Fisher Tapped for Economic Development Post
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has tapped Gwyn Fisher to be the Greater Memphis regional director of economic and community development.
She’ll be responsible for leading Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s economic developments in the Memphis area and will be a key point of contact for issues related to job creation. She’ll oversee efforts to attract new businesses, help businesses expand and support other regional economic development efforts.
Her regional area encompasses Lauderdale, Tipton, Shelby and Fayette counties.
Local Barbecue World Loses Two Icons
On the opening day Thursday, May 16, of the Memphis In May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the Memphis barbecue community was mourning the loss of two icons in the business of barbecue.
John Willingham, a past winner of the contests, restaurant owner and former Shelby County Commissioner died Wednesday.
Willingham tested his turbo cooker as well as seasonings and sauces at the 1982 barbecue contest and his team placed first for ribs and as the overall champion of the contest. The recognition boosted Willingham’s profile in the restaurant business.
Don Pelts, founder and owner of Corky’s Ribs & BBQ, also died Wednesday. Pelts founded Corky’s in 1984 after 13 years operating another barbecue restaurant that he didn’t own.
For Pelts, his business plan includes a 1950s decor and slow-cooked ribs that were hand pulled.
The original Memphis location in the Poplar corridor has since expanded to include other locations.
Southern Airways Express Announces Flight Plans
A new Memphis-based air carrier, Southern Airways Express, announced non-stop flight service to Destin and Panama City Beach, Fla., Gulf Shores, Ala., and New Orleans earlier this week.
Southern is the only airline that will offer non-stop flights from Memphis to the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Tampa, Fla.
Southern Airways is not yet offering tickets for sale, but the company expects its website, www.iFlySouthern.com, to be online shortly. The first flights will take off on May 29, and fares on all flights will range from $129 to $249 one-way.
“All of us at Southern are very excited to call Memphis our home and to offer these new destinations to the people of the Mid-South,” said Southern Airways Express CEO and Chairman Stan Little. “Rather than having an air carrier that needed another city, we have a city that needs another air carrier.”
Little says the airline won’t charge baggage or parking fees and that passengers will be able to arrive for flights from Olive Branch Airport and General Dewitt-Spain 15 minutes prior to departure. The airline will operate nine-seat aircraft.
Governor Signs Ignition Interlock Bill
Tennessee’s ignition interlock law will apply to more drunken drivers under legislation signed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Currently, ignition-locking devices, which force drivers to pass breath tests to start vehicles and keep them running, are required for DUI offenders whose blood alcohol level topped 0.15 percent.
This bill drops the level to the intoxication threshold of 0.08 percent and would require first-time offenders to get the devices. In turn, those convicted of DUI won’t get a restricted driver’s license and will be allowed to drive anywhere.
The measure was unanimously approved 95-0 in the House and 31-0 in the Senate.
It was sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Republican Rep. Tony Shipley of Kingsport.
Beale Street Caravan Blowout Held at A. Schwab
The annual Beale Street Caravan Blowout party will be June 13 at A. Schwab Dry Goods Store, at 163 Beale St.
This year’s party will feature live music by Reba Russell and catering by Mac Edwards of the Elegant Farmer. Tickets are $75 per person, and the party will last from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The party, which also will feature a silent auction, comes against the backdrop of sad news for the organization, which lost its co-founder recently. Beale Street Caravan co-founder Sid Selvidge lost his battle with cancer earlier this month.
The Beale Street Caravan radio show has more than 400 radio stations each week that carry its programming to 2.4 million listeners.
Governor Signs School Security Bill
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that allows school districts to let people with police training be armed in schools.
The measure passed the House 82-15 and was approved 27-6 in the Senate.
It allows schools to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, such as completing a 40-hour school security course.
The measure makes information about which teachers are armed or which schools allow the guns confidential to anyone but law enforcement.
Haslam included $34 million in his budget for local government officials to use on their priorities, which could include security measures.
US Consumer Prices Fall 0.4 Percent
A plunge in the cost of gas drove down a measure of U.S. consumer prices last month by the most since December 2008. Excluding the drop in fuel costs, prices were largely unchanged.
