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VOL. 131 | NO. 242 | Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Football Comes Back, Snuff on Front Street and Pot Is Short of Seven

By Bill Dries

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I have a question that some of you may not care for? Is football making a comeback in this basketball town for a more prominent place in the conflicted and diverse hothouse that is Memphis culture?

I ask this after four Memphis high school football teams – Lausanne, East, Whitehaven and Trezevant -- claimed state football championships in their respective divisions. And yes, I’m aware many of our high schools have championship traditions in basketball. And three straight bowl appearances for Tigers football begin to fade with one bad season. So my question may be premature.

It’s been a tumultuous year in which we have new coaches for Tigers football, Tigers basketball, the Grizzlies and just this month the Memphis Redbirds. Lots of rebuilding going on around here.

And if you remember any part of our tortured quest for an NFL team that dates back to the origins of the NFL and then the AFL, the last thing you want is some of that to resurface just as we’ve not only bottled up our inferiority complex but left it way in the back of the closet that no one unlocks anymore. And the NFL drives played a significant role in that complex.

But there is no denying the football tradition that is being built in our high schools. There’s also no denying that the game itself is changing and those changes are long overdue in a sport that has for too long ignored head injuries and then tried to minimize their long lasting effects with equipment advances that only enable the dangerous tactics of the sport to continue.

I’m willing to accept that basketball will rise again in Memphis. In fact, the Grizz signed a guard, Toney Douglas, under the NBA’s hardship rule as the week began – another week without Mike Conley.

For now, City Hall as well as Shelby County Schools and Memphis Sports Council are hosting a celebration day Saturday at the Fairgrounds for all four championship teams that will start with a parade from SCS headquarters, just around the corner at Hollywood and Avery, to Tiger Lane. The parade starts at 10 a.m. and the program at Tiger Lane at 10:45 a.m. You needn't bring a trophy. There will be plenty there.

There are some more details on the festivities that will be unfolding between now and Saturday morning.

If you’ve been northbound on Front Street about to make a left turn on the A.W. Willis Bridge to go onto Mud Island, you’ve probably thought that Front Street gets much more primitive as it continues north through the intersection. At Front and Keel is a huge warehouse where for more than 100 years, until Conwood turned into ASC and then shut down operations in North Memphis, snuff was made. That’s was ASC stands for – American Snuff Co. A local partnership is betting this could be the latest warehouse district ripe for redevelopment plans. That’s what Keel Street LLC is betting anyway. They bought a set of nine parcels recently with the ASC plant and a bordering parcel going for $250,000. The total area includes three warehouses, a garage, a manufacturing site and three vacant parcels.

The Germantown Trader Joe’s was originally scheduled to open in the former Kroger on Exeter Road this past summer. That’s since been pushed back to sometime in 2018. And this week the company developing the store has at last pulled a building permit to start work on the building.

Meanwhile, Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo on Behind The Headlines on WKNO TV talked with us about his city’s balance between commercial and residential, which he says the market – actually, both markets – residential and commercial – started to embrace in 2016 with some big plans.

The balance isn’t easy. If you doubt that, Monday we were greeted by news that the retail shopping center developers in Collierville planned to build at Houston Levee near 385 on more than 90 acres has been pulled at least in part because of opposition to a development that its backers likened to Wolfchase Galleria.

The Memphis City Council’s next to last meeting of the year Tuesday will include an agenda heavy with planning and development items including two more Downtown hotels that are renovations of existing structures.

The Shelby County Commission had a busy agenda Monday topped by voting down its version of the pot ordinance recently passed by the Memphis City Council and by the Metro Nashville Council. The defeat wasn’t a surprise and it was more discussion and agreeing to disagree than it was an in your face debate among the commissioners. Our story includes a rundown on that and the rest of the major items on the agenda.

Many of you were fans of the Oprah Winfrey Network drama “Greenleaf” this summer – the story about a mega-church in Memphis shot in Atlanta. Meanwhile, a group has been working right here in the city on an independent film about another religious experience and tradition in this city of churches. The result is “Free in Deed.” And the film gets its debut Friday at Malco’s Studio on the Square. It’s the story of a faith healer. You will see plenty of Memphis faces and scenery in it as well as David Harewood from the “Supergirl” TV show and Edwina Findley whom you may have seen on “The Wire” and “Treme”

In our Distribution and Logistics Emphasis:

The Dunavant name in Memphis has long been synonymous with cotton and in the days when what is now Dunavant Global Logistics was a cotton trading business it set records for cotton sales to China. As a logistics company, Dunavant has always kept its roots in cotton as it put more emphasis on the network built in its cotton trading days to move the cotton around the world. Now Dunavant looks to return to China with agency offices in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Purple and orange aren’t the colors of Christmas to most of us. But it’s hard to think of Christmas in Memphis and not wonder what kind of business Memphis-based FedEx will do in the holiday season. FedEx is projecting a 10 percent increase over last year in its shipping volume. And e-commerce is behind the increase.

When we called U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen earlier this month as part of our piece of logistics and transportation priorities in the state capitol and Washington D.C. in 2017, Cohen had just been working on a second go at federal transportation funding for a remake of the Lamar Avenue freight corridor. You may remember that the city with lots of backing from Cohen as well as Gov. Bill Haslam sought a federal FASTLANE grant that would had moved up the timetable for the improvement considerably with a $180 million dump of money toward what is about a $300 million project. That didn't work out.

In Nashville, the logistics lobbyists want to try again with a bill that would give tax incentives to companies who reduce how long drivers are down at warehouses and distribution centers waiting for their cargo to be unloaded. The industry standard is two hours – loading or unloading. And the drivers will be the first to tell you that in their business time is money, meaning if you wait too long there or are stuck on Lamar – you can miss your next job.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville and state Representative Karen Camper of Memphis this past year proposed a 2 percent tax credit on shipping expenses for companies with turnaround policies that emphasize the clock is ticking.

Signs of the Season at Meritan’s Silver Bells program – an adaptation for senior citizens of the Angel Tree program.

PROPERTY SALES 64 151 1,493
MORTGAGES 45 105 1,152
BUILDING PERMITS 201 410 3,466