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VOL. 6 | NO. 39 | Saturday, September 21, 2013

Daily Digest

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National Bankers Trust Receives Tax Break for Relocation

National Bankers Trust Corp. received approval Wednesday for a four-year tax break to create 43 new jobs and invest $6 million in a new corporate headquarters in East Memphis.

National Bankers Trust will move from its 13,750-square-foot location at 8245 Tournament Drive in Southwind to 813 Ridge Lake Blvd., after receiving a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive from the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County.

The company plans on buying the vacant 51,000-square-foot building on Ridge Lake and using 34,000 square feet right away, with the remainder available for future expansions.

The PILOT would save the company $588,649 in city and county property taxes, according to EDGE, while generating $824,887 in new tax revenue over the PILOT period. The average salary of the 43 new employees will be $42,906.

The firm said it had received multiple offers from several states to relocate its headquarters, including Fayette County, DeSoto County and Las Vegas.

FedEx Ground Plans Rock Island Distribution Site

FedEx will open a new distribution facility in Rock Island, Ill., in 2015.

The 189,000-square-foot operation is replacing a smaller facility in Moline.

Allison Houser is a spokeswoman for FedEx Ground. She tells The Rock Island Argus that the new building will be part of the company’s effort to expand its network across the country.

Preliminary construction work on the property has already begun.

The company says workers will be transferred from the Moline operation to the new facility in Rock Island. FedEx also plans to hire additional workers, but authorities haven’t said how many.

FedEx Ground is a subsidiary of Memphis-based FedEx Corp. The Quad City Times says the company chose the site in part because of its proximity to major highways.

Moser Achieves Certified Financial Planner Status

Philip Moser, a financial adviser in the Memphis office of Dixon Hughes Goodman Wealth Advisors, has achieved the certified financial planner professional designation.

Moser joined Dixon Hughes Goodman Wealth Advisors in March and leads the firm’s wealth advisory practice in Memphis. He has been a registered investment adviser representative since 2009 and has been working in the financial services industry since 2004.

Dixon Hughes Goodman Wealth Advisors LLC is an independent fee-only registered investment advisory firm owned by Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP.

Unemployment Aid Applications Increase to 309,000

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 309,000. But the data was distorted for the second straight week by reporting delays.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average fell 7,000 to 314,750, the lowest in nearly six years.

Applications plummeted two weeks ago when California and Nevada were unable to report all their data because of computer upgrades in both states.

A government spokesman says those states reported all the applications that came in last week. But backlogged data from two weeks ago may elevate the figures in the coming weeks, he said.

The broader trend in applications has been favorable, signaling fewer layoffs. The four-week average fell 6 percent in the two months before the computer upgrades distorted the figures.

While layoffs are down, companies have yet to rapidly step up hiring. Employers have added an average of just 155,000 jobs a month since April. That’s down from an average of 205,000 for the first four months of the year.

That’s a big reason the Federal Reserve on Wednesday held off slowing its $85-billion-a-month in bond buying. Those purchases are intended to keep mortgage and other longer-term interest rates low and encourage more borrowing, spending and growth.

The economy grew at a modest 2.5 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter. That’s too slow to generate hiring strong enough to rapidly lower the unemployment rate, which is a still-high 7.3 percent four years after the Great Recession ended.

And economists forecast that growth has slowed to an annual rate of 2 percent or less in the current July-September quarter. Consumers have grown more cautious about spending, while higher interest rates have threatened to slow the housing recovery.

Measure of Economy’s Health Increases 0.7 Percent

A gauge of the U.S. economy’s future health posted a solid gain in August, signaling stronger growth in coming months.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.7 percent in August from July. That followed a 0.5 percent gain in July from June.

The index is designed to signal economic conditions over the next three to six months.

Conference Board economists said that the solid gains in July and August were a good sign following an earlier slowdown.

“The latest reading points to more pep in the pace of economic activity in the near term,” said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. “One unknown is how resilient confidence will remain, both consumer and business, given the mixed signals from the housing and labor markets.”

Goldstein said another unknown is how confidence will be affected by the upcoming debates over passing a federal budget to avoid a government shutdown and raising the borrowing ceiling to avoid a market-rattling default on the government’s debt.

The gain in the index in August was driven by strength in the labor market and financial sectors as well as by rising manufacturing orders. There was weakness in residential construction and consumer expectations.

School Board Votes Down Charter Schools Moratorium

Countywide school board members voted down a resolution Tuesday, Sept. 17, by board member David Pickler to call for a moratorium on the approval of any new charter schools statewide until the 2016-2017 school year. Pickler cited the financial impact of charter schools on the school system, as well as legislative proposals pending in the Tennessee Legislature that would allow even more charter schools, some requiring only state approval with no local school board approval.

The resolution also would have questioned the constitutionality of the state’s current law, which has no limits on the number of charter schools that the state can have with local school board approval.

Pickler argued it was a necessary statement, but other board members were opposed to a moratorium or joining in any kind of lawsuit over the existing charter schools law.

