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VOL. 7 | NO. 34 | Saturday, August 16, 2014

Daily Digest

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Veterans Affairs Secretary Visits Memphis

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald visited the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center Thursday, Aug. 14, at the end of a two-day visit to the Bluff City that also included a speech to the 70th annual National Convention of American Veterans, known as AMVETS.

He met with Memphis-area veterans at the hospital in sessions that included U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis.

McDonald began the visits of Veterans Affairs hospitals a week ago in Phoenix, which he noted has been described as the “epicenter” of the scandal over wait times and overall treatment of veterans at the federal facilities.

“The problems we discovered in Phoenix were systemic, extending well beyond that one location and that one moment in time,” McDonald told the Memphis convention gathering. McDonald, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in June and confirmed by the U.S. Senate within a month, told the veterans the systemic failures include “performance metrics (that) became an end in themselves – they weren’t measuring outcomes for veterans.”

He also said there were “widespread attempts to game the system … making veterans wait even longer for care.”

McDonald outlined plans he described as “unprecedented and critical cultural change and accountability” for the department. The changes include new funding to hire more doctors and medical staff, suspending performance awards for all senior executives in the department and scrapping the 14-day time period for being seen at the centers.

Lipscomb & Pitts Honored Among Top Agencies

Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance has been listed as one of the “Top 100 Privately Held Independent Property & Casualty Agencies” in the country.

That’s according to Insurance Journal, which published the list in its August issue. The Memphis agency came in at number 87 in the ranking.

Chief manager Johnny Pitts said the distinction proves the company delivers on its promise of “first-class service to all of our clients.”

Kroger Expanding Germantown Store

Kroger Delta Division is temporarily closing its store at 7735 Farmington Road in Germantown next month to renovate and expand it, continuing the company’s comprehensive reshaping of its Memphis footprint.

Also, after the seven- to eight-month renovation of that store is finished and it has been expanded from 60,000 to 100,000 square feet, Kroger will close its nearby Exeter store sometime in 2015. The company, however, said no plans about the Exeter store will be made until after the Farmington renovations are complete.

During the remodel of the Farmington store, its 119 employees will be transferred to nearby Kroger locations. Results of that renovation will include a unique specialty cheese shop, 40 percent more square footage, an expansion of the pharmacy with the inclusion of a drive-thru and freshly made pizzas for sit-down or take-out delivery, among other things.

Kroger Delta Division is investing almost $50 million in renovations and expansions in the Memphis area this year and an additional $50 million over the next three to five years.

City Debuts Health Benefits Website

The city of Memphis debuted a new website this week that explains changes in health care insurance and coverage for city employees and retirees.

The debut of benefitsmemphis.com comes ahead of the Oct. 1 effective date for premium increases city employees will begin paying.

The Memphis City Council approved the changes proposed by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. earlier this year. The council is scheduled to vote on proposed changes to the city’s pension coverage in October.

State Commission Seeks to Fill Chancery Vacancy

The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments began accepting applications Thursday, Aug. 14, for the vacancy in Shelby County Chancery Court.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ran unopposed for re-election on the Aug. 7 ballot. His new term would begin Sept. 1, but that is also when Armstrong’s appointment by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to the Tennessee Court of Appeals takes effect.

Haslam appointed Armstrong to the state appeals court after the deadline for removing Armstrong’s name from the August ballot.

The deadline for applications to the Administrative Office of the Courts is Aug. 25 at 3 p.m.

Tennessee Business Taxes Pick Up After Decline

Tennessee’s business taxes are starting to pick up. WPLN-FM reports economist Bill Fox discussed his findings in a conference call with Secretary of State Tre Hargett this week.

Fox said that the state’s franchise and excise taxes took a hit after health-care services company McKesson left Tennessee for Mississippi. That departure helped contribute to a $222 million deficit in business taxes.

But Hargett said the latest numbers show that Tennessee’s new business filings are growing at a steady pace.

Melting Pot Fondue Restaurant Closes

The Melting Pot of Memphis has closed for good.

The fondue restaurant, 2828 Wolfcreek Parkway, closed temporarily on Thursday, July 31, and made the decision to close for business indefinitely beginning Wednesday, Aug. 13, for financial reasons.

