VOL. 7 | NO. 8 | Saturday, February 15, 2014
Butler to Lead Programs at Leadership Memphis
The Memphis Talent Dividend and Graduate Memphis have a new director.
She’s Bernice Butler, who has joined Leadership Memphis as director of those two efforts following nearly two years as a fellow with the city of Memphis’ Strong Cities, Strong Communities program.
Those efforts are working to increase college attendance among the city’s high school graduates. Graduate Memphis, funded by a grant from The Plough Foundation, is focused on increasing the rate of return to college by local adults who started college but never finished.
Burress Appointed Interim Shelby County Fire Chief
Dale H. Burress is the interim fire chief of the Shelby County Fire Department following last month’s retirement of Clarence Cash.
Burress has been appointed by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell from being deputy fire chief, a position Burress held since May 2012.
Meanwhile, Glen F. Kneeland, the administrative battalion chief for county fire, becomes the interim deputy chief.
Applications for Jobless Benefits Rise to 339,000
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week to 339,000, evidence that layoffs ticked up. Still, the increase wasn’t enough to suggest the job market is worsening.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, increased 3,500 to a seasonally adjusted 336,750.
The average is roughly in line with pre-recession levels and suggests that, despite last week’s rise, companies are cutting few jobs. Applications are a proxy for layoffs.
Last week’s figure may also have been pushed up by cold weather, which can cause construction firms and other companies to stop work.
A total of 3.52 million Americans received benefits as of Jan. 25 – the latest data available – up from 3.47 million the previous week.
The data suggests the job market remains stable, despite weak hiring in the past two months. Tepid job gains in January and December have raised concerns that the economy has lost momentum this year.
Cornerstone Systems Sees Leadership Shift
There’s been a shakeup in management at Cornerstone Systems Inc.
Rick Rodell, current chairman and CEO at the Memphis-based third-party logistics provider, will relinquish his role as CEO and be replaced by Tim Clay, the company’s president and chief commercial officer. Rodell will remain chairman of the company’s board.
Clay has served as Cornerstone’s president since October 2002 and as CCO since July 2012. A founding member of Cornerstone, Clay previously held the positions of chief operating officer and chief financial officer.
Rodell said he would remain involved with the company but no longer be responsible for daily operations.
Evolve Bank Adds to SBA Division
Hetal Engineer has joined the Small Business Administration division of Memphis-based Evolve Bank & Trust.
Division president Marty Ferguson said Evolve had been looking for someone to help the company grow its sales team, and Engineer will fit that bill as regional sales manager.
Evolve currently operates four full-service branches in Arkansas and Tennessee and more than 30 loan production offices around the country.
Nonstop Bahamas, Cancun Flights Begin This Summer
Vacation Express will offer two nonstop flights to Cancun and the Bahamas from Memphis International Airport beginning this summer.
Atlanta-based Vacation Express will operate nonstop flights to and from Cancun May 19 through Aug. 4 through the Aeromexico airline, and will fly to and from Grand Bahama Island Aug. 11 through Oct. 25 using BahamasAir.
Vacation Express is offering six-night packages for Cancun starting at $899 and four-night packages for Grand Bahama Island starting at $649.
Memphis Football’s 2014 AAC Foes Announced
In the University of Memphis football team’s second season of competing in the American Athletic Conference, the Tigers will play 2014 home games against Connecticut, Houston, the University of South Florida and Tulsa.
League road games will be played at Cincinnati, Southern Methodist University, Temple and Tulane. The Tigers will not play defending league champion Central Florida or East Carolina.
The league schedule, with dates and times, will be announced at a later date.
Daily News to Host Free Breakfast Seminar
The Daily News will demonstrate the tools and reports available from The Daily News Online database of public record information during a free breakfast seminar Wednesday, March 19, from 9 to 10 a.m.
Daily News Online subscribers have access to valuable public records to easily monitor, protect and grow their businesses and access information about clients, competitors and vendors.
The seminar will be held at the Germantown Conference Center, 1900 S. Germantown Road. Attendees will receive a free 5-day trial subscription to The Daily News Online service for Memphis and Shelby County. To register, contact Wendy Greenlaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or 528-5273.
Guns-in-Parks Bill Passes Tenn. Senate
A measure to do away with local government’s power to decide whether to allow firearms in public parks has passed the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville was approved 26-7.
