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VOL. 9 | NO. 18 | Saturday, April 30, 2016

Daily Digest

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Shelby County Health Dept. Reports Six Measles Cases

Shelby County Health Department officials have confirmed six unrelated cases of measles in the county.

The health department is urging residents to make sure their vaccinations are up to date and to be aware of the signs and symptoms of measles.

Because measles is highly contagious, the cases have prompted the health department to continue working with area clinics and doctors’ offices to trace who may have had contact with the infected people to minimize exposure by others.

They are advising those who had contact and have not been vaccinated to call a health care provider by phone to set up an appointment.

The health department urges phone contact to avoid exposing other patients.

Adults who are unsure of their vaccination history can be vaccinated.

– Bill Dries

Bonding Companies Banned by Criminal Court Judges

Seven of the 10 Shelby County Criminal Court judges have banned two Memphis bonding companies from writing bonds in their courts.

The action by the judges follows the April 15 indictments of executives with Memphis Bonding Co. and 24 Hour Bonding Company on theft and sales tax fraud charges.

In separate cases, the Shelby County grand jury indicted George Austin Hitt, president of Memphis Bonding Co., and Angela Bryant, manager of 24 Hour Bonding Co.

They are specifically accused of failing to report thousands of bonds to the state and not paying the $12 state tax levied on each of the bonds.

The charges against Hitt cover a 5 ½-year period and more than $250,000. The charges against Bryant span 2 1/2 years and involve more than $10,000.

The judges who suspended the ability of the two companies to write bonds in their courts are James Beasley Jr., Robert Carter, Chris Craft, John Campbell, Paula Skahan, Glenn Wright and James Lammey.

Criminal Court Judges Lee Coffee, Carolyn Blackett and Mark Ward were recused in the matter.

– Bill Dries

Vacation Express Flights To Cancun Back Until Aug. 1

Vacation Express will resume its non-stop weekly service between Memphis International Airport and Cancun International Airport on larger planes, starting May 23.

The Memphis-Cancun flight runs between May 23 and Aug. 1 with flights departing from MEM on Monday and returning Sunday as part of Vacation Express’ six-night package.

The weekly flight is operated by AeroMexico on 159-seat, Boeing 737-800 planes.

“The addition of a larger plane shows that Vacation Express is committed to our market, and increases the number of passengers who can take advantage of this exciting destination,” said Pace Cooper, chairman of the board for the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

– Madeline Faber

UTHSC Professor Wins Award for Debut Novel

Memphis writer Jim Bailey was recently named among the winners of the Benjamin Franklin Awards for his debut novel, “The End of Healing.”

The novel won a Silver Medal in the Popular Fiction category of the Benjamin Franklin Awards, presented during a gala awards ceremony held earlier this month in Salt Lake City.

An annual awards competition named in honor of one of the country’s most cherished publisher-printers, the Benjamin Franklin Awards recognizes excellence in independent publishing.

“The End of Healing” tells the story of a young doctor’s journey through the underworld of the health care industry in search of true healing. Bailey is a fellow in the American College of Physicians and professor of medicine and preventive medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

– Andy Meek

Lawson in Line to Be Tigers’ Director of Player Personnel

The ever-moving story of whether Keelon Lawson, father of freshmen forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, would have a place on the new University of Memphis basketball staff has taken another turn.

First, multiple media outlets reported that both new coach Tubby Smith and Keelon Lawson had confirmed that Lawson, who had been an assistant the past two years under Josh Pastner, would have a non-coaching role. Specifically, Keelon Lawson would become director of player personnel.

“Oatmeal is better than no oatmeal,” Lawson told ABC-24 sports director Doc Holliday, according to Holliday’s tweet on Monday, April 25.

University officials had believed they would need – and have no trouble – receiving a waiver from the NCAA to move Lawson from his coaching position; things get complicated, by NCAA rule, when a staff member is related to one or more players on the roster.

But later, NBC Sports reported that a waiver might not even be needed because the NCAA’s board of directors for Division 1 would be voting on changing the rule in question and sources had indicated the rule change was likely to be adopted. The NCAA was expected to vote on amending the rule in question on April 28.