The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc. has a “strong interest” in the Memphis market and hopes to either reopen the Memphis location or develop a new restaurant in the area in the future, the company said in a statement. The company said the restaurant’s 28 employees have been notified of the closure.

The Memphis location originally opened on Sept. 16, 2002. The closest Melting Pot locations are in Nashville and Huntsville, Ala.

30-Year Mortgage Rate Averaging 4.12 Percent

Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates declined this week, approaching their lows for the year.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday the nationwide average for a 30-year loan slipped to 4.12 percent from 4.14 percent last week. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, fell to 3.24 percent from 3.27 percent last week.

Mortgage rates are below the levels of a year ago. They have fallen in recent weeks after climbing last summer when the Federal Reserve began talking about reducing the monthly bond purchases it was making to keep long-term borrowing rates low.

Mortgage rates often follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year note traded at 2.42 percent Wednesday, brushing its low for the year of 2.41 percent and down from 2.47 percent a week earlier. It fell to 2.38 percent in trading Thursday morning.

At 4.12 percent, the rate on a 30-year mortgage is down from 4.53 percent at the start of the year. Rates have fallen even though the Fed has been trimming its monthly bond purchases, which are intended to keep long-term borrowing rates low. The purchases are set to end in October.

LifeLinc Anesthesia Expands in Southeast

LifeLinc Anesthesia, a growing anesthesia management company based in Memphis, has announced partnerships with four new medical facilities in the Southeastern United States:

Delta Gastroenterology in Southaven; Digestive Health Center in Ocean Springs, Miss.; St. Anthony Healthcare in Englewood, Fla.; and Tri-State Gastroenterology in Crestview Hills, Ky. All will utilize various aspects of LifeLinc’s management model for their anesthesia services.

Since the company’s formation in 2003, LifeLinc has grown to provide services in nine states. In addition to now employing over 100 anesthesia providers, LifeLinc’s expanded administrative staff now includes an in-house legal counsel, a compliance officer and data analysts, joining the company’s billing, provider recruiting, credentialing and payor enrollment staff.

Habitat Honors Stemmler For Volunteer Work

Bill Stemmler, vice president and branch manager at Iberiabank, was recently named Leadership Volunteer of the Year at Habitat for Humanity of Tennessee‘s 2014 State Impact Awards.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis nominated Stemmler, a former board president, in recognition of his six years of board service. He joined Memphis Habitat’s board in 2008 and became president in 2010, serving for three years in that role.

During Stemmler’s tenure as president, Memphis Habitat completed its first planned development, Trinity Park, relocated its headquarters and opened its successful ReStore.

The organization also accessed its first federal funding through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and expanded its mission with the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which conducts home repairs in the Uptown neighborhood.

In addition to the award recognizing Stemmler, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis took home the 2014 Favorite ReStore Award during the ceremony held in Murfreesboro.

UTHSC Researchers Named ‘Influential Minds’

Two University of Tennessee Health Science researchers have made the list of the “world’s most influential scientific minds” of the last decade as determined by the most frequently cited articles.

The list was compiled by Thomson Reuters, a world leader in providing news, financial information, tax and accounting data and research tools for scientists and attorneys.

The UTHSC researchers, Dr. Karen C. Johnson and David Nelson, made the list of more than 3,000 highly cited researchers. Their papers ranked among the top 1 percent of most cited for their subject field and year of publication.

Johnson is a professor in the Departments of Preventive Medicine and Medicine in the College of Medicine. Her research focuses on women’s health, obesity, smoking cessation and preventive medicine.

Nelson is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry in the College of Medicine at UTHSC. His research focuses on the evolutionary genomics of the enzyme Cytochrome P450.

US Retail Sales Flat in July

U.S. retail sales were essentially flat in July, providing evidence that consumers have yet to shed their doubts about the economy despite recent job gains.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that seasonally adjusted retail sales were unchanged in July compared with the prior month. Total sales rose a statistically insignificant $161 million from $439.6 billion in June.

Spending dipped at auto dealers and department stores last month. The losses were offset by gains at grocery stores, gasoline stations, restaurants, clothiers and building material stores.

