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VOL. 7 | NO. 20 | Saturday, May 10, 2014

Daily Digest

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Racquet Club Bought by Local Group

A local ownership group led by Racquet Club of Memphis General Manager Steve Valentine and Dabney Collier has purchased the club from Sharks Sports & Entertainment, based in San Jose, Calif. Sharks Sports & Entertainment owns the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.

The Racquet Club has been home to a yearly professional tennis tournament since 1976, with tournament winners ranging from John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors to Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick.

This year, the club acted as host for the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships, a 250-level event on the ATP World Tour. Sharks Sports also owns the rights to the pro tour stop, and the local ownership group is in the process of negotiating to purchase the tournament.

Methodist South Hospital Completes Renovations

Methodist South Hospital will host a ribbon-cutting and consecration ceremony to celebrate the completion of its lobby and first floor renovations Friday, May 9, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The 10-month renovation project includes an expansion of the lobby area and a newly renovated ICU waiting room, ICU break/sleep room, gift shop, chapel and physician break room. Other renovations include expanded credit union and outpatient registration areas and new tile throughout the first floor. The 9,500-square-foot renovation project cost approximately $2 million.

In addition to the ribbon cutting, the hospital will unveil a mural by local artists Terry and Jerry Lynn, also known as TWIN. The artists will paint the last strokes and sign the 10-by-20-foot mural, titled “Collaboration,” during the event.

Belly Dancing to Benefit Family Safety Center

In collaboration with World Belly Dance Day, belly dancers from around the Mid-South will come together at Overton Square Saturday, May 10, from 4 to 6 p.m. for a “Shimmy Mob” to raise awareness and funds for Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County. The event is free, but tip buckets will be set up during the performance for donations to FSC.

Similar performances will happen in more than 160 other cities around the world by more than 2,300 dancers, with raised funds going toward women’s and children’s shelters and charities within those local communities.

Following the performance at Overton Square, the Shimmy Mob dancers will convene with other local dancers at The Rumba Room, 303 S. Main St., for the Bluff City Bellydance Showcase, at 6:30 p.m. This is a ticketed event, with all of the proceeds benefitting FSC. Tickets are $18 at the door or $12 if purchased in advance at memphisbellydance.com.

First Horizon Names Corporate Treasurer

Memphis-based First Horizon National Corp. has promoted Dane Smith to executive vice president and corporate treasurer, replacing Thomas Adams Jr., who’s retiring.

Smith joined First Horizon in 2004 in the corporate strategy group. As assistant treasurer, he’s supported various capital, liquidity, investment and balance sheet activities in addition to managing the company’s $3 billion investment securities portfolio.

Smith is a chartered financial analyst and graduate of Tulane University, and he’ll report to company CFO William “BJ” Losch.

Council Approves Music Hall of Fame Funding

Memphis City Council members have approved $250,000 in funding for a Memphis Music Hall of Fame at Hard Rock Cafe’s new location at Beale and Second streets.

The funding from the federal money turned over to the city when federal officials abandoned plans for Interstate 40 through Overton Park is the first of two funding requests organizers of the Hall of Fame plan to make of the city for the $1.2 million project, which will also include private funding.

The museum would be operated by the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, which will remain at FedExForum.

In other action Tuesday, May 6, the council approved Belz Investco GP’s Appling Farms Business Park planned development on Appling Farms Parkway west of Appling Road.

And a neighborhood group dropped an appeal on a single family residential planned development at Spottswood Avenue and Buck Street.

The council approved a special use permit for a Penske Automotive Group car rental location at 4466 Elvis Presley Blvd., north of Shelby Drive.

Among the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division items on the council’s agenda, the council approved a $229,840 “after the fact” contract between the utility and NRG Technologies for a software system in several parts.

When council member Myron Lowery asked about the “after the fact” notation on the agenda, utility president Jerry Collins said some employees had awarded the contract without going through the proper bid and purchasing procedures. Collins said the employees have been “disciplined” for the actions.

Lowery requested a meeting with Collins to discuss what the disciplinary action was.

Unemployment Aid Applications Drop

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 26,000 last week to 319,000, the latest sign that the job market is slowly improving.

The drop follows two weeks of increases that reflected mostly temporary layoffs around the Easter holiday. The holiday can cause an uptick in layoffs of bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school workers during spring break. Those earlier increases caused the four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, to rise 4,500 to a seasonally adjusted 324,750.

Economic Gardening Program to Grow

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County will announce the expansion of the Economic Gardening program next week.

Joining the mayors will be alumni of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Program and the Edward Lowe Foundation’s Economic Gardening program, which partnered last year to support more than 100 small businesses.

