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VOL. 8 | NO. 32 | Saturday, August 1, 2015

Daily Digest

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Memphis Unemployment Up to 7 Percent in June

Unemployment in the Memphis metro area ticked up in June.

The MSA recorded unemployment of 7 percent last month, compared to a 6.6 percent revised rate in May. Unemployment in the Memphis MSA was 8.1 percent in June 2014.

Memphis’ rate remains higher than both the state and national rates. Tennessee registered 5.7 percent unemployment in June, down from 5.8 percent in May. Across the U.S., unemployment was 5.3 percent in June, down from 5.5 percent in May.

From May to June, the jobless rate decreased in only one Tennessee county while increasing in 94.

– Daily News staff

West-Ward To Expand Local Distribution Center

West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp. is expanding its Memphis distribution center.

Keystone Bank NA of Chicago filed a $6.1 million construction loan July 24 for the New Jersey-based company’s expansion at South Point distribution center.

The drug company currently leases a 100,000-square-foot building located at 4750 Pleasant Hill Road. The new 50,000-square-foot facility will be constructed on vacant land just east of the current facility. HSA Commercial Real Estate will develop and manage the site.

The four-month loan, signed on July 16, matures on Nov. 16.

West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC, is one of the top generic prescription medication providers in the U.S.

– Wendy Greenlaw, Chandler Reports

Whole Foods Germantown Announces Opening Date

Whole Foods Market will open its 41,000-square-foot Germantown store Aug. 18. The store, at 7825 Poplar Ave., will be the Memphis area’s second and Tennessee’s sixth Whole Foods location.

And for those that can’t wait until Aug. 18, Whole Foods is hosting a sneak preview event for the new store. Participants can “taste their way through each department” and learn about the Austin, Texas-based grocer’s sustainability initiatives, according to a company statement.

The preview event is Aug. 14 and 15; online registration is required to secure a spot on a 45-minute tour between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. A suggested $5 donation will benefit Wolf River Conservancy and Mid-South Food Bank.

In addition to its typical natural and organic food selections, the new Whole Foods Germantown will have a community gathering space and a children’s play area.

– Daily News staff

Commission OKs Renaming Courthouse for Bailey

Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, July 27, renaming the Shelby County Courthouse at 140 Adams Ave. in honor of the late civil rights activist and Circuit Court Judge D’Army Bailey.

The 11-0 vote, with commissioner David Reaves abstaining, will include new signs at the southeast and southwest entrances to the courthouse.

On a short agenda, the commission spent most of its time debating and ultimately defeating a second consideration to allow a payday loan business at the southeast corner of Macon and Houston Levee roads in Cordova.

Cash Now got the necessary permits to open two years ago even though county zone regulations has forbidden for six years payday loan shops within 1,000 feet of homes or apartments.

The commission had turned down the attempt to “grandfather in” the business earlier this year when no commissioner would second the item. It returned with more debate about whether owner Terri Mansker should have to move the business because county code enforcement officials didn’t do their jobs.

It was defeated on a 5-6 vote.

– Bill Dries

Keeney Is Newest Airport Authority Board Member

Attorney Michael Keeney is the newest member of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority Board.

The Memphis City Council approved Keeney’s nomination, by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, July 21. Keeney is a managing shareholder of the Memphis office of the Lewis Thomason law firm.

He fills the rest of the term of Jack Sammons, who left as chairman of the airport authority board to become the city of Memphis’ chief administrative officer. The term runs through the end of 2016.

With Sammons’ resignation, the board in May elected Pace Cooper as its new chairman.

– Bill Dries

Work Begins Saddle Creek Redevelopment's Next Phase

Trademark Property Co. has broken ground on the second phase of redevelopment at Saddle Creek.

That next phase focuses on enhancements to the north side of the property, and combined with the initial phase now nearing completion, the redevelopment efforts will add about 25,000 square feet of new retail space.

In related news, new retail tenants on the way to Saddle Creek include Soft Surroundings, a clothing retailer focused on stylish, casual offerings and beauty, skincare, jewelry, accessories and home furnishings to women of all ages. It’s opening a 4,000-square-foot store this fall at Saddle Creek North.

Other tenants coming include Kendra Scott and Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill, both of which will open their first Memphis-area locations later this year. In addition, Michael Kors also recently opened a store at Saddle Creek South, adjacent to Talbot’s.

The second phase of Saddle Creek renovations will include about 5,000 square feet of new retail space and additional parking at Saddle Creek North, which is set for completion this winter.

– Andy Meek

Kroger Launching New Concept in Hernando

The new Kroger Co. store in Hernando will be the first in the Memphis area to offer clothing, shoes, bed and bath supplies and home goods.

