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VOL. 6 | NO. 32 | Saturday, August 3, 2013

Daily Digest

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Community Banks Group Praises Triumph Executive

The Independent Community Bankers of America has named Ed Gentry, executive vice president and chief lending officer with Memphis-based Triumph Bank, as an “Outstanding Community Lender.”

Gentry is among only a handful of bankers in the U.S. to receive that distinction by the ICBA. An article published in the July issue of ICBA Independent Banker magazine notes Gentry’s relationship with Triumph and how important his mentoring philosophy and leadership have been to the bank’s growth.

Gentry joined Triumph in February of 2008 and has nearly 25 years of banking experience.

Election Commission Certifies Suburban Referendum Results

The Shelby County Election Commission has certified the results of the July 16 referendums on forming suburban school districts.

Voters in each of the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County overwhelming approved the ballot question. With certification of the results Wednesday, July 31, the next step for town commissions and board of aldermen in each municipality is to pass resolutions setting a date for the election of school boards in each town and city.

Suburban leaders have said they all plan to hold school board elections on Nov. 7. The goal of the suburban leaders is to open their school systems for the 2014-2015 school year.

Fred’s Super Dollar Gives to Memphis Zoo

Fred’s Super Dollar this week continued its support of animal care, conservation and research at the Memphis Zoo, presenting the zoo with a check for $33,613 Wednesday, July 31.

The donation was part of the company’s Panda Pals campaign and helped mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of Cat Country at the zoo.

The Panda Pals program, which has contributed more than $725,000 to the zoo since the campaign began in 2003, allows customers who visit any of the 155 Super Dollar locations in a 200-mile radius of the zoo to buy a $1 Panda Pals card, which is then displayed in the store where the card is purchased.

USPS Considers Alcohol Deliveries

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has a wish list for raising cash for his financially ailing agency. High on it is delivery of beer, wine and spirits.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Donahoe also endorsed ending most door-to-door and Saturday mail deliveries as cost-saving measures.

Donahoe says delivering alcohol has the potential to raise as much as $50 million a year. The Postal Service says mailing alcoholic beverages is currently restricted by law. Customers are even told to cover any logos or labels if they use alcoholic beverage boxes for shipments.

The agency lost $16 billion last year and is working toward restructuring its retail, delivery and mail processing operations.

A House committee has passed legislation that would cut letter deliveries to five days and phase out door-to-door deliveries.

Former Memphis Wrestling Promoter Dies in Accident

Former Memphis wrestling promoter Corey Maclin has died in motor vehicle accident in Mississippi.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol says the 43-year-old Maclin was southbound on Interstate 55 just south of Sardis around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday when his vehicle swerved into oncoming traffic and rolled over, throwing him from the vehicle. Maclin was pronounced dead on the scene.

Maclin was alone in the vehicle.

Maclin was a wrestling promoter in Memphis and formerly worked with Jerry Lawler before the two became embroiled in a trademark lawsuit over the name “Memphis Wrestling.”

Maclin joined the ABC affiliate in Memphis in 2010, where he was a sports anchor for 2 1/2 years.

He also worked for the Memphis Rockers basketball team of the WBL and the Memphis Hounddawgs of the ABA.

School Board Bans Corporal Punishment

Less than a week from the start of the first year of the consolidated school district, countywide school board members Tuesday, July 30, approved a series of policy decisions that reconcile differences between the old Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools systems.

The changes include banning corporal punishment in the merged school district and doing away with a requirement that every school have a Parent Teacher Association.

The changes repeal policies of the old Shelby County Schools system.

Although the county schools policies permitted principals to use corporal punishment, board members were told principals and teachers seldom if ever used the option. Memphis City Schools specifically banned corporal punishment.

The county school system’s requirement that all schools have Parent Teacher Association chapters was replaced instead with a policy saying the school system encourages the formation of “parent-led organizations” at each school that could include a PTA chapter as well as Parent Teacher Student Associations or Parent Teacher Organizations.

In other action Tuesday, the school board approved a contract for the W.E.B. DuBois Consortium charter school organization to establish a charter school within Hillcrest High School in Whitehaven.

The one-year agreement is for the school year that begins next week. The consortium is the charter school organization that includes former Memphis Mayor and Memphis City Schools superintendent Willie Herenton, which will also operate a similar charter school within Northside High School with the new school year that begins next week.

Construction Begins on Hattiloo Theatre

Construction has begun on the Hattiloo Theatre in Overton Square.

The $2.8 million, 10,600-square-foot black repertory theater is rising at the northwest corner of Monroe Avenue and Cooper Street and will feature two stages for larger and smaller shows.

Hattiloo will be the fourth theater on both sides of Cooper between Union and Madison avenues, including Playhouse on the Square, Circuit Theater and TheatreWorks.

Hattiloo was founded by Ekundayo Bandele in 2006 and operated out of converted retail space at 656 Marshall Ave.

The city of Memphis, which is building a $15 million parking garage and detention basin at Overton Square, acquired the property for the new theater from Loeb Properties for around $330,000 and is leasing the land to Hattiloo for $1 a year.