The Legislature in 2009 gave city and county governments the ability to opt out of a new law that allowed firearms in public parks, playgrounds and sports fields.
Under Campfield’s proposal, permit holders would be allowed to carry, unless there’s a school function.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he has concerns about the bill.
Tennessee Enrollment in Health Exchange Up 65 Pct.
Nearly 60,000 Tennesseans signed up for coverage under the federal health insurance exchange through January, a 65 percent increase since the beginning of year.
According to nationwide statistics released Monday, 3.3 million people signed up from Oct. 1 through Feb. 1.
Of those who have signed up in Tennessee, adults ages 55 to 64 made up 33 percent of the total, while young adults between 18 and 34 made up 25 percent. Independent experts say that total needs to be closer to 40 percent to control costs.
Seventy percent of enrollees selected the mid-level silver plan, while 16 percent chose the lowest bronze level. Gold-level polices made up 9 percent, and the top-level platinum policies made up 5 percent.
About 36,000 people had signed up through December.
30-Year Mortgage Rate Averaging 4.28 Percent
The average U.S. rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage edged up this week to 4.28 percent from 4.23 percent but remains near historically low levels after declining during the five previous weeks.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average for the 15-year loan was unchanged at 3.33 percent.
Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago. The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion a month in bond purchases. Deeming the economy to be gaining strength, the Fed proceeded last month with planned reductions of its bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term interest rates low.
Recent economic data have pointed to a likely pause in the housing market’s recovery. Real estate data provider CoreLogic reported last week that U.S. home prices slipped from November to December. And the year-over-year increase slowed, likely a result of weaker sales at the end of last year.
2013 Most Profitable Year for Paragon Bank
Paragon National Bank’s just-released earnings for 2013 show the year was the most profitable in the bank’s nearly nine-year history.
The bank said its pre-tax income of $1.1 million for 2013 is the result of factors such as improved asset quality, increased loan activity and continued decreases in nonperforming assets. The fourth quarter also marked the 12th straight quarter of profitability for Paragon.
Among other highlights for the year, Paragon grew its assets to $272.7 million, up 8.21 percent from $252 million at the end of 2012. Also, total loans increased 8.2 percent from $182.5 million at the end of 2012 to $197.5 million at the end of 2013.
UTHSC Names Chair of Neurology Department
Dr. Andrei V. Alexandrov has been appointed chair of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Department of Neurology and a Semmes-Murphey professor.
Alexandrov had been a professor of in the neurology department and director of the Division of Cerebrovascular Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Alexandrov will begin his work at UTHSC in March.
St. Jude Researchers Identify Flu Response
In a study led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, scientists have identified a signature immune response that might help doctors identify which newly diagnosed flu patients are most likely to develop severe symptoms and suffer poor outcomes.
The findings also help explain why infants and toddlers are at elevated risk for influenza complications.
The research results appear in the upcoming issue of The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Volkswagen Workers Begin 3-Day Union Vote
Workers at Volkswagen’s lone U.S. plant in Tennessee are kicking off a three-day election about whether they want to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.
If the union succeeds, the Chattanooga plant would become the first among foreign automakers in the South to unionize.
That’s a prospect that strikes dread among Republican politicians in the state, who say they worry about losing a competitive edge in drawing future business to Tennessee.
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor who played a key role in bringing Volkswagen to Tennessee, has been among the most vocal critics of the union drive.
Corker on Tuesday called the vote a “quickie election” because it wasn’t announced until last week and said the UAW was “stacking” the balloting in its favor.
Amazon to Hire 2,500 Workers Across US
Amazon says it is hiring more than 2,500 full-time workers at its order fulfillment centers around the U.S.
Amazon.com Inc. plans to announce Wednesday that the jobs are available in Chester, Va., and Petersburg, Va.; Coffeyville, Kan.; Columbia, S.C.; Dupont, Wash.; Murfreesboro, Tenn.
The world’s largest online retailer says last year it hired more than 20,000 people at its fulfillment centers, with more than half starting out as seasonal workers. Amazon says the median income for people working at its order-fulfillment facilities is higher than at traditional retailers.
The Seattle-based company had 117,300 full-time and part-time employees at the end of 2013, according to a regulatory filing.
UTHSC Appoints Chair of Radiation Oncology
Dr. Matthew T. Ballo has been named chair of the newly formed Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Ballo, previously a professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, began his duties in January.
