VOL. 7 | NO. 23 | Saturday, May 31, 2014
AIA Memphis Showing Best 2014 Architecture
AIA Memphis is hosting a public display of the best architecture in Memphis this year through June 20.
The opening night reception, hosted during the South Main Art Trolley Tour Friday, May 30, offers the public an opportunity to view the winners of the 2014 AIA Memphis Design Awards for excellence in architecture. The exhibit, located at the AIA Memphis Gallery, 511 S. Main St., is free and open to the public.
Visitors can explore winning work from ANF Architects, Fleming Associates Architects, Looney Ricks Kiss, UrbanARCH Associates and Francis Gassner Award winner Todd Walker of archimania.
Friday’s reception is slated to run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 525-3818 or visit aiamemphis.org.
Grizzlies Holding Open House Saturday
The Memphis Grizzlies are inviting fans to “test drive” seats for the 2014-2015 season at an open house Saturday, May 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at FedExForum.
The open house is free, and the first 500 fans will have their choice of a pair of Grizzlies sunglasses or a koozie. Free parking will be available in the Toyota parking garage.
Grizzlies season ticket account executives will be on hand to help fans get a first-hand look at available seating locations, including the new Plaza III section. The open house will also provide fans a behind-the-scenes look into the Grizzlies locker room. Fans that purchase ticket plans during the open house will be eligible for additional incentives.
Evolve Bank & Trust Adds Mobile App
Evolve Bank & Trust has added mobile banking services.
The bank’s free app is now available for iOS devices via the App Store and for Android devices via the Google Play store.
It’s one more convenience for customers from Evolve Bank, which is based in Memphis and operates six full-service branches and loan production offices in Arkansas and Tennessee. Evolve also has more than 30 loan production offices around the country.
Lawyers Fight Effort to Oust Justices
Lawyers are fighting back against an effort by conservatives to oust three sitting justices on the state’s highest court.
Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville has been circulating a document that takes aim at Supreme Court Justices Cornelia Clark, Gary Wade and Sharon Lee. All three were appointed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, and all three are up for election on Aug. 7.
The Tennessean reports that the Nashville Bar Association sent a resolution to members this week urging them to vote to keep the justices. In addition, the Tennessee Bar Association is asking members for the first time to rate the competency of the justices in a poll, and it plans to release the results in June.
Those efforts follow a May 14 event at which some prominent Nashville attorneys raised $100,000 for the three.
A group of attorneys, including former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Drowota, spoke to the newspaper about their efforts to retain the justices.
Drowota said Ramsey has unfairly criticized the justices in an effort to put partisan judges on the panel.
“To have politics come into the courts makes absolutely no sense,” Drowota said. “You don’t want a politicized court. You want a fair, impartial court.”
In response, Ramsey’s communications director Adam Kleinheider said, “It is not surprising that a group of Nashville lawyers with a vested interest in protecting a liberal Supreme Court are getting engaged in this process. Lt. Governor Ramsey looks forward to having all sides present their case on these retention elections and letting the people decide.”
Medtronic Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit
Medical device maker Medtronic Inc. will pay the U.S. Department of Justice $9.9 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of giving doctors gifts in return for using its defibrillators and pacemakers.
Medtronic has not admitted any wrongdoing as a result of the settlement. The lawsuit unsealed this week accused Medtronic of funneling “millions of dollars in unrestricted grant money to physicians” to get them to encourage the use of Medtronic defibrillators and pacemakers.
“Improper financial incentives have the potential to compromise physician medical judgment,” said Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This case demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to pursue medical device manufacturers that use improper financial relationships to influence physician decision-making.”
Medtronic said the settlement brings to a close a long-running review dating back to 2001 and that it has taken steps to prevent inappropriate sales practices, including voluntarily disclosing payments to health care professionals on its website.
“Over the last several years we have adopted a number of important policies and procedures related to collaboration with health care professionals,” the company said.
The settlement is the result of a whistleblower complaint filed by a former Medtronic employee, Adolfo Schroeder. Schroeder will receive about $1.7 million for his role in bringing the matter to light, the Department of Justice said.
Unemployment Aid Applications Drop
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to nearly the lowest level in seven years, a sign hiring may be picking up.
Weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 300,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s just above a seven-year low reached three weeks ago. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 311,500, the fewest since August 2007.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the drop suggests companies are cutting fewer jobs. When employers are confident enough to keep staff, they may also step up hiring. That is a good sign ahead of May’s jobs report, to be released next Friday.
The downward trend in layoffs also suggests employers have shrugged off a dismal economic performance in the first three months of the year. A separate government report Thursday showed that the economy shrank 1 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter, due largely to the impact of freezing winter weather.
