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VOL. 131 | NO. 147 | Monday, July 25, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Substation 68, Akbari's Convention Slot and Heartbreak Hotel

By Bill Dries

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Relief came on Sunday for Memphis Light Gas and Water customers in Arlington, Lakeland and a part of Bartlett who have been enduring the possibility of rolling blackouts and voluntary conservation measures in the worst heat of the summer for just shy of two weeks.

A July 11 fire at MLGW substation 68 was the cause of all of this and MLGW called the fire “an unprecedented event” for the utility

The original estimate was that those served by the substation would be on the blackouts and conservation measures at least until Aug. 8. The conservation measures included keeping thermostats at 80 degrees during peak usage hours. And the blackouts were a possibility that wasn't used.

Sunday they got the word to crank up the air conditioning. Well, not in those exact words.

The exact phrase was that those customers can “resume normal electric consumption between the hours of 3 and 8 p.m.”

‘The request for energy curtailment and concern of possible rolling blackouts has ended.”

Substation 68 is partially restored, with the full restoration to take up to six months.

That means no rolling blackouts. But there could be some outages during the next few weeks as the utility workers reconfigure electrical circuits.

The Democratic National Convention opens Monday afternoon in Philadelphia amidst an email scandal that has forced the party’s national chairman to resign but apparently not until after she opens the convention Monday. The emails, leaked by WikiLeaks, show Debbie Wasserman Schultz and others in the party’s leadership were clearly working against Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders.

Democratic state Representative Raumesh Akbari of Memphis is scheduled to speak to the convention Thursday in a window somewhere between 5 and 7 p.m. Keep in mind that Harold Ford Jr. was supposed to have a prime time spot at the 2000 Democratic National Convention and wound up a bit past that window because that is the nature of these gatherings.

While we are in the neighborhood, just across the partisan aisle, the Republican primary for the 8th Congressonal district remains the most interesting race on the Aug. 4 ballot with dark money ads showing up as early voting began and the ever-changing configuration of television ads.

New crime stats for the city and countywide from the Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission show violent crime is still on the rise but its ascent may be slowing. But the keepers of the stats aren't about to say this is a trend.

The metal barrier across the Overton Park Greensward was down this weekend. I have a suspicion that this had nothing to do with the Greensward controversy but to prevent Pokemon Go players from injuring themselves.

Workers at the Electrolux plant are considering representation by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The union local in Midtown held a family picnic for employees Saturday.

The Broad Avenue Arts District is getting a new diner to be called The Liquor Store. It’s from the folks who opened City & State on Broad.

And the financing of the new venture is the basis for our cover story by Andy Meek in The Memphis News.

The Liquor Store is getting some help from a unique group of angel investors not seen that often – a trio of women. The story is also a chance to look inside how these projects come together, who gets involved and why they get involved.

At the Memphis Cook Convention Center Tuesday an early indication of whether all of the recent talk about minority business and a better percentage of business contracts -- private and government -- is more than talk.

City Hall is reaching out to minority firms in the city with a gathering designed to put city division directors face to face with minority business owners.

Joann Massey, director of the city's Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development, describes the Tuesday gathering as more of a "work session."

Those involved in this month's Black Lives Matter movement protests have called for a more specific disclosure of contracts that breaks down which minorities get the contracts. The coalition of leaders have also called specifically for city Public Works minority contracting to increase dramatically from single digit percentages at the start of 2016.

Some city council members have questioned whether the process to become certified as a minority business is getting in the way of better minority business contracting numbers. The certification process is a frequent target of complaints from business owners who say it is too much red tape and too much time for too little return.

A year from now the old Mall of Memphis site in Parkway Village should be open as the new TAG Truck Center, a $28 million sales facility for heavy commercial trucks and utility trucks.

Linkous Construction pulled building permits late last week for the distribution and training facility and a parts and service center.

TAG’s new facility is part of a sector of the local economy that has a long history including Summit Truck Group on Brooks Road, Tri-State Truck Center on Crump and Memphis Equipment Co. on South Third.

It’s a result of the city’s status as a transportation and logistics hub similar to the medical device industry that is part of the city’s healthcare industry mix.

The Memphis News Almanac: Where the Action Is comes to town, the Overton-Hale Ticket, Klub Royale by the Fairgrounds and Babe Herman at Russwood Park.

Other Reading:

Ardent goes to Los Angeles – specifically the Grammy Museum there – for an August symposium on the 50th anniversary of the studios.

Forbes magazine on the fastest growing jobs in America and many don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Consider this some advance reading for an upcoming cover story in The Memphis News that will have a connection to all of this.

And a bit late with this one but we are just about in the season so … Rolling Stone on the real life story that inspired the song Heartbreak Hotel. This is one of those cases where the true story rivals the lore created around the song, which was built of something a songwriter read in a newspaper in passing. Since then, there has been much microfilm and archival work to find the clipping that someone read maybe once that set their songwriting skills in motion.

No links here but in the music vein, if you want an idea just how much the concert business has changed, pick up the new issue of Memphis magazine -- the July issue -- and find your way to the 1980 story about Bob Kelley and Mid-South Concerts by Mark J. Davis. The reprint is part of the magazine's 40th anniversary. The differences range from tours whose chief aim was to sell records to stacks of phone messages to be returned.

The Tennessee Press Association meeting in Franklin last week and giving out some awards in the process. We were honored to take several of them home including first place for our overall business coverage and a first place for our coverage of the death of Darrius Stewart last summer and the investigation into his death at the hands of Memphis Police Officer Conner Schilling.

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396