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VOL. 7 | NO. 36 | Saturday, August 30, 2014

Daily Digest

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Medtronic Launches Pediatric Spine Product

Medtronic Inc. on Thursday, Aug. 28, announced the 510(k) clearance and launch of a product designed for treatment of skeletally immature pediatric patients younger than 10 years of age diagnosed with severe, progressive, life-threatening, early-onset spinal deformities.

The Shilla Growth Guidance System is a new growth-sparing technology that allows correction of the deformity while maintaining the corrections over time, minimizing the need for periodic lengthening procedures.

This represents a change from the current operative systems that require lengthening every six to nine months.

“Early onset scoliosis is extremely difficult to treat. The current gold standard technique to manage scoliosis long-term is to fuse the spine, but in children who are still growing this can have serious complications,” said Shilla Growth Guidance System inventor Dr. Richard McCarthy, an orthopaedic surgeon and faculty member at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

“We were only able to offer operations which use implants to stabilize the curve in the spine, but these frequently mean twice-yearly surgeries as a child grows. The clearance of the Shilla Growth Guidance System marks the first time we can offer effective management of the curvature of the spine while still harnessing the child’s natural growth.”

The system utilizes a unique non-locking set screw at the proximal and distal portions of the construct’s rods. This allows the rod to slide through the screw heads as the child’s spine grows, while still providing correction of the spinal deformity.

Grizzlies Holding Open House Sept. 6

The Memphis Grizzlies will be putting 12- and 22-game packs on sale at the start of the Grizzlies open house Sept. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at FedExForum.

Starting at $15 per game ($180 total), the 12-game packs come in three options: The “Grit,” “Grind” and “All Heart” packs.

Grit features match-ups with the 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs (Dec. 30), the Cleveland Cavaliers (March 25) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (April 3).

The Grind package includes the return of Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls (Dec. 19), a second game with the Oklahoma City Thunder (Jan. 31), and match-ups with the Golden State Warriors (March 27) and the Washington Wizards (April 4).

The third 12-game option, All Heart, offers the best value games at the lowest price per pack. Highlighted match-ups include the Boston Celtics (Nov. 21), conference rival Dallas Mavericks (Dec. 9), the Toronto Raptors (Jan. 21), the Portland Trail Blazers (March 21) and the regular-season home finale against the Indiana Pacers (April 15).

The 22-game packs start at $12 per game, for $264 total.

Court Rules Against FedEx in Labor Case

A federal court has ruled that FedEx Corp. improperly classified about 2,300 drivers in California as independent contractors instead of employees.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday covered drivers who worked for FedEx between 2000 and 2007. Similar lawsuits were filed in about 40 states before 2009.

A lawyer for the drivers estimated that they could receive at least $250 million in back pay and damages if the ruling stands up.

The judges said that under California law, the drivers were employees because FedEx controlled how they did their work. They had to wear company uniforms, drive approved trucks, and follow other company procedures.

FedEx said it will appeal to the full appeals court in San Francisco. FedEx general counsel Cary Blancett said that other courts had upheld contract language with “thousands” of independent contractors.

The Memphis-based company said that since 2011, it has only contracted with incorporated businesses that treat drivers as their employees. It also said it will shift to new service agreements in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.

In their lawsuit, the drivers sought back pay for overtime, expenses, punitive damages and attorney costs. That would total more than $75,000 for each of the drivers in the original lawsuit, according to filings.

Tigers Get Commitment from 6-Foot-11 Center

Nick Marshall, a 6-foot-11, 220-pound senior center from Lexington (Tennessee) High has publicly committed to the University of Memphis basketball team.

According to ESPN.com, Marshall is the 16th-best center prospect in the nation. He averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks as a high school junior. Connecticut, Indiana and Tennessee are among the other schools believed to have been on his short list.

Reportedly, Marshall plans to attend prep school next year and would not come to the University of Memphis until 2016.

Wine Referendum Hits Snag in Lakeland

Voters in Lakeland won’t be voting on allowing wine in grocery stores on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The petition effort to put the question on the ballot had enough qualified signatures in Lakeland. But Lakeland does not permit liquor by the drink, a requirement for the referendums on wine in grocery stores under the new state law.

So instead of a referendum on wine Nov. 4, Lakeland residents will instead vote on permitting liquor by the drink in the town.

If that is approved, another petition effort would begin to put a wine in grocery stores referendum on the ballot at a later date.

Under state law, sales of wine in grocery stores won’t begin until July 2016.