Last season, Dedric led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding while K.J.’s season was cut short because of heel spurs. Dedric is testing his NBA Draft stock this spring, but can return to school as long as he doesn’t sign with an agent. As long as his father has a job on staff, there is every expectation Dedric will play his sophomore season.

Meantime, Smith’s on-the-bench coaching staff will consist of Pooh Williamson, Joe Esposito and Saul Smith, Tubby’s son. Williamson and Esposito were assistants under Tubby Smith at Texas Tech, and Saul Smith was video coordinator.

– Don Wade

Mike Conley Wins Second NBA Sportsmanship Award

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley has won his second NBA Sportsmanship Award in the last three years. Conley was presented with the Joe Dumars Trophy prior to the Grizzlies’ playoff game against San Antonio last Sunday.

Conley became just the third NBA player to win the award multiple times since the award’s inception 20 years ago. The other multiple-time winners are Grant Hill and Jason Kidd.

“I was more surprised this time than last time, to be honest,” Conley said. “I didn’t even expect it the way the season has been going with injuries and stuff like that.”

Asked if sportsmanship in the game is waning and what sportsmanship means to him, Conley said: “It has a lot to do with the integrity of the game and the respect you have for your opponent. I’m one of the nicer guys, but I’m one of the more competitive guys you’ll meet.”

Conley added that being known as a sportsman doesn’t necessarily help him get calls from officials.

“I would love to get a tech every now and then,” he joked. “Maybe I would get a couple of more foul calls. They normally don’t reward the person who is shaking their hand and saying the nice things.”

– Don Wade

FedEx Institute Adds Two Technology Partners

The FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis announced agreements Monday, April 25, with two new partners – Tech901 and Memphis Technology Foundation.

Tech901 is a nonprofit with a goal of helping create 10,000 technology jobs in a decade in Memphis. That goal was at the 6,000 mark late last year.

The organization works specifically in new job training and code-based training for teachers in grades K-12.

Memphis Technology Foundation is a nonprofit facilitator of various technology or user groups.

Its partnership with the FedEx Institute will involve finding meeting space for user groups and spreading the word to university students about tech jobs and careers.

– Bill Dries

Fair Oaks Superintendent Earns Top State Honor

Nathan Sullivan, superintendent of Fair Oaks Golf Club in Oakland, Tenn., has received the 2015 Public Golf Course of the Year Award from the Tennessee Turfgrass Association (TTA).

Sullivan received the award recently at the 2016 Tennessee Turfgrass Association Conference and Tradeshow in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

"Nathan Sullivan is a consummate professional,” said Jay Willis, superintendent at Glen Eagle Golf Course in Millington who nominated Sullivan. "The course is always is excellent shape given the financial and resources Nathan has to work with. Outstanding conditions year in and year out."

Sullivan’s award is the highest bestowed annually by TTA for public golf courses statewide.

"Fair Oaks is always in great shape year end and year out. It's a public facility that gets a lot of play,” Doug Estes, TTA board member, said in a statement. “His Tifeagle greens are some of the largest in our area and continue to be in great shape."

The Tennessee Turfgrass Association Public Golf Course of the Year Award was created to recognize personal and professional contributions to the turfgrass industry. Each year, the TTA selects from nominees one facility from a host of worthy golf courses, sports fields, and other properties across the state through the TTA Awards Program.

TTA, founded in 1966, serves its members through education, promotion and representation. The association supports ongoing programs in research, education and extension in the areas of turfgrass management.

– Daily News staff

First Tennessee Bank Honors 50-Year Employee

First Tennessee Bank has one employee who’s busted the five-year median tenure for U.S. finance sector workers by several decades.

Betty Bradbury, the longest tenured employee at the Memphis-based bank, joined the company in 1966 as a teller in Chattanooga before moving to Middle Tennessee. She’s celebrating her golden anniversary with the bank this year, in honor of a 50-year career that’s included a succession of promotions including as financial center manager, sales manager and retail banking manager.

Today Bradbury is relationship manager for First Tennessee’s Employees First program in the Middle Tennessee region.

Beyond Bradbury, First Tennessee has almost 300 employees who’ve been with the company for 30 years. The average tenure of the bank’s nearly 4,300 employees is 11.1 years.

