Tennessee Joins Effort To Block Anthem-Cigna Deal

The state of Tennessee is one of the 11 states that have joined with the U.S. Department of Justice to block the merger of health insurance giants Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp.

“In what instance would Tennesseans want four instead of five competitors from which to choose insurance products or negotiate services?” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery asked rhetorically in a written statement. “That is the question raised by the merger, whether one is a national employer comparing benefits and premiums, a health care provider like a hospital or physician practice, or an individual selecting a policy on an exchange. There are too many unanswered questions and too much at stake in reducing competition for Tennessee to support this merger.”

The lawsuit contesting the merger argues it would reduce competition in the industry for millions of consumers and threaten competition among commercial insurers purchasing health care services from health care providers.

– Bill Dries

Crosstown High Advances In Grant Competition

The proposal for a Crosstown High School has advanced in the national competition for one of five $10 million grants from the XQ Super School Project.

The XQ Institute is an education reform group specifically working on new models for American high schools. The institute’s supporters include Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs.

The organizers of Crosstown High, to be part of the Crosstown Concourse development, were among 700 applicants for the grant funding. With Crosstown High’s advancement announced Thursday, July 21, the school is one of 50 teams competing for grants to be announced Aug. 4.

The Crosstown High board is pursuing an open enrollment public school for 500 students in grades 9-12 with some kind of contract agreement with Shelby County Schools that includes a curriculum allied with Christian Brothers University.

The group submitted a charter school application this summer that was turned down by the Shelby County Schools board, with the possibility that the group may reapply and submit that new application to the SCS board for another vote in August.

The school, under that scenario or another, would open in 2017.

– Bill Dries

Soma Intimates Coming To Saddle Creek Center

Soma Intimates will open at the Shops of Saddle Creek later this year.

The women’s intimates and loungewear boutique will occupy a 2,132-square-foot store at Saddle Creek North next to Lucky Brand Jeans, according to a release.

Soma Intimates opened its first boutique in 2004 and now has more than 250 stores. In addition to intimate apparel and loungewear, it sells dresses and fragrances.

“We’re so pleased to add Soma Intimates to the growing list of best-in-class tenants that have chosen Saddle Creek as their primary location in the Memphis metropolitan area,” said Terry Montesi, CEO of Trademark Property Co., the operating partner for Saddle Creek.

– Madeline Faber

Marc Gasol to Miss Olympics for Spain

The Spanish basketball federation says that center Marc Gasol will miss the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after failing to recover from a broken foot in time.

The federation says “Marc Gasol hasn’t passed the necessary medical tests” and will miss the games.

Gasol has not played since he broke his right foot in February while playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Spain won silver medals in men’s basketball at the last two Olympics, losing the finals to the United States.

The 2016 basketball event starts in less than three weeks.

– Associated Press

Airport Business Park To be Sold at Auction

The Airport Business Park, an eight-building office campus, is headed to auction with a starting bid of $2.4 million.

The 235,006-square-foot office park covers 32 acres near Memphis International Airport and the FedEx Express Global Hub.

The property is currently 57 percent occupied with tenants including FedEx and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Located at 3000 Democrat Road, the property consists of seven parcels and two additional pads for development.

Avison Young is teaming up with Ten-X in the live auction to be held Aug. 8-10.

– Madeline Faber

Memphis Attorney Elected President of Association

Memphis trial attorney Thomas Greer was elected president of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association at its annual convention held recently in Florida.

Members also voted to change the name of the organization back to TTLA. It had been operating under the name Tennessee Association for Justice.

Greer replaces Eric Buchanan of Chattanooga, who served as president in 2015-2016.

Since graduating magna cum laude in 2005 from the University of Memphis School of Law, Greer has helped make a difference in the lives of victims of serious personal injury, wrongful death, and professional negligence, according to a TTLA release. He has extensive trial experience in both state and federal court. Greer is a partner in the Memphis law firm Bailey & Greer.

“Thomas Greer has been an active member in TTLA for over 10 years,” Buchanan, now immediate past president, said in a statement. “He will be a true asset to the association and the citizens of Tennessee. He has dedicated his life to helping others and will do a wonderful job leading the state’s top trial attorneys as president.”

