased amid a resurgent housing market, steady job gains and still-low mortgage interest rates.

Radian Partners Acquires Gazelle Wealth Management

Memphis-based regional wealth management firm Radian Partners LLC has acquired Gazelle Wealth Management of Union City.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Radian, which was started in 2004, operates offices in East Memphis and Franklin, Tenn. The firm has been growing by about 100 clients each year and has about $150 million in assets under management.

The Gazelle acquisition brings more than 100 clients totaling assets of between $14 million and $15 million under the Radian banner and extends the company’s service area into northwest Tennessee.

Fewest Workers Since 2007 Seek Jobless Benefits

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 320,000, the fewest since October 2007 – a sign of dwindling layoffs and steady if modest job growth.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average fell 4,000 to 332,000, the fewest since November 2007 and the fifth straight decline.

Companies are laying off fewer workers, a trend that has lowered applications for unemployment benefits 14 percent this year. But hiring is still sluggish, resulting in only modest net job growth.

At the depth of the recession in March 2009, weekly applications for unemployment benefits numbered 670,000. They have fallen steadily ever since.

Nearly 4.6 million Americans received unemployment benefits in the week that ended July 27, the latest period for which data are available. That’s about 66,000 more than in the previous week but nearly 20 percent less than a year ago.

Workers Going It Alone for Retirement Funds

When it comes to funding their retirements, most workers say they will need to come up with the money themselves rather than rely on government assistance, according to a survey released Thursday by Charles Schwab Corp.

Of those surveyed, 89 percent said they are relying on themselves for retirement funds once they stop working full time. Five percent said that they are relying on the government and 4 percent said that they are relying on a spouse. Sixty-one percent of respondents said that their 401(k) savings will be their only or largest source of retirement savings.

The figures are based on an online survey of 1,004 workers, between the ages of 25 and 75, who contribute to their employer’s 401(k) plans.

The results show that people aren’t banking on social security or other government assistance to help them make it through their golden years.

As a result, workers are boosting their retirement funds. Fifty-five percent of respondents have increased their savings in the last two years. Seventy percent say that their 401(k) is in better shape than ever before.

Although most retirement savings took a hit during the financial crisis, 74 percent say that their 401(k)s have recovered about as fast or even faster than expected.

83 Tennessee School Districts Awarded Federal Funds

The Tennessee Department of Education is giving local school districts $8 million in federal education funds.

The money will be awarded to 83 districts that have chosen to participate in the First to the Top Scope of Work Supplemental Fund. The funds are part of the more than $500 million the state won three years ago in the national Race to the Top education grant competition.

Officials say the districts chose to implement at least one innovative program or strategy in three categories: teacher evaluation, implementation of the common core state standards and student assignment.

These areas reflect priorities of the state’s Race to the Top grant.

The districts have chosen strategies such as conducting the February writing assessments online in grades 3-11 and using two observers for at least one of a teacher’s mandatory observations.

Commission Sets Timetable for Filling School Board Vacancy

In a five-minute special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 14, Shelby County Commissioners approved a timeline for filling the vacant District 6 seat on the countywide school board.

The commission will interview applicants for the appointment during its Aug. 28 committee sessions and make the appointment at its Sept. 9 meeting.

The vacancy was created when school board member Reginald Porter resigned this month to become chief of staff to interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no one had applied for the vacancy.

Magevney House to Reopen in September

Eight years after it was closed to the public by the city of Memphis, the Magevney House will reopen Sept. 7.

The limited opening of the historic home at 198 Adams Ave., part of the city’s museum system, will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month. Tours of the house and garden will take about 40 minutes.

The house was built in 1852 and was the home of Eugene Magevney, who was a school teacher during his first years in Memphis and later became wealthy from real estate holdings in the city.

Tours of the historic Magevney House were one of the first casualties of city budget cuts in 2005 during the administration of then-Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

DeBerry’s House Seat Goes to Special Election

The District 91 State House seat, formerly held by the late Memphis Democrat Lois DeBerry, will be filled with a special primary election Oct. 8 and a special general election Nov. 21.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam issued the election writ Tuesday, Aug. 13, in Nashville for the seat, following DeBerry’s death last month from pancreatic cancer.

DeBerry was the longest-serving member of the House and of the Shelby County delegation to Nashville. She was first elected in 1972.

Candidates for the seat have until noon Aug. 29 to file their qualifying petitions with the Shelby County Election Commission.

The winner of the special general election in November will serve to the end of 2014, which is the remainder of DeBerry’s term of office. All state house seats are on the 2014 ballot for regularly scheduled elections to two-year terms of office.

