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VOL. 7 | NO. 25 | Saturday, June 14, 2014

Daily Digest

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Shelby Farms Breaks Ground on Expansion

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy leaders formally break ground Friday, June 13, on the $70 million project that includes an expansion of the park’s Patriot Lake, the addition of 10,000 new trees and other improvements.

Construction of a new buffalo range is already complete, with other work already underway. The process is expected to take two years. The improvements will include a new visitors center, with the existing one closed during the construction period. Other additions include more pavilions around the lakes, a farm-to-table restaurant, a retreat center, a boat-rental kiosk, new trails and a wetland walk.

The bulk of the money for the project, $66 million, was raised from private donors, with another $3 million from Shelby County government.

Botanic Garden Delays Venue Dedication

The rainy weather that has hovered over the area in May and June has thrown a wet blanket on the Memphis Botanic Garden’s plan for a donor appreciation party for supporters of its new performing arts venue.

The botanic garden party scheduled for Saturday, June 14, has been postponed until later in the season.

“The rains finally caught up with us and made our sod installation in the seating sections and plantings in our Living Wall area next to impossible,” said Jim Duncan, executive director of Memphis Botanic Garden, in a statement. “We decided we did not want to present an unfinished venue to the donors who have been so generous in supporting this project, and it would be best to wait until later.”

Duncan said the new concert area, which includes a permanent stage, will be ready when the Live at the Garden summer concert series launches its 14th season June 21 with Little Big Town.

Besides the new stage, the $6.1 million project includes a living wall of plants, food court, box offices and a below-grade area in front of the stage that can hold around 125 people.

Conduit Global Opens Call Center

Civic and business leaders celebrated Conduit Global’s new call center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, June 11.

The $8 million call center and back-office support operation at 7000 Goodlett Farms Parkway will eventually employ 1,000 people, making it one of the largest local job creation projects in recent history.

Bryce Hayes, president of Conduit Global, said Shelby County was chosen over two other cities because of the available labor force, proximity to universities and technical schools, and the cooperation offered by state and local governments.

“Conduit Global’s goal was to find a place where we could tap into a talented workforce, and we found that in Memphis,” Hayes said in a statement. “We could not be more pleased with our new hires and appreciate the support from the local business community and elected officials in connecting us to them.”

Conduit Global, a leading business process outsourcing company with 14 locations in nine countries, will have a wide range of available positions, but most of the jobs will focus on call center operations, providing customer support for inbound and outbound customer calls, customer retention services, technical support and other back-office operations.

The company has already hired 130 people and is in the process of hiring for a number of other open positions, including agents and support staff. People interested in applying should visit conduitglobal.com.

Amro Music Adds To Walk of Fame

Dr. Sidney McKay, band director at the University of Memphis from 1975 until his retirement in 2003, has been inducted into Amro Music’s Walk of Fame.

McKay’s inclusion kicks off this summer’s inductees into the Walk of Fame, which is located at the entrance of Amro’s Poplar Avenue location and is intended to pay tribute to Memphis-area music educators.

Nominations are made by the public, and members will be chosen each year by a committee based on the educator’s impact, years of service and other contributions.

Nominations are accepted at Amro’s website, walkoffame.amromusic.com.

Applications For Jobless Aid Rise

More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but claims for jobless aid remain near pre-recession levels.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 317,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased to 315,250. These figures are near the jobless claims levels before the outbreak of the Great Recession in December 2007.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the claims data show that employers are dismissing fewer workers. When businesses are confident enough to hold onto staff, they may also step up hiring. That is a positive sign for economic growth, as more jobs usually help lift consumer spending.

Last Friday, the Labor Department said employers added 217,000 jobs in May as the unemployment rate held steady at 6.3 percent.

The steady hiring after the economy shrank during the first three months of the year because of the winter weather point to faster growth ahead.

Monthly job gains have averaged 234,000 for the past three months, up sharply from 150,000 in the previous three. The May unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate survey, was the lowest rate in more than five years.

Gross domestic product fell 1 percent in the first three months of 2013. Many economists expect that number could be further revised downward, while growth returns as warmer weather has generated more hiring and consumer spending.

Businesses Boost April Stockpiles 0.6 Percent

U.S. businesses increased their stockpiles in April by the largest amount in six months, signaling business optimism that future demand will keep rising.

Business inventories rose 0.6 percent after a 0.4 percent March gain, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. It marked the 11th consecutive increase in stockpiles and was the biggest advance since October. Total business sales were up a solid 0.7 percent in April after a 1.1 percent rise in March, which had been the biggest monthly sales increase in 10 months.

The encouraging sales gains are expected to prompt businesses to keep ordering more goods to restock their shelves. That rising demand should help boost factory production and fuel the overall economy.

For April, inventories at the wholesale level climbed 1.1 percent, while inventories held by retailers rose 0.5 percent. Stockpiles at the manufacturing level were up 0.4 percent.

Economic growth went into reverse in the January-March quarter with the economy contracting at an annual rate of 1 percent. However, much of that weakness reflected an unusually severe winter.

Economists are looking for growth to rebound to an annual rate of around 3 percent or better in the current April-March quarter and remain at a 3 percent level in the second half of this year.