Ballo has published 66 peer-reviewed research articles. He is member of the editorial review board and guest editor of Breast Diseases: a Yearbook Quarterly.
Miss. Bill Would Increase Repeat Offenders’ Time
Old habits are hard to break when it comes to Mississippi lawmakers’ desire to lock up criminals.
Two days after the state House passed House Bill 585, which aims to cut the number of state prisoners to save money, representatives voted 79-41 Wednesday to pass House Bill 63. It would limit the ability of violent offenders to get time off prison sentences after a second conviction.
Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, said the bill could’ve prevented his aunt from being shot to death by a repeat offender. He and other supporters of the bill said people who commit a second violent crime after getting out of prison the first time haven’t learned their lessons and shouldn’t be able to earn time off.
“I don’t see how anyone in this chamber could be against this,” said Formby, the bill’s sponsor.
But the measure, which moves on to the Senate for more debate, is opposed by Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps. He said he wants legislators to make changes using the comprehensive bill.
“The commissioner wants changes to come through that package,” spokeswoman Grace Fisher said. “The package says violent offenders must serve a minimum of 50 percent of their sentence.”
TD Ameritrade CEO Says Economy Improving
TD Ameritrade’s CEO says the economy has improved considerably and investors are more confident, but conditions could still revert.
Fred Tomczyk told shareholders Wednesday that TD Ameritrade is in good shape to handle whatever the economy does, and the company’s profits should continue to improve along with the stock market and interest rates.
Tomczyk says the company will remain focused on its long-term goals and won’t try to boost short-term results artificially as interest rates rise.
TD Ameritrade is generates revenue from trading fees, investment advice fees and asset-based fees and interest on the client assets it holds.
The company’s shareholders re-elected three directors, approved TD Ameritrade’s auditing firm and endorsed its compensation policies Wednesday.
Survey: Vehicle Owners Having More Problems
The race to increase vehicle fuel economy is taking a toll on quality.
Owners of three-year-old vehicles are reporting more problems than they did a year ago, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ annual survey of vehicle dependability. It’s the first time since 1998 that the average number of problems per vehicle has increased.
J.D. Power, a California-based ratings and consulting company, said engine issues accounted for most of the increase in problems reported by the original owners of cars and trucks from the 2011 model year. Owners reported an average of 133 problems per 100 vehicles, up from 126 problems a year ago. Only problems within the prior 12 months are counted.
Automakers are rapidly implementing new engine technology to save fuel, including direct fuel injection and turbocharging, stop-start systems that automatically shut cars down at traffic lights and transmissions with higher gears. But those more complex systems can cause problems. David Sargent, J.D. Power’s vice president of global automotive, said the company saw an increase in complaints about engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power.
“While striving to reduce fuel consumption, automakers must be careful not to compromise quality,” Sargent said in a statement.
The scores could improve in coming years because since 2011, automakers have worked to make new transmissions shift more smoothly, they’ve refined clunky stop-start systems and improved other fuel-saving technologies.
Overton Square Lands New Restaurant
A new farm-to-table burger restaurant is slated to open in Overton Square in May.
The restaurant by Ben McLean, which is called Belly Acres, will occupy 3,894 square feet at 202 Trimble Place in Overton Square, on the east side of the new Tower Courtyard with a patio overlooking the area.
McLean, who has previously worked with Huey’s, Soul Fish and Alchemy, is also assisting in the opening of Lettuce Eat in Germantown.
Belly Acres will source ingredients locally and offer a wide range of burger options, from carnivorous fare to vegetarian and gluten-free items. McLean plans to work with at least three local farms to provide the restaurant’s ingredient supply.
He said Belly Acres will have a funky vibe attractive to children and adults.
Barry Maynard of Trezevant Realty Corp. represented the tenant in the transaction.
Child Advocacy Center Names New Director
Virginia Stallworth has been named executive director of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center. She succeeds Nancy Williams, who held the post for 20 years.
Stallworth had been the agency’s associate director and managed the organization’s development activities. She directed multiple fundraising campaigns.
In 2011, Stallworth played a lead role in a child sexual prevention initiative.
Verizon Wireless Taps New Regional President
Verizon Wireless has named Kristi Crum as the new president of its South Central Region, which includes West Tennessee and North Mississippi.
She’ll be responsible for strategic development and growth of the region’s business, retail, indirect, finance and operations functions.
