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VOL. 6 | NO. 25 | Saturday, June 15, 2013

Daily Digest

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FedEx Freight Raising Rates 4.5 Percent

FedEx Corp. said its freight unit will raise rates by 4.5 percent beginning July 1.

The move follows Jan. 7 rate increases in its FedEx Express air shipment business and FedEx Ground package shipping business.

FedEx said Monday that its freight fuel surcharges are not changing, and remain among the lowest in the industry.

Home Builders Groups Form West Tennessee Association

The Memphis Area Home Builders Association is joining with two West Tennessee associations to form the new West Tennessee Home Builders Association.

The Jackson Area HBA, the Dyersburg Area HBA and the Memphis Area HBA are combining to form the new group.

“The main thing we do now is fight legislative issues,” said Don Caylor, 2013 president of Memphis Area Home Builders Association. “I think it will give us a more unified voice in the state of Tennessee.”

Caylor said membership at MAHBA dipped along with the economy and partnering with other organizations would provide builders with more opportunities.

“The downturn in the economy certainly opened the door for it,” Caylor said.

“We’ve really taken a shell in the belly of our ship with this economy,” he said. “Things are getting better and I think it will better position us when the economy bounces back.”

A formal announcement about the new organization and the 2013 VESTA Home Show is scheduled for Friday, June 14.

AutoZone Authorizes New Share Buyback

AutoZone Inc.’s board has authorized the repurchase of $750 million worth of shares of common stock as part of the company’s ongoing share repurchase program.

Since the inception of the repurchase program in 1998, and including the new amount, AutoZone’s board has authorized $13.4 billion in repurchases.

In unrelated news the company announced this week, AutoZone general counsel Harry Goldsmith is retiring in January 2014.

American Athletic Conference Puts First Men's Tournament in Memphis

The new American Athletic Conference will hold its first men’s basketball tournament at the FedExForum in Memphis next March.

The tournament will be held March 12-15 with all games televised by ESPN’s networks and the championship game on ESPN.

The arena will host the NCAA tournament’s South Regional two weeks after the American Athletic Conference tournament.

The announcement was made by Commissioner Mike Aresco, who lauded the tournament as a “wonderful event that our teams, coaches, administrators and fans will embrace and enjoy.”

University of Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen called it an exciting day after a collaboration involving the arena, the university and city of Memphis.

“This is monumental and dynamic for this new conference,” Bowen said. “We believe it will be a great tournament for this city, our fans and for Tigers everywhere.”

Memphis coach Josh Pastner said all of the league’s basketball coaches agreed at the conference meetings recently that the best place to hold a tournament was Memphis. He said even Louisville coach Rick Pitino called into the league meeting to endorse Memphis for the tournament.

“For all of the other coaches to say the best place to be is right here, that’s just a rare credit to the fans,” Pastner said in a statement.

Three High Schools Host Common Core Training

Three Shelby County high schools – Ridgeway, Southwind and Bartlett – will host the local part of the largest teacher training event in Tennessee history.

The schools and 14 others across the state will host sessions for 30,000 educators in the Common Core State Standards.

The math session will be June 18-21 at Southwind, 7900 E. Shelby Drive, and Ridgeway, 2009 Ridgeway Road; and June 25-28 at Ridgeway and Bartlett High School, 5688 Woodlawn Road.

The English language arts training sections are being scheduled for later in the summer.

The Common Core standards are replacing the “No Child Left Behind” student achievement standards.

Hollywood Feed Opening New Memphis-Area Stores

Hollywood Feed, which offers a wide selection of natural and holistic pet food and products, among other things, is opening three new stores in July and August.

Two of them will be in the Memphis area – in East Memphis and in Southaven.

The first two stores to open will be at 352 E. Goodman Road in Southaven, and 376 Ridge Way Road in Flowood, Miss.

At 3,600 square feet, the Southaven store will include features like dog washing stations and a full-service pet grooming salon.

The East Memphis store, scheduled to open in August, will be located at 2809 Kirby Parkway. That location will measure about 2,200 square feet.