In addition to Greer, the TTLA Executive Committee includes Memphis attorneys Cameron Jehl, vice president of the West region of the state, and Miranda Rhoads, who is parliamentarian.

– Daily News staff

Ioby Starts Campaign For Overton Park Intersection

Ioby (In Our Backyards), a nonprofit civic crowd-resourcing platform, is kicking off its second annual “Trick Out My Trip” campaign in Memphis Monday, July 25, to address transportation challenges.

The effort is to raise public money for everything from rehabbed bus stations to bike-fixing stations to improved crosswalks for citizens. The kickoff takes place at 11 a.m. at the entrance to Overton Park at North Tucker Street and Poplar Avenue.

One of the goals of this campaign is to re-envision the intersection at Tucker and Poplar and the group hopes to raise $16,500.

Ioby will gather the experts who can help navigate regulations around capital improvements; a pool of willing volunteers; the crowdfunding platform to help raise small donations from local residents; and matching grants from TransitCenter, a national foundation improving urban mobility, according to a release.

Among those slated to attend the kickoff at Overton Park are Melissa McMasters and Susannah Barton with the Overton Park Conservancy; bike enthusiast Sara Studdard; Nicole Lacey with the Memphis Area Transit Authority; and Ellen Roberds, Memphis Action Strategist who helps resident leaders plan, fund and implement local change.

All funds raised by Aug. 5 will be matched. Donations through ioby.org/trip will begin being accepted July 25.

– Daily News staff

Memphis Airport Receives $12.4 Million Federal Grant

Congressman Steve Cohen has announced a $12.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to go toward the modernization of the Memphis International’s Airport’s Concourse B as well as improvement of security and the access road.

The Airport Improvement Program grant will fund the initial design phase for modernization of Concourse B after the elimination of Delta Airlines' hub. The five-year plan includes consolidating all usable gates in Concourse B and mothballing Concourse A for future airline growth. Funds will also go toward the rehabilitation of 300 feet of pavement to improve the existing commercial access road to the airport and various security enhancements required by the Transportation Security Administration.

“Memphis International Airport is a critically important transportation link in the Mid-South region,” Cohen said. “This funding will help the airport continue to make upgrades to serve travelers safely and efficiently for many years to come.”

– Madeline Faber

Sugar Services Begins Downtown Expansion

Sugar Services has applied for a $1.3 million building permit for new construction at its 7 G.E. Patterson Ave. facility. Sugar Services’ expansion came with a bit of opposition from the surrounding South End neighborhood. The bulk sugar processor is one of the last remaining industrial tenants in an area dense with high-end apartments and condos.

In March, Sugar Services went before the Board of Adjustment seeking a zoning variance to permit new construction on the property. Area developers and residents spoke out against the truck and rail traffic that moves through the Sugar Services facility.

The board approved Sugar Services’ request to demolish one of its original buildings and construct a 13,000-square-foot warehouse to be used for storage and processing.

Traditional Construction Co. is listed as the contractor in the recent building permit.

– Madeline Faber

Council Urges Strickland To Make Rallings Top Cop

Interim Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings told city council members Tuesday, July 19, that if he is appointed permanent police director by Mayor Jim Strickland, he would commit to serve for the duration of Strickland’s current four-year term of office.

Rallings is in the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan with an April 2018 retirement date. Strickland’s current term of office runs to the end of 2019.

Rallings made the commitment to serve beyond the DROP date as the council approved a resolution urging Strickland to appoint Rallings as the permanent choice.

Rallings is one of six finalists recommended to Strickland by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which fielded applications for the city. Whoever Strickland selects will go to the council for approval.

Council member Patrice Robinson recused herself from Tuesday’s vote because she is serving on a committee that will be involved with Strickland in interviewing each of the six candidates.

In other council action Tuesday, July 19, council member Martavius Jones delayed a vote on third and final reading of an ordinance to put a referendum over city employee residency requirements on the November ballot.

The proposal for voters would be to change Memphis’ charter to require city employees hired after a certain date to live within the city limits.

Jones said he is seeking more information about police recruiting by other cities and their experiences in trying to hire police officers as the city of Memphis also is making an effort. Jones is skeptical that those other cities have an advantage by not having a residency requirement.