The Emerging Leaders program is an SBA initiative that provides business owners whose companies have at least $400,000 in annual revenue with an organizational framework and resource network that encourages growth.

The Economic Gardening program helps companies that are past the startup phase – those that earn at least $700,000 in annual revenue and have between seven and 99 employees – by offering them a team of strategists who can help the companies jump start growth from within the company.

These EDGE-supported programs will be used in tandem with EDGE’s five financing tools that provide $25,000 to $10 million for local small businesses.

The invitation-only reception will be held Tuesday, May 13, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Memphis Botanic Garden.

Grizzlies to Affiliate with Iowa Energy

The Memphis Grizzlies have entered into a single-affiliation partnership with the Iowa Energy for the 2014-2015 season, becoming the 14th NBA team to have a one-to-one relationship with its NBA D-League affiliate next season.

The Grizzlies will have full control over the Energy’s basketball operations. The Energy will adopt the Grizzlies’ Beale Street Blue and gold color scheme and will have a new logo reflecting the partnership with the Memphis NBA team.

The Energy has been part of the NBA D-League since the 2007-2008 season and plays home games at the Wells Fargo Center in Des Moines.

Arkansas Bank Buys First State Bank

Arkansas-based Simmons First National Corp. announced this week that it’s reached a deal to buy the parent company of First State Bank.

First State Bank is a $1.9 billion bank, and the merger deal is valued at about $243.4 million. It’s expected to close in the fourth quarter.

First State has locations in Memphis and Collierville and other offices primarily in central and eastern Tennessee.

Referendums Next for Supermarket Wine Sales

A coalition that advocated for supermarket wine sales in Tennessee is now shifting its focus to passing local referendums to make the law change a reality for communities around Tennessee.

Under the law passed this year, wine will be allowed to 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. The group says it is now converting into a nonprofit organization to support the local votes.

Only communities that currently allow package stores or liquor by the drink are eligible to hold votes on supermarket wine.

Seat for Federal Judge Opening in Chattanooga

A decision by a federal judge in Chattanooga to take senior status later this year means his seat will be open.

Curtis L. Collier sent a letter to President Barack Obama to say he will move into semi-retirement in October on his 65th birthday. Under senior status, judges work part-time, usually taking on about 20 percent of a normal caseload.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports Collier’s decision opens a position that is prestigious and highly sought after.

Collier was appointed to the judgeship by President Bill Clinton in 1995. The newspaper reports he was the first and remains the only black U.S. District judge in eastern Tennessee.

The district encompasses areas from Winchester to Greeneville.

After four decades in public service in the U.S. Air Force, as a federal prosecutor and as a federal judge for nearly 20 years, Collier said he had a simple reason for the timing of his announcement.

“It’s time to give someone more young and vigorous an opportunity,” he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear when a new judge would be appointed.

Tenn. Agencies Create New Training Facility

Two Tennessee agencies are partnering to create the nation’s first incident management training facility.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and the Tennessee Department of Transportation were scheduled to break ground for the new facility on Wednesday at the Tennessee Highway Patrol Training Center in Nashville.

The facility will be used to teach best practices for safe, quick clearance of major highway incidents to emergency responders across the state.

When complete, the facility will feature a section of interstate-like roadway ranging from two to six lanes, guardrail, a two-way interchange and concrete barrier rail, as well as a section of two-lane highway and a full four-way intersection.

Congress Revives Bill for Women’s History Museum

Citing history textbooks, national parks and landmarks that mostly leave women out, lawmakers Wednesday are reviving a long-stalled effort to create a National Women’s History Museum in the nation’s capital.

Congress has allowed previous legislation calling for a museum to die at least twice since 2005. Now the Republican-controlled House is set to vote on a new measure just before Mother’s Day. A similar measure is pending in the Senate.

The bill would create a bipartisan commission to study the feasibility of a women’s museum on or near the National Mall, a process that was used for African-American and Latino-American museums. The measure would prohibit any federal funding for the museum’s creation in order to draw more Republican support.

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, who have championed the effort, said the contributions of women have been mostly left out of museums, statues and national landmarks. Not enough is taught about women’s history, they said, including details about how women gained the right to vote less than 100 years ago.

Memphis News Claims Five Green Eyeshades

The Memphis News was awarded three first-place honors in the 64th Annual Green Eyeshade Awards for its coverage of stories in 2013. The awards are given by the Society of Professional Journalists’ Southeastern region, which covers 11 states.

The Memphis News won first place among non-dailies for its public affairs coverage, including stories by reporter Bill Dries on Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash’s resignation, teacher residency programs, the Shelby County Schools merger and friction at City Hall, as well as a story by Dries and reporter Don Wade on the AutoZone Park and Memphis Redbirds sale.

