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VOL. 6 | NO. 44 | Saturday, October 26, 2013

Daily Digest

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Improved Cell, Wi-Fi Coming to Memphis Airport

Travelers and workers at Memphis International Airport should experience improved cell and wireless service.

Boingo Wireless, the leading provider of airport Wi-Fi and Distributed Antenna System services in the U.S., has been selected to design, build and manage the first DAS at the Airport.

The new Boingo DAS network will provide improved cellular voice and data coverage throughout the airport terminals, ground transportation center and surrounding areas, eliminating cellular dead zones.

Boingo will also continue to provide enhanced public Wi-Fi services for the airport, including tiered Wi-Fi services to meet the needs of travelers. The company will offer free, advertising-supported Wi-Fi to all passengers, enabling them to get online quickly and easily to check email, use social media and stay more entertained during their travels. Boingo will also offer premium Wi-Fi service options for travelers with data intensive demands such as streaming video or uploading large files. The new tiered Wi-Fi services are slated to launch in time for this year’s holiday travel season.

“We’ve heard the public’s request for free Wi-Fi and we are pleased to be teaming with Boingo to make that a reality,” said Scott Brockman, chief operating officer for Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. “In addition, travelers will benefit from the improved cellular service provided by the new DAS network being installed by Boingo.”

Boingo Wireless manages Wi-Fi services at more than 65 airports across the globe.

Southwest Profit Up on Higher Fares

Average fares are rising on Southwest Airlines Co., the fuel bill is shrinking, and profit is soaring.

The airline is gearing up for the holiday travel season, and officials say that bookings for November and December are strong.

Southwest's results provide further evidence that the airline industry continues to rebound from the 2008 recession. Mergers have reduced the number of competitors, and the remaining airlines are boosting fares by controlling growth and limiting seats.

Southwest said Thursday that third-quarter net income jumped to $259 million, or 37 cents per share, from $16 million, or 2 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items such as fuel-hedging, the company said it would have earned 34 cents per share. That matched analysts' forecast of adjusted profit.

Revenue rose 5.5 percent to a record $4.55 billion. Analysts were expecting $4.54 billion, according to FactSet.

The average one-way fare on Southwest increased 11.3 percent, to $159.39. That reflects longer flights – the average trip was 1,000 miles, an extra 41 miles – and long-term trends in fuel prices, chief financial officer Tammy Romo said in an interview.

Southwest, which begins service at Memphis International Airport next month, is converting more AirTran Airways flights to its own colors and brand, and expects to fully absorb AirTran by the end of 2014. The conversion includes using Southwest planes on international flights beginning next year.

Agriculture Accelerator Companies Chosen

The Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center and Memphis Bioworks Foundation have released the names of the nine companies chosen for the NextFarm Agriculture Innovation Accelerator.

The companies are AgSmarts, Beyond Right Now Technologies, Hickory Hydroponics, Stony Creek Colors, Secure Food Solutions, Butler Fishery, GrowAgra, Tennessee Bioproducts and Zero Friction.

The accelerator was created in response to the challenge issued by Gov. Bill Haslam to make Tennessee the top state in the Southeast for the growth of the agricultural and forestry industries, and it’s led by a partnership between the Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center and Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

The participating companies are in the midst of a development period in preparation for investment pitches in the first quarter of 2014.

Judicial Selection Question Receives TBA’s Backing

The board of governors of the Tennessee Bar Association has decided to stick with its support of a November 2014 ballot question that would allow the Tennessee governor to appoint appellate judges and have those appointments confirmed by both houses of the Tennessee legislature.

The leaders of the state bar association reaffirmed their support of the proposal this month after Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced his intent to keep in place a Judicial Nominating Commission to recommend finalists for such appointments. The commission went out of existence June 30, at the end of the last fiscal year, because the Tennessee legislature did not renew it.

Haslam revived it by an executive order issued this month after a Tennessee attorney general’s legal opinion held the governor can continue to fill vacancies in appellate judicial positions even without such a commission.

Tennessee Bar Association leaders say they back the amendment to the Tennessee Constitution on the November 2014 ballot statewide because it would also keep in place judicial retention elections in which voters choose yes or no on keeping an appointee to a judicial position.

CMOM Hosting Superheroes Monster Bash

The Children’s Museum of Memphis is calling on all superheroes and non-scary Halloween characters to help vanquish the city’s bad guys during this weekend’s Superheroes Monster Bash.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at CMOM. The museum wants visitors to come dressed as their favorite superhero or non-threatening Halloween character.

Kids can make their own superhero badge and compete for prizes in the “Mr. Bones Relay Race.” Superheroes can test their strength when they try to wipe out the bad guys in the big beanbag attack or show their super speed by being the first to complete the mummy wrapping contest. Bubbles the Clown will judge the costume contest and other mystery superhero guests are expected to be on hand.

