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VOL. 133 | NO. 83 | Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: The City's Windfall, Chandler Parsons' Knees and Keith Sykes on Flying

By Bill Dries

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When you think of economic engines that drive the Memphis economy there are a lot of corporate names past and present that come to mind. One further down the list is the Memphis Defense Depot in southeast Memphis more than 20 years after the Army closed up shop. Along the stretch of Airways near Memphis International Airport are the blue collar neighborhoods built by the hub for Army supplies that located here in the early 1940s on 4.2 million square feet of land.

What is now called the Memphis Depot Industrial Park  sold Tuesday for $50 million – sold to a couple of out of town firms by a Dallas company that had owned it for about seven years.


A short budget address at City Hall Tuesday afternoon from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and in his third budget proposal – Strickland varies from the focus on line items to talk about taking back last year’s city property tax rate after the formula used following the 2017 countywide property reappraisal seriously overestimated how many appeals there would be by property owners of the new values. How serious? About $8 million more when the new state-certified tax rate, by law, is supposed to only produce the same amount of revenue as the old rate before the reappraisal.

This issue, as you might surmise, is not exclusive to City Hall. Shelby County government is about to have its own discussion about an $18 million to $25 million windfall it projects at the June 30 end of the current fiscal year. And that has been a recurring topic in the forums this campaign season that have featured all three of the contenders in the May 1 Republican primary for Shelby County Mayor.

In that story, candidate David Lenoir also brings up his questions about paying personal property tax. In Nashville this week, the state House sent a bill to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam along those lines that exempts whiskey barrels from that property tax. A recent opinion from the Attorney General’s office that the barrels were taxable – something of a precedent that Jack Daniel’s nor other distillers had ever had to pay. Jack Daniel’s executives estimated that would have meant paying $2.8 million in taxes this year.

The attempt by Haslam to put some time element on the completion rate of students who get last dollar scholarships failed in the state House this week. And it indicates some different thoughts about the administration’s goal of getting those students through college or post high-school trade schools as quickly as possible.

Sharon Griffin, the SCS chief of schools, was a surprise choice Tuesday to be the new leader of the state-run Achievement School District. 

When the Tennessee Education Department went looking for a new person to lead the state-run Achievement School District there were four finalists who came here to talk to parents and community leaders as part of the job process. None of them got the job. It turns out there was a fifth finalist that the state didn’t talk about because she already had a job here with Shelby County Schools.

Sharon Griffin is currently the chief of schools for SCS and before that was the leader of Innovation Zone Schools – among the lowest performing schools in the state by student achievement standards, like the ASD schools taken over by the state. In the resulting I-Zone-ASD competition, the I-Zone has outperformed the ASD schools. The role of the ASD in taking over schools with a great deal of autonomy has also changed dramatically in the last year with the federal ESSA rules that require local school districts take a crack at turning things around before the state steps in.

Last call for the RegionSmart summit Thursday that we are a part of along with the Urban Land Institute. One of the consultants speaking at the Downtown gathering will focus specifically on the Fourth Bluff effort just a bit north of where the group will be gathered.

The Commercial Appeal building itself, 495 Union, has sold for $2.8 million to the same New York investment company that bought the newspaper’s back parking lot.

The DoubleTree hotel at Union and B.B. King  sells for $29 million. This is what long-time Memphians will remember as the Tennessee Hotel. One out of town company selling to another out of town company.


Chandler Parsons and optimism – a group of words that haven’t been used together in quite a while. The key phrase here is no more knee surgery.

So you go to the Beale Street Music Festival in a little more than a week from now and you see a really good representation of local live music in three days that features more than 60 musical artists. Come back to Tom Lee Park three weeks later for a whole lot more local and live at 901Fest. The lineup for the third annual event is headlined by Southern Avenue, 8Ball and MJG and Mighty Souls Brass Band. Here’s the rest of the lineup for what is MIM’s finale – all in one day.

Cheryl Mesler, co-owner of Burke's Book Store sees growth in the independent book store business.

Seeing growth in independent bookstores as some of those local stores prepare to observe Independent Bookstore Day.

Atop our Memphis Newsmakers segment, Keith Sykes, the new chief manager of Ardent Studios – yes, that Keith Sykes. And as you might expect this Q&A is a bit of a departure. For one thing, the talent he wishes he had is not what we usually get with this question. For so many people it is some kind of musical ability. And his advice is “Start with a title.”

PROPERTY SALES 39 202 12,960
MORTGAGES 25 110 8,113
BUILDING PERMITS 114 645 30,579
BANKRUPTCIES 37 122 6,186