– Andy Meek

Financial Federal Adds Commercial Banking Exec

Financial Federal Bank has added Gideon Scoggin as senior vice president in its commercial banking division.

He’ll focus primarily on establishing new commercial lending relationships and expanding business opportunities. Prior to joining Financial Federal, Scoggin was a commercial loan officer at BankTennessee for more than 13 years.

Outside of banking, Scoggin was a founding board member of the Hattiloo Theatre, served on the Memphis University School Alumni board of directors from 2003-2009, and currently serves on the Germantown Athletic Club Commission.

– Andy Meek

Arlington Woman Indicted On Embezzlement Charges

An Arlington woman has been indicted on felony charges of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the two businesses for whom she worked.

Amy Speight, 44, was indicted on charges of theft of property over $60,000 and forgery over $1,000, according to Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich’s office. Speight is free on $50,000 bond.

Speight worked as bookkeeper, customer service and office manager for two affiliated companies, Buy Memphis Now and Home Buyers Express. She was in charges of receiving and distributing funds for the businesses, according to a release.

Investigators said Speight generated dozens of unauthorized checks between January 2013 and December 2014 that were made payable to her as “bonuses” or “payroll” from the businesses accounts.

She was terminated in January of 2015.

The case is being handled by Byron Winsett, chief prosecutor of the DA’s Public Corruption & Economic Crime (PCEC) Unit, which is responsible for the prosecution of fraud and theft from governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations and businesses, and money laundering cases.

The unit is part of the Memphis and Shelby County White Collar Crime Task Force that includes law enforcement officers from the Memphis Police Department Economic Crime Unit and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

PCEC also operates the DA’s Hot Check Program that helps local merchants and citizens recover funds from worthless-check writers.

– Terry Hollahan

MLGW's Plus-1 Jam Returns During Memphis in May

After a hiatus in 2015, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division will once again celebrate Memphis music during Memphis in May celebrations with live music on an MLGW stage on Beale Street near the Elvis statue north of MLGW’s Administration Building.

The music event will raise funds to help citizens in need, according to a release.

MLGW’s Plus-1 Jam starting in late April will raise funds for MIFA’s Plus-1 utility assistance program.

On Friday nights and Saturdays, April 29-30, May 13-14 and May 27-28 during Memphis in May, musical acts will volunteer their talents at the MLGW stage on Beale between Main and Second streets. Some of the acts include talented musicians who are MLGW employees. MLGW has also recruited many local musicians and bands from the Mid-South area to perform.

Volunteers will pass around donation buckets so visitors to the Plus-1 music stage can make donations to help the Plus-1 program, which is administered by MIFA to help those in need of one-time emergency utility assistance.

Plus-1 Jam will feature a wide range of music styles, reflecting the diversity that makes up Memphis and its music. Visitors from all over the world will be able to get a taste of local musical acts while in town for Memphis in May at the MLGW stage.

– Daily News staff

Johnson, Koepka Confirmed for FedEx St. Jude Classic

Two of golf’s top players are confirmed for the FedEx St. Jude Classic, to be played from June 9-12 at TPC Southwind.

Past champion Dustin Johnson, currently sitting eighth in the World Golf Rankings, will make his fifth appearance in Memphis. He won here in 2012 and his most recent victory on tour came in 2015. He finished 2015 ranked seventh in the FedEx Cup standings and presently is fourth on the tour in driving distance.

Brooks Koepka, 18th in the World Golf Rankings, tied for third at last year’s FESJC. He finished 2015 ranked 24th in the FedEx Cup standings. His 20 eagles this season leads the tour.

Visit stjudeclassic.com for tickets and an up-to-date player commitment list.

– Don Wade

Commission Approves Houston High Project

Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, April 25, the Germantown Municipal School Dis-trict’s use of $196,521 for a repaving project at Houston High School. The county capital funding is left from HVAC renovations at Dogwood Elementary School.

The reallocation is the latest in a series of capital project changes among the county’s seven school dis-tricts as the current fiscal year nears an end on June 30.

A vote on the appointment of Demar Roberts to the Downtown Memphis Commission was delayed. Roberts, a vice president of First Choice Sales and Marketing Group and a former deputy chief admin-istrative officer for the city of Memphis, was out of town on business Monday when the commission was to vote on his appointment.

