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VOL. 7 | NO. 3 | Saturday, January 11, 2014

Daily Digest

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East Memphis Restaurants Set Opening Dates

The two new restaurants being built at the Crescent Center office building in East Memphis will open during the next 30 days.

Seasons 52 will open at 6085 Poplar Ave. on Jan. 30, while The Capital Grille will open at 6065 Poplar Ave. on Feb. 3.

The Darden Restaurants Inc. restaurants are located on the grounds of Highwoods Properties Inc.’s Crescent Center, at Poplar Avenue and Ridgeway Road.

Seasons 52 offers healthy meals with menus that change with the seasons, while The Capital Grille specializes in steak and seafood. Each restaurant will be the first of its kind in Tennessee.

Globetrotters ‘Fans Rule’ Tour Comes to Memphis

The world-famous Harlem Globetrotters will take fan interaction to new heights when the 2014 “Fans Rule” Tour comes to FedExForum Saturday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m.

The Globetrotters will let fans vote on rules, and this year the tour includes “hot hand jerseys” that the Globetrotters and the opposing team can pass among themselves. Whichever player – one on each team – is wearing a hot hand jersey receives double points on made baskets.

There are other wacky rules up for consideration, and online voting is open at harlemglobetrotters.com/rule, where fans can choose the game-changing rules they want to see in their hometown. The Globetrotters have showcased their unique talents in 122 countries and territories.

Tickets start at $21 and are available at through Ticketmaster locations, the FedExForum box office, by phone at 800-745-3000 and at harlemglobetrotters.com.

Visible Music College Introduces Music Week

This summer, Visible Music College is introducing Visible Music Week – a weeklong program for students in middle school and above that will be held at Visible’s Memphis and Chicago campuses.

Over four weeklong sessions, Visible Music Week will offer training in vocals, drums, bass, guitar and keyboard, seminars in worship leading, music production, music business and a snapshot of the student experience at Visible.

Application deadlines will be announced soon. Among other benefits, participants will get to record at Madison Line Records and stay in student housing.

Memphis’ Visible Music Week is June 15-21 for middle school students; June 22-28 for high school students; and July 13-19 for a 16-and-older group.

Unemployment Benefit Claims Drop to 330,000

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, signaling fewer layoffs and steady job growth.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average dropped 9,750 to 349,000.

A Labor spokesman said there was no indication that snow and freezing weather around much of the country caused the drop in applications.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They appear to have stabilized near pre-recession levels after a period of volatility around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. That suggests recent job gains will continue.

“The underlying trend is encouraging and supports the view that job creation is picking up momentum,” said Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in a separate report that the number of announced job cuts fell 3 percent last year to 509,051. That’s the fewest layoffs reported by the firm since 1997.

The decline in layoffs has coinciding with stronger hiring. Employers have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month from August through November. That’s helped lower the unemployment rate to a five-year low of 7 percent.

The government will release the December jobs report on Friday.

30-Year Mortgage Rate Hovers at 4.51 Percent

Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages barely changed this week, hovering near historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average for the 30-year loan slipped to 4.51 percent from 4.53 percent last week. The average for the 15-year loan edged up to 3.56 percent from 3.55 percent.

Mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since hitting record lows a year ago. The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion a month in bond purchases.

Last month, the Fed determined the economy was strong enough to start cutting those monthly purchases by $10 billion. The bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low.

The rise in mortgage rates has slowed home sales, which have fallen for three straight months.

But overall, 2013 represented the best year for the housing market since the financial crisis. Sales of existing homes should reach 5.1 million for last year, the National Association of Realtors forecasts. That would be up 10 percent from the previous year and the most since 2006. It’s still below the 5.5 million generally associated with healthy housing markets.

Miss. Schools Ranked Lowest in Achievement

Despite strong state standards, Mississippi students are not catching up to the rest of the nation, ranking last in a school performance evaluation released Thursday.

Education Week’s Quality Counts report puts Mississippi 51st among the states and Washington, D.C., in K-12 student achievement. That is actually down a notch from last year. Only Mississippi and D.C. were graded “F’’ in student achievement. Massachusetts and Maryland, the two top states, each earned a “B’’ grade from the education newspaper.

Mississippi also ranked among the lowest 10 states in providing young people a chance for success in life, financing schools and improving teaching. The state ranked somewhat higher on how well K-12 connects to preschool, college and kindergarten, and ranked 10th for standards.

Education Week did not issue overall grades to states in 2014 report, unlike in previous years.