Wade won first place among non-dailies for sports commentary and third place for sports reporting. It is Wade’s second year to pick up Green Eyeshades in both categories.

The Memphis News also won first place in the editorials category.

The paper picked up a second-place Green Eyeshade for its political coverage, including Dries’ stories on the city and county budgets and friction at City Hall, and a story by Dries and reporter Andy Meek that analyzed the recent choices of Memphians to lead several local institutions.

Airport Authority, U of M Establish Scholarship

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority and University of Memphis have established an endowed scholarship at the Fogelman College of Business and Economics as a tribute to Larry Cox, former president and CEO of the Airport Authority.

The Larry D. Cox Scholarship Fund will invest in the academic and economic future of public school students in the greater Memphis and Shelby County area starting in 2015.

“Education is very important to me, and I hope that this will help local students fulfill their dreams of earning a college degree,” said Cox.

Cox was a long-time fixture at the Airport Authority, spending 41 years there after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Memphis and serving three years in the U.S. Air Force.

Contributions to the scholarship fund can be made at memphis.edu/giving by designating the donations for the Larry D. Cox Scholarship.

Tenn. Program to Help Prisoners Re-Enter Society

State prison officials are hoping that a new program that connects offenders with faith-based organizations and other nonprofits can help prisoners successfully re-enter society after they’ve served their time.

The Tennessee Department of Correction kicked off its new Take One Program this week during a prayer breakfast at the Christ United Methodist Church in Nashville. It was the beginning of a statewide launch.

Take One is a collaboration between the prison system and churches, faith-based organizations and other nonprofits to help offenders transition back into society. The program encourages each organization to mentor one offender for one year.

The TDOC says that an estimated 90 percent of prisoners will eventually be released, and the new program will encourage offenders to lead productive, crime-free lives when they get out.

Morris Promoted at Commercial Bank

Greg Morris has been promoted to assistant vice president at Commercial Bank and Trust Co.

He’s worked for the bank for seven years. During that time, he’s held positions that include account executive, loan assistant, credit analyst and loan officer.

He specializes in working with both personal and small-business clients.

Commercial Bank and Trust provides full-service banking services, including a mix of checking, savings and retirement programs, money market accounts, mortgages, home equity loans, and commercial and business loans, among others.

Factory Orders Rise 1.1 Percent in March

Orders to U.S. factories advanced strongly in March for a second month while demand in a key category that signals business investment plans increased by the largest amount in more than a year. The strength was further evidence that the economy was rebounding after a harsh winter.

Orders increased 1.1 percent in March after increasing 1.5 percent in February, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Those gains followed two months of declines in December and January.

Orders for core capital goods, considered a good proxy for business investment, jumped 3.5 percent in March, rebounding from a 0.9 percent drop in February. It was the biggest increase since January 2013.

Economists say rising demand will boost factory production in coming months, helping the overall economy emerge from a winter slowdown.

In other upbeat news, the Labor Department said Friday that the economy added 288,000 jobs in April, the biggest monthly gain in more than two years, with the unemployment rate falling to 6.3 percent, its lowest level since September 2008.

TVA to Cut More Than 10 Percent of Jobs

The Tennessee Valley Authority says 750 employees have retired or resigned through a voluntary incentive program, another 1,000 vacant positions are being eliminated and more cuts are on the way.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports it will be the largest staff reduction at the federal utility in more than 20 years.

Cuts also are planned in TVA’s nuclear program and involuntary layoffs are expected later this year.

The cuts are being made so staffing levels and electric rates will be more in line with other utilities as power consumption growth slows.

TVA President Bill Johnson says he wants a $500 million reduction in annual expenses by next year.

“We have had higher operating costs than some of our neighbors, so we’re looking at ways to bring our costs down and operate more efficiently,” TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said. “It’s all driven toward trying to keep our rates low.”

Nuns to Return to St. Benedict

Dominician nuns from Nashville will teach at St. Benedict at Auburndale High School with the new school year, the Cordova Catholic school’s principal announced Thursday, May 1.

The sisters are from the St. Cecelia community in Nashville, which originally provided teachers at St. Benedict when it became a Diocesan school in 1988 and for several years after that.

The Nashville congregation, which dates back to 1860, has nuns teaching at the elementary to post-graduate college level in 42 locations around the world.

ServiceMaster Reports Q1 Revenue Increase

The ServiceMaster Co. LLC reported a 4 percent increase in revenues for the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period a year ago.