The item comes back for a final vote at the council’s Aug. 9 session.

The council approved another charter change referendum for the November ballot Tuesday that would change the distribution of in-lieu-of-tax payments from Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division to city government. The result would be a $5 million increase in revenue to the city if approved by voters.

The council also approved $6.5 million in street paving funding, but took back the approval by the end of Tuesday’s session once council members got a look at where the paving projects were to be distributed among the council districts.Some districts got more projects than others.

The council will discuss the paving list at committee sessions next month.

– Bill Dries

Dunavant Enterprises Starts Leasing Group

Memphis-based Dunavant Enterprises has formed a leasing entity that leases all types of transportation equipment to its logistics customers.

Dunavant Logistics Leasing Group is headquartered in LaPorte, Texas, and is led by Carlos Rodriguez, who comes to the position of director of business development and equipment leasing from being maintenance and repair director of Dunavant Trans Gulf Transportation LLC for six years.

Dunavant chief operating officer Richard McDuffie said the move into leasing stemmed from the issues Dunavant’s logistics clients face with maintenance on aging chassis.

“Our customers specifically requested chassis and trailer offerings in conjunction with our warehousing, trucking, drayage and global logistics management services,” McDuffie said in a written statement.

– Bill Dries

Memphis Contributes To Pinnacle’s Strong Quarter

In its second-quarter earnings announcement released this week, Nashville-based Pinnacle Financial Partners had a few numbers specific to Memphis.

For one, Pinnacle says net loans in Memphis have increased 41.4 percent since its acquisition of Memphis-based Magna Bank closed in September.

Pinnacle also has hired 17 revenue producers in the market since September.

Company-wide, revenue for the quarter ended June 30 was a record $107.8 million, an increase of $8 million from the first quarter of 2016. Revenues increased 50 percent over the same quarter last year.

Loans at June 30 were also a record – $7.09 billion, an increase of $263.5 million from March 31 and $2.26 billion from June 30, 2015.

– Andy Meek

Kendrick Promoted At Memphis Int’l Raceway

IRG Sports + Entertainment has promoted Pam Kendrick to president and general manager of Memphis International Raceway, the company announced this week.

Kendrick has worked in the operations and management side of the motorsports industry since 1998, starting at Dover International Speedway. In 2002, she transferred to Dover Motorsports-owned Memphis Motorsports Park as the director of administration and remained with the facility until it closed in 2009. IRGSE purchased the facility in late 2010 and reopened it under Kendrick’s leadership as the vice president and general manager.

The Millington raceway was tabbed this year as the new home of the world’s longest continually running drag race event, the World Series of Drag Racing. Kendrick spearheaded the addition of the major sporting event to MIR, according to IRGSE, and has worked with the local community to promote the historic race. In addition, MIR celebrated 30 years of hosting the Super Chevy Show in April and the turnout was record-setting.

– Daily News staff

State Sales Tax Holiday Happening July 29-31

Tennessee’s sales tax holiday will be one weekend earlier than in the past, due to a 2016 law change. Starting this year, the sales tax holiday will be held the last weekend in July instead of the first weekend in August

This year, the sales tax break starts Friday, July 29, at at 12:01 a.m. and ends Sunday, July 31, at at 11:59 p.m. Tennessee shoppers can save nearly 10 percent on clothing, school supplies and computers as students prepare for the back-to-school season.

The new law did not change any other aspects of the sales tax holiday, which began in 2007. As in prior years, consumers will not pay state or local sales tax on clothing, school and art supplies that cost $100 or less per item and computers that cost $1,500 or less.

While the exemptions cover many items, some items are still taxable. For example, shoes that cost less than $100 are exempt, but sports-related equipment such as cleats, ski boots or ballet shoes are not.

Lists of exempt and taxable items, as well as answers to commonly asked questions, are available at tntaxholiday.com.

– Daily News staff

Beer Festival Coming To Collierville Sept. 24

The Shops at Carriage Crossing has announced the launch of a new signature event: Collierville BrewFest, presented by RE/MAX.