And the commission approved five grants from a $1.3 million grant fund for five nonprofit organizations.

The grant fund is allocated equally among the 13 county commissioners at $100,000 each. The full commission must approve each grant.

Since the July 1 start of the current fiscal year, the commission has approved $1.2 million in grants, in-cluding the five approved Monday, leaving a balance of $108,300.

Meanwhile, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is expected to deliver his budget proposal to the commission at May 4 committee sessions, formally starting county government’s budget season.

– Bill Dries

Minority Business Council Gets Funding to Operate MBDA Center

The Mid-South Minority Business Council will receive a federal grant to operate a U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center in Memphis, MBDA announced on Thursday, April 28.

The $285,400 in federal funding will be distributed annually during a five-year period.

The grant program is designed to help minority-owned firms across the nation create jobs, develop their businesses, and compete in the global economy.

A key component of MBDA’s Business Center Network is providing minority firms with access to technical expertise and resources to grow their businesses.

Minority-owned firms in the U.S. increased from 5.8 million in 2007 to 8 million in 2012, and employed 7.2 million people in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners.

In Tennessee, there are 105,234 minority-owned firms that contribute more than $14.5 million annually in economic output. These firms employ more than 79,000 local residents.

Since 2009, MBDA Business Centers have assisted minority firms with gaining access to more than $31 billion in capital and contracts, while creating and retaining nearly 142,000 jobs.

– Terry Hollahan

Red Deluxe Makes Hires, Promotion

Red Deluxe Brand Development has promoted account executive Zach Smith to account manager.

Smith joined the firm in 2014 and leads Red Deluxe’s client teams for the Memphis Grizzlies, Duncan-Williams and Old Dominick Distillery.

Meanwhile, Red Deluxe also has added Ben Powers as associate creative director and Reina Christian as account executive.

Red Deluxe Brand Development works with local and national brands to develop marketing strategies and campaigns.

– Andy Meek

Absolute Storage Management Reports Q1 Growth

Memphis-based Absolute Storage Management saw growth in its first-quarter revenue and occupancy, the self-storage management firm announced this week.

ASM, the largest private, third-party self-storage management company in the United States, said its same-store income revenue increased 10.3 percent, compared with a 9.7 percent increase in first quarter 2015. Same-store square-foot occupancy rates increased 2.3 percent year-over-year, while same-store rent per occupied unit increased 6.9 percent.

The company also added four operating stores and one new development across the Southeast, bringing its total at quarter’s end to 89 properties across 12 states. It continued to manage all of its existing properties.

In addition to its Memphis headquarters, ASM has regional offices in Nashville; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Jackson, Miss.

– Daily News staff

U.S. Home Prices Rise at Solid Pace in February

U.S. home prices continued their steady upward march in February as buyers competed for a limited number of available properties.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.4 percent that month compared with a year earlier, according to a report released Tuesday. That's down slightly from January's 5.7 percent rise.

Prices are rising even as sales have leveled off in recent months. The number of homes for sale last month was 1.5 percent lower than a year earlier. That's pushed buyers to act quickly, with homes on the market just 47 days in March, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Svenja Gudell, chief economist at real estate website Zillow, said the problem is particularly acute for first-time buyers and those looking at mid-level homes.

"Heading into spring, buyers looking for the most expensive homes will find somewhat softening prices, a larger selection of homes to choose from and more limited competition," she said. "Entry-level and mid-market buyers – typically the housing market's bread and butter – are likely to face stiff competition, rapidly rising prices and very limited inventory. The patience of many buyers will be tested in coming months."

– The Associated Press

Health Alliance Prepares for Annual Meeting May 12

The Common Table Health Alliance’s annual meeting will take place on Thursday, May 12, honoring three health impact leaders from the community and addressing the topic “Childhood Obesity: Have We Finally Turned the Corner?”

The keynote speaker is the interim president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health, Richard Hamburg. The luncheon will begin at 11:15 a.m. and the event will be over by 1:15 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Racquet Club of Memphis, 5111 Sanderlin Ave.

This marks the seventh year for the CTHA Annual Meeting. It is one of the Common Table Health Alliance’s major fundraisers but also provides the opportunity to address some of Shelby County’s most pressing health concerns.