The new store is using Kroger’s Marketplace design, which expands on the traditional grocery store concept by offering clothing and other household goods. It will replace and be built on the site of the existing Kroger at 2380 Mount Pleasant.

Kroger expects to break ground on the 122,000-square-foot store Aug. 7. The new store, which will include a Starbucks, will be the largest Memphis-area Kroger.

Tim Brown, president of Kroger’s Delta Division, said the new store is part the Cincinnati-based grocer’s promise to invest more than $100 million in the Mid-South.

– Amos Maki

Collierville Police Training on Translator Devices

Collierville Police officers are training on new devices that will assist in translating when officers and those they come into contact with don’t speak the same language.

The Enabling Language Service Anywhere – or ELSA – device is a wireless device that connects officers to a network of people who can translate 180 different languages and dialects. The translators, available at the push of a button with the device, are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The device and system of translators is the product of RTT Mobile Interpretation of Minneapolis. The company designed it specifically for law enforcement. But other first responders, including those in health care, also are using it.

– Bill Dries

Unistar-Sparco Wins SBA Award

The U.S. Small Business Administration has picked Unistar-Sparco Computers, a charter member that serves on the board of the Greater Memphis IT Council, as the its 8a Business of the Year Award winner for the state of Tennessee.

The SBA’s 8a business development program is intended to help small businesses that may be at a disadvantage to better compete in the marketplace.

Founded in 1992, Unistar-Sparco's early days began via a two-person venture operated out of a college dorm room. Today, the business has grown into a comprehensive solution provider satisfying the information technology hardware, software, office supply and professional service requirements for federal, state and local government agencies, educational institutions, and large and small businesses worldwide.

– Andy Meek

U of M Student Success Programs Win $2.2 Million Grant

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the University of Memphis Student Success Programs a $2.2 million grant to provide services targeted toward improving retention and graduation rates of first-generation, low-income and disabled students through its TRIO programs.

TRIO is a set of federally funded college opportunity programs that motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a college degree. In addition to helping under-resourced students stay in college until they earn their bachelor’s degrees and minimizing student loan debt, the U of M Student Success Programs provide academic monitoring, financial aid assistance, literacy programs, cultural enrichment, help with graduate school enrollment and remedial instruction through a summer bridge program.

– Andy Meek

Haslam’s Infrastructure Tour to Start in Memphis

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Transportation Commissioner John Schroer will tour the state for six weeks to talk about infrastructure and transportation needs.

The tour, which comes as Haslam considers raising the state’s gas tax for the first time in 25 years, will kick off in Memphis Aug. 5 at the Greater Memphis Chamber.

It also comes as Schroer announced July 24 that the state would delay for another year putting the Interstate 55 roundabout project out to bid. The yearlong delay is to review alternatives to closing the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge to all traffic for nine months as part of the construction process.

– Bill Dries

Feds Grant $1.7 Million to St. Jude Pediatric Cancer Survivors

A St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital program aimed at tracking health outcomes of pediatric cancer survivors has received a $1.7 million federal grant.

The St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study, started in 2007 and led by Dr. Melissa Hudson, seeks to gain insight into long-term effects of the illness and the treatments used on kids. The research will allow doctors to make better decisions on treatment options for childhood cancer.

The St. Jude Life study currently is made up of patients 18 and older who received their diagnosis at least 10 years ago. The new funding will expand the scope, bringing in patients diagnosed between five and 10 years ago.

It also will pay for meals, housing and transportation for the patients.

– Daily News staff

Tennessee Tops Economic Development Rankings

Tennessee has been named the No. 1 state for both automotive manufacturing strength and tech-skills education, according to national economic development publication Business Facilities.

The state received several other high rankings in the annual report, including No. 2 in both the Best Business Climate and Best Infrastructure categories, No. 4 in Workforce Training Leaders and No. 7 in Automotive Employment Leaders.

Tennessee has ranked No. 1 for automotive manufacturing strength in five of the past six years. The state is home to more than 900 automotive manufacturers and suppliers, including the Nissan Smyrna plant and Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

This year, 20 automotive projects have committed 4,565 new jobs statewide and nearly $1.1 billion in capital investment.

Business Facilities credits Tennessee Promise, which offers two years of tuition-free community or technical college to Tennessee high school graduates, for the state’s top honors in its Education: Tech Skills Leaders category, which showcases states that have made tech skills-oriented educational programs a top priority.

The Volunteer State also ranked No. 1 for education in 2014.

– Daily News staff

Plough Donates $50,000 To Memphis Recovery Centers

Memphis Recovery Centers has received a $50,000 contribution from the Plough Foundation.

Over the course of one year, MRC was challenged to raise $50,000 from other donor sources in order to receive the matching contribution from Memphis-based Plough.