The figures suggest that Americans are hesitant to spend, which could limit growth for the economy. Retail sales are closely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

Retail sales have flat-lined even though employers have added more than 200,000 jobs a month for the past six months. Payrolls increased by 209,000 in July and 298,000 in June.

But those gains have yet to meaningfully boost wage growth above inflation, causing spending to be more restrained.

Retail sales have increased 3.7 percent over the past 12 months, but economists doubt that spending can grow much faster unless incomes increase.

“Consumers just don’t have the cash flow to finance sustained gains above 4 percent,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Restoration of Elvis’ Circle G Ranch Begins

The first phase of restoration at Circle G Ranch in Horn Lake, Miss., formerly owned by Elvis Presley, has begun.

Plans include the relocation and restoration of the historic Honeymoon Cottage to the interior of the property near the horse stables, which will also be restored. An arena will be created next to the stables for horse and pony rides, shows, and equine therapy to help those with developmental challenges.

Elvis’ barbecue pit will be recreated in its existing location, using the remaining original bricks. The 55-foot cross and the bridge across the 14-acre lake will be refurbished and repainted.

A dynamic water feature will be installed within the lake, as well as a stage for performances on the west side of the lake. A grassed terrace seating area will allow approximately 500 guests to enjoy multimedia water, light and music shows in the natural environment.

A parking area and walking paths will be established to access the attractions. The destination will be a paid attraction.

The investors, led by managing partner Buddy Runnels Jr. of Real Estate International Inc., are striving to preserve the features from Elvis’ ownership, and will nominate these elements to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Projected completion for the first phase is summer 2015.

For more information, visit circlegranch.com.

CBRE Picked to Manage Lenox Park Buildings

CB Richard Ellis Memphis has been selected by Highbrook Investment Management to manage four buildings in the Lenox Park office complex, located at Tenn. 385 near Kirby Road.

The four 100,000-square-foot buildings are part of the seven that comprise the largest collection of Class A office space in Memphis. CBRE Memphis began management of buildings C, D, E and F on May 1. Since Highbrook purchased the four buildings in 2012, more than 50,000 square feet has been leased to companies including C.H. Robinson, W.M. Barr, Verso Paper and Metro PCS.

The seven buildings in Lenox Park are also home to Pfizer, United Way, United Healthcare, Pickering Firm and Mutual of Omaha.

New Physical Therapy Clinic Opens in Midtown

Results Physiotherapy, a Nashville-based physical therapy company, has opened a Midtown clinic in the Belvedere Collection shopping center at Union Avenue and South Belvedere Boulevard.

The clinic is Results’ eighth in the Mid-South. Mary O’Bryan, a native Memphian and graduate of St. Agnes Academy, is serving as the lead therapist at the Midtown location. She attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she received her bachelor’s degree in exercise science. Following graduation, she continued her education at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center; she earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2011.

Results’ other Mid-South locations include Bartlett, Collierville, Cordova, East Memphis, Germantown, Memphis Specialty and Southaven.

College of Optometry Seeks Dry-Eye Study Participants

Southern College of Optometry is still in need of participants for a comprehensive study to determine the impact of dry eye on daily activities, evaluate differences between clinician-reported and patient-reported severity of dry eye and assess patient satisfaction with existing over-the-counter treatments for dry eye.

The study will take place in cooperation with TearWell Advanced Dry Eye Treatment Center on the college’s campus.

Participants must have a complaint of dry eye, must not be in punctal plugs and can never have used the prescription treatment Restasis. Participation requires one office visit that will last approximately 15 to 30 minutes and involve basic eye tests and a patient questionnaire. Qualified, enrolled patients will receive $50 for participating in the study.

Dry eye is a condition in which the eyes are not producing enough tears to adequately lubricate and nourish themselves. People suffering from this condition typically do not have enough tears or produce poor-quality tears. It is a common, often chronic, problem that worsens with age and is often associated with other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems.

The study is ongoing until reaching the required number of participants for statistical significance. For more information, contact Ramon Gomez at TearWell Advanced Dry Eye Treatment Center by emailing rgomez@sco.edu or calling 722-3263.

Nucor Steel Files Arkansas Lawsuit Over Steel Mill

Nucor Steel has filed a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to block a competitor from opening a mill in a northeastern Arkansas county.