In the United States about 1 in 3 youth ages 2-19 are overweight or obese. Dr. Hamburg will share national data that illustrates if improvements are being made in the area of childhood obesity and best practices that can be implemented in the community.

Following Hamburg’s keynote address, the Common Table Health Alliance will honor its 2016 Impact Leader Award recipients. The awards were created as a way of recognizing local individuals who have worked to make significant improvements to health and health care in the Shelby County area.

The 2016 recipients are Dr. Reginald W. Coopwood, president and CEO of Regional One Health; Claudia Haltom, founder and CEO of A Step Ahead Foundation; and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell Jr.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit commontablehealth.org or call Chris Owens at 901-684-6011, ext. 211.

– Don Wade

Airfare at Memphis Airport Drops $150 Since 2012

Recently released data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that airfare at Memphis International Airport continues to decline.

For the fourth quarter of 2015, the average airfare at MEM came in at $386.85, a drop of $9.32 from the previous quarter and a $50.54 decrease from Q4 2014.

Average airfare at MEM has now dropped more than $150 since 2012, when it peaked at almost $540.

Decreasing airfare costs comes at a time when MEM is experiencing passenger growth, with a 9 percent increase in enplanements compared to last April.

“Affordability and accessibility are helping to drive more passenger traffic at MEM,” said Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. “Adding new low-cost carriers and competition for key destinations has helped to bring down the average cost of flying at MEM. As a result, we’re seeing strong growth in our passenger base.”

– Madeline Faber

Learning Garden Initiative Calling for Applications

The Kitchen Community Memphis is now accepting summer/fall 2016 applications for the Learning Garden Initiative within the Achievement School District, Jubilee Catholic Schools and Shelby County Schools.

The Kitchen Community is a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening community by accelerating the real food culture at scale. The organization builds Learning Gardens at schools, which essentially add outdoor classrooms and community gathering places that increase academic engagement, empower kids to make healthier food choices, and connect schools to their communities. It has built nearly 50 gardens in Memphis schools since the spring of 2015.

Learning gardens are learning environments complete with benches, seating boulders, an art pole set, shade structures (where applicable) and other elements. A primary goal of the Learning Garden Initiative is to provide ongoing curriculum support, educational workshops and resources to support teachers and school communities.

Designed to be an extension of both the classroom and the playground, a Learning Garden is designed to increase students’ academic engagement, increase knowledge and likeability of fresh fruits and vegetables, and strengthen the relationship between community and school.

To apply for a Learning Garden, visit tkc.org/apply or email Rochelle Brahalla at rochelle@tkc.org. Applications are due by June 1.

– Daily News staff

Study Puts Memphis Among Top Cities for First-Time Homebuyers

Real estate company Zillow has ranked Memphis at No. 3 in a list of best markets for first-time homebuyers.

The ranking was determined based on the affordability of monthly mortgage payments over monthly rent.

According to Zillow, 10.9 percent of monthly income went to mortgage payments for homes compared to 27 percent going to rent payments in Memphis.

The study found that the average price of a Memphis home is $112,100, which is lower than the national average of $186,200.

Indianapolis topped the affordability list, with Pittsburgh coming in at No. 2.

– Madeline Faber

Federal Reserve Keeps Key Rate Unchanged

The Federal Reserve kept a key interest rate unchanged Wednesday, April 27, against the backdrop of a slowdown in U.S. and global growth and provided no hint of when its next rate hike may occur.

In a statement after its latest policy meeting, the Fed noted that the U.S. is enjoying solid job gains but also that “economic activity appears to have slowed.”

The Fed said that such key areas as consumer spending, business investment and exports have weakened in recent months. At the same time, it expressed less alarm about global economic conditions than it had after its previous meeting in March.

In March, the Fed had cautioned that global developments “pose risks.” In its April 27 statement, the Fed did not mention such risks, though it said it would “closely monitor” global developments.

The Fed repeated that it expects inflation to move toward its 2 percent target as temporary factors, like lower energy prices, fade.

– The Associated Press

PROPERTY SALES 32 252 16,449
MORTGAGES 35 120 10,207
BUILDING PERMITS 215 1,041 39,585
BANKRUPTCIES 52 188 7,785