Yet applications for unemployment benefits have fallen 10 percent since the year began, a clear signal that employers aren’t worried about a longer-term slowdown.
First Tennessee Buys 13 Bank of America Branches
First Tennessee has reached an agreement to buy 13 branches and four remote ATMs from Bank of America.
The banks expect the deal, which includes branches in Middle and East Tennessee, to close later this year following approval by regulators and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions. The deal will add $660 million in deposits to First Tennessee.
Some of the communities will be new for First Tennessee, which already has more than 170 financial centers in and around the state. First Tennessee also said it plans to hire all current branch employees when the deal closes and that it will take other steps to ensure smooth continuity of service for customers and the communities.
In addition to the branches, First Tennessee will also acquire a small amount of loans as part of the transaction.
Graceland to Auction Elvis Artifacts
Graceland, the longtime home of Elvis Presley, plans to host an auction of authentic artifacts related to the rock and roll icon in Memphis.
Elvis Presley Enterprises said Wednesday the auction is scheduled for Aug. 14, during the annual celebration of Presley’s life, music and movies known as Elvis Week.
The auction will feature rare, authenticated items from the collection of Greg Page, founding member of The Wiggles and a prominent collector of Presley artifacts. Items from other private collectors also will be auctioned.
None of the auction items will come from the Graceland Archives.
Presley lived at Graceland for 20 years until he died on Aug. 16, 1977. It will be the first auction of its kind at the house-turned-museum.
Elvis Presley Enterprises manages Graceland.
MIFA Unveils Resource for Long-Term Care
Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association has launched a sweeping new web-based resource to help individuals and families with important long-term care decisions, guidance and advocacy support.
Called Navigating Nursing Home, Long-Term Care & Rehabilitation Resources, this new public information center is part of MIFA’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, which was established in 1996 and serves Shelby, Fayette, Tipton and Lauderdale counties. The program advocates for residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and residential care homes. In addition to providing education for families and clients, it investigates and mediates complaints and monitors residents’ care and quality of life.
The site offers critical information on the 89 Memphis-area long-term care facilities; quality of care and residents’ rights issues; financial concerns, including Medicare and Medicaid assistance; administrative decisions such as admissions and discharge; elderly and disabled adult abuse; and the process for filing complaints.
Visit mifa.org to access the new resource.
Tennessee Bar Polls on Supreme Court Races
The Tennessee Bar Association is conducting a first-ever poll of its members on the August retention races for three Tennessee Supreme Court positions.
The polling by secret ballot began Tuesday, May 27, and continues through June 9, with results to be released in mid-June.
Bar association leaders announced Tuesday the bar is taking the “unprecedented step as part of its efforts to help ensure that the 2014 judicial elections maintain a fair, impartial and accountable judiciary.”
The TBA poll asks members to rate Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee each with one of four choices: highly recommend retention, recommend retention, do not recommend retention, or do not have an informed opinion at this time.
Wade, Clark and Lee are seeking new eight-year terms on the court. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is among those involved in a campaign to defeat all three, who were appointed by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Meanwhile, the three justices are campaigning across the state, with a stop in Memphis last week that included an endorsement by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.
Cooper-Young ‘Pup Crawl’ to Help Humane Society
Ten Cooper-Young Historic District restaurants are teaming up for a pub crawl to benefit the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County.
The Cooper-Young Pup Crawl, presented by Memphis Animal Clinic, will be held June 19 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The 10 Cooper-Young restaurants will offer special canine-themed drinks during the event. The crawl will also feature live music by Jeff Hulett and Chad Nixon in the newly refurbished gazebo, and a Humane Society dog will serve as an outdoor greeter at each participating restaurant, giving attendees an opportunity to meet dogs available for adoption.
The restaurants, as well as Memphis Animal Clinic, will help sponsor the cost of adoptions at the Humane Society as part of the organization’s ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge campaign. All 10 restaurants will also have Human Society Bark Banks available to take donations starting on Thursday, June 5.
For a list of participating restaurants and a crawl schedule, visit cooperyoung.org.
100 Girls of Code Coming to Memphis
100 Girls of Code, a program of the Tennessee Code Academy, is conducting workshops across Tennessee this summer to raise awareness among girls ages 12 to 18 about careers in computer science.
One such program will be hosted in collaboration with the University of Memphis library June 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants can expect to be exposed to topics such as an introduction to computer programming, a tutorial of the latest website development techniques and a look at innovative gaming development strategies.
Sponsors include Tennessee Tech University and Launch Tennessee.
Tennessee Nonprofits Report Government Payment Problems
According to data recently released by the Urban Institute, more than 42 percent of nonprofits in Tennessee report problems resulting from governments at all levels failing to pay the full costs of services nonprofits deliver for governments through contracts and grants.
