Whole Foods Files Permit for Expansion

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. has filed a $3.1 million building permit application with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement to renovate its lone local store on Poplar Avenue in East Memphis.

The company announced plans last year to close its 25,000-square-foot store at 5022 Poplar and move into the adjacent space at 5014 Poplar, formerly home to Office Depot before that store moved down the street.

Whole Foods’ new store will be roughly 40,000 square feet, with construction set to begin this year.

Smith Doyle Contractors Inc. is listed as the project’s general contractor and GreenbergFarrow is listed as the architect.

Built in 1963, the building that houses Whole Foods sits on 6.1 acres along the north side of Poplar Avenue between Mendenhall and White Station roads. The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2013 appraisal is $5.3 million.

The building’s ownership is composed of Pearlco LP and B.W. and L.S. Cannon.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports

– Daily News staff

School Board Begins Schools Closing Process

The countywide school board should begin public hearings in August as a first step toward considering the closings of a dozen schools in the 2014-2015 school year.

The board voted Tuesday, April 30, to begin the process.

Gordon Elementary School was added to the list of 11 announced by interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson last week that included three high schools – Northside, Carver and Westwood. Gordon had been considered for closing last year by the school board but was taken off the list by then-Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash because of the co-location of an Achievement School District school for Humes Middle School students at Gordon.

The state-run ASD school for the Humes students will move into Humes with the 2013-2014 school year.

In other action Tuesday, the board approved a $21.9 million contract with GCA of Knoxville to outsource school custodial services in the consolidated school system.

And school board members also gave the green light to a hybrid that outsources some transportation services while keeping a fleet of in-house buses. It amounts to a $9.5 million contract with Durham School Services, which would operate buses in the northwest and southwest parts of Memphis. The school district’s bus fleet would operate at schools in the rest of Shelby County but with a route system that has been pared down in the coming schools merger.

Hopson told board members Tuesday that the hybrid model will also involve three start times for schools across the merged system – 7 a.m., 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. The board is to get details of what schools get what start times later this week.

– Bill Dries

Legislature Leaves Open Question About Judges

When the legislature failed to extend the life of the Judicial Nominating Commission, it effectively ended merit-based selection of judges in Tennessee. It also left open the question about whether there is any mechanism to replace a Tennessee judge who steps down, retires or dies.

Voters will get to decide in November 2014 whether they want to amend the state Constitution to change the way judges are selected in Tennessee. The amendment would give the governor the right to appoint appellate court judges followed by confirmation of the legislature.

Some lawyers warn the legislature has left Tennessee without a mechanism to pick judges before voters go to the polls next year because the commission that is set to expire June 31 currently helps the governor select judges.

– The Associated Press

Rhodes Honors Buckman With Honorary Degree

Robert Buckman, the chairman and CEO of Buckman Laboratories’ holding company from 1978 to 2000, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Rhodes College at the university’s commencement May 11.

Buckman earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University in 1959 and a master’s in business from the University of Chicago in 1961. He’s been a member of the Rhodes College board of trustees and is a longtime Rhodes benefactor.

Buckman Laboratories was founded in 1945 in Memphis by Buckman’s father, Dr. Stanley Buckman, and it has evolved into a global specialty chemical company. Robert Buckman assumed leadership of the company in 1978 and under his guidance, the company invested in expanding facilities worldwide and laid the groundwork for a computerized communications network to link all Buckman associate companies.

– Andy Meek

Fed Signals It Could Increase Stimulus

The Federal Reserve is standing by its extraordinary efforts to stimulate the economy. And it signaled that it could increase or decrease the pace of bond purchases depending on how the job market and inflation perform.

The Fed says after a two-day policy meeting that the job market has shown some improvement in recent months, on balance. But it also notes that unemployment remains high and government budget policies have begun to restrain economic growth.

In its statement, the Fed maintained its plan to keep short-term interest rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent from its current 7.6 percent. And it says it will continue to buy $85 billion a month in bonds to try to keep long-term borrowing costs down.

– The Associated Press

US Construction Spending Down 1.7 Percent in March

Spending on U.S. construction projects fell in March as the biggest drop in government projects in more than a decade overwhelmed strength in home building.

Construction spending fell 1.7 percent in March, compared with February, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It marked the second decline in the past three months. January activity plunged a record 4 percent, which represented a downward revision from a previous estimate of a 2.1 percent decline.

Even with the recent weakness, construction activity was 4.8 percent higher in March than a year ago at a seasonally adjusted $856.7 billion.

For March, private residential construction rose 0.4 percent, the only major sector showing a gain. Government construction activity fell 4.1 percent, the biggest drop since March 2002, while private nonresidential building was down 1.5 percent.

The weakness in government activity occurred at all levels. Spending by state and local governments was down 4.2 percent while spending by the federal government on construction projects was down 1.7 percent. Economists are expecting federal activity to be reduced in coming months as different agencies cope with across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect on March 1.

The weakness in nonresidential activity reflected declines in spending on commercial projects such as shopping centers.

For all of 2012, construction spending increased 9.8 percent. That marked the first annual gain after five straight years of declines. Construction spending is still well below healthy levels although housing is helping to support building activity in the face of weakness in government projects.

– The Associated Press

Survey: Private Employers Add Just 119,000 Jobs in April

A private survey shows U.S. companies added just 119,000 jobs in April, the fewest in seven months.

The report Wednesday from payroll processor ADP suggests that government spending cuts and higher taxes could be starting to weigh on the job market. And new requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law may be prompting some small and mid-size companies to hold back on hiring.

ADP also said that hiring in March was slower than first thought: the survey shows just 131,000 added, down from an initial estimate of 158,000.

The slowdown in April was broad-based. Manufacturers cut 10,000 jobs, while firms in the service sector added the fewest in seven months. Construction firms added 15,000 jobs.

The ADP report is derived from payroll data and tracks private employment each month. It has diverged at times from the government’s more comprehensive monthly jobs report, which will be released Friday. In March, the government said employers added 88,000 jobs, much lower than ADP’s figure.

– The Associated Press