The consumer price index fell 0.4 percent in April from March, the Labor Department said Thursday. The main reason the index fell was that gas prices plunged 8.1 percent.
For the 12 months that ended in April, overall prices rose 1.1 percent – the smallest year-over-year increase in 2 1/2 years.
Excluding volatile energy and food costs, “core” prices ticked up 0.1 percent last month. Core prices have risen only 1.7 percent in the past 12 months. That’s just below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target.
Scant inflation is allowing the Fed to continue its extraordinary efforts to stimulate the economy. Worries about lower inflation or even deflation might push the Fed to step up its low interest-rate policies to stimulate more borrowing and spending and push prices higher.
Deflation is a destabilizing cycle in which prices and wages fall steadily. It can slow economic growth.
30-Year Mortgage Rate Rises to 3.51 Percent
Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose this week but stayed near their historic lows. Cheaper mortgages have helped the economy by spurring more home buying and refinancing.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year loan increased to 3.51 percent from 3.42 percent last week. That’s still near the average of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average on the 15-year loan rose to 2.69 percent. That’s up from 2.61 percent last week, which was the lowest on records going back to 1991.
Low mortgage rates have helped sustain the housing recovery that began last year. Home sales and construction are up from a year ago, and prices are rising in most U.S. markets.
EPayment America Debuts Social Commerce Tool
Christopher Reckert, president and CEO of Memphis-based ePaymentAmerica, has created a new social commerce tool called Yapyzal, which launched this week.
The tool is intended to allow businesses to design and share product offers on social media sites, then complete the sale via secure credit and debit card processing without leaving the social media platform.
The service is first launching on Facebook. It’s powered by ePaymentAmerica, which provides customer service and billing for the new service.
And the goal is to eventually extend the service to other social networking platforms.
EPaymentAmerica is a wholesale merchant service provider, with customers in all 50 states.
US Factory Output Falls 0.4 Percent in April
U.S. manufacturers cut back on production in April, as auto companies cranked out fewer cars, factories made fewer consumer goods and most other industries reduced output.
The weakness suggests economic growth may be slowing this spring.
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that factory output dropped 0.4 percent in April, the third decline in four months.
Production of autos and auto parts fell 1.3 percent in April. The drop is likely temporary because automakers are reporting stronger sales.
Still, the declines in April were broad-based. Factories produced fewer machines, electrical equipment, clothes, appliances, furniture and primary metals. Manufacturers made more computers and electronic products, among the few areas that showed gains.
Factories are making fewer goods in part because of a weaker global economy, which has reduced demand for U.S. exports.
And exports are likely to stay sluggish because the recession of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro has extended into its sixth quarter.
Overall industrial production, which also includes output at utilities and mines, dropped 0.5 percent in April.
That’s the biggest decline since August. Utility production plunged 3.7 percent, as power output returned to more normal levels after an unusually cold March.
A separate regional manufacturing report indicated that factory activity in the New York region shrank in May, signaling further weakness.
The New York Federal Reserve Bank’s Empire State manufacturing survey fell to 1.4 in May, down from 3.1 in April.
Still, there are some signs that factory output could pick up later this year, particularly in the auto industry.
Ford, GM, Chrysler and Nissan all reported double-digit U.S. sales increases, signaling the best April for car and truck sales in six years.
Car sales have risen steadily this year after reaching a five-year high in 2012.
Wunderlich Adds Advisers in Three Cities
Wunderlich Securities Inc. has added new financial advisers in a few offices, including in Memphis.
In Memphis, Jenny King has joined Wunderlich as a financial adviser from Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. There, she had served as director of marketing for retail fixed-income trading for nine years.
King’s responsibilities at Morgan Keegan also included the coordination of the fixed-income marketing initiatives for a sales force of more than 1,200 advisers and product development.
Memphis-based Wunderlich also recently added advisers in Houston and Dallas.
Foreign Holdings of Treasury Debt Up
Foreign demand for U.S. Treasury securities rose to a record level in March even though China, the largest foreign holder of Treasury debt, reduced its holdings slightly. The overall increase indicated that foreign investors remain confident in holding U.S. debt.
