VOL. 6 | NO. 22 | Saturday, May 25, 2013
Grizz Game to Air on Outdoor Screens
The sold-out Grizzlies-Spurs playoff game Saturday, May 25, at FedExForum will be seen on several large outdoor LED screens in the Downtown area including Beale Street.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. announced the plans for the outdoor public viewings Thursday afternoon.
As the game is underway in FedExForum, the Memphis in May International Festival Sunset Symphony will be going in Tom Lee Park along with an air show and a fireworks display.
The outdoor screens are being set up with support from the Beale Street Merchants Association and the Greater Memphis Chamber.
Rhodes Residence Hall Wins LEED Silver Status
West Village, Rhodes College’s newest residence hall, has been awarded the LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The facility opened in August.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it’s an internationally recognized program providing third-party verification of green buildings. Such buildings are designed to lower operating costs and increase asset value, in addition to reducing waste sent to landfills, being healthier and safer overall for occupants, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving energy and water.
Arthritis Foundation Walk Raises Funds for Org.
The Arthritis Foundation will hold the 2013 Arthritis Walk Memphis at Shelby Farms’ Patriot Lake on June 1.
The free annual walk, which takes place in hundreds of cities nationwide, helps improve the lives of the 50 million adults and 300,000 children living with arthritis in the U.S. By 2030, an estimated 67,000 Americans will have arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Arthritis also costs the U.S. economy about $128 billion each year, the foundation said.
Arkansas Highway Officials Explore Toll on I-40
A consultant retained by Arkansas highway officials to assess the feasibility of making all or parts of Interstate 40 between North Little Rock and West Memphis a tollway to pay to widen the highway is surveying motorists on why they use the route and their willingness to pay a toll.
The survey, which can be found at www.ark40.com, will be available for two weeks for people who travel the highway, state Highway and Transportation Department officials said Wednesday.
Electronic message boards have been stationed along I-40 to spread the word about the survey, including two stationed near the Galloway exit in North Little Rock. Additionally, fliers will be distributed at truck stops and rest stops along the route.
The Arkansas Highway Commission authorized the study in March 2012 as part of a due diligence to study the feasibility of all sources of funding.
In 2011, voters in the state approved renewal of the existing $575 million bond program to pay for repairs on nearly 300 miles of interstates. In November, they approved a temporary half-percent sales tax that would be in place for 10 years and finance a $1.3 billion bond program targeting construction of four-lane highways or adding capacity to existing four-lane highways.
Neither one of those proposals, state highway officials have noted, add capacity to I-40.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://is.gd/JsFix0) current federal law allows states to add lanes to existing interstates and charge tolls for the new lanes only, said Alan Meadors, who heads the department’s planning and research division. But the study also will look at adding a lane in each direction and tolling all lanes in the event federal law changes, he said.
The 130-mile section of I-40 between North Little Rock and West Memphis is particularly vexing because of the high concentration of big trucks. Truck traffic exceeds 50 percent of the total traffic in several sections, a volume that is “almost unheard of on two-lane interstates,” said Jessie Jones, who is a department engineer and second in command of the agency’s planning and research division.
The average daily vehicle count ranges between 30,000 and nearly 40,000, Jones said.
30-Year Mortgages Rise to 3.59 Percent
Average rates on fixed-mortgage rose for the third straight week, hitting their highest levels since mid-March. Still, mortgage rates remained close to historic lows, a trend that should help sustain the housing recovery.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year loan increased to 3.59 percent this week. That’s up from 3.51 percent last week and above the rate of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average on the 15-year loan jumped to 2.77 percent. That’s up from 2.69 percent last week. The record low of 2.56 percent was hit on May 2.
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.
The average fee for 30-year mortgages was unchanged at 0.7 point last week. The fee for 15-year loans also was steady at 0.7 point.
The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage held at 2.55 percent. The fee for one-year adjustable-rate loans was unchanged at 0.4 point.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage edged up to 2.63 percent from 2.62 percent. The fee was steady at 0.5.
West Memphis Receives $11 Million Grant for Port
West Memphis is to receive a $10.9 million grant to expand the city’s port.
The grant from the U.S. Transportation Department announced Wednesday will go toward rail improvements.
The work will enable the port to handle more freight. The Transportation Department says the project will not only help the port but will spur other business activity by stimulating more trade. The expansion is expected to attract development in West Memphis, which will create more jobs.
The expansion will dramatically expand the port’s railcar capacity. Officials say that in 2012, the port handled only 800 railcars. When the project is complete, the port at West Memphis will be able to handle almost twice that number each week.