Located at 219 N. Montgomery St. in Memphis, MRC provides substance abuse treatment for adolescents and adults in the greater Mid-South region. The organization also assists patients with co-occurring mental health issues. It’s one of the few treatment facilities in the region to offer residential programs for adolescents.

MRC plans to allocate the Plough funding to a scholarship program that will provide residential addiction treatment, including on-campus school education, to youth whose families could not afford it otherwise.

– Don Wade

Apartments Near Graceland Sell for $1.2 Million

Hunter Oaks apartments sold on July 10 for $1.2 million, according to a special warranty deed filed July 23.

Crane Properties LLC, a California limited liability company doing business in Tennessee as Crane Manor LLC, purchased the 76-unit complex from Jerry Razer. The property is located at 3775 Graves Road in Whitehaven, adjacent to the Elvis Presley Boulevard corridor.

Jerry Razer had owned the property since January 1993 when he purchased the complex for $600,000.

Hunter Oaks consists of 11 buildings and sits on 4.53 acres. The complex was originally built in 1974. According to the Shelby County Assessor of Property, the current tax appraisal value is $472,200.

– Wendy Greenlaw, Chandler Reports

Company Pays Utilities For 100 N. Main Building

A company that provides communications equipment for several local hospitals has paid for another month of utilities at the 100 N. Main St. building Downtown.

Leading Edge paid Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division $7,020 to keep the utilities at the skyscraper on for another 30 days. It’s the second time Leading Edge has paid to keep the building’s power on.

MLGW was poised to disconnect service at 100 N. Main – the city’s tallest building – in June before Baptist, Methodist and Regional One health care systems notified the utility that disconnecting power could disrupt communications equipment the hospitals use for paging systems. The communications equipment will be moved to another location.

Yitzchok “Isaac” Thomas and One Hundred North Main LLC acquired the 37-story office tower at the southeast corner of Main Street and Adams Avenue in August 2013. Thomas proposed transforming the old office building into a mixed-use project featuring a hotel, residences and commercial space, but redevelopment has not started.

– Amos Maki

Smartphones, Facebook are King in Memphis

This year – for the first time in any of the Mid-South Digital Engagement Surveys conducted each year by Obsidian Public Relations in partnership with Research Dynamics Inc. – more respondents reported owning a smartphone than a computer.

The ratio of smartphone to computer ownership was 99 percent compared to 95 percent. That’s among the latest survey’s results, which were announced Monday by Obsidian and Research Dynamics.

This year’s 21-question survey was conducted between June 22 and July 10, 2015, and included 201 completed responses. To qualify for the survey, each participant had to indicate they participated in digital engagement and lived in a Mid-South ZIP code.

Among the highlights: Facebook remains the king among social media platform for the Memphis-area digerati. Eighty-six percent of respondents reported using Facebook regularly, compared to 60 percent for Twitter, 55 percent for Instagram and 54 percent for YouTube.

The survey also includes plenty of implications for area businesses. Nearly 50 percent of respondents, for example, said they would look at social media posts to find out what’s going on in the city this week, and 84 percent said they’re likely to visit a store, restaurant or event based on social media “buzz.”

On a 10-point scale, almost 50 percent of respondents rated their smartphone addiction on a level of ‘7’ or higher. Almost 60 percent said their smartphone is their go-to device for staying digitally engaged. And only 38 percent said they would stay on a company’s website if that website is not mobile-friendly.

– Andy Meek

Electrolux Cools Off 300 Memphis Residents

As the dog days of summer wear on, Electrolux has provided some relief in the form of cool air to 300 local residents.

The donation of energy-efficient Frigidaire room air conditioners, worth a total of $72,000, is part of the Keeping Memphis Cool initiative.

This is the third year Electrolux has partnered with Neighborhood Christian Centers to donate the air conditioners. Since July 2013, the company has donated air conditioners and cooking appliances worth more than $290,000 to disadvantaged Memphians.

Electrolux makes cooking products at its Memphis manufacturing facility, where it employs about 700.

– Daily News staff

Regional Forensic Center Hosts Investigators

The West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center hosted an information and training session with investigators from three local law enforcement agencies Wednesday, July 29 as part of a new effort to strengthen relationships with area agencies that handle death cases.

Detectives from the Bartlett, Collierville and Millington Police Departments met with administrators and staff from the forensic center to talk about procedures and practices to improve efficiency in death investigations. A similar session was held last month with investigators from the Germantown Police Department, and investigative squads from other law enforcement entities will be invited to the center in the future.

– Andy Meek

PROPERTY SALES 70 70 16,267
MORTGAGES 30 30 10,117
BUILDING PERMITS 297 297 38,841
BANKRUPTCIES 44 44 7,641