The $533 million in revenue came with an $18 million loss from continuing operations in the first quarter attributed to the Memphis-based company’s decision to drop a new operating system at its American Home Shield division.

ServiceMaster took a $48 million non-cash impairment charge in the first three months of 2014 because of the decision to move away from the new system.

During the quarter, ServiceMaster completed the spinoff of its TruGreen lawn care business with a separation of TruGreen’s assets and some of its liabilities through a tax-free pro-rata dividend to stockholders.

The spinoff also came with a pre-tax, non-cash trade name impairment charge of $139 million.

Untapped Beer Garden Supports Nonprofits

The organizers and sponsors of Tennessee Brewery Untapped have announced the event’s second Beer Garden with Benefits on May 4 yielded more than $1,200 in contributions to five Memphis-area nonprofits: Knowledge Quest, Ballet Memphis, Broad Avenue Arts District, Urban Bicycle Ministry and Church Health Center.

A select group of nonprofits will be featured each Sunday of Untapped from noon to 6 p.m. During that time, $1 from each beer sale will be refunded back to customers in the form of a token, which is to be deposited in a bucket bearing the name of a nonprofit. Untapped’s sponsors match the nonprofit getting the most tokens.

Untapped kicked off its third week May 8 at 11 a.m.

Madonna Learning Center Breaks Ground May 14

The Madonna Learning Center, a school for children and young adults with special needs, will have a groundbreaking ceremony May 14 at the school’s grounds, 7007 Poplar Ave.

Festivities will kick off with a 9:30 a.m. chapel service, to be followed by a 10:30 a.m. program. The ceremony will officially launch the public phase of the school’s $10 million capital campaign, called “Transforming Lives. Building a Brighter Future. The Campaign for Madonna Learning Center.”

The campaign’s public phase follows a nine-month quiet campaign, during which $5.6 million was raised.

The school expects to begin construction in late May, and will wrap up in summer of 2015, in time for the new academic year. Construction will allow the school to double the student population and add a new preschool, an adult program building with capacity for up to 80 program participants and a new gymnasium/performing arts building.

Court Rules for Gov’t in Mortgage Fraud Case

The Supreme Court has clarified how restitution must be computed in mortgage fraud cases.

The justices in a unanimous decision Monday said that restitution to a bank that has been defrauded must be calculated based on the value of property when it is actually sold, and not the earlier date on which the bank forecloses on the property.

The case involved a fraudulent loan application for the purchase of two houses in Wisconsin for $470,000. The two banks foreclosed on the mortgages in 2006, but only sold the homes later for $280,000 after the real estate market collapsed.

The high court ruled that the amount of restitution is offset by the sale price the banks received, and not the higher price they were worth when the banks foreclosed.

Service Firms Grow at Fastest Pace Since August

U.S. service firms grew last month at the fastest pace since August as new orders and sales grew, adding to evidence that the economy is picking up after a slow start to the year.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its service-sector index rose to 55.2 from 53.1 in March. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing executives.

The figures come after a healthy jobs report on Friday also fueled hopes for an improving economy. The government said employers added 288,000 jobs in April, the most in 2 1/2 years, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent.

The jobs report wasn’t all positive, however. The rate fell mostly because fewer people began looking for work. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching for a job. And the jobs figures showed that wages were flat last month.

Still, the better services and hiring data represent a turnaround after the government said last week that the economy barely expanded in the first three months of the year. Harsh winter weather kept shoppers away from the malls and dragged down home and auto sales. But spending and hiring has rebounded as the weather has improved.

Literacy Mid-South Launches Mobile App

Literacy Mid-South has launched an app that gives the organization’s more than 250 volunteer tutors access to multiple educational and interactive resources for teaching and communication purposes.

Volunteer users through the app get access to all of the forms and information on the Literacy Mid-South website, as well as educational videos, tutoring tips and ideas for student exercises. The app also allows volunteers to directly and securely send reports to Literacy Mid-South from the app, as well as connect with the organization’s social media platforms.

The app already is available for the iOS and Android platforms and soon will be available for Kindle Fire as well.

Obama Praises Jobs Growth

President Barack Obama hails April jobs growth but says Congress must still do more to help American workers, including raising the minimum wage and creating more construction jobs by approving public works projects.

Obama spoke during a joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The government reported Friday that employers added 288,000 jobs in April, the most in two years.

Obama praised the “grit and determination” of Americans for the economic improvement.

Obama also extended his thoughts and prayers to the people of Afghanistan for losses suffered in a massive landslide.

PROPERTY SALES 51 180 16,377
MORTGAGES 21 57 10,144
BUILDING PERMITS 103 665 39,209
BANKRUPTCIES 31 107 7,704