Panel of Real Estate ‘Sharks’ to Vet Proposals

Following the zany “Sharknado” movie on the Syfy Channel and Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, the Urban Land Institute Memphis and the Memphis Area Association of Realtors Commercial Council will be pitting real estate projects against investment predators in the area’s first Shark Tank event.

The event, tailored after the popular television shows, allows real estate professionals to present project plans to a panel of “sharks,” investors who will provide feedback on the proposals.

The Shark Tank event is scheduled for Sept. 24 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Theatre Memphis. Only two projects will be selected to take part. Go to memphis.uli.org/events to register, or call 264-0579 for more information. Proposals should be submitted by Monday, Aug. 19.

WKNO Gallery Hosts Art League Exhibition

Gallery Ten Ninety One at the WKNO Digital Media Center is featuring the Memphis/Germantown Art League’s biennial National Exhibition through Aug. 29.

The exhibit features 66 pieces from artists across 14 states. Works include two-dimensional art displayed in a variety of mediums, including oil, watercolor, acrylic and mixed media.

They’ll be juried and judged by Leslie Frontz, an artist and instructor from North Carolina.

The Memphis/Germantown Art League is a nonprofit organization that supports artists and others interested in visual fine arts with contributions to individuals and to the community.

Mississippi Official: Agency Ignoring Fraud Victims

A Mississippi official says the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has failed to distribute $100 million to 39,000 investors in several states who lost money because of fraud by a financial firm.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says the federal agency has ignored inquiries about the money. He filed a brief last week supporting a federal suit that seeks to force the SEC to distribute the funds.

Memphis-based Morgan Keegan & Co. agreed in June 2011 to pay $200 million to settle civil fraud charges that it overstated the value of mortgage investments as the housing market collapsed.

Hosemann says Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina distributed $100 million to victims in 2012, but the other $100 million remains in a fund at the SEC.

Postal Service Revamps Priority Mail Program

The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service is revamping priority mail as part of its efforts to raise revenue and drive new growth in its package delivery business.

The agency is offering free online tracking for priority mail shipments, free insurance and date-specific delivery so customers know if a package will arrive in one, two or three days.

Postal officials say they expect the changes to generate more than a half-billion dollars in new revenue annually. The changes – including redesigned boxes and envelopes – are effective immediately.

First ‘Neighborfood’ Event Happening Aug. 24

The inaugural “Neighborfood” event is happening Aug. 24 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

That’s when foodies will explore Downtown Memphis by eating at eight different restaurants all within walking distance. The participating restaurants will each offer one special dish, and specialty cocktails will be offered at various locations.

The Daily News is a co-sponsor of the event, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit House of Mews, a nonprofit cat sanctuary in Cooper-Young.

Tickets can be bought at www.dishcrawl.com/nf, and the $15 price includes admission and one ticket good for the choice of food or drink.

Bundled ticket packages are available at discounted prices online.

Tennessee Shakespeare Co. Expanding Volunteer Guild

Tennessee Shakespeare Co. has put out a call asking for new participants for its volunteer guild, The Groundlings.

An orientation meeting is scheduled for Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown.

The Groundlings assist with ushering and merchandise/concession sales. They also help with food and drinks for projects and events, provide assistance for the Valentine’s Gala, support the production crew and help house actors who come here from around the country.

Groundlings receive free tickets to each show, an invitation to the dress rehearsal and post-dress rehearsal mixer, monthly newsletters via email and exclusive merchandise, among other things.

Memphis CPA Firm Unveils New Website

Memphis-based CPA firm Reynolds, Bone & Griesbeck PLC has unveiled a new website designed by 305 Spin Inc.

Features of the new website, www.rbgcpa.com, include a resource center with a database of articles, brochures and newsletters. There’s also a list of career opportunities and a comprehensive list of services provided.

The firm’s services include financial statement audits, tax return preparation, regulatory examination support and more.

Haslam Names Martin Finance Commissioner

Gov. Bill Haslam has named Larry Martin the new commissioner of the state Department of Finance and Administration. He has been the interim commissioner since June 1. The 65-year-old succeeded Mark Emkes, who retired in May.

Martin joined the governor’s staff last year as a special assistant to the governor and helped oversee implementation of Haslam’s civil service reform legislation.

From September 2006 to December 2011, Martin served as deputy to the mayor in Knoxville for both Haslam and Mayor Daniel Brown. His responsibilities included finance, public works and community development.

Metropolitan Bank Hires Two in Memphis

Metropolitan Bank has brought on two additions in Memphis. David Hertlein has joined the bank as a mortgage specialist, and Stephanie Maness is the newest client services adviser. Both are working in the Poplar Avenue office.

PROPERTY SALES 50 389 12,758
MORTGAGES 21 248 8,003
BUILDING PERMITS 295 813 29,934
BANKRUPTCIES 35 164 6,064