The Nucor lawsuit filed Monday in Jonesboro seeks to block Big River Steel from building its $1.3 billion steel mill south of Osceola that would employ more than 500 workers, the Blytheville Courier News reported. It also seeks the revocation of Big River Steel’s air permit and requests civil penalties against company.

A Nucor mill is about 20 miles away from the new plant, and the lawsuit alleges Nucor employees could be sickened by the plant’s future emissions.

“Nucor clearly has a vital interest in the air quality of the region, including Mississippi County, Arkansas, because if the air quality goes down, the productivity of Nucor’s workforce will likewise go down, hindering Nucor’s ability to generate revenue and decreasing the value of Nucor’s Arkansas facilities,” the lawsuit said.

Nucor previously filed several objections to the mill during the approval process. An Arkansas environmental regulatory panel issued an air quality permit for the planned mill in April.

Big River Steel founder John Correnti called the lawsuit “frivolous,” saying the company should be “ashamed of themselves.”

“It’s just more of the same,” Correnti said. “They lost with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality; they appealed it, lost again, appealed to an administrative judge, lost again. I don’t know when they’re going to figure out that it’s all frivolous.”

A ground-breaking has been planned in September.

Vendors Sought for Edge MEMfix Event

A group behind the next MEMfix campaign in the Edge district is currently looking for vendors.

Livable Memphis is seeking vendors for the Oct. 18 MEMfix event, which will take place around the intersection of Marshall and Monroe avenues.

MEMfix events are designed to showcase the art of the possible in neighborhoods by using pop-up shops and infrastructure improvements like bicycle lanes to transform urban spaces into nodes of activity that attract future investment.

For information on becoming a vendor, visit Livable Memphis online or email the organization at info@livablememphis.org.

Redbirds’ Pham Named PCL Player of Week

To coin a really corny phrase, he was Phamtastic.

After hitting a league-leading .500 from Aug. 4-10, Memphis Redbirds outfielder Tommy Pham has been named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week. In addition to batting .500 (14-for-28), Pham hit two home runs, drove in seven runs, scored 0 runs and stole four stolen bases in seven games.

He had a .750 slugging percentage with a 1.309 OPS hitting out of the leadoff spot. And he had at least one hit in every game except one, recording four multi-hit games.

Pham, a nine-year minor-league veteran, became the first player in Redbirds history to compile four hits, four RBIs and score four runs in a game. He also broke into the franchise record books by becoming the first player to notch back-to-back four-hit games Aug. 9 and Aug. 10 against New Orleans.

On the season, Pham is batting .345 (91-for-264) in 84 games with nine home runs, 36 RBIs, 46 runs scored and a team-best four triples and 13 stolen bases. Since May 3, he has a .377 (86-for-228) batting average, highest in the PCL over that span.

He is the third Redbirds player to win a weekly award this season, joining pitchers Tim Cooney (May 26 to June 1) and Tyler Lyons (July 28 to Aug. 3), and first Redbirds position player to win the Player of the Week honor since Andrew Brown in 2011.

Convoy of Hope to Host Memphis Giveaway

Convoy of Hope will partner with local businesses, churches, government agencies and nonprofits during a community celebration Sept. 6 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

During the celebration, Convoy of Hope and the Mid-South community will provide goods and services including free food, health services, haircuts, family portraits, job services, a carnival and more. Identification is not required to attend and participate in the event.

Convoy of Hope partners Plum Organics and the National Breast Cancer Foundation will also be at the event. The foundation provides education, support and early detection services to underserved women in the community. Plum Organics will distribute organic food specifically created for babies, toddlers and school-aged children.

In 2013, more than 118,000 guests attended Convoy of Hope events around the country.

Learn more about the outreach by visiting www.convoyofhope.org/midsouth or contact Cheryl Bone at 626-2092.

Baptist Doctor Named to Endocrinology Board

Dr. Jay Cohen, endocrinologist and medical director at Baptist Medical Group-The Endocrine Clinic, recently was named to the advisory board of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists to help develop the 2014-2015 national diabetes treatment guidelines.