The three new locations bring the pet retailer’s store count to 21 locations across the Southeast in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.

First Watch Restaurant Eyes Memphis for Expansion

The breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant concept First Watch is looking to expand in Tennessee, with company executives seeking multi-unit franchisees to open restaurants in Memphis.

The search for a franchisee in Memphis is part of the company’s strategy to grow to more than 300 restaurants by 2017.

First Watch currently operates more than 100 restaurants in 15 states. Each restaurant is about 3,200 square feet to 3,500 square feet, seats about 120 guests and employs about 25 local residents.

The company is celebrating its 30th year in 2013.

FordHarrison Law Firm Joins Global HR Alliance

FordHarrison LLP, a labor and employment law firm with operations in Memphis, has joined Ius Laboris, the world’s largest alliance of human resources and pensions law firms.

“Access to local human resources law services in the main business centers in America will be an invaluable resource for our European and worldwide clients,” said Chris Engels, the recently appointed chairman of Ius Laboris.

The Ius Laboris alliance includes 43 law firms with more than 1,300 lawyers in 42 countries.

State Board Adds Rules for Compounding Pharmacies

The Tennessee Board of Pharmacy says it has adopted new regulations for compounding pharmacies licensed by the state following recent outbreaks of illnesses associated with tainted medicines created at these specialty pharmacies.

The Pharmacy Board said in a news release that the new rules will improve safeguards for public health while also ensuring that drugs in short supply will be available. Compounding pharmacies mix custom formulations of drugs based on doctors’ specifications.

The board said the changes include expedited suspension of sterile compounding by a pharmacy or manufacturer after a serious problem is discovered and adding sterile compounding registration to licenses issued by the state.

Drug manufacturers doing business in Tennessee will also be required to show they are registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

US Retail Sales Jump 0.6 Percent in May

Americans stepped up purchases at retail businesses in May, spending more on cars, home improvements and sporting goods. The gain shows consumers remain resilient despite higher taxes and could drive faster growth later this year.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales increased 0.6 percent in May from April. That’s up from a 0.1 percent gain the previous month and the fastest pace since February.

The April gain was led by a 1.8 percent jump in auto sales, the biggest increase in six months. Excluding volatile autos, gas and building supplies, core retail sales rose 0.3 percent. That’s slightly higher than the 0.2 percent April increase.

Sales increased at hardware and general merchandise stores, but fell at furniture and appliance stores.

Memphis Firm Wins $3.7 Million Award for Disabled Trucker

Memphis-based law firm Bailey & Greer PLLC scored a victory when a Shelby County Circuit Court jury awarded $3.7 million to Donriel A. Borne for injuries he sustained when the 18-wheeler he was driving was struck from behind by another big rig on Interstate 55 in Memphis.

R. Sadler Bailey and Thomas R. Greer of Bailey and Greer represented Borne in the two-week trial against Indianapolis-based Celadon Trucking Services Inc.

Greer said the decision to take the case to trial was made after attempts to resolve the matter through negotiation and mediation failed following a defense offer of $25,000.

State Sales Tax on Food Drops to 5 Percent July 1

The Tennessee Department of Revenue is advising businesses selling food to start making the changes necessary to reflect a drop in the state sales tax rate on food that takes effect July 1.

The Tennessee Legislature passed the law earlier this year dropping the state sales tax rate on food from 5.25 percent to 5 percent effective with the start of the new fiscal year. The change does not affect the local option sales tax rate.

The reduced state tax rate applies to food and food ingredients. It does not apply to prepared food, dietary supplements, tobacco, candy and dietary supplements, which are taxed at the 7 percent state sales tax rate.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed the food sales tax roll back into law in May. While the legislature changed the sales tax rate on food, it did not change the parts of existing law that define the food and food ingredients that the tax applies to.

Georgia-Pacific Gets Request for Buckeye Data

Georgia-Pacific LLC has received a request from the Federal Trade Commission and the antitrust division of the Justice Department for more information and documents related to its acquisition of Buckeye Technologies Inc.