In other action, the board welcomed its newest member, Shante Avant, who the Shelby County Commission appointed earlier this month to fill the vacancy in District 6. Avant took the oath of office before the school board meeting, its first in the auditorium at the Board of Education building, where the Memphis City Schools board used to meet.

Board members also elected Kevin Woods as the board’s new chairman and Chris Caldwell as vice chairman. Both assume their duties with the next school board meeting in October.

Council Reappoints Bright to Head EDGE

The Memphis City Council has approved the reappointment of Al Bright Jr. as chairman of the Economic Development Growth Engine. The Shelby County Commission had previously approved Bright’s reappointment by Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

In committee sessions Tuesday, Sept. 17, council member Harold Collins said his proposal to decrease the percentage of city property tax abatements awarded by the EDGE board via payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements – or PILOTs – from 90 percent to 75 percent would be back before the council in December.

Collins said he is working on details of a final draft as he hears from business leaders and others on the impact. The 75 percent figure is the percentage used in the abatement of Shelby County property taxes.

There was no discussion Tuesday of the still-pending proposal to set the city’s monthly solid waste fee at $25.05 and kick off a phased-in plan over several years to fundamentally change city sanitation services and provide a monthly retirement supplement up to $1,000 for sanitation workers.

The ordinance to raise the solid waste fee was approved on the second of three readings Tuesday with no discussion, and third and final reading set for the council’s Oct. 1 session.

In other action, the council approved three radio transmission towers at Omar Robinson Road and Holmes Street for Flinn Broadcasting Inc. Council member Shea Flinn, who works for the broadcasting company, recused himself from the vote.

The council also approved a $60,000 appropriation for repair work at the Gaston Community Center in South Memphis.

Federal Reserve Downgrades Outlook for US Economy

The Federal Reserve has a more downbeat outlook on the U.S. economy for 2013 and 2014 than it did three months ago.

The Fed predicts that the economy will grow just 2 percent to 2.3 percent this year, down from its previous forecast in June of 2.3 percent to 2.6 percent growth.

Next year’s economic growth will be a barely healthy 3 percent, the Fed predicts.

But the Fed’s policymakers expect the unemployment rate to fall to 7.1 percent to 7.3 percent by the end of 2013, slightly below its June forecast of 7.2 percent to 7.3 percent. It predicts that unemployment will fall as low as 6.4 percent next year, down from 6.5 percent in its June forecast.

The unemployment rate is now 7.3 percent.

CEOs Less Optimistic About US Economy

U.S. chief executives are less optimistic about the economy, according to a survey released Wednesday. The survey also indicates that disagreements over the 2014 budget and raising the debt ceiling in Washington are making them cautious about hiring.

The Business Roundtable said that its quarterly index, which measures the economic outlook of CEOs from the largest U.S. companies, fell to 79.1 in the third quarter from 84.3 in the previous quarter. Any reading above 50 suggests expansion.

The group said that 50 percent of the CEOs surveyed said the stalemate in Washington is having a negative impact on their plans for hiring additional employees over the next six months.

Of the CEOs surveyed, 32 percent said that they expect to increase hiring in the next six months. That’s unchanged from the survey in the previous quarter. Forty-four percent said that there will be no change in their hiring plans, up from 42 percent in the second quarter. And 24 percent said that they expect to decrease hiring, down from 26 percent in the previous quarter.

State Tourism Leaders Release Strategic Plan

Tourism leaders from around Tennessee are hoping a new strategic plan will attract more visitors to the state and turn it into one of the nation’s top 10 travel destinations.

The Tennessean reports the plan, which was to be released Wednesday, was put together by the Tennessee Tourism Committee, which was formed by Gov. Bill Haslam shortly after he took office in 2011.

Some recommendations in the plan include establishing a Tennessee-specific brand for tourism attractions, developing a market plan that focuses on key markets and encourages longer stays, putting together a network of festivals and events that focus on music and targeting the youth sports market.

Obama Asks CEOs to Help Ease Budget Fight With GOP

President Barack Obama, facing a budget showdown with Congress, called on some of the nation’s top corporate executives Wednesday to use their influence with Congress to avoid a potentially damaging confrontation over the nation’s debt ceiling.

Obama reiterated his vow not to negotiate with Republicans over raising the borrowing limit, which the government is about to hit as early as next month. And he blamed “a faction” of the GOP that he said is trying to eliminate his health care law by threatening a government shutdown or a default on the debt.

“We’re not going to set up a situation where the full faith and credit of the United States is put on the table every year or every year and a half and we go through some sort of terrifying financial brinksmanship because of some ideological arguments that people are having about some particular issue of the day,” Obama told members of the Business Roundtable.

He argued that the modest economic recovery would be hurt if Republican lawmakers can’t work with Democrats to pass a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Highwoods Files Permit for IP Office Tower

Highwoods Properties has filed a $27.5 million building permit to start construction of International Paper’s new office tower.

Highwoods filed the permit to build a “nine-story core & shell building” for the Memphis-based company.

The new tower will be International Paper’s fourth building at its East Memphis office campus and is part of the company’s headquarters expansion.