More than 39 percent of Tennessee nonprofits also report that government pays them late for contracted services they provide in communities across the state, thus increasing burdens and costs on their operations and for their clients.
The Urban Institute’s report, “National Study of Nonprofit-Government Contracts and Grants 2013: State Profiles,” is based on a national survey of 501(c)(3) public charities with budgets greater than $100,000.
Similar to the institute’s report, a study the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence issued this month titled “Inside the Mid-South Nonprofit Sector” shows that half of Mid-South nonprofits reported receiving government funding late. Nearly 55 percent said they had to use some of their cash reserves to cover expenses as a result of late payments from government contracts, and 39 percent reported having to use a line of credit to cover expenses.
Riverside Drive Begins Pedestrian, Bike Trial
With Saturday’s rain closing the Sunset Symphony, the Memphis in May International Festival ended its month-long stay in Tom Lee Park.
But the end of the festival means the beginning of a pilot program that will keep the southbound lanes of Riverside Drive closed to automobile traffic from Beale to Carolina streets.
What are normally the southbound lanes will be for bicyclists and pedestrians, and what are normally the northbound lanes will operate as the north and southbound lanes during the trial period.
City planners will study the effects on automobile traffic and pedestrian and bicycle traffic along the one-mile stretch during the trial period.
Resource Entertainment Group Turns 10
Resource Entertainment Group is celebrating a birthday this year.
The business, which creates live music events around the Memphis area, is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2014. Clients over the years have included the RiverArts Festival and the Memphis Grizzlies, as well as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, FedEx and both the Madison Hotel and Peabody hotel, with one of the latest additions being Thursdays Squared.
That’s the new music series on Thursdays at Overton Square. The inaugural event April 17 drew a crowd of more than 1,100 to the Tower Courtyard.
Senatobia Furniture Factory to Close
A furniture factory that was once had more than 1,000 employees in Senatobia is closing.
Chromcraft Revington laid off as many as 200 employees earlier this month, leaving the furniture maker and distributor with about 30 employees to wind down its operations.
E.E. Wang, a spokeswoman for the company, said that the company’s primary lender demanded repayment of its loans, prompting the shutdown.
She says Chromcraft Revington plans to fulfill current orders and will provide an update on its future plans. When asked if Chromcraft Revington has filed for bankruptcy, Wang said “not to my knowledge.” She says the company is examining all options, including a potential sale.
The company sold commercial and home furniture under the Chromcraft, Cochrane, Peters-Revington and CR Kids & Beyond brands.
The company was bought last year by Sport-Haley Holdings, which sells woman’s golf clothing, for $3.45 million, after its own managers failed in a purchase attempt. Sport-Haley, in turn, is controlled by North & Webster LLC, a Massachusetts-based investment group.
Under new ownership, operations in West Lafayette, Ind., were closed. In April, Sport-Haley said it had moved headquarters and warehouse operations to Senatobia from Indiana, making “extensive headcount and expense reductions.” The company said it was trying to sell its business furniture business, which accounted for more than $1 million in losses in 2013, with an eye to reaching profitability during the 2015 budget year.
Those plans were apparently disrupted when loans were called.
US Home Prices Rise at Slower Rate in March
U.S. home prices rose in March, but the gains are decelerating as fewer Americans can afford to buy.
The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 12.4 percent in March compared with 12 months earlier. While healthy, that rate of growth has slowed from both February and January.
Home prices rose in 19 of the 20 cities in March compared with the previous month, with only New York registering a slight decline, Standard & Poor’s reported Tuesday. Leading the gains was San Francisco with a 2.4 percent monthly increase, while prices in Seattle, another hub for technology firms, rose 1.9 percent.
The housing market has struggled in recent months, after notching strong growth in the first half of 2013.
Rising prices and higher interest rates beginning in the middle of last year made homes less affordable for would-be buyers.
Meanwhile, a limited supply of homes is available to buy. New construction has focused increasingly on rental apartments, instead of single-family homes. And 9.7 million Americans are stuck in homes worth less than their mortgage debts, making them reluctant to sell, according to the real estate data firm Zillow.
The price gains over the past 12 months were the “result of a witch’s brew,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow. It was made possible by the lows of the housing bust that began in 2007, the historically low mortgage rates and a limited supply of homes on the market.
Durable Goods Orders Up 0.8 Percent in April
Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods advanced for a third month in April, but much of the strength came from a big surge in demand for military aircraft. Orders in a category that signals business investment plans fell by the largest amount in three months.