She began her career in the wireless industry in 2001 as an analyst with Alltel, which Verizon Wireless acquired in 2009. Since then, she’s served in leadership positions in emerging communication products, consumer data products and retail sales for Verizon Wireless.
Tenn. Below National Average in AP Scoring
A new report shows over the last decade more students are taking Advanced Placement courses in Tennessee.
But the College Board report released on Tuesday shows the state is below the national average of students in the class of 2013 who scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam. The national average was 20 percent, where Tennessee was 10 percent.
A 3, 4, or 5 are the scores typically accepted by colleges for credit and placement.
Over the past decade, the report said the number of students who graduate from high school having taken rigorous AP courses, like world history and physics, has nearly doubled.
The report also showed the improvement states have made over the last decade in students scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam. Tennessee went from 7.7 percent in 2003 to 10.1 last year.
Wholesale Stockpiles Rise 0.3 Pct. in December
U.S. wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles in December at the slowest pace since last summer, another sign that the economy lost some momentum at the end of 2013.
Wholesalers boosted stockpiles by 0.3 percent in December from November, the smallest gain since July, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
Sales growth slowed to 0.5 percent December after healthy gains of 1 percent in November and 1.1 percent in October.
Rising stockpiles boost economic growth because they reflect expanding production at factories. Bigger inventories accounted for more than 40 percent of economic growth in the July through September period last year when gross domestic product increased at a robust 4.1 percent annual pace.
The surge in stockpiles slowed in the last three months of 2013, and overall growth fell back to a still-healthy 3.2 percent.
After the December increase, inventories at the wholesale level stood at a seasonally adjusted $517.9 billion, up 4 percent from a year earlier.
The government tracks inventories held by wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers. A report covering all inventory levels comes out Thursday.
At the wholesale level, inventories of computer equipment rose by 5.3 percent after a healthy 3.6 percent gain in November. Automotive stockpiles rose 0.6 percent after dropping in November. Overall, inventories of long-lasting durable goods rose 1.3 percent in December. But non-durable goods stockpiles fell 1.3 percent, pulled down by a 5.2 percent drop in inventories of farm products.
Another Broken Egg to Open in E. Memphis
Another Broken Egg Cafe will open later this year in East Memphis.
Franchise owners Chris Gouras and George Gouras of Gouras Restaurant Group have signed a 3,232-square-foot lease at Park Place Centre, at 6063 Park Ave. in East Memphis
“Another Broken Egg Cafe will complement the cuisine offerings already in place perfectly, while bringing something new to the neighborhood,” said Aaron Petree, who represented landlord Loeb Properties. “We are glad to be able to offer restaurant options at Park Place for our customers at all times of the day.”
The lease brings the 105,000-square-foot center’s occupancy to 93 percent. There will be a 357-square-foot addition constructed for the restaurant, plus a new outdoor patio.
The diner will offer breakfast, lunch and brunch. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
The restaurant chain is located at Miramar Beach in Florida. The Memphis location is the second for the Gouras brothers, following their restaurant in Ridgeland, Miss.
Barry Maynard with Trezevant Realty represented the franchisees in the deal.
Indie Memphis Adds New Venue, Sets Date
The Indie Memphis Film Festival has set a date for this year’s series.
The festival will hold its 17th edition on Halloween weekend – Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 – and will increase its presence in Overton Square by including the new Hattiloo Theatre, which opens mid-summer.
Hattiloo will join Playhouse on the Square, Circuit Playhouse and Malco’s Studio on the Square as film venues for the festival.
Also, investment firm Duncan-Williams Inc. has extended its support as the festival’s presenting sponsor through the 2014 festival.
Launch Tennessee Gets $100K Blackstone Grant
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to Launch Tennessee. The funds will support the creation of the Launch Tennessee Specialist Program, which will try to bring talent to Tennessee’s network of nine regional startup accelerators.
The program will recruit university students studying subjects such as technology and management to be in-house subject matter experts at the state’s regional accelerators.
Friday is Deadline in Discount Club Settlement
Tennesseans have until Friday to take advantage of a $30 million multistate settlement against a marketer of discount clubs and memberships.
Affinion and its subsidiaries Trilegiant and Webloyalty offer a variety of services, including credit monitoring, roadside assistance and discount travel. Consumers complained the companies charged them for services without their authorization. Some also reported that they had trouble canceling or getting a refund.