Earlier this year, the Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine granted International Paper a $56.9 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive to persuade the company to stay in Memphis and expand. IP will retain 2,274 high-paying jobs in Memphis, add 101 new employees and build the fourth office tower.

The new tower is expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2015.

Bikram Yoga Lease Heats Up Overton Square

Bikram Yoga Memphis owners Christine Boyer and Isaac Christopher have signed a lease to open a new studio at Overton Square, pushing occupancy at the revived district close to 80 percent.

Boyer and Christopher signed a 3,500-square-foot lease on the second floor of the building that formerly housed the ice-skating rink and Palm Court Restaurant, joining Cardio Barre.

“Bikram is exactly the type of established destination tenant we wanted for the second floor of the old Palm Court building,” said Aaron Petree, vice president of brokerage for Loeb Properties. “They will be a great complement to the existing tenants and will offer Overton Square patrons another option for healthy living.”

Bikram Yoga Memphis opened in 2005 on Sanderlin Center in East Memphis. Opening a new location at Overton Square, which will be called Bikram Hot Yoga Memphis, will help the company reach a much wider audience, Christopher said. The new location is expected to open this winter.

Bikram Yoga uses heat and 26 different poses to work every part of the body.

The hot yoga room will use an advanced heating system with fresh air circulation, and the flooring will be built with closed-cell, anti-microbial technology.

In addition to yoga, Bikram Hot Yoga Memphis will offer deep tissue and sports massage therapy, Ayurvedic therapies, education and private consultations.

The Bikram Hot Yoga Memphis lease brings Overton Square to 78 percent.

Wells Fargo Donates to 10 Memphis Nonprofits

Ten nonprofit groups in Memphis have been chosen to receive $1,000 grants as part of Wells Fargo’s Days of Giving program.

The program has exceeded $500,000 in donations to Memphis-area groups since it began four years ago.

The nonprofits awarded grants this week include the Bodine School, Center for Southern Folklore, Grace House of Memphis, March of Dimes Foundation – Memphis, Memphis Child Advocacy Center, Memphis Oral School for the Deaf, Memphis Union Mission, Retrieving Freedom Inc., Wings Cancer Foundation and Women Identity Purpose Organization.

US Builder Confidence Steady, Rates a Concern

U.S. homebuilders’ confidence in the housing market held this month at its highest level in nearly eight years. But builders are starting to worry that sales may slow if mortgage rates continue to rise.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday registered at 58 this month. That’s unchanged from August, which was revised down from an initial reading of 59. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.

In the latest survey, which included 264 respondents, a measure of current sales conditions was unchanged, while a gauge of traffic by prospective buyers rose one point. But builders’ outlook for single-family home sales over the next six months fell three points.

“While builder confidence is holding at the highest level in nearly eight years, many are reporting some hesitancy on the part of buyers due to the sharp increase in interest rates,” said Rick Judson, the NAHB’s chairman.

Mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first indicated the Fed could slow its $85 billion a month in bond buying this year.

Women's Business Group Gets Sponsor for Memphis Chapter

Plans to re-establish a local chapter of Business and Professional Women of Tennessee are moving ahead, after the organization’s Jackson-area chapter voted unanimously to sponsor the local group.

The motion was made by state president Jacque Hillman at the Jackson group’s monthly meeting, which was attended by two of the Memphians seeking to restart the local chapter.

“Obtaining Jackson as a sponsor is a great benefit for us,” said Martha Ervin, one of the Memphis-area organizers, in an email. She added that the Jackson chapter had been in a similar situation in which membership had dropped off significantly, but that instead of folding, as the East Memphis/Greater Memphis chapter did last year, the Jackson group developed a plan and has grown to more than 30 members.

Ervin is finance chair for Business and Professional Women of Tennessee, the state affiliate of the BPW Foundation. The national group is an advocate for women on work-life balance and workplace equity issues.

Evolve Bank & Trust Honored for Values

The Kindness Revolution, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of values like kindness in leadership, customer service, schools and communities, has honored Evolve Bank & Trust as the “Kind Company of the Month.”

Jo Garner, an Evolve loan officer, was given the “Spirit of Kindness” award.

Ed Horrell, Kindness Revolution president and founder, said the organization is always looking to recognize corporate citizens like Evolve and their employees who give back to their communities via outstanding service and commitment to values.

Evolve is headquartered in Memphis and currently operates five full service stores in Arkansas and Tennessee as well as more than 30 mortgage production offices across the country.

Landmark Bank Expands in Middle Tennessee

Landmark Community Bank has reached a deal with Cadence Bank to buy certain branch loans and assume all deposits in Cadence’s Middle Tennessee operations. As part of the deal, Landmark will also enter into a sublease with Cadence to operate its branch facilities at 198 Main St. in Franklin and 93 Seaboard Lane in Brentwood. The transaction, subject to regulatory approval, is scheduled to close on March 31.

Sandler O’Neill and Partners LP acted as the financial adviser to Cadence for the transaction, which will increase Landmark’s presence in Middle Tennessee to three locations.

Landmark is headquartered in Collierville, with two branches in Germantown and one branch in East Memphis.

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