Buckeye, which is based in Memphis, runs manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Germany.

It makes and markets specialty fibers and nonwoven materials made from wood and cotton.

Those products are used in personal hygiene products, disposable diapers, engine air and oil filters, napkins, cleaning supplies, baby wipes and a series of other goods.

In April Georgia-Pacific announced that it reached a deal to buy Buckeye for about $1.46 billion. Georgia-Pacific is a privately held Atlanta-based paper, packaging and building products company.

The FTC and antitrust unit asked for more information and documentation on Buckeye’s nonwovens business.

Georgia-Pacific and Buckeye said that they will continue to work with the FTC and antitrust division.

US Chief Executives Optimistic About Hiring

Chief executives for the largest U.S. companies are more optimistic about sales over the next six months and plan to add more workers.

The Business Roundtable said Wednesday that its April-June quarterly survey found 32 percent of its members expect to expand payrolls in the next six months. That’s up from 29 percent in the January-March survey. And 78 percent expect their sales to increase. That’s up from 72 percent from the previous survey.

Consumers have kept spending this year, despite an increase in Social Security taxes. That’s helped the economy grow at a modest pace. Still, most of the CEOs don’t expect growth to accelerate. They forecast growth of 2.2 percent this year, only slightly better than the 2.1 percent forecast in the first-quarter survey.

“CEOs see the U.S. economy still on a slow road to recovery,” said Jim McNerney, chief executive of Boeing and the chairman of the Business Roundtable.

The better sales outlook reflects modest growth in the United States and “continued high growth in Asia” and other emerging markets, McNerney said, offset by continuing recession in Europe.

Small-business owners are also a bit more optimistic, according to a separate survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, released Tuesday. The NFIB’s small business optimism index rose for the second straight month to 94.4. That’s the second-highest level since the recession began in December 2007. Greater confidence in future sales and economic growth drove the increase.

June 17 Commission Meeting to Include Tax Rate Hearing

The Shelby County Commission meeting Monday, June 17, will include a required public hearing on the change in the county property tax rate.

The commission filed a public notice this week published in The Daily News that sets the hearing for the 1:30 p.m. meeting at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

The proposed county property tax rate up for the second of three readings at Monday’s meeting is $4.38 compared to the current rate of $4.02.

In the proposed rate, 30 cents of the increase is the recertified rate that the county and state estimate would produce the same amount of revenue for county government taking into account the 2013 property reappraisal that the $4.02 rate now produces. The remaining 6 cents on the tax rate is a tax increase to produce about half of the $20 million in new funding Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has proposed for the consolidated school system. The new rate for the county outside the city of Memphis would remain 4 cents higher to pay off rural school bonds used to build Arlington High School.

US Budget Deficit Widens $139 Billion in May

The government reported Wednesday that the U.S. budget deficit widened in May by $139 billion. But the annual deficit stayed on track to finish below $1 trillion for the first time since 2008.

Steady economic growth and higher tax rates have boosted the government’s tax revenue. At the same time, government spending has barely increased.

With the May increase, the deficit through the first eight months of this budget year totaled $626 billion, according to the Treasury. That’s down $218 billion lower than the same period last year. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the deficit won’t grow much before the budget year ends on Sept. 30.

Steve Mulroy’s Donation Creates Second Largest Chain

About a month ago, Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy donated a kidney to a stranger. That donation has created the second-largest kidney swap chain in history, according to the National Kidney Registry.

Chain 221 began with Mulroy’s altruistic donation at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute and involved 56 participants and 19 transplant centers.

“Once you realize that this is a way to save a life and possibly many other lives without any real permanent sacrifice on my part, it seems like not only a no-brainer, but a moral imperative,” said Mulroy, who also is a professor of law at the University of Memphis.

The speed of Chain 221 illustrates the progress that’s been made in shortening the setup times for large swaps, reducing the time patients wait for a kidney transplant. Large swaps like Chain 221 increase the ability to find matches for patients who are difficult to match.

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