Tailgate Concert Series Coming to Tiger Lane

The University of Memphis Athletic Department, in partnership with Horseshoe Casino Tunica, will present free live music near Tiger Lane prior to each of the Tigers’ first four home games of the 2014 football season. Musical artists include local and national touring acts.

Local favorites Kevin and Bethany Paige will kick off the festivities prior to the season opener Saturday, Aug. 30. Headlining the other concert performances will be Pat Green (Sept. 20), Thompson Square (Oct. 11) and Bret Michaels (Oct. 31).

Concerts will be staged in the tan lot just south of Tiger Lane, formally utilized by the M-Club. All concerts are free to the public and do not require a game ticket for admission. Games, food and beverage vendors, and other attractions will also be part of the festivities surrounding the shows.

Google Report Spotlights ARS-Rescue Rooter

Memphis-based ARS-Rescue Rooter, a nationwide company providing heating, cooling and plumbing services, was recently highlighted in Google’s annual U.S. Economic Impact Report as the featured business representing Tennessee for its strategic use of Google’s search and advertising tools.

ARS-Rescue Rooter director of online marketing Peter Simpson said the company’s online advertising spending has increased dramatically over the past several years.

To increase the visibility of its company-owned locations across the U.S., for example, the company uses Google Places for Business so its local listing can be easily found on Google Search and Maps. The company’s Google Plus business page also helps extend its reach in a social media format.

In addition to other resources it has been using, next up for the company’s online strategy is to expand its YouTube channel. ARS-Rescue Rooter has 4,500 employees at 60 locations in 21 states.

UTHSC Professor Receives Alcohol Research Grant

Dr. Alex Dopico, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has been awarded $1.9 million to extend funding for his ongoing research into the effects of alcohol on the brain.

Dopico’s goal is to develop drugs that target the proteins within cells that control the physiological and behavioral changes associated with alcohol intoxication in order to prevent or reverse those effects.

He has spent more than 20 years researching alcohol’s effects on ion channel proteins in the central nervous system and brain circulation. In early June, he reported a major breakthrough toward developing new drugs to counteract alcohol’s toxicity by targeting certain proteins.

Dopico and his team identified for the first time a specific site within big-conductance potassium channel proteins where alcohol is recognized and alters the channel’s function. A paper detailing this finding was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Anti-UAW Workers to Form Own Union at VW Plant

Volkswagen workers who oppose the United Auto Workers at the German automaker’s plant in Chattanooga are looking to form their own union.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the group wants to form the first chapter of what would be called the American Council of Employees.

Worker Mike Burton said if the group can collect 500 signatures, it would be able to call for an election at the plant. He says 108 workers had signed up on the first day.

The UAW narrowly lost a union vote at the plant in February but has since established a local chapter aimed at gaining representation without another vote.

Volkswagen wants to create a works council to represent blue- and white-collar workers but can’t do so without an independent union.

Cadillac SRX Production Moving to Tennessee

General Motors is moving production of the next-generation Cadillac SRX crossover SUV from Mexico to a factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

The company also announced Wednesday that it will add production of some small gasoline engines to the Spring Hill complex.

The additions will bring more jobs to Spring Hill, but a spokesman wouldn’t give specifics on how many would be added to the sprawling former Saturn facility about 40 miles south of Nashville.

All GM said in a statement is that the SRX and a yet-to-be identified second midsize vehicle would “create or retain” about 1,800 jobs, while a $185 million investment in the Spring Hill engine factory would keep 390 jobs.

The complex now employs just over 2,300 workers, including hourly and salaried employees and those who work for parts supply companies.

Last year GM announced plans to invest $350 million in the Tennessee assembly plant to build two future midsize vehicles. The plant already builds several small gasoline engines plus the Chevrolet Equinox midsize SUV.

GM also announced Wednesday that it would invest just under $50 million at its Bedford, Indiana, engine block casting plant, keeping 45 jobs.

The company was holding a news conference at the Spring Hill factory on Wednesday to formally make the announcements.

The Cadillac SRX now is built at a GM factory in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico. That plant also builds the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact car and Chevy Captiva small SUV.

The United Auto Workers union, which represents Spring Hill factory employees, touted Wednesday’s news as an example of how the union and company can work together.

United Housing Receives High State Rankings

United Housing Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing agency that serves families in Memphis, Shelby County and West Tennessee, has received recognition for high state rankings.

During the Tennessee Housing Development Agency Homebuyer Education Initiative Peer Session, the Memphis-based organization was ranked as a top five agency in three categories for its homebuyer education impact.