Mississippi’s best ranking, as has been the case for several years, was in the area of standards, where the state got an “A’’ and ranked 10th.

The state’s math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress outstripped growth nationwide over the last 10 years, with the state ranking ninth in gains among eighth-graders and 21st in gains among fourth graders. But even after those gains, only 26 percent of fourth-graders scored proficient in math while only 21 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient.

Reading gains have lagged. Eighth-graders actually scored worse in reading in 2013 than in 2003, while improvements in fourth-grade reading lagged the national average.

Toad Hall Antiques Closing Feb. 28

Toad Hall Antiques is preparing to close its doors in Cooper-Young.

Owner Dana McBride says she was made an offer on the building “that I could not refuse,” which will allow her to live out a dream of now living by the beach close to her family.

The last day is Feb. 28. A moving sale is under way now.

As to her future plans, McBride is planning to open a store in Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Malco Sells 97,000 Bows for St. Jude

Moviegoers bought more than 97,000 bows to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital during Malco Theatres’ annual Wrapped with Love campaign last year.

The bows were handmade from actual film and available at theater box offices for $1 each. A formal check presentation at St. Jude is being planned for early spring.

Since 1999, Malco has raised more than $675,000 for St. Jude through the annual Wrapped with Love and Kids Summer Film Fest campaigns.

City Council Talks Rules and Elections

Memphis City Council members could vote in two weeks on a resolution expressing “no confidence” in Shelby County Elections Administrator Richard Holden.

The council discussed the proposal by council member Myron Lowery in Tuesday, Jan. 7, committee sessions.

The Election Commission has voted twice on motions to fire Holden, citing his suspension and probationary period following problems in the 2012 elections as well as two critical audits – one by state government and the other by Shelby County government.

But the motions brought by the 2-member Democratic minority on the five-member Election Commission have failed each time on party-line votes.

Council members also talked Tuesday about a new set of proposed rules for council meetings put forward by an ad hoc council committee.

The set of rules includes a ban on answering cellphones during council committee sessions that is drawing fire from council member Joe Brown.

“I don’t have an employer on the council,” Brown said before the committee session. “I can do whatever I want to do. I’m elected. … It’s trivial and it’s small. I don’t see where they get the time.”

Brown also denied taking cellphone calls during committee sessions.

The council approved Tuesday renaming the portion of Hollywood Street from Central to Southern avenues in honor of the late Criminal Court Judge W. Otis Higgs.

Council members also approved a two-lot residential development on Walnut Grove Road at Wychewood Cove. And they delayed for two weeks a vote on third and final reading of a proposal by council member Lee Harris to adjust the city’s prevailing wage ordinance that would apply the pay standards to those who get city contracts of $50,000 or more.

Survey: US Companies Add 238,000 Jobs in Dec.

A private survey shows U.S. businesses added the most jobs in a year in December, powered by a big gain in construction. The figures are the latest evidence that the economy gained momentum at the end of 2013.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 238,000 jobs in December, up slightly from 229,000 in the previous month. November’s figures were revised higher.

The report showed solid gains in higher-paying jobs.

Construction firms hired 48,000 additional workers in December, the most since 2006. And manufacturers added 19,000 positions. Companies in retail, transportation and utilities also gained 47,000 jobs.

The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government’s more comprehensive report. But both reports have shown a solid pickup in hiring since the summer.

Last month, the Labor Department said that private businesses added 203,000 jobs in November. The government will report Friday on December job growth.

Fewer People in Stores, But Holiday Sales Rise

Window shopping is taking on a new meaning for many Americans.

The latest sales data from the holiday season shows that U.S. shoppers increasingly prefer to research clothes, TVs and shoes online, or “virtual window shop,” before heading to stores.

ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 40,000 stores in the U.S., said on Tuesday that sales for in November and December rose 2.7 percent to $265.9 billion. That was better than the 2.4 percent growth the data tracker expected for the season.

Sales may have grown, but there were fewer people in stores. In fact, the number of store visits shoppers made during the holiday season dropped 14.6 percent to 17.6 billion.

The data signals a continued shift in how Americans are shopping. Analysts say if shoppers are doing most of their research before they get to stores, they will be less likely to browse the racks and shelves once they’re in stores.

Wilkins Pulls Petition to Challenge Cohen

Attorney Ricky E. Wilkins has pulled a qualifying petition to run in the August Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District.

Wilkins would be challenging U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen in the primary, something Wilkins began considering last year.

The filing period for the August state and federal primaries and nonpartisan local judicial races opened Jan. 3, and candidates have until April to file.

