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VOL. 6 | NO. 51 | Saturday, December 14, 2013

Daily Digest

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Stephens Among Finalists for Bartlett Schools Post

Shelby County Schools deputy superintendent David Stephens is among the three finalists to lead the Bartlett Schools system.

Southern Educational Strategies, the consultant to the Bartlett Schools board, presented its group of finalists to the school board Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Stephens was selected by SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson as the day-to-day leader of the consolidated school system as Hopson led the team that took the county’s two public school systems into the start of its first fiscal year, which began July 1, and its first school year, which began Aug. 5.

In addition to Stephens, the other finalists are David Hill and M. Wayne Honeycutt.

Hill is director of academic operations for Memphis Catholic Schools, which included the Catholic Diocese of Memphis’ Jubilee Schools in inner-city Memphis.

Hill also served as executive director of Teacher Effectiveness for Memphis City Schools and was heavily involved in writing the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative proposal that won funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Honeycutt is former director of the Loudon County, Tenn., school system and has been superintendent, director and assistant superintendent of several other school systems in Tennessee and Illinois.

The next step in the Bartlett Schools board process of selecting a superintendent is conducting public interview sessions with the finalists.

County Retirement Fund Hits Another High

The value of the pension fund that pays benefits to Shelby County retirees has hit another six-year high – just as it has done every month since June.

The fund’s value, according to the latest figures, climbed to almost $1.08 billion in October, up from $1.05 billion in September. The last time the fund was higher than October’s total was in October 2007, when the fund topped $1.08 billion.

Stock market gains explain part of the highs. The domestic equity component of the county’s portfolio is up 28.3 percent year to date.

AutoZone Taps Wright as General Counsel

AutoZone Inc. has promoted Kristen Collier Wright to senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of customer satisfaction, effective Jan. 5.

Wright joined AutoZone in January 2012 as vice president, assistant general counsel and assistant secretary with oversight for a variety of company matters, such as litigation, and labor and employment law.

Before joining AutoZone, Wright was a partner with Bass, Berry & Sims PLC.

Metal Museum Hosts Holiday Show Sunday

The Metal Museum is hosting an open house holiday show and sale Sunday, Dec. 15.

The event, which will run from noon to 5 p.m., gives visitors an opportunity to explore the Metal Museum’s store and view pieces on display in the Gasparrini Gallery. Holiday ornaments, housewares, jewelry and sculptures will be available for purchase.

Visitors will also be able to explore the Metal Museum’s new exhibition, “Ha! Metalsmiths at Play.” The exhibit features metal toys, games and quirky-looking characters.

Throughout the day, Kevin Burge and a team of volunteers will lead a class in which students will create their own enameled copper ornament. The cost is $40.

For more information, visit metalmuseum.org.

Average Mortgage Rate Eases to 4.42 Percent

Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages eased slightly this week, remaining near historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan declined to 4.42 percent from 4.46 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan dipped to 3.43 percent from 3.47 percent.

Mortgage rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August and have stabilized since September, when the Federal Reserve surprised markets by taking no action on starting to reduce its bond purchases. The Fed meets next week and could slow the bond purchases if the economy shows further improvement.

The bond purchases are designed to keep long-term rates such as mortgage rates low.

A Commerce Department report issued Thursday signaled growing consumer confidence in the economy at the start of the holiday shopping season, as November retail sales rose at the fastest pace in five months.

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.

US Retail Sales See Biggest Gain in 5 Months

U.S. consumers ramped up spending in November on cars, appliances and furniture and made more purchases online, signaling growing confidence in the economy at the start of the holiday shopping season.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales rose 0.7 percent, the biggest gain in five months. October’s figure was also revised higher to 0.6 percent.

Two straight months of healthy sales suggests steady hiring is encouraging Americans to spend more this holiday season, particularly on big-ticket items. That could give a critical boost to the economic growth.

Thursday’s report “suggests that the holiday shopping season began on a strong note,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

The report also shows that consumers purchased more at home on their computers last month – and less at traditional stores. Those trends could explain why many retail chains estimated disappointing sales over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, one of the most critical for those businesses.

Online and catalog sales rose 2.2 percent last month, the most in nearly 18 months.

Sales were weak at some retail chains. Clothing and grocery stores reported lower sales last month. And gains at department stores, health care and sporting goods stores were all tepid. Nonetheless, Americans are spending more, which could give a much-needed boost to the economy in the final three months of the year.

Airlines Expect Profits to Jump to Record High

The global airline industry expects its profits to jump to a record high next year, helped by falling jet fuel prices, rising travel demand and cost-cutting.

The International Air Transport Association said Thursday it forecasts a profit of $19.7 billion – well above the $12.9 billion expected this year and the $7.4 billion made in 2012.