Memphis-Based nexAir Picks New PR Agency

Memphis-based marketing and communications agency archer-malmo has been tapped as the advertising and public relations agency of record for nexAir.

Memphis-based nexAir is one of the largest distributors of atmospheric gases and welding supplies in the U.S. Services provided by archer-malmo will include advertising, public relations and digital marketing.

Russ Williams, archer-malmo CEO, described nexAir as a “great family-owned business” with a rich history in the Memphis area.

Buckman Launches Buckman North America

Memphis-based Buckman International has combined its Canadian and U.S. offices into the new company, Buckman North America.

Executives at the privately held specialty chemical company announced Wednesday, July 31, the North American entity will be based out of the global headquarters in Memphis. But it will maintain the current Buckman office in the Montreal area.

Jim Doan will be president of the new division and Pete Tchouros will be general manager of operations.

Buckman North America is part of a series of changes in the company’s structure recently to what the company calls the OneBuckman global business model. The goal is six operating companies organized by geography to better reach customers.

Team Read Volunteer Training Set for Aug. 13

The Team Read program to train volunteers in one-on-one tutoring to improve reading skills of students is Aug. 13 at Germantown United Methodist Church.

The 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. training session teaches volunteers how to teach foundational words to second graders and conduct testing to determine where a student is at in their reading skills as well as work on building reading endurance in students who are reading at grade level.

The church hopes other congregations will join the effort, which was used at Caldwell-Guthrie Elementary School in North Memphis and Winridge Elementary in Hickory Hill last school year.

Team Read has been adopted for use in all elementary schools by the consolidated school system.

Memphis Startup Venture Heads to San Francisco

Memphis-based startup Mentor Me has been accepted into the San Francisco-based NewMe accelerator.

NewMe is an invitation-only 12-week accelerator for technology startups led by underrepresented minorities. Mentor Me CEO Brit Fitzpatrick and co-founder Sean Lissner recently graduated from the Seed Hatchery accelerator, which is run by Memphis-based organization Start Co.

Fitzpatrick said she’s hoping to increase her network and acquire resources while in San Francisco that she can bring back to Memphis. The NewMe accelerator starts Aug. 5 and wraps with a Demo Day on Oct. 18.

Mentor Me will launch in beta in mid-August and launch the full version in early 2014.

Tennessee Students to Get Fresh Produce

Tennessee is getting $3.3 million in federal funds to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to public school children.

According to the Education Department, students at participating schools will receive a fresh fruit or vegetable during the school day at some point other than a regular meal.

The program is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture to combat childhood obesity by helping children learn healthy eating habits. The program allows students to sample fresh produce to which they might otherwise not have access.

The funds will go to schools with the highest rate of students receiving free and reduced-cost lunches.

Shelby County has the highest concentration of participating schools with 69. A total of 159 schools in 29 districts are participating.

US Home Prices Rise 12.2 Percent

U.S. home prices jumped 12.2 percent in May compared with a year ago, the biggest annual gain since March 2006. The increase shows the housing recovery is strengthening.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday, July 30, also surged 2.4 percent in May from April. The month-over-month gain nearly matched the 2.6 percent increase in April from March – the highest on record.

The price increases were widespread. All 20 cities showed gains in May from April and compared with a year ago.

Prices in Dallas and Denver reached the highest level on records dating back to 2000.

That marks the first time since the housing bust that any city has reached an all-time high.

Home values are rising as more people are bidding on a scarce supply of houses for sale.

Steady price increases, along with stable job gains and historically low mortgage rates, have in turn encouraged more Americans to buy homes.

One concern is that higher mortgage rates could slow home sales.

But many economists say rates remain low by historical standards and would need to rise much faster to halt the momentum.

The index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. It measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The May figures are the latest available. They are not adjusted for seasonal variations, so the monthly gains reflect more buying activity over the summer.

Despite the recent gains, home prices are still about 25 percent below the peaks they reached in July 2006.

That’s a key reason the supply of homes for sale remains low, as many homeowners are waiting to recoup their losses before putting their houses on the market.

US Consumer Confidence Dips From 5-Year High

Americans’ confidence in the economy fell only slightly in July but stayed close to a 5 1/2-year high, a sign that consumers should continue to help drive growth in the coming months.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dipped to 80.3 in July. That’s down from a reading of 82.1 in June, which was revised slightly higher and the best reading since January 2008.

Despite the slight drop in July, confidence remains well above year-ago levels. And consumers are more optimistic about the current job market.

Amna Asaf, an economist at Capital Economics, blamed the July drop in confidence on rising gasoline prices.

But she said the confidence index remains at a level that is consistent with stronger growth in consumer spending in the July-September quarter.

Consumers’ confidence in the economy is watched closely because their spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

The index surged in June, coinciding with a stronger job market.

Employers added 195,000 jobs in June and many more in April and May than initially reported. That brought the monthly job growth up to an average of 202,000 in the first six months of 2013, up from 180,000 a month in the final six months of last year.

Despite recent gains, consumer confidence remains below the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy.

That level hasn’t been reached since the Great Recession began in December 2007.