Memphis City Court Judge Tarik Sugarmon and Juvenile Court Chief Magistrate Dan Michael both picked up qualifying petitions on opening day in the race for Juvenile Court judge. Current judge Curtis Person Jr. is not seeking re-election.

Democratic state Rep. Karen Camper also has a petition out to seek re-election.

In the May county primaries, former Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone has a petition out to run in the Democratic primary for Shelby County mayor in a challenge of Republican incumbent Mark Luttrell, who is expected to seek a second term.

Kelly Price has pulled a petition to run in the GOP primary for Shelby County Commission District 3, where Shelby County Schools board member David Reaves has already filed.

Karl Bond has also filed in the Democratic primary for county commission District 6.

The deadline to file in the partisan county races is Feb. 20.

The Shelby County Election Commission’s website has two lists of candidates who have pulled petitions and/or filed for the 2014 elections, and the two lists do not match.

Delinquent Taypayers Identified on Social Media

The Shelby County trustee is calling out Shelby County’s biggest delinquent taxpayers on the Internet.

Starting this week, Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir will begin posting on social media the names and property addresses of the county’s largest delinquent property tax payers based on total taxes owed.

Each week, the Trustee’s office will determine the top five properties from selected ZIP codes and will publish the parcel address, parcel owner’s name and total taxes due. Photos of the properties will be provided when available. The first series of properties will come from ZIP codes 38103, 38104, 38105, 38107 and 38002.

According to Lenoir’s office, this week’s top offenders are Bluff City Partners LLC at 28 N. Third., which owes $251,034; Miller Memphis Inc. at 380 Beale St., which owes $36,828; Third Street Properties at 391 Third St., which owes $31,104; William M. Jeter at 35 Union Ave., suite 300, who owes $27,050; and Hickman Properties at 240 Union Ave., which owes $20,189.

Follow @SCTrustee for Twitter updates.

MAAR Hires Director of Government Affairs

The Memphis Area Association of Realtors has hired a new government affairs director.

MAAR has selected Ken Scroggs to serve as the trade group’s Governmental Affairs and Professional Standards Director.

Scroggs has more than 12 years of experience in governmental affairs, including serving as a field representative for former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and former U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant. Scroggs also served as government relations representative and compliance analyst for United Healthcare. Most recently, he was a site coordinator for Juvenile Court.

George Brett Headlines Tigers Baseball Banquet

Baseball Hall-of-Famer George Brett will be the featured speaker at the 2014 Meet the Tigers Baseball Banquet to be held Friday, Jan. 17, at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave.

Sponsored by the University of Memphis Bullpen Club, Brett’s address will highlight the evening that will include dinner, preseason comments from Tigers head coach Daron Schoenrock and an introduction of the 2014 Tigers roster. The festivities will begin at 7 p.m.

“President (Brad) Martin’s friendship with George was instrumental in securing George, and I personally thank him for that,” Schoenrock said. “This will be a wonderful event.”

Brett is in his 21st year as the Kansas City Royals vice president of baseball operations. Brett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. He played 21 seasons for the Royals, collecting 3,154 hits, three batting titles and a Most Valuable Player award. The Royals won the 1985 World Series.

Two sponsorship packages are available for the event. The Hall of Fame package is $5000 and comes complete with a private reception with Brett from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Supporters will receive priority table location, photo opportunities, 10 dinner tickets and Hall of Fame Recognition in the program. The individual purchasing the Hall of Fame Package receives an autographed baseball and bat.

The All Star package is available for $2500 and features preferred table location, 10 dinner tickets and All-Star Recognition in the program. The individual purchasing the All Star Package will receive an autographed baseball.

Individual tickets for the dinner and featured address only, are available for $100. To purchase tickets or packages, contact Kim House at 678-4406 or kbhouse@memphis.edu.

Christian Brothers Hosts Farm to Table Conference

The fourth annual Mid-South Farm to Table Conference will be held next month at Christian Brothers University.

The Feb. 4 conference is intended to give farmers, consumers, entrepreneurs and other interested groups a venue for talking about developing the local food system in the Memphis area.

The conference was founded in 2011. Some of the highlights this year include panels designed for farmers, including farm profitability and sessions on work being done to increase food access in Memphis’ poorest neighborhoods.

Attendees also can expect to see Nat Turner, founder of the project “Our School at Blair Grocery,” talking about growing food in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. Chef Miles McMath will talk about integrating local food into the cafeteria at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as well as his passion for raising and growing his own animals and crops.