Cohen has practiced endocrinology for the past 30 years and is actively engaged in numerous phase two and three endocrine clinical research studies in areas such as inhaled insulin, new type 1 and type 2 diabetes agents, and much more.

He has served as a physician consultant on diabetes-related topics to U.S. News and World Report, Ladies Home Journal, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Parent magazine and local TV, print and radio outlets. To find out more about the AACE, visit aace.com.

Tigers Athletics Voice Ray Mullins Dies at 66

Ray Mullins, the public address voice of many University of Memphis athletic teams and the “Mighty Sound of the South,” died on Saturday, Aug. 9. Mullins was 66.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Ray’s family,” Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen said in a statement. “Ray was a remarkable man and a great announcer for many athletics teams and the band. Ray will be dearly missed by all.”

Mullins was the public address voice for more than 20 years for the “Mighty Sound of the South,” introducing the pregame and halftime shows at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Mullins also was the public address voice at FedExPark for baseball games and at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex for men’s and women’s soccer. During his time as a public address announcer for Memphis athletic teams, Mullins also did volleyball and women’s basketball.

“Ray was a wonderful person, loved the Tigers and made the FedExPark experience one of a kind,” said baseball coach Daron Schoenrock. “He will be greatly missed by everyone associated with Tiger baseball and we are keeping his family in our prayers.”

The funeral will be Tuesday, Aug. 12, at 11 a.m. at Ridgeway Baptist Church, 2500 Ridgeway Road.

Central Defense Security Enhances Camp Program

Central Defense Security has enhanced its yearly summer camp program for Memphis children.

The company, a leading provider of business, retail and warehouse security, teamed up with the City of Memphis Division of Parks and Neighborhoods for the third straight year to support the program, and the company sponsored more than 130 campers at 10 camps around the city.

The security firm also hosted special events at Hickory Hill Community Center, Pine Hill Community Center and McFarland Community Center.

The summer camp program, offered at all the city’s community centers, allows children to participate in recreational, athletic and educational activities, as well as attend field trips. This includes time for arts and crafts, playground games, cultural arts, musical expression, and health and fitness programs.

This year the security firm collected $11,400 during a donation drive held in the spring. The firm also handed out 165 backpacks and visited with the campers, and in early July the firm donated $800 to Hickory Hill Community Center to support its Carnival Cookout.

Nineteenth Century Club Mansion Could be Saved

The Union Avenue mansion that housed the Nineteenth Century Club might not meet the wrecking ball after all.

The owner of the building plans to build a restaurant inside the historic mansion, a spokesman said Friday, according to The Commercial Appeal.

The ownership group, The Union Group LLC, which operates several restaurants in the Memphis area, had previously pulled a demolition permit for the property with plans to replace it with a strip center and restaurant.

The news about the building being reused comes two days after a lawsuit over the legality of the sale of the property was dropped.

The regal but decaying property on Union was built in 1907 by Rowland Jones, a Memphis lumber king.

In 1926, the 15,813-square-foot house was acquired by the Nineteenth Century Club, a philanthropic women’s organization.

The Union Group LLC acquired the property for $550,000 in 2013 after winning a competitive bidding process, beating out a group that offered $350,000 and wanted to turn the property into a women’s business center. Proceeds from the sale went to the Children’s Museum of Memphis.

FedEx CEO Fred Smith Honored By Ad Council

FedEx chairman and CEO Fred Smith will be honored later this year at the 61st Annual Public Service Award Dinner of the Ad Council. The event, to be held Nov. 19 in New York City, will be hosted by comedian Stephen Colbert. Smith will be presented with this year’s public service award in recognition of his personal and corporate commitment to philanthropy.

The dinner is attended by more than 1,300 executives from the media, advertising and corporate communities, and it recognizes the industries and individuals who support the Ad Council and its public service campaigns.

Tigers Land Forward Calvin Godfrey

As first reported by ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, forward Calvin Godfrey is coming to the University of Memphis as a transfer from Southern University.

The 6-foot-9, 210-pound Godfrey averaged 13.1 points and 8.8 rebounds last season. He will be eligible immediately because of sanctions against Southern for poor APR scores.

Godfrey started his college career at Iowa State, but was dismissed for marijuana possession.

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