But the Geneva-based group, which represents 240 airlines, or 84 percent of total air traffic, noted margins are dropping. Next year’s profit would come from projected revenues of $743 billion. By contrast, 2010’s $19.2 billion profit was made on revenues of just $579 billion.

Tony Tyler, director-general and CEO of IATA, said that the profit would amount to a little less than $6 per passenger.

Baptist CEO Reynolds Announces Retirement

Stephen Reynolds announced Wed., Dec. 11, that he will retire as president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., effective in May.

Reynolds’ successor will be Jason Little, who is currently chief operating officer and executive vice president.

Reynolds is the fourth president and CEO of the hospital and health care organization. He joined Baptist in 1971 as an administrative resident and took the president position in 1994.

Independent Film to Be Shot in Memphis

The Sundance Lab Film “Free In Deed,” a drama about a Pentecostal preacher who tries to help a struggling single mother and her autistic child, will be shot in Memphis.

The film’s stars include David Harewood, who most recently had a prominent role as CIA official David Estes on Showtime’s “Homeland.” The film is written by Jake Mahaffy, who also will direct it, and it is being produced by Mike S. Ryan (whose credits include “Junebug”) as well as Mike Bowes and Brent Stiefel.

The Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission helped bring the project to Memphis. Casting is under way now.

Eclectic Eye Collecting Donations for 2 Nonprofits

Eclectic Eye’s boutiques are collecting donations for two local nonprofits, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center and the Page Robbins Adult Day Care Center, throughout December.

The Midtown boutique, 242 S. Cooper St., is collecting new teddy bears for the Child Advocacy Center’s Bearing It Together program. Eclectic Eye will also donate $5 of every frame purchase to the center, which serves children who are victims of sexual and physical abuse through prevention, education and intervention. Last year, Eclectic Eye donated nearly 140 bears and $1,250 to the nonprofit.

The Collierville boutique, 3670 S. Houston Levee Rd., suite 102, is collecting donations for Page Robbins Adult Day Care Center’s online wish list, including art supplies, paper products and food and kitchen items. The boutique will also donate $5 from each frame purchase to the Collierville nonprofit, which cares for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias while offering support to their caregivers.

Criminal Court Clerk Race Gets Active

Incumbent Criminal Court Clerk Kevin Key has checked out his qualifying petition to seek re-election in 2014.

And as Key checked out a petition for the May Republican primary Wednesday, Dec. 11, the Democratic primary for the clerk position got its first possible contender, Michael McCusker.

Richard DeSaussure picked up a petition earlier to run in the GOP primary.

Poll: Majority in Tennessee Want Medicaid Expansion

A poll conducted by Vanderbilt University shows more than three in five Tennesseans support an expansion of Medicaid, though nearly half also have a negative view of the federal health care law.

The survey of 800 randomly selected registered voters released Wednesday showed 63 percent favored an expansion of Medicaid, while 34 percent were against it.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam last spring declined to accept $1.4 billion in federal funds to cover about 140,000 uninsured Tennesseans under the terms the money was offered. He has been involved in negotiations with the federal government over a special deal for the state, but those efforts have not been fruitful so far.

The Medicaid expansion is part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which is viewed negatively by 47 percent in the poll.

Strategy Developed to Grow Tennessee Agriculture, Forestry

Tennessee’s top agricultural leaders have developed a strategic plan to grow agriculture and forestry over the next decade.

The plan was developed following a challenge by Gov. Bill Haslam a year ago to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast in those areas.

It highlights 27 action steps that focus on building production capacity and incentivizing the private sector through four major recommendations.

They include expanding marketing opportunities for Tennessee producers and encouraging new production systems and agribusinesses, as well as increasing the scope and depth of a skilled and educated workforce through career, technical and higher education.

The plan also endorses an initiative by the governor that calls for more than half the state’s population to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025.

Delta CEO: Fliers Will Pay for Higher Security Fee

The CEO of Delta Air Lines says a bigger security fee being considered in Congress will be paid by travelers, not by the airlines themselves.

CEO Richard Anderson calls the fee a tax, and says it means fares are going up. He says the increase will not be absorbed by Delta.

Congress is debating a budget that would add $5 to each nonstop, round-trip ticket. The money is for a Transportation Security Administration fee, which already stands at $5 per ticket.

Airlines have long complained that sales taxes, security fees, and airport taxes drive up the cost of their tickets unfairly.

Path Chief Financial Officer Joins FedEx Board

The chief financial officer of the social network Path Inc. has joined the board of directors at FedEx Corp.

Path CFO Kimberly Jabal also has been appointed as a member of FedEx’s information technology oversight committee, the package delivery giant announced Monday.

Path has functionalities similar to Facebook – the adding of friends, posting of status updates, and a layout built around a stream of updates – but it’s also a kind of anti-Facebook. Path purposely limits the number of connections its users can have – in theory, fostering closer bonds between users of the service.