Methodist Olive Branch Wins LEED Certification

Methodist Olive Branch Hospital has been awarded a prestigious designation for its sustainable design.

Methodist Olive Branch was designated with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Healthcare Gold Certification status by from the U.S. Green Building Council, a private nonprofit that encourages more sustainable design.

The hospital is one of six facilities in the world to hold LEED for Healthcare certification, and one of three in the U.S. The LEED for Healthcare certification began in 2012 and was developed to encourage increased performance criteria specific to hospitals.

The $100 million, 210,000-square-foot Methodist Olive Branch Hospital, which includes features such as photoelectric glass and a geothermal heat pump system, opened in August 2013.

Methodist partnered with engineering and LEED consultants at Smith Seckman Reid Inc., architects at Gresham, Smith and Partners, and Turner Construction Co. to achieve LEED certification for the Olive Branch hospital.

Suburban Candidates File First Petitions

Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald has made it official, filing his qualifying petition to run for another four-year term.

Also filing in the past week to run in the Nov. 4 suburban elections are Bartlett aldermen David Parsons and Bubba Pleasant. Pleasant has opposition in his bid for re-election to Position 1 from Mick Wright, who has pulled a petition.

Collierville alderman Tom Allen has potential opposition from Greg Cotton.

And Germantown Municipal Schools board chairman Lisa Parker has pulled a petition for re-election to the school board.

The filing deadline for the suburban candidates is Aug. 21 at noon.

Patrick Accounting Head Wins Industry Award

Patrick Accounting & Tax Services PLLC managing member Matthew Patrick was honored at the recent 2014 spring marketing conference of the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants.

Winners were chosen in three award categories, with Patrick chosen as the medium practice recipient of the association’s Accountant of the Year award for his firm.

Patrick Accounting and Tax Services is a certified public accounting firm in Germantown and Nashville that offers small-business owners a full range of professional services, including back office support system, accounting, payroll, strategic planning, and tax preparation and planning.

Lew: Economy Still Facing Challenges

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday that the economy should grow at much stronger rates the rest of this year as the country overcomes the impact of a harsh winter. But Lew said millions of Americans continue to struggle as unemployment remains too high and economic growth is too slow.

“Evidence continues to mount that our economy is gaining traction,” Lew said in a speech to the Economic Club of New York. “Nevertheless, we cannot escape the fact that millions of Americans continue to struggle and their pain reminds us that our work is not finished. ... For too many families this hardly feels like a recovery.”

In his remarks, which were distributed in Washington, Lew called for actions by the government and the private sector to boost hiring of the long-term unemployed and increase investment in productivity-enhancing equipment and critical infrastructure projects such as roads, railways and ports.

Lew said the country also needed a stronger commitment to education in the areas of science, math and engineering to make sure students have the skills they need to compete in the new economy.

Lew said that from 1948 to 2007, the economy grew at average annual rates of 3.4 percent per year. But he said the Congressional Budget Office is now projecting that after the economy returns to full employment, economic growth will only average about 2.1 percent per year – just two-thirds of the average right after World War II.

Insurers Propose Changes To Obama Health Law

Insurers want to change President Barack Obama’s health care law to provide financial assistance for people buying bare-bones coverage. That would entice the healthy and the young, the industry says, holding down premiums.

So-called catastrophic plans are currently not eligible for the law’s subsidies, and only 2 percent of the 8 million consumers who signed up this year picked one. Subsidies bring down the cost of monthly premiums.

The proposed change is part of a package of recommendations that America’s Health Insurance Plans, the main industry trade group released Wednesday. Others address how to smooth transitions for consumers who switch insurance companies, as well as making it easier for patients to find out which hospitals and doctors are in particular plans and whether their medications are covered.

Adults ages 18 to 34, the health care law’s most coveted demographic, are under-represented among those enrolled for subsidized private insurance this year. Insurers are currently filing their proposed premiums for 2015, and increases of 10 percent or more are anticipated. Nonetheless, the new state insurance exchanges are poised to grow, with more carriers entering the market to compete for business.

Zebra Lounge Coming To Overton Square

Chicago’s Zebra Lounge is coming to Memphis, with a location opening in Overton Square later this year, the lounge’s owners announced on their website Tuesday, June 10.

The company said the bar will feature local live music when it opens at 2114 Trimble Place this fall. The Zebra Lounge’s original Chicago location is a piano bar.

Oakland Gets Grant For Wastewater Treatment

The town of Oakland, Tenn., has been awarded a $10,800 grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for a study of new procedures to improve the Fayette County town’s water quality and make its wastewater treatment more efficient.

The study will specifically focus on aerators at Oakland’s wastewater treatment plant.

Mayor Chris Goodman said the goal is to explore methods that could possibly save the town $10,000 to $15,000 a year.

The study begins in the fall and should be completed by next summer.

Supermarket Wine Coalition Begins Petition

A coalition that advocated for supermarket wine sales has kicked off a statewide campaign to gather signatures in an effort to get the measure on the November ballot.

Under a law that passed this year, wine can be sold by grocery and conveniences stores starting in July 2016 if citizens vote to approve the change.