Saint Francis-Bartlett Chest Pain Center Accredited

The Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care has accredited Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett’s Chest Pain Center.

SCPC’s on-site review showed the pain center had expertise in several areas, including integrating the emergency room with the local emergency medical system; assessing, diagnosing and treating patients quickly; and supporting community outreach programs that educate the public to promptly seek medical care when someone displays symptoms of a heart attack.

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 600,000 people dying annually of heart disease. More than five million Americans visit hospitals each year with chest pain.

Magna Adds Controller, Promotes Employees

Magna Bank has added a controller – and, at the same time, promoted a few employees in its retail banking and private banking divisions.

Shari Xu is the bank’s new controller and vice president. Her job will include reviewing the bank’s statements for accuracy and clarity, preparing cash flow analysis, performing cash projections and keeping the bank in compliance with federal regulations.

Donna Edwards, meanwhile, has been promoted to vice president and private banker. She previously worked with the Small Business Administration division at Magna.

Chanita Tennial has been promoted to sales manager of Magna Bank’s Wolf River Branch. She previously was assistant branch manager at the Wolf River Branch.

Verso Paper Acquires NewPage in $1.4B Deal

Coated papers maker Verso Paper is buying NewPage Holdings Inc. in a deal valued at $1.4 billion including debt.

Privately held NewPage produces printing and specialty papers.

Verso President and CEO David Paterson said in a statement on Monday that the buyout will put it in a better position to face increased competition. Paterson will lead the combined company, which will have 11 manufacturing plants in six states and sales of about $4.5 billion.

The deal includes $250 million in cash and $650 million of new Verso first lien notes that will be issued at closing. NewPage will also receive Verso shares representing 20 percent of the outstanding stock immediately prior to closing. This amount may be adjusted to up to 25 percent under certain circumstances. The deal also includes the refinancing of NewPage’s $500 million term loan.

The transaction is anticipated to result in at least $175 million in pre-tax cost savings. These savings are expected within the first 18 months after the deal’s completion.

A NewPage director will join Verso’s board at closing.

The deal was unanimously approved by both companies’ boards. It is targeted to close in the second half of the year.

Union Avenue Ike’s Closes, Makes Way for Fresh Market

The Ike’s on Union Avenue in Midtown closed Jan. 10 in advance of its conversion to a Fresh Market.

The Fresh Market plans on converting the existing building into one of the chain’s upscale grocery stores.

Fresh Market plans on removing the existing asphalt drive-thru along the building’s west side and replacing it with sidewalk areas. The grocer will also remove existing parking spaces in front of the building, add more sidewalk space and create new parking spaces where the gas pumps and canopy once stood. Fresh Market will also convert the Ike’s drive-thru canopy into retail space.

Malco Acquires Kentucky Theater

Memphis-based Malco Theatres has acquired a nine-screen movie theater in Winchester, Ky., from Bluegrass Theatres.

The cinema has been reopened as the Malco Winchester Cinema and will undergo major renovations over the next few months. Jimmy Tashie, Malco executive vice president of theater operations, said the company is making “a significant financial investment” in the new facility.

Malco also recently opened the Olive Branch Cinema in Olive Branch, Miss., and completed renovations to both the Ridgeway Cinema Grill and the Forest Hill Cinema in Memphis.

Factory Orders Up on Aircraft Demand

U.S. factories orders climbed in November, led by a surge in aircraft demand. And businesses stepped up spending on machinery, computers and other long-lasting goods, a sign of investment that could fuel economic growth.

Factory orders rose 1.8 percent in November, the Commerce Department said Monday. That follows a 0.5 percent decrease in October.

Orders received by manufacturers totaled a seasonally adjusted $497.8 billion in November, the highest level on records dating to 1992. Orders have increased 2.5 percent over the past 12 months.

The improvements could signal accelerating growth in 2014. Americans are buying more cars and homes, increasing demand for steel, furniture and other goods. That has led factories to hire more workers, generating additional economic momentum.

Still, overall economic growth remains modest by historical standards. And though factory orders have strengthened in recent months, their growth rate has slowed during the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

A 21.8 percent jump in volatile aircraft orders drove the November gains. But orders rose in many other categories, a sign of strength at factories and confidence among companies.

Core capital goods, a proxy for business investment, rose 4.1 percent. Economists watch this category because it excludes volatile orders for aircraft and defense equipment.

Demand also rose for construction machinery, computers, communications equipment, furniture and motor vehicle parts.

Most of the gains occurred in long-lasting goods, which increased 3.4 percent in November. Orders for nondurable goods such as food products, clothing and paper rose a modest 0.3 percent.