The Treasury Department says total foreign holdings of Treasury securities increased 0.7 percent in March compared with February to a record $5.76 trillion.
That is an increase of 11.9 percent over a year ago.
China’s holdings dipped by 0.1 percent to $1.25 trillion. Japan, the second-largest holder, also trimmed its holdings to $1.11 trillion, down 0.1 percent.
The third largest holder, five countries in the Caribbean including the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, saw their holdings rise 3.9 percent to $291.3 billion.
FedEx Plans Center in Southwest Illinois
FedEx Corp. is building a $23.5 million ground distribution facility in southwestern Illinois that will process 10,000 packages an hour once fully operational.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced the plans Tuesday in Sauget, just across the river from St. Louis. He touted the company’s decision as an endorsement of his administration’s efforts to lure business.
Quinn’s office says the facility will support 25 full-time jobs and 150 part-time jobs once it opens, in August 2014.
Illinois is offering the company tax credits worth $459,000 over 10 years if it meets a commitment to create jobs at the Sauget site and invest in the community.
Magna Bank Executives Garner Distinctions
Three Magna Bank employees from the bank’s mortgage division have garnered some new distinctions recently.
Laura Sinclair, a senior vice president and Middle Tennessee production manager with Magna, has been appointed to the board of directors of the Nashville Mortgage Bankers Association.
Meanwhile, at the annual convention of the Tennessee Mortgage Bankers Association the group awarded Magna executive vice president and mortgage division manager Lisa Reid with the Ernest P. Schumacher Lifetime Achievement Award. That honor goes to recipients who have a long-standing reputation as a leader in the mortgage industry and who have contributed locally and statewide to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Also, Meribeth LaBarreare, a vice president and senior loan officer with Magna’s mortgage division, has been inducted as president of the Tennessee Mortgage Bankers Association. As part of her responsibilities, she will advocate for the mortgage industry on the national level.
RedRover Picks Up Four Communicator Awards
RedRover Sales & Marketing took home four international awards as part of the 2013 Communicator Awards.
The firm got three Awards of Distinction for creative work completed for clients Thomas & Betts Corp., DreamCatcher Hotels and The MED Foundation. The firm also earned an Award of Excellence for its own newly designed website.
The award winners were announced by the International Academy of the Visual Arts. With more than 6,000 entries received from around the world, the Communicator Awards is the largest and most competitive awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals.
The awards are judged and overseen by the International Academy of the Visual Arts, a more than 600-member organization of professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts.
Leadership Memphis Hosts Education Experts
Marjorie Cohen, senior associate for education with the National League of Cities, will be the featured speaker at the quarterly meeting of Memphis Talent Dividend this week.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Leadership Memphis Gallery, 363 S. Main St.
Cohen is a leading education policy adviser for municipalities. Her work focuses on the importance of early childhood education as well as post-secondary education policy issues, and she’s currently involved in a national initiative on post-secondary success for low-income adults.
Also speaking will be Jose Cabrales and Margarita Benitez, representatives from Excelencia in Education, a policy group that advises municipal and institutional advocates of public policy that supports higher educational achievement, especially for Latino students, including college attainment.
Del-Nat Tire Volunteers Collect Discarded Tires
Del-Nat Tire Corp. hopes to turn an eyesore into things of beauty.
A volunteer team from the Memphis-based company on Saturday collected 832 discarded tires, which it plans to transform into living trees.
Del-Nat is donating $1 toward the purchase of trees for each tire collected during the cleanup effort, which took place around the 700 block of Peebles in South Memphis. The Memphis City Beautiful Commission and Shelby County government assisted in the effort, which Del-Nat called “Tires for Trees.”
“We feel this is a perfect way for Del-Nat to contribute to our community – helping to beautify our city, and combating a health hazard by eliminating places inside discarded tires where mosquitoes can breed,” said Jim Mayfield, president of Del-Nat, an independent provider of automobile, agriculture and commercial truck tires and tubes. “You could say we’re completing the cycle, from delivering new tires to properly disposing the used ones.”
The collected tires will be recycled by Pittsburgh-based Liberty Tire Recycling. The donated trees will be planted during the fall in areas selected by Memphis City Beautiful.