Breakaway Running Inks Deal at Overton Square
Breakaway Running, a specialty running store with high-quality performance shoes, fitness apparel, nutrition and accessories will be setting up shop in what is becoming a bustling Overton Square.
Breakaway Running signed a lease for 2,346 square feet of retail space at 2109 Madison Ave. in Overton Square, leaving its current home of 1997 Union Ave. this summer. Breakaway Running is the second fitness-focused business to sign a lease at Overton Square, following the opening of Delta Groove Yoga in April.
The move to Madison – with its bike lanes and more pedestrian friendly atmosphere – should fit nicely with Breakaway Running.
“The Madison Avenue bike lanes and the property’s proximity to Overton Park make Overton Square a great spot for fitness retailers,” said Aaron Petree, vice president of brokerage at Loeb Properties, in a statement.
The new store will face Madison, occupying the building that once housed a skating rink.
Council Turns Down Home Schooling Center
Memphis City Council members voted down a K-8 home schooling center in Midtown and a collision repair center in Cordova at their Tuesday, May 21, meeting.
The Natural Learning Center at 2368 Circle Ave. in the Lea’s Wood neighborhood near Overton Park drew opposition from the neighborhood.
Likewise, the collision center at 2288 Germantown Parkway at Varnavas Drive in Cordova was opposed by the Cordova Leadership Council.
The council approved a truck freight terminal planned development at the end of Hudgins Road, east of Interstate 55, near Airways Boulevard.
In other action, the council matched a set of three ordinances the Shelby County Commission approved Monday on the first of three readings. The city and county ordinances delay the effective date for enforcing new seismic provisions in the home and existing structures building code from July 1 to the end of 2013.
Council member Kemp Conrad’s resolution to ban the practice of pension “double dipping” by city employees was approved on the second of three readings.
And the council approved a $609,000 contract with Pencco Inc. for fluorosilic acid Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division will use in the fluoridation of the city’s drinking water.
A group of citizens opposed the contract causing the delay of the contract vote two weeks ago. They again claimed fluoridated water was harmful and that it had no effect on tooth decay.
Shelby County Health Department director Yvonne Madlock was among those who told the council the reports and studies cited by the opponents are unverified and unproven.
“I feel like I’m pretty healthy in my old age,” said council member Bill Boyd, who said he’s been drinking fluoridated tap water since the city began fluoridation in the early 1970s.
Electrolux Employees Assist Red Cross
Electrolux’s approximately 250 people in its Memphis facility are participating in the company’s community outreach effort taking place across North America this week.
Employees in Memphis are assembling Red Cross “comfort kits” consisting of essential items for families displaced from their homes by a fire, natural disaster or other emergency.
The kits will include toothpaste, shampoo and soap among other items provided by Electrolux.
Similar events will take place at the company’s other locations across the country, and this week marks the first time the company has held community-focused events across its North American locations simultaneously.
Fed Weighed Slowing Pace of Bond Purchases
Several Federal Reserve policymakers this month favored slowing the Fed’s efforts to maintain record-low long-term interest rates as early as June – if the economy showed strong and sustained growth. But those officials appeared at odds over what evidence would demonstrate such gains.
Minutes of the Fed’s April 30-May 1 meeting released Wednesday show “a number” of members expressed a willingness to scale back the $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds the Fed has been purchasing, perhaps as soon as next month, if the economy accelerates. The Fed next meets on June 18-19.
Still, Chairman Ben Bernanke, the Fed’s most important voice, signaled Wednesday in testimony to Congress that it is too soon for the Federal Reserve to slow its extraordinary stimulus programs.
Reducing the Fed’s efforts to keep borrowing rates low would “carry a substantial risk of slowing or ending the economic recovery,” Bernanke said in testimony to the Joint Economic Committee, a panel that includes members of the House and Senate.
The Fed has been buying $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds since September. That has helped lower long-term interest rates and encouraged more borrowing and spending.
American Queen Buys Boat for Northwest Cruises
Memphis-based American Queen Steamboat Co. announced on Tuesday, May 21, that it has bought a second cruise boat from the U.S. Maritime Administration.
“Empress of the North,” a U.S. flagged riverboat with five decks and room for 223 guests, will be renamed “American Empress.”
It will travel rivers of the Pacific Northwest starting in April 2014 with a homeport of Portland, Ore.
The boat was built in 2002 and operated by Majestic America from 2002 to 2008.
American Queen did not disclose a purchase price for the boat.
The company bought the American Queen, the largest steamboat in the world, from the maritime administration with financing from the city of Memphis and other investors for a refurbishment in which the American Queen called Memphis its homeport.
Memphis also became home to the newly formed company as well.