Prior to joining Path earlier this year, Jabal worked at Lytro Inc., an early-stage company building the world’s first consumer lightfield camera. There, she was vice president of finance.

Jabal also served in multiple roles at Google from 2003 to 2011, including as director of investor relations.

Triumph Bank Reports Third-Quarter Profit

Triumph Bank posted a profit of nearly $670,000 for the third quarter, according to new figures from the bank.

That continues the bank’s streak of quarterly profitability, but it is down from the nearly $780,000 profit in the previous quarter, partly because of an increase in the loan loss reserve and greater operating expenses that came with the addition of 17 mortgage professionals.

They joined Triumph as a result of Triumph buying M&P Mortgage in a deal that closed during the third quarter, on Aug. 31.

Brooks Pulls Petition for Juvenile Court Clerk

Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks took another step Tuesday, Dec. 10, in her bid for Juvenile Court clerk. Brooks pulled a qualifying petition to run in the May 6 Democratic primary.

Brooks has been campaigning for months.

Republican incumbent Joy Touliatos opened her campaign last month and has already filed her qualifying petition. Democrat Cynthia Gentry has pulled a petition in the race, and former city division director Kenneth Moody has said he is interested in running in the Democratic primary. But to date, Moody has not pulled a petition.

Meanwhile, Coleman Thompson picked up a petition this week to run in the Democratic primary for Shelby County register. Thompson was the Democratic nominee for register in 2006 and 2010, losing both times to Republican incumbent Tom Leatherwood.

And David Vinciarelli has a petition out to run in the Democratic primary for County Commission District 8.

His most recent political outing was the 2011 election for City Council District 7, where he finished eighth in a field of 14 for the only council seat without an incumbent that year.

US Job Openings Reach 5-Year High

U.S. employers advertised the most job openings in more than five years in October, and the number of people quitting also reached a five-year high.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings rose 1 percent to a seasonally adjusted 3.93 million. That is the highest figure since May 2008, three months after the Great Recession began.

And the number of workers who quit rose 2.5 percent to 2.39 million, the most since October 2008. More workers quitting can signal a healthy job market, because most of those people likely either have a new job or are confident they can find one.

Total hiring, though, slipped 2.6 percent to 4.5 million after reaching a five-year high in September. Still, overall hiring has risen 5.2 percent in the past year.

More hiring, job openings and quits point to a more dynamic job market. That trend creates more opportunities for people out of work or looking for a new job.

Another positive sign in the report: Layoffs plunged 16 percent to 1.47 million, the lowest level on records dating to 2001. Still, while fewer layoffs are welcome, businesses need to step up hiring to more quickly reduce the still-high unemployment rate of 7 percent.

Specialty Olive Oil Store to Open in Overton Square

Overton Square will soon be home to a specialty olive oil store.

Memphian Kenny Ford has signed a 1,038-square-foot lease at 2094 Trimble Place for the store, which he is calling The Square Olive.

The Square Olive will offer all things olive oil – from bulk and bottled specialty oils to olive oil-based soaps, hand lotions and pet shampoos.

The Square Olive’s tagline will be “a unique olive oil experience,” and Ford said shopping there will be an interactive opportunity to sample a variety of olive oils with freshly baked bread.

The Square Olive will initially offer 24 flavors of oils from Argentina, adding a new oil every month or two. In addition to olive oils and olive oil products, a selection of balsamic vinegars will be available.

The Square Olive lease is the first long-term lease in the bays facing Loeb’s brand new Tower Courtyard. Indie Style Market and Sache are both operating temporary holiday pop-up shops in the two bays immediately adjacent to The Square Olive’s future home.

State Legislators to Gather in Memphis

More than 600 state legislators from across the country gather in Memphis starting Wednesday, Dec. 11, for the four-day annual meeting of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

The national group is led by Tennessee State Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville. State Rep. Larry Miller of Memphis is president of the Tennessee caucus to the group.

The conference, being held at The Peabody, is to set legislative priorities for the caucuses in the coming year.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is among the speakers.

Meanwhile, the political action committee Ready For Hillary 2016, which is seeking to draft former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president, is planning its own event for Wednesday. The Black Americans Strategy Session is slated to be held at the Doubletree Hotel, across Third Street from The Peabody, and will feature some of the legislators in town for The Peabody gathering.

Clark Tower Lit for the Holidays

Clark Tower, owned and managed by In-Rel Properties, is decorating for the holidays in a major way: by being illuminated in green through the end on the first week in January 2014.

All four sides of the landmark East Memphis office tower will be lit from dusk until dawn, using 1,000-watt metal halide bulbs.

“Our colleagues in the Memphis office thought this would be a fun way to take advantage of the size and breadth of Clark Tower and to light up the city during this holiday season,” said Mukang Cho, principal and CEO of In-Rel Properties.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751