BrewFest, which the lifestyle center says is the first event of its kind in Collierville, is taking place Sept. 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Carriage Crossing, 4674 Merchants Park Circle.

All proceeds from the festival will benefit Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Festival-goers will enjoy a variety of craft beer samples from several local and regional breweries, food from restaurants at Carriage Crossing, live music from the Wolf River Rednecks, and more.

Tickets are on sale now for $30, which includes a souvenir tasting cup.

– Andy Meek

Finalists Announced For $10K Memphis Film Prize

The top 10 finalists have been announced for the inaugural Memphis Film Prize. The new contest brings a different flair and a deeper purse to Memphis’ filmmaking community, with the top film eligible for up to $60,000 in prize money. Submissions had to be five to 15 minutes long and shot in Shelby County.

The top 10 entries will be shown during the Memphis Film Prize Weekend Festival, held Aug. 12-13 at Malco Studio on the Square, 2105 Court Ave. A panel of film industry judges and the festival audience will help determine the grand prize winner, who will take home $10,000. The top film will also be screened at the Louisiana Film Prize contest this fall to compete for an additional $50,000.

The top 10 films are:

• “Bluff,” directed by Nathan Murphy

• “Calls from the Unknown,” directed by Edward Valibus

• “Family Alliance,” directed by Christopher Raines

• “Final Hit,” directed by Clint Till

• “He Could’ve Gone Pro,” directed by McGhee Monteith

• “Journey of the Son,” directed by Jared Callan

• “Marcus,” directed by Kevin Brooks

• “On Edge,” directed by Robb Smith

• “Teeth,” directed by Melissa Sweazy

• “Tinker,” directed by Glenn Payne

– Madeline Faber

Shelby County Government Wins Cigna Health Award

Cigna has chosen Shelby County government as the winner of its annual Cigna Well-Being Award in Tennessee for demonstrating a commitment to improving the health and well-being of employees through workplace wellness programs.

Shelby County government offers employees a variety of ways to improve their health, including free biometric screenings and health assessments, access to personalized health coaching, on-site fitness centers and a bike rental program, and health education programs and seminars. The county also offers programs to help employees better manage chronic conditions and sponsors activities that help foster good health, including produce giveaways, health fairs, healthy cooking demonstrations and more.

Participation and engagement rates in the county’s wellness program have increased each year since the program started in 2012. Today, more than eight in 10 county employees have completed a health assessment or biometric screening, and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s Healthy Shelby 5K is in its fourth year.

Employees get a discounted race entry and are encouraged to create teams among departments, and proceeds from the race directly benefit one of the three Healthy Shelby initiatives: infant mortality, chronic disease and end-of-life care.

Since 2013, nearly $95,000 has been raised for those initiatives through participation in the race.

– Andy Meek

Tennessee Lottery Shatters Records

The Tennessee Education Lottery has closed its fiscal year by shattering records throughout the 12-month period, with an all-time high for sales and proceeds for education.

This year’s record sales resulted in a contribution of $394 million for all education programs funded by the lottery, a record increase of $46.3 million, or 13.3 percent, over last year’s record return. This brings the total raised to more than $3.8 billion since inception.

The lottery reported a record $1.63 billion in total sales for the period from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016, an increase of $151 million, or 10.2 percent, over last year’s previous sales record of $1.48 billion. This brings total sales since inception to more than $15 billion.

Rebecca Hargrove, president and CEO of the lottery, called it a “stellar year.”

“These results are welcome news for students and families in Tennessee, who continue to benefit from the more than 1 million scholarships, grants and dual-enrollment awards given since we began.”

Instant game sales hit a record $1.3 billion – 6.9 percent over last year’s record of $1.2 billion. Drawing-style game sales set a record of $322.8 million, fueled by an unprecedented $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot.

– Daily News staff

Tennessee in Top 10 For Retail Development

Tennessee has made the top 10 states for retail real estate development, according to a recent study by NAIOP Research Foundation.

Tennessee came in at No. 9, with commercial real estate development supporting nearly 60,000 related jobs and contributing $3.7 billion to the state’s economy.

The study forecasts that in the coming months, the nation will see accelerated construction spending while gains in fixed investment in commercial structures will be partially offset by cutbacks in energy-related construction expenditures.