EdR Second-Quarter Funds Rise 21 Percent

Memphis-based EdR reported Monday, July 26, that its second-quarter funds from operations rose 21 percent year-over-year.

The student housing real estate investment trust reported funds from operations of $11.84 million in the second quarter, up from $9.8 million in the second quarter of 2012.

Core funds from operations were $14.5 million, or 13 cents per share, for the quarter, up from $11.6 million, or 12 cents per share, over the same period last year.

EdR’s total revenues in the quarter were $41.98 million, up from $32.31 million in the same period last year.

Looking ahead, EdR, one of the nation’s largest developers, owners and managers of collegiate housing, said it expects core funds from operations for the year to be between 53 cents and 57 cents. The company said the midpoint of that range would represent a 17 percent increase over 2012.

Baker Donelson One of 'Top Law Firms to Work For'

Baker Donelson has been ranked among the top 10 law firms in the nation by Vault Inc.’s 2014 edition of “Best Law Firms to Work For.”

The firm was ranked No. 10 in the overall “Best Law Firms to Work For” list. Baker Donelson also received a first place ranking in the category of transparency.

The rankings are based on feedback from thousands of law firm associates across the country who were asked to rate their law firms on a number of quality-of-life categories.

Orpheum to Hold 19th Annual Art Sale

The Orpheum Theatre is holding its 19th annual art sale Aug. 11.

The event, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Orpheum, will introduce a new format that replaces the live and silent auctions featured in previous versions.

Artists will be available in person at the event to discuss their works and to sell directly to attendees, and 75 percent of each sale will go to the artist. The remaining 25 percent will be donated to The Orpheum’s new $14.5 million Centre for Performing Arts and Leadership.

In addition to the art sale, guests will enjoy a wine tasting, and artists will have on-site booths where they can arrange pricing directly with buyers.

Admission is $10 per person. Tickets can be bought at The Orpheum website, www.orpheum-memphis.com, by contacting Brooke Thompson at bthompson@orpheum-memphis.com or by calling 529-4224. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Cochon Heritage BBQ Event Shifts to Beale Street Landing

The Cochon Heritage BBQ series has changed venues.

The series, which also is now being promoted by a different PR agency, originally was supposed to take place at The Peabody hotel. It will still happen Aug. 30, but the new venue it’s announced is Beale Street Landing.

When asked the reason for the change, Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe pointed to the river.

“We were really excited to see Beale Street Landing open up and it was a chance to take our event down by the river in a new event space,” he said.

Also as part of new information released in recent days about the event, a list of competing chef teams in Memphis has been announced. They are Ryan Trimm of Southward (Memphis), Travis Grimes of Husk Restaurant (Charleston), Michael Scelfo of Alden & Harlow (Boston), Jackson Kramer of Interim Restaurant (Memphis), Craig Blondis of Central BBQ (Memphis), Chad Clevenger and Nick McCormick of Alma Cocina / Tap A Gastropub (Atlanta), and Rick Farmer and Miles McMath of St. Jude’s Culinary Team (Memphis).

Anderson to Lead Stand for Children

Betty Anderson, a consultant and strategist for the Tennessee Charter Schools Association, is the new executive director of Tennessee Stand for Children.

Anderson leads the Tennessee chapter of the national education reform group that has been heavily involved in the local schools reform debate and discussions about the consolidation of schools in Shelby County.

Anderson is a former chief lobbyist and assistant executive director of the Tennessee Education Association.

She was also a legislative liaison for Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter and she was public policy group leader at the Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz law firm.

Average Rate on 30-Year Loan Up to 4.39 Percent

Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages ticked up this week but are still low by historical standards, a trend that has helped the housing market recover.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan rose to 4.39 percent from 4.31 percent last week. Rates are a full percentage point higher than in early May.

The average on the 15-year fixed loan increased to 3.43 percent from 3.39 percent last week.

Rates spiked in June after the Federal Reserve indicated it could slow its bond purchases later this year, which have kept long-term interest rates low.

But on Wednesday the Fed hinted it might hold off because the economy remains sluggish. And it noted for the first time that mortgage rates, which have fueled home sales, “have risen somewhat” from record lows.

Mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which has also jumped on speculation that the Fed could slow its stimulus. Despite the increases, mortgages are still a bargain for those who can qualify. And low rates are helping boost home sales in most markets and driving home prices up.

Home prices jumped 12.2 percent in May compared with a year earlier, according to the latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index released Tuesday. That’s the biggest annual gain since March 2006.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

US Construction Spending Down 0.6 Percent in June

Spending on U.S. construction projects fell in June by the largest amount in five months as government building activity declined to the lowest level since 2006.

Even housing activity slowed but that setback was likely to be temporary.

Construction spending dropped 0.6 percent in June compared with May when spending had surged 1.3 percent, the Commerce Department reported Thursday, Aug. 1. It was the biggest decline since a 2.3 percent drop in January.

Housing construction was flat during the month with a gain in remodeling offsetting declines of 0.8 percent in single-family construction and a fall of 3.3 percent in multi-family projects. Residential construction has been a bright spot in a sluggish economy this year and that strength was expected to continue even though mortgage rates have risen from their lows.

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