Whalum Election Dispute Heard by Armstrong
Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong heard on Tuesday, May 21, from all sides in a disputed countywide school board race from August 2012.
The trial took several hours in Shelby County Chancery Court with no ruling from Armstrong from the bench after he heard attorneys for school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. make the case that the District 4 election results should be voided.
Whalum lost to Kevin Woods, another school board member, in the certified election results.
But all sides in the case including attorneys for Woods and the Shelby County Election Commission acknowledge some voters outside the district got ballots with the school board race on them and other voters who live in the district got a different school board race on their ballots.
At issue is whether the disputed votes are enough to change the margin of victory by Woods in the certified results and whether the problems were so widespread that the election results should be thrown out. Armstrong gave no indication when he might rule.
Commission Approves AMR Ambulance Contract
Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, May 20, a five-year $1.7 million contract with American Medical Response of Tennessee Inc. for emergency ambulance service in Shelby County outside Memphis.
AMR won the contract in a proposal that the county administration judged better than Rural Metro, which has had the contract for the last six years.
But Rural Metro executives contested the process used for the contract prompting a lengthy question-and-answer session with commissioners going over the details of the offers with leaders of both companies.
Both companies submitted alternate proposals for an option that would see Germantown opting out of the arrangement.
The dispute was over an option in which Germantown and Collierville opted out.
Neither company submitted a proposal specifically on that option. The administration instead looked at the cost each company estimated would be involved for including Collierville and calculated from there.
The commission also voted down Monday a resolution that would have repealed the living wage ordinance following passage of a state law earlier this year that bars local governments from setting such standards.
And the commission repealed an earlier ordinance that required contractors with county government to pay a certain amount of fringe or health benefits to those they employ on county jobs.
The commission also approved paying $152,255 in legal fees from its contingency fund to pay fees for the commission’s role in the ongoing federal lawsuit over schools consolidation and municipal school districts. The commission had voted down a smaller amount in legal fees a month ago.
County Commission OKs Capital Improvements
The Shelby County Commission also approved Monday a capital improvements plan budget of $29.9 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The biggest part of that amount – $13.6 million – is pay-as-you-go projects funded from county savings with another $10 million in CIP funding from the federal government.
The largest amount of the spending for the next fiscal year – $12.5 million – will be for roads and bridges with another $7.7 million for information technology.
The CIP budget is a five-year plan with the four out years being a plan that could change as the future fiscal years approach. The five-year budget approved Monday is $82.7 million.
Unlike the operating budget, the CIP budget is funded with one-time federal and state money as well as bond money paid back with interest over 20 years to 30 years.
County government established a pay-as-you-go fund for paying for such projects with money saved during the administration of A C Wharton Jr.
The policy has continued under County Mayor Mark Luttrell as the county continues to drop its debt from the CIP bonds below the $1.7 billion high point it reached in 2002.
Most of the debt is the result of schools construction for the city and county school systems.
UTHSC Professor Earns $2.9 Million Grant
Dr. Kafait Malik, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received a $2.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how the nervous system, hormones and immune system interact to regulate cardiovascular and kidney function and the development of high blood pressure.
The five-year grant from The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of NIH, will enable Malik to understand how neuro-hormonal imbalances are tied to hypertension and its associated heart and vascular dysfunction and kidney damage.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the developed world and hypertension is the leading cause of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. In the U.S. about 33.5 percent of all people older than 20 are hypertensive, according to data from the American Heart Association.
Iberiabank Installs New Executive in Memphis
Iberiabank has a new senior vice president and commercial relationship manager in the bank’s Memphis market.
Brandon Cooper will be in the bank’s Memphis-area corporate office at 4984 Poplar Ave. He comes to Iberiabank from Trustmark National Bank, where he was first vice president and commercial relationship manager.
Over his more than 14 years of banking experience, Cooper has worked in commercial real estate, corporate and business banking, private banking and retail banking. Iberiabank has 181 bank branch offices and two loan production offices in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas and Florida.
Tennessee Employers Turn To Jobs-Related Tax Credit
Tennessee employers who took advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program hit a record high in potential federal income tax savings during the fiscal year that ended in September.
That’s according to Burns Phillips, acting commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.
Last year the department issued 64,300 certifications for the tax credit to Tennessee employers, equating to a potential federal income tax savings of more than $232 million. The WOTC program is available to any for-profit employer.
LaunchYourCity Rebrands as Start Co.
The local economic development organization LaunchYourCity Inc. has rebranded itself as Start Co.
According to a release from the organization, the new name and identity better reflect the organization’s offerings and values with a unified platform and mission. Along with that is a coming roll out of a redesigned website and new service offerings.