Tickets can be purchased at the door and admission is $15 for CMOM non-members and free for members.

8th-Graders Better in Science Than Global Peers

When it comes to science, eighth-graders in Tennessee are doing better than their peers around the globe.

A study released Thursday compared every state, the District of Columbia and Defense Department schools against 38 countries and nine additional subnational education systems.

Researchers took eighth-grade test results in math and science from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress to predict performance on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

Tennessee scored 524 in science, but got a 490 in math, one of three states that scored below the international average of 500 in that category.

Data earlier showed Tennessee's high school graduates fell short of national results for ACT college readiness benchmarks this year.

The biggest gap was in math, with 29 percent deemed college ready, compared with 44 percent nationwide.

Trustmark Reports Profitable 3rd Quarter

Trustmark Corp. earned a profit of $33 million in the third quarter.

The bank reported this week its earnings per share were up 6.5 percent from the prior quarter, and that total revenue increased to $145.6 million.

Trustmark president and CEO Gerard Host said the company is continuing to benefit from improvements in credit quality, has solid profitability and a strong capital base.

Botanic Garden Stage to Honor Duncan

The permanent stage being built at the Memphis Botanic Garden will be named in honor of executive director Jim Duncan.

The board of directors announced the honor for Duncan Wednesday, Oct. 23. Duncan has been executive director of the garden since 2004.

The permanent stage is part of a $5.8 million capital campaign for “The Live Garden,” an outdoor concert venue designed by archimania architects to host events year round.

Maple Grove Farm to Hold Fall Festival

This weekend people will get a chance to enjoy a fall festival while helping a good cause.

The 5th Annual Fall Farm Festival at Maple Grove Farm in Collierville will take place Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Maple Grove Farm is donating all of the proceeds to the Paul A. McDaniel Foundation for organ donation and stroke awareness.

The goals of the Foundation are to raise public awareness about managing stroke risk factors, better understanding stroke symptoms and response, improving the quality of life during stroke recovery, and organ and tissue donation education.

McDaniel passed away in 2008 following several massive strokes in both hemispheres of his brain. His brothers, Tim and Ben McDaniel, started the foundation to honor Paul, who graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 2004 and attended Christian Brothers University.

Paul McDaniel donated his organs and Stephen Eddings, who received his heart, will be a special guest speaker at the festival.

Festival activities will include a petting farm, hayride, moon bounce, zip-line, playground, face painting, pumpkin patch/decorating, rock wall and games and prizes. Admission is $10 per person and includes a T-shirt and pumpkins for children.

Maple Grove Farm is at 4961 Windsong Park in Collierville. For more information visit Maple Grove Farm at www.maplegrovefarm.net and for the Paul McDaniel Foundation visit www.paulmcdanielfoundation.org.

Children Services Gets More Funding Flexibility

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is getting more flexibility in how it uses federal funding.

The Tennessean reports the state agency will be able to spend $40 million that is currently earmarked for foster children on efforts to keep children with their own families.

The agency will be able to help families that need food, help housing or counseling services.

The initiative begins next October. Tennessee is one of seven states that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services selected to take part in a federal pilot project that changes how child welfare systems are funded.

Officials say the goal is to keep children out of foster care. Tennessee has about 7,300 children in foster care.

DCS spokesman Rob Johnson said the grant will keep funding levels at DCS about the same. He said funding for foster children won’t be cut.

Mueller Reports Income Gain For Busy Quarter

Memphis-based Mueller Industries Inc. posted net income for the third quarter of 2013 of $19.5 million, up from $15.5 million in net income from the third quarter of 2012.

An increase in net sales was offset by lower copper costs.

The quarter for the company that makes copper tube and fittings as well as brass and copper alloy rod as well as plastic fittings and valves also included an after-tax gain of $22.9 million from the sale of its plastic fittings business and related manufacturing assets.

During the same quarter, Mueller closed on its acquisition of Howell Metal Co., which makes copper tube and linesets sold and distributed in the U.S. The company is awaiting regulatory approval in the United Kingdom on its agreement to buy KME’s Yorkshire Copper Tube business, which makes copper distribution tubes to European standards.

Dixon: Bulletins to Serve as Family Passes to Exhibit

The Dixon Gallery and Gardens is letting church bulletins serve as a free pass for visitors and their families during the entire run of the exhibit “Ashe to Amen: African Americans and Biblical Imagery.”

Dixon director Kevin Sharp said the Dixon wants as many congregations in Memphis as possible to visit the show, which is on view through Jan. 5 and showcases the wealth and breadth of black artists’ interpretations of biblical stories and traditions.

The exhibit is organized by the Museum of Biblical Art in New York and investigates the shifting intersections of aesthetics and belief. It includes 59 works of art and design that date from the late 19th century to 2012 by nearly 50 artists, 24 of whom are still active.