Hosted by THDA and NeighborWorks America in Nashville, the Homebuyer Education Initiative Peer Session gathers housing industry leaders from across the state together for two days of training. During the event, THDA and NeighborWorks America recognized community development corporations, including United Housing, in various categories for their homebuyer education accomplishments during fiscal year 2014.

United Housing was fourth in the state in the Total Urban Loan Production category, with 72 customers served and $6 million total loans funded. United Housing also finished fourth in the state in Total Loan Production, with 112 customers served and $10.8 million in total loans funded. United Housing was fifth in the state in Total Rural Loan Production, with 40 customers served and $4.8 million total loans funded.

15 Apply to Fill Chancery Vacancy

A field of 15 Memphis attorneys applied to become the newest Chancery Court judge as Chancellor Kenny Armstrong moves to a seat on the state appeals court in a week.

The deadline for candidates to apply to the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments was Monday, Aug. 25.

Of the 15 attorneys who applied, nine were candidates in the August judicial elections in Shelby County for other judgeships.

Armstrong ran unopposed in August for re-election to Chancery Court. After the deadline to withdraw from the August ballot had passed but before election day, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Armstrong to the state court of appeals effective Sept. 1, creating the Chancery Court vacancy.

The attorneys to be considered by the commission are: Mischelle Alexander Best, Kenneth Raymond Besser, Matthew G. Buyer, Julie Ann Dichtel Byrd, Oscar C. Carr III, Lee Ann Pafford Dobson, Charles W. McDonald, Kimbrough Brown Mullins, James Robert Newsom III, Howard Rex Peppel, David L. Pool, Kevin E. Reed, William Michael Richards, Dennis J. Sossaman and David Michael Waldrop.

The commission will meet Sept. 10 in Memphis to interview the contenders and make a list of three finalists to be submitted to Haslam for his decision.

Paragon Bank Adds VP to Commercial Team

Paragon Bank has added Richard Harris as vice president of commercial banking.

Harris will work primarily at Paragon’s Fountain Place banking center. In his new role, he’ll be responsible for providing Paragon’s suite of business banking services to companies in and around Memphis.

In a statement about Harris’ arrival, Paragon CEO Robert Shaw praised Harris’ “expert knowledge” and “extensive background” in banking as reasons for adding him to the bank’s commercial team.

Trezevant Updates Signs to Go With New Name

New signs went up at the entrances of Trezevant this week with one simple word on them: Trezevant. A continuing care retirement community in Memphis, Trezevant has undergone a $120 million renovation and expansion, which doubled the size of its campus. Prior to the expansion, the community was referred to as the name of its 11-story tower, Trezevant Manor.

The expansion brought together multiple buildings, living options and services, all of which are now branded under the Trezevant name.

“Trezevant Manor is a vital part of our community and our history,” Trezevant CEO John Webb said in a statement. “However, over the years, our campus has grown to include other independent living options such as our apartments at Trezevant Place and our Garden Homes.”

The new signs can be seen throughout the Trezevant community, most visibly at the corner of Highland Street and Waynoka Avenue or at the community’s entrance on Waynoka.

Consumer Confidence Near a 7-Year High

U.S. consumer confidence this month reached its highest point in nearly seven years, boosted by strong job gains.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index rose for a fourth straight month to 92.4 from 90.3 in July. The August reading is the highest since October 2007, two months before the Great Recession officially began.

The optimism suggests that Americans will be more likely to spend in the months ahead, an important boost to the economy. Consumer spending drives about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

“Enthusiastic households are more likely to open their wallets in the coming months and support solid output growth in the second half of the year,” said Gregory Daco, an economist at Oxford Economics.

The survey found that Americans’ outlook on the job market brightened considerably. The percentage of respondents who said jobs were “plentiful” rose to 18.2 percent from 15.6 percent in July. That’s the highest level since 2008. Consumers’ perceptions generally track the unemployment rate over time.

The “substantial improvement in August points to another strong employment report next week,” said Ted Wieseman, an economist at Morgan Stanley.

The government’s jobs report for August, to be released next week, will show whether hiring was strong for a seventh straight month.

Crittenden Regional Hospital to Close

Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis stopped admitting patients Monday, Aug. 25, and will close permanently Sept. 7.

The hospital’s board of trustees made the decision, and hospital administrators announced the closing on the hospital’s website Monday.

Between Monday and the closing, the hospital will stabilize patients who come into the emergency room but will not admit any new patients.

Crittenden Regional’s leaders said the departure of physicians and two recent fires, including one that temporarily closed the hospital for six weeks, were major factors in the permanent closure, despite a sales tax increase approved by voters in June to support the hospital.