– Madeline Faber

State Offers ‘Go Vote’ App As Early Voting Continues

With early voting underway across Tennessee, the Secretary of State’s office is offering information about samples ballots and early voting sites as well as election day polling places through GoVoteTN.app.

The app will include election results from across the state after the polls close Aug. 4.

The August elections are the second voting cycle of 2016.

The third and final election cycle is the November ballot, topped by the presidential general election.

– Bill Dries

McDonald’s, Starbucks Agree to Filter Wi-Fi Porn

McDonald’s and Starbucks are implementing filtering technology that blocks customers using Wi-Fi from accessing pornography sites.

The move follows a campaign from anti-pornography groups Enough is Enough and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation to demand the chains filter out pornography.

McDonald’s says in a statement that Wi-Fi filtering has been activated in the majority of its nearly 14,000 restaurants nationwide. A spokesperson for Starbucks says it is implementing filtering once it can find a system that “also doesn’t involuntarily block unintended content.”

The National Center for Sexual Exploitation says chains such as Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread already block porn on Wi-Fi.

– The Associated Press

Delinquent Tax Revenue Up 18 Pct. in Shelby County

Shelby County government took in 18 percent more from delinquent tax sales in the fiscal year ending June 30 than it did the year before, according to Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir.

The trustee’s office and the Shelby County Chancery Court Clerk and Master’s Office moved to online tax sales and auctions in January, the first use of the technology in the state.

That’s also when a change in state law took effect that moved to a sliding scale for the redemption period for property owners, after a delinquent sale, to pay what they owe and keep the property.

And the online sales through CivicSource.com are credited with “significant growth” in the number of those bidding on properties, revenue generated and properties sold.

“We are extremely pleased with the increasing success of our online tax sales,” Lenoir said in a written statement. “By modernizing the process, we are generating financially lucrative results.”

The third online sale, June 22-24, was days before the end of the fiscal year and resulted in $892,229 in revenue.

A total of 60 people made bids on 70 of 263 properties up for sale.

Those bidding must pay the delinquent taxes due on the properties, but owners of the properties have some time to take a bidder out of the sale by paying the overdue taxes they owe.

More than $1.7 million was paid by existing owners to the trustee’s office in the weeks before the online auction.

– Bill Dries

Opera Memphis' Ned Canty Elected to National Board

Ned Canty, general director of Opera Memphis, has been elected to the board of directors of Opera America, the national service organization for opera and a leading champion for American opera today.

Canty recently attended Opera America’s annual conference, where he spoke on a panel about opera strategies alongside the executive director for Opéra de Montréal; the managing director for the Houston Grand Opera; and the general director for the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.

His new board position with Opera America highlights 30 Days of Opera, a program that has reached more than 120,000 Memphians in more than 150 locations since its inception.

For the vast majority of attendees, according to Opera Memphis, 30 Days of Opera provided an introduction to the art form. Canty has spoken about the 30 Days of Opera model to the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera America, the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence and dozens of civic groups in Memphis.

Beyond 30 Days of Opera, Opera Memphis is also receiving accolades and support for its commitment to new works. Leading into Opera Memphis’ 60th year, marked during the 2016-17 season, a recent $30,000 grant from Opera America will support the development of upcoming original works.

Later this year, Opera Memphis will celebrate the fifth anniversaries of 30 Days of Opera and the Midtown Opera Festival.

– Andy Meek

Massage Service Soothe Comes to Memphis

The on-demand massage service Soothe has arrived in Memphis.

The company’s model is built around connecting vetted, certified massage therapists to a customer’s home, office or hotel in as little as one hour. Soothe has already launched in 32 cities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. since its inception in 2013 and has plans to expand to 50 cities by year’s end.

Soothe offers on-demand Swedish, Deep Tissue, Sports or Prenatal massages daily between 8 a.m. and midnight. All can also be performed as couples massages.

Massages are fixed-price per person, and Soothe covers tax and gratuity. The prices are $99 for 60 minutes, $139 for 90 minutes, and $169 for 120 minutes. Soothe clients can also re-book the same therapist on future occasions.

– Andy Meek