Regions Financial Posts Lower Profit in 3rd Quarter

Regions Financial Corp. said Tuesday its net income fell 5 percent in the third quarter as revenue from mortgage loans declined.

Quarterly non-interest revenue, or earnings from fees and other charges, fell 7 percent from a year earlier, as mortgage loan production slowed during the quarter amid rising mortgage interest rates. Net interest income, or money earned from loans after factoring in interest expense, rose 2 percent, aided by higher loan balances. Loans written off as uncollectible dropped 56 percent to the lowest level in five years.

Net income for the Birmingham, Ala.-based bank fell to $285 million, or 20 cents per share, for the three months ended on Sept. 30. That’s down from $301 million, or 21 cents per share, last year. Revenue dipped to $1.32 billion from $1.35 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet, on average, expected earnings of 21 cents per share on revenue of $1.32 billion for the quarter.

Sluggish US Hiring Shows Effects of Budget Impasse

A dim view of the U.S. job market emerged Tuesday with a report that employers cut back on hiring in September just before a partial government shutdown began.

Just 148,000 jobs were added last month, a steep drop from August’s gain, though they were enough to lower unemployment to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent in August. The report bolsters expectations that the Federal Reserve will maintain its pace of bond purchases for the rest of 2013 to try to keep long-term loan rates low.

The government’s release of the September jobs report had been delayed 2 1/2 weeks by the shutdown. Temporary layoffs during the 16-day shutdown will probably depress October’s job gain. That means a clear picture of the job market won’t emerge before November jobs figures are issued in December.

Average U.S. job growth has fallen sharply in the past three months after a promising start this year. The economy added an average of 143,000 jobs a month from July through September. That was down from the 182,000 average gain during from April through June and well below the 207,000-a-month pace from January through March.

The report “reinforces the impression that the labor market was losing a little momentum heading in to the shutdown,” said Josh Feinman, global chief economist at Deutsche Asset and Wealth Management. “The labor market is continuing to create jobs. ...It’s just frustratingly slow.”

FedEx Adds Flat-Rate Shipping

FedEx Corp. announced a flat-rate shipping option on Monday aimed at individuals and small businesses that don’t ship very often, including mom-and-pop sellers on eBay.

The new “One Rate” option from the company’s FedEx Express air-shipping unit competes with the U.S. Postal Service’s Priority Mail Flat Rate.

Normally, FedEx charges based on a combination of weight and distance traveled. Surcharges for fuel and other items also complicate pricing, and weighing packages can complicate the shipping process for users who don’t do it very often.

FedEx said it will offer free boxes and envelopes in 12 different sizes. Customers will pay a flat rate for each package based on where it’s going among three zones. The One Rate option is available for U.S. domestic shipments for overnight, 2-day and 3-day shipping.

FedEx has been piloting the program in several cities, rolled it out nationally last week, and announced it on Monday.

Pitts Elected 2014 Chairman of Insurance Council

Johnny Pitts, chief manager of Memphis-based Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance LLC, has been elected the 2014 chairman of The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers.

That group is an association of top regional, national and international commercial insurance and employee benefits intermediaries worldwide. Pitts was elected during the organization’s 100th annual Insurance Leadership Forum this month in Colorado.

Council members are market leaders who each year place 85 percent of U.S. commercial property and casualty insurance premiums and administer billions of dollars in employee benefits accounts.

Pitts also is the founder of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club organization.

Mississippi Casino Revenue Drops

Mississippi casinos won less money from gamblers in September for the 13th month out of 15, as casinos along the Mississippi River continued to lag badly.

Mississippi Department of Revenue figures show statewide casino revenue fell 4.4 percent from September 2012 to $170.2 million.

The 12 coastal casinos won $88 million from gamblers, up 1.7 percent from September 2012. The 18 river casinos from Tunica to Natchez won $82 million, down 10 percent from a year earlier.

Revenue statewide is down about 4.5 percent over the last 12 months. Over the last 12 months, Mississippi casinos have collected only about 75 percent of what they collected in the peak revenue year of 2007.

The numbers exclude Choctaw Indian casinos, which aren’t required to report winnings to the state.

US Economists Upbeat on Economic Growth

Despite uncertainty in Washington and rising oil prices and interest rates, companies are upbeat on the prospects for economic growth in the next year, according to a quarterly survey of business economists.

But economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics weren’t as optimistic about hiring, according to the survey released Monday. Only 27 percent reported rising employment at their firms from July through September, down from 29 percent in the second quarter. And 37 percent expected their companies to expand payrolls in the next six months, down from 39 percent in the second quarter.

The slower hiring occurred even as sales and profit margins grew during the third quarter, according to the survey.

PROPERTY SALES 23 23 1,365
MORTGAGES 21 21 1,068
BUILDING PERMITS 117 117 3,173