Orders for durable manufactured goods rose 0.8 percent from the previous month after a 3.6 percent gain in March, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The April strength stemmed from a big jump in demand for defense goods including airplanes. Excluding defense, orders would have fallen 0.8 percent in April.
The April result supports the view that the economy stands to benefit in the coming months from increased production at factories, which should bolster growth and spur further hiring.
Orders for core capital goods, a category viewed as a proxy for business investment plans, fell 1.2 percent in April. It was the weakest showing since a 1.9 percent January drop.
The harsh winter dragged overall economic growth to a barely discernible 0.1 percent in the January-March quarter. That figure will be updated on Thursday, and many economists believe it could slip into negative territory.
Grizzlies to Play in Orlando Summer League
The Memphis Grizzlies will be among the 10 teams competing in the 2014 Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League July 5-11 at the practice court at Amway Center.
The field also features the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers.
All 10 teams will play five games over seven days, with a championship on the final day. A point system will establish the standings, with eight points awarded each game – four points for winning the game and one point for winning a quarter. (In the event of a tie, each team receives 0.5 points.)
The Grizzlies’ summer league roster will be announced later.
Due to space limitations, the event is not open to the public. Fans can access box scores, game recaps and cumulative statistics at orlandomagic.com. NBA TV will televise the summer league games, with a complete schedule to be released later. Additionally, fans can watch live on NBA.com and the NBA Game Time app.
Regional One Health Adds Two Executives
Regional One Health has added two new members to the health system’s leadership team in the positions of vice president of quality and vice president of information technology.
Betty Nelson has joined Regional One Health as vice president of quality. Nelson comes to Regional One Health from Philadelphia, where she has focused her career on optimizing health care outcomes through performance excellence. As vice president of quality, her focus is on supporting the organization’s commitment to performance improvement and driving quality patient care throughout the health system.
Brad Harrison has been named vice president of information technology. Harrison has served as executive director for the past three years and has been a leading force in advancing the health system’s technological platform, including the implementation of information systems and automation. He will continue to lead these efforts in addition to providing the system an increased focus on information technology strategy, operational management and business and clinical system optimization.
Argent Financial Adds Brundick in Memphis
Argent Financial Group has added Ed Brundick to its Memphis team.
He’ll serve as market president of Argent Trust’s Memphis operations, while also partnering with investment firm and Argent subsidiary Highland Capital Management LLC.
He previously has worked at Waddell & Associates, as an instructor of finance at the University of Memphis and as a managing director for Duncan-Williams Inc.
Plastic Omnium to Build Next to VW Plant
Plastic Omnium Auto Exteriors is constructing a new facility to supply the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, creating 300 jobs over the next three years.
The French auto supplier is spending $65 million on the 27-acre facility to be located adjacent to the plant. It is expected to employ 184 new workers when it starts production.
Plastic Omnium has 110 plants in 30 countries, including 15 in North America. The company makes bumpers, fenders and plastic body panels for car manufacturers around the world.
Christian Koch, the president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga, praised Plastic Omnium’s decision to locate near the plant, calling it “great news for Chattanooga and great news for Volkswagen, as well.”
Tennessee ‘Ready’ to Use Electric Chair
Tennessee’s top prisons official says the state is “ready as needed” to use the electric chair if it can’t get the drugs used for lethal injections.
A corrections spokeswoman said Friday that the state doesn’t have a supply of the drugs but authorities are confident they could acquire some. The chemicals have become scarcer following a European-led boycott of drug sales for executions.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill into law Thursday that allows the state to electrocute current and future death row inmates if it can’t obtain the drugs. It’s the first such law in the country.
The governor says he sees the measure as a backup plan.
Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield says he is comfortable with the state’s procedures for ensuring the electric chair would work.
US New-Home Sales Rose 6.4 Percent in April
Sales of U.S. new homes recovered in April after slumping in the previous two months. But Americans are still buying new homes at a slower pace than they did a year ago.
The Commerce Department said Friday that sales of new homes rose 6.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000. That compares with an upwardly revised annual pace of 407,000 in March, when purchases fell 6.9 percent. Buying had dropped 4.4 percent in February, in part because of winter snowstorms.
Demand for newly built homes remains one of the missing pieces of the nearly 5-year-old recovery from the Great Recession. A lack of affordability has limited buying around the country. Sales of new homes are running at roughly half the rate of a healthy real estate market.
Warmer weather has yet to heat up the housing market after a harsh winter slowed sales in January and February. Higher prices and mortgage rates over the past year have sidelined many would-be buyers.
Sales during April surged in the Midwest and edged up in the South. Home-buying was flat in the West and fell in the Northeast.
New-home sales have declined 4.2 percent over the past 12 months.
The median sales price, which can be volatile, fell a slight 2.1 percent during the past month to $275,800.