Red White and Food, which is led by the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association, lobbied for the change to state law that previously only allowed wine to be sold in liquor stores. Now, The Tennessean reports the group is trying to collect enough signatures in 156 communities to get the measure on the ballot.

“The bill’s passage was just the beginning of the process,” said Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads. “The campaign is far from over.”

Only communities that currently allow package stores or liquor by the drink are eligible to hold votes as long as at least 10 percent of voters in the community sign petitions. In Metro Nashville, organizers will have to get 15,000 signatures.

The group and its supporters have until Aug. 21 to gather the signatures.

Crescent Club Undergoes Anniversary Overhaul

The Crescent Club, a member of the ClubCorp family of clubs, is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation.

In recognition of its 25-year anniversary, the club overhaul will include a new bar, dining space, multimedia office center, as well as a new lounge and lobby. The work is scheduled to be finished by early July. Located in East Memphis on the top floor of the Crescent Center, the Crescent Club offers formal and informal dining, five private dining rooms with videoconference capabilities, and an atrium and courtyard for larger groups.

Airlines Show Gains In Traffic, Revenue

Two of America’s biggest airlines said Monday that passenger traffic increased in May and a key revenue figure came in higher than a year ago.

The results from American and Southwest indicated that U.S. airlines are continuing to prosper from solid travel demand and stable although elevated fuel prices. And that is boosting the stock of both companies.

American Airlines Group Inc., which owns American and US Airways, said that traffic rose 2.1 percent in May as passengers flew 19.2 billion miles. Domestic travel gained 1.7 percent and Latin American travel jumped 6 percent from May 2013, helping offset weakness in American’s relatively small business of flying to Asia.

The company said that based on April and May results and a forecast for June, it expects that revenue for every seat flown one mile will rise by between 5 percent and 7 percent in the second quarter, compared with the same quarter last year. That is a closely watched statistic in the airline business, and it can rise when airlines sell seats at higher average prices.

Southwest Airlines Co. said that the same revenue figure rose 8 percent to 9 percent in May, compared with May 2013. Last week, Delta Air Lines Inc. reported a 7 percent gain for May.

Traffic on Southwest inched higher by 0.6 percent from a year ago, as passengers flew 9.4 billion miles last month.

Recording Academy To Celebrate 40 Years

Capping the yearlong celebration of its 40th anniversary in Memphis, The Recording Academy Memphis Chapter will host a celebration June 26 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, 923 E. McLemore Ave.

The event will include a listening session in Studio A at Stax, as well as the opportunity to tour the museum and view “And The Grammy Goes to Memphis,” an exhibit that launched last year in celebration of the Memphis chapter’s 40th anniversary. A networking reception will follow the listening session, which will include exclusive access to new music from the region’s studios and labels, and a preview of new releases from several Memphis-chapter artists.

Admission is free for Recording Academy and Grammy U members.

Survey: Economic Growth to Pick Up

U.S. economic growth should accelerate in the second quarter and remain healthy for the rest of this year, according to a forecast by a group of U.S. business economists. Still, growth for the full year will likely come in lower than they previously estimated.

Job growth should remain steady and consumer spending will also likely pick up, a survey by the National Association of Business Economists said Monday. The survey of 47 economists from companies, trade associations and academia was conducted from May 8 to May 21.

The survey also found that economists increasingly agree that the Federal Reserve will end its bond purchase program by the end of this year.

That’s partly because economists are optimistic about growth for the rest of this year: They expect it will jump to 3.5 percent in the second quarter and remain above 3 percent for the rest of the year.

But the pickup comes after harsh winter weather caused the nation’s gross domestic product to contract 1 percent in the first three months of the year, much worse than analysts had expected. GDP is the broadest measure of an economy’s output. That weak first quarter reading has caused many economists to lower their expectations for 2014 as a whole. The NABE survey found that economists now project growth will be just 2.5 percent this year, down from a forecast of 2.8 percent in March.

South Cypress Creek Meetings Planned

The City of Memphis Division of Engineering has announced a series of neighborhood meetings focused on a stormwater master plan for the South Cypress Creek area.

The purpose of the plan is to identify potential solutions for flooding and drainage issues, and the goals of the meetings are to give people information about the project and gather information about drainage and flooding problems they’ve experienced.

The meetings start this week, with one on Tuesday, June 10, and another on Thursday, June 12. Both will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Links at Whitehaven clubhouse, 750 E. Holmes Road.

Other meetings will be held June 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Mitchell High School, 658 W. Mitchell Road, and June 17 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Chickasaw Middle School, 4060 Westmont Road.

Methodist South Opening Diabetes Center

Methodist South Hospital will host a grand opening of its Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Center Friday, June 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Medical Office Complex, 1251 Wesley Drive, suite 151. Tours will be available during the event.

The center will provide patients with comprehensive exams, self-monitoring and management tools, care coordination services, targeted educational materials and personal check-up calls between visits.

The care team for the new center includes two supervising physicians, an endocrinologist, a family nurse practitioner, a case manager and a health educator. Hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 297-0929 for more information, or call 516-9000 to schedule an appointment.

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