CEO Gene Cashman said the hospital had a long-term strategic plan through its work with health care consulting firms. The problem was that revenues from the tax hike weren’t going to arrive until December and the doctors were already leaving.

“This summer’s fire, and the subsequent shutdown, derailed that plan’s success,” Cashman said in the written statement.

The hospital’s clinics and home health-hospice services will shut down Sept. 5.

‘American Grilled’ Memphis Episode to Air Sept. 3

The Travel Channel on Sept. 3 will air a Memphis episode of “American Grilled,” which taped this past spring.

The show involves grilling enthusiasts from around the country competing for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they’re crowned the ultimate “grill master.”

Host and chef David Guas for the cooking challenge pushes four contestants to use locally sourced ingredients, such as blue crab in Maryland and quail in Georgia, to create delicious plates that test their backyard skills. In the Memphis episode, four grillers fight for the cash and the title of “Memphis Grill Master.” They are Clint Cantwell of Germantown, Catherine Mayhew of Brentwood, Blake Carson of Memphis and Kevin Jacques of Florence, Ala.

Labor Day Chick-fil-A 5K Registration Open

Runners and walkers will fill AutoZone Park on Labor Day for the 12th annual Chick-fil-A 5K, benefiting Junior Achievement.

Five participants in the Monday, Sept. 1, event will go home with one year of free chicken meals from Chick-fil-A. The top overall male and female runners will be awarded a $50 gift card from Fleet Feet, along with the 52 weeks of free chicken. Two participants will be randomly selected for the prize, and the final year of free meals will be awarded to the participant with the best costume. All are encouraged to don black spots, wear cow ears or pin a tail on to dress in the spirit of Chick-fil-A’s cow mascot.

The event will start at 8:30 a.m. with an opening ceremony. The actual 5K race will begin at 9 a.m. at the corner of Gayoso Lane and Front Street. The race route, which passes the Mississippi River and Beale Street, ends near third base on the field of AutoZone Park.

Following the 5K, the whole family can enjoy festivities at AutoZone Park.

Everyone who registers for the race will receive a Dri-Fit performance T-shirt, one free Chick-fil-A sandwich on race day and a coupon for a free sandwich. Registration and additional information is available online at chickfila5k.com.

Delta Airlines Hiring Flight Attendants

Delta Air Lines has announces it has plans to hire at least 1,800 flight attendants as it plans for growth next year.

The Atlanta-based airline, still the dominant carrier at Memphis International Airport even as it has scaled back flights, has already begun taking applications for the positions.

The first flight attendants will enter training in January. Officials say the company received more than 100,000 applications during a previous round of hiring for flight attendants.

US New-Home Sales Fall 2.4 Percent in July

Fewer Americans bought new homes in July, evidence that the housing sector is struggling to gain traction more than five years into the economic recovery.

The Commerce Department said Monday that new-home sales fell 2.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 412,000. The report also revised up the June sales rate to 422,000 from 406,000.

New-home sales plunged 30.8 percent in the Northeast, followed by smaller drop-offs in the Midwest and West. Purchases were up 8.1 percent in the South, a region that usually accounts for more than half of all new-home sales.

Inventory of new homes on the market rose to six months, a level last reached in October 2011. The median price of a new home last month was $269,800, up 2.9 percent over the past 12 months.

Economists Say Fed is on ‘The Right Track’

A majority of economists believe the Federal Reserve is doing the right things to help repair the U.S. economy, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association of Business Economists.

The survey also showed that a vast majority of economists believe the U.S. economy is at little risk of inflation in the coming years.

In the association’s semiannual survey, 53 percent of economists said the Fed’s stimulus programs were “on the right track” for the U.S. economy, while 39 percent thought the Fed was doing too much.

The Federal Reserve has been winding down a bond-buying economic stimulus program since December. Many investors and economists expect the central bank to start raising interest rates in 2015. It would be the first time the Fed raised interest rates since 2008. In the survey, three-quarters of the economists said they believe the Fed’s first interest rate increase will come in 2015.

NABE interviewed 257 economists between July 22 and Aug. 4.

TriMetis Acquires Biologistics Startup

The pre-clinical research services company TriMetis Life Sciences has expanded by acquiring FoundationBio, a biospecimen procurement startup with offices in Memphis and Boston.

FoundationBio uses access to tissue donors via hospitals and community oncology clinics and their supporting pathology and laboratory services partners around the world to get specimens for research. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition brings total employment at TriMetis to seven, including the relocation of Jon Wetzel, chief operating officer of TriMetis and FoundationBio, to Memphis. TriMetis expects to hire an additional five to 15 employees during the next six to 12 months.