Bill Haslam Vetoes ‘Ag Gag’ Bill
Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday vetoed a bill that would require images documenting animal abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours, saying his main concern is its constitutionality.
State Attorney General Bob Cooper last week said in a legal opinion that the measure would be “constitutionally suspect” because it could violate Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination and for placing burdens on news collection.
Haslam said the opinion is among at least three reasons he’s vetoing the bill.
“First, the Attorney General says the law is constitutionally suspect,” the Republican governor said in a news release. “Second, it appears to repeal parts of Tennessee’s Shield Law without saying so. If that is the case, it should say so. Third, there are concerns from some district attorneys that the act actually makes it more difficult to prosecute animal cruelty cases, which would be an unintended consequence.”
A number of groups and celebrities have spoken out against the proposal they have dubbed the “ag gag” bill. They say the bill is designed to prevent whistleblowers from collecting evidence of ongoing patterns of abuse.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee was among the groups that lauded Haslam’s decision.
The veto is Haslam’s second since he took office in 2011.
Memphis Tech Firm Develops Museum Kiosks
When The Woody Guthrie Center opened recently in Tulsa, Okla., it included 12 touch-screen kiosks that were developed by Memphis-based custom software development firm Mind Over Data.
The kiosks that Mind Over Data helped develop allow visitors to browse photos, writings, audio recordings, videos and other digital artifacts.
One of the kiosks allows visitors to type their own song lyrics into a digital version of an Olympia typewriter, the same kind Guthrie used. Another kiosk allows multiple users to browse information about Guthrie’s life via an interactive map.
Woody Guthrie, who lived from 1912-1967, was a prominent folk singer and songwriter.
Mind Over Data specializes in interactive touch screen kiosks; mobile applications for Android and iPhone; business process automation; development of portals, intranets and extranets; and knowledge management and collaboration.
Thomas & Betts Donates $1 Million
Thomas & Betts Corp. executives marked one year since the acquisition of the Memphis-based power and electric utility devices company by ABB Group of Zurich Thursday, May 9, with three contributions from both. The contributions, totaling $1 million, went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and the Memphis Development Foundation.
The contributions honor recently retired Thomas & Betts chairman and CEO Dominic J. Pileggi.
Of the total, $500,000 went to St. Jude ALSAC, the fundraising arm of the research hospital. Another $400,000 was awarded to Le Bonheur and $100,000 was presented to the Memphis Development Foundation for use in the $14 million education and performing arts center the foundation is building as part of The Orpheum Theater.
“We’ve sponsored the tournament. We’ve done that for years,” said Charles L. Treadway, president and CEO of the Thomas & Betts business unit, referring to the FedEx St. Jude Golf Classic at the Tournament Players Club where the checks were presented Thursday evening and Pileggi as well as long-time Thomas & Betts general counsel Jim Raines were honored. “When we asked Dominic all the different charities he’s donated to since his time in Memphis, the list was quite long. We limited it to these three just to have a significant impact.”
Pileggi presented the checks and told a group of 100 at the club that the acquisition has gone well with both companies integrating their cultures and practices with Thomas & Betts adding 100 jobs in its Memphis-area operations since the $3.9 billion deal was finalized one year ago this month.
Baptist Cancer Center Taps New Medical Director
Baptist Memorial Health Care said it has named Dr. Stephen Edge as the medical director of the Baptist Cancer Center.
Edge, who most recently served as the Alfiero Foundation Endowed chair in Breast Oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., will oversee construction of the new cancer center building slated to open in 2014 near the Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis campus.
Edge is a graduate of Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and earned his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and completed his internship and residency at University Hospitals of Cleveland. He completed his fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md.
He is active in cancer care research and national policy development.
Assisi Foundation Donates $200,000 to Attorney General
The Assisi Foundation of Memphis Inc. is giving the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office $200,000 to replace file servers and other computer hardware that is outdated as well as desktop and laptop computers. The grant will allow a much-needed update in the computer system of the prosecutor’s office.
Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said the funding is critical for the office, which replaced some desktops and laptops in 2008, but otherwise hasn’t had a significant upgrade to its software and computer systems since 1999.