US Services Index Slips on Sharp Fall in Orders

U.S. service companies expanded at a steady but slightly slower pace in December as sales dipped and new orders plunged to a four-year low. The report suggests economic growth may remain modest in the coming months.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its service-sector index fell to 53 last month, down from 53.9 in November. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A measure of new orders plummeted 7 points to 49.4, the first time it has dropped below 50 since July 2009. A gauge of business stockpiles also fell sharply.

But a gauge of hiring increased 3.3 points to 55.8, evidence that services firms are adding more jobs.

That’s a good sign for December’s jobs report, which will be released Friday.

The survey covers businesses that employ 90 percent of the workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services firms.

Anthony Nieves, chairman of the ISM’s services survey, said the declines in orders and business stockpiles likely occurred after “a little bit of excess” had built up in anticipation of the winter holidays. He expects the orders index to recover in the coming months.

Trustmark to Release Q4 Earnings Jan. 28

Trustmark Corp. will announce its fourth quarter 2013 financial results in a news release on Jan. 28 after close of the market.

The bank says in a news release that Gerard R. Host, president and CEO of the Jackson, Miss.-based bank, will hold a conference call with analysts on Jan. 29 at 10 a.m.

In October, Trustmark Corp. said profit in 2013’s third quarter rose 10 percent from the same three months of 2012. Trustmark posted quarterly profit of $33 million, or 49 cents per share. That was up from $29.9 million, or 46 cents per share, in 2012’s third quarter.

Trustmark has $11.8 billion in assets with 209 offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas.

Whole Foods to Open Poplar Store Jan. 14

Whole Foods Market will open its new store on Poplar Avenue in East Memphis Jan. 14, at 9 a.m.

The new store, 5014 Poplar Ave., opens next door to the current Poplar Avenue location, which closes for good Jan. 12 at 6 p.m.

The new, 42,000-square-foot store features an organic salad bar, in-store smoked barbecue and beer venue, fresh-made gelato, a scratch bakery, natural body care and nutritional supplements and a growler station with five beers on tap.

“We are expanding our offerings in all departments, and bringing in new products and new experiences for all our customers,” said Jeff Turngren, store team leader for Whole Foods Market Memphis.

Whole Foods will host a grand opening celebration Jan. 14 starting at 8 a.m., including live music, free coffee and a gift card raffle with cards ranging from $5 to $500.

A bread-breaking ceremony, similar to a ribbon-cutting, will start at 8:40 a.m.

The new store will also host WEVL’s Rhythm & Brews, a night of barbecue, beer and live music, Thursday, Jan. 18, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 and include beer sampling and barbecue. All proceeds go to WEVL.

Wedgewood Commons Sells for $33.9 Million

An Illinois-based real estate investment trust has acquired the Wedgewood Commons Shopping Center in Olive Branch, Miss., from Stonecrest Investments LLC.

Inland Real Estate Income Trust Inc. bought the 159,258-square-foot retail center for $33.9 million.

The property, located at the northeast corner of Goodman and Pleasant Hill Roads, consists of four buildings and an existing structure suitable for the development of an additional 10,838 square feet of leasable space, increasing the center’s retail space to more than 170,000 square feet.

Wedgewood Commons is 100 percent leased, with tenants that include TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Michaels, Rack Room Shoes, AT&T, TCBY, GNC and Sport Clips. The property is shadow-anchored by a Target “P Fresh” store, the retailer’s grocery-focused store format, which Inland did not acquire.

Stonecrest Investments CEO Bradley D. Smith said Stonecrest is still pursuing a 42,000-square-foot expansion of Wedgewood Commons.

“We’re very bullish on DeSoto County, Olive Branch and Southaven, and we’re continuing to pursue development opportunities in those markets,” Smith said.

Black Arts Alliance Suspends Operations

The Memphis Black Arts Alliance and its Firehouse Community Arts Center and Academy have suspended operations through March 31.

The organization is using that time to study the future of the alliance using input from stakeholders.

By March 31, according to the group, a decision will either be made to shift to new leadership and execute a new plan of action, or the group will dissolve effective June 30.

MLGW Closes Whitehaven Office for Remodeling

Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division will close its Whitehaven community office at 1111 E. Shelby Drive for remodeling starting Monday, Jan. 6.

The remodeling is expected to take 45 days.

Until the reopening, customers using the Whitehaven office can use the Downtown community office at 245 S. Main St., the north office at 2424 Summer Ave. or the Millington office at 5131 Navy Road.

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047