Unemployment Rate Up in Memphis Area

The unemployment rate in the Memphis area increased in July, mirroring a statewide rise in unemployment.

The unemployment rate for the Memphis area in July was 8.9 percent, up from 8.7 percent in June and 7.5 percent in May, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. While the unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in July, it is still down from 9.6 percent in July 2013.

In Shelby County, the unemployment rate hit 9 percent, up from 8.8 percent in June but down from 9.8 percent in July 2013. The rate in Fayette County was 7.9 percent, up slightly from 7.8 percent in June, and the rate in Tipton County was 8.5 percent, down from 8.6 percent in June.

Tennessee’s preliminary unemployment rate for July was 7.1 percent, up from the revised 6.6 percent rate in June, according to the department.

Nationally, the preliminary rate for July was 6.2 percent, up from 6.1 percent in June.

While the statewide unemployment rate increased in July, it is down through the first seven months of the year. Year to date, Tennessee’s unemployment rate has decreased from 8.4 percent to 7.1 percent, mirroring the nationwide drop from 7.5 percent to 6.2 percent.

Rock for Love 8 to be Held Sept. 5-7

Rock for Love 8, the eighth annual Church Health Center benefit concert weekend, is set for Sept. 5-7 at Crosstown (block party), Overton Square and the Levitt Shell.

Friday’s Crosstown block party will feature a rare headlining appearance from the Dirty Streets at the Hi Tone. Earlier in the night, bands will perform at Crosstown Arts, Amurica, the Church Health Center’s bay space and on an outdoor Visible School stage. The night will also feature food trucks, a hula hoop luau, flea market, comedy, art exhibition and more.

Southern-rock legends Black Oak Arkansas will headline Saturday’s Overton Square Tower Courtyard stage after a family-friendly day party featuring the Stax Academy Band, Paul Taylor and the Mighty Souls Brass Band. After the main stage goes quiet, Al Kapone will host a hip-hop revue after-party at Hattiloo Theatre.

Sunday’s Levitt Shell finale will feature the Grifters, Impala and Mark Edgar Stuart.

With the exception of Friday’s Hi Tone show and Saturday’s after-party, all shows are free, but donations are encouraged.

For more information about Rock for Love 8, visit rockforlove.org. For more information about the Church Health Center, visit churchhealthcenter.org.

UTHSC Researcher Wins Heart Association Grant

Dr. Dong Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received a four-year grant totaling $308,000 from the American Heart Association. The award will be used to support a project titled “The Corin-ANP Axis in Myocardial Infarction and Ischemic Cardiomyopathy.”

Wang’s research is aimed at explaining the role of the Corin-atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) system in heart attack. ANP is a cardiac hormone involved in regulation of blood volume and blood pressure. Corin is a newly discovered enzyme that generates ANP in the heart.

Wang and his research team are trying to understand the functional role of Corin and its correlation with ANP in a rodent heart attack model that mimics human disease.

Yellen: Job Market Makes Fed Hesitant on Rate Hike

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Friday that the Great Recession complicated the Fed’s ability to assess the U.S. job market and made it harder to determine when to adjust interest rates.

Yellen’s remarks to an annual Fed conference offered no signal that she’s altered her view that the economy still needs Fed support from ultra-low interest rates. The timing of a Fed rate increase remains unclear, though many economists foresee an increase by mid-2015.

The Fed chair noted that while the unemployment rate has steadily declined, other gauges of the job market have been harder to evaluate and may reflect continued weakness. These include high levels of people who have been unemployed for more than six months, many people working part time who would like full-time jobs and weak pay growth.

Yellen repeated language the Fed has used at its last meeting that record-low short-term rates will likely remain appropriate for a “considerable time” after the Fed stops buying bonds to keep long-term rates down. The Fed’s bond buying is set to end this fall.

But Yellen said the Fed’s rate decisions will be dictated by how the economy performs.

“Monetary policy is not on a preset course,” she said. The Fed “will be closely monitoring incoming information on the labor market and inflation in determining the appropriate stance of monetary policy.”

Roberson Named CEO of Christ Community Health

Ed Roberson is officially the new CEO of Christ Community Health Services after serving as interim CEO for several months.

Roberson, a former chairman of the board at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, stepped in as interim CEO at Christ Community when Dr. Rick Donlon stepped down. Donlon is a Christ Community co-founder.

Roberson also has served as president of Beacon Financial and Conwood LLC. Donlon was CEO for about a year. Roberson is the third CEO at Christ Community in less than two years.

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