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VOL. 11 | NO. 5 | Saturday, February 3, 2018

Daily Digest

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Memphis Toys R Us To Remain Open

A representative with Toys R Us has confirmed to The Daily News that the retailer’s Memphis location, at 7676 Polo Ground Blvd., won’t close after all.

The news comes a week after New Jersey-based Toys R Us announced it would close 182 stores across the United States as a part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization efforts.

In the Jan. 23 court filings, Toys R Us said that over the past several years it has faced “a challenging commercial environment exacerbated by increased competition from traditional competitors and a shift in consumer preferences away from shopping at brick-and-mortar stores to online retail channels,” which left the company with a significant number of stores operating at suboptimal levels.

The decision to close more than 180 stores was made after “an extensive store-by-store performance analysis” in an effort to right-size the company’s brick-and-mortar presence, according to the bankruptcy court filings.

Several stores have since been pared from the closure list. The remaining closings are expected to begin in February and wrap up by mid-April.

The toy chain filed for bankruptcy in September, citing $5 billion in debt.

– Patrick Lantrip

Redbirds Offering 2nd Job Fair Feb. 12

The Memphis Redbirds will hold a second job fair for seasonal gameday positions Monday, Feb. 12 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Home Plate Club at AutoZone Park.

Available positions include field crew, ticket sellers, ushers, bat boys and girls, and Redbirds promotional team members, among others. All positions are part-time.

Returning employees do not need to apply or attend the job fair. The Redbirds are only able to hire people ages 18 and older. Offers may be made on the spot, pending a background check and drug test results.

Visit memphisredbirds.com/jobfair for more information on the job fair and available positions.

– Don Wade

Hooks Institute Elects New Advisory Board Chair

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change advisory board has elected Darin Johnson as its new chair. Johnson, who is a senior vice president at First Tennessee Bank, has served on the Hooks Institute advisory board since August 2016.

Johnson succeeds departing advisory board chair Logan Meeks, who is president of A2H Engineers Architects Planners and has served as chair of the board for four years, having been re-elected for two consecutive terms.

The advisory board was created in May 2008 to assist the Hooks Institute in the strategic development and implementation of its mission and programs. The board is composed of accomplished individuals dedicated to uplifting communities in Memphis and the nation.

– Don Wade

Ongoing Trolley Test Expands Next Week

The ongoing test of the restored Main Street trolley line and trolley cars takes in more track next week.

The testing of the trolleys and the trolley system underway since late last year will continue Feb. 8 and 9, with the trolleys running on the Main Street line between Greenlaw to G.E. Patterson avenues.

The practice runs, during which the cars remain closed to the public, will test the technology that includes links to traffic signals, radio coverage, the interface between trolley wheels and track switches, and contact with the electric lines that power the cars.

– Bill Dries

New Engineering Firm Opens in Arlington

Mechanical consulting engineering firm Whittam Consulting Group LLC has opened in Arlington.

The new company offers design and consulting services using 3-D building information modeling, energy modeling, building and system assessments, feasibility studies and mechanical construction drawings.

Located at 5887 Windsor Falls Loop, the engineering firm will serve Memphis-area architectural firms, mechanical contractors, and other businesses and local agencies in the construction and building renovation markets in the design of mechanical systems; heating, air conditioning and ventilation; plumbing; fire protection; and process systems.

– Daily News staff

Bill Would Ban TennCare Pay for Abortion Providers

A Tennessee Republican lawmaker has proposed a ban on TennCare reimbursements to abortion providers for non-abortion services.

At a news conference Wednesday, Republican Rep. Jimmy Matlock announced legislation seeking a federal waiver to exclude providers from TennCare if “direct or indirect” use of state money will promote or support elective abortions.

Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood Executive Director Francine Hunt said the bill would have a devastating impact by preventing women from accessing birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment at Planned Parenthood centers.

Republican Sen. Mike Bell said the money would fund organizations without elective abortion services.

State and federal law ban Medicaid abortion funding. Some exceptions include rape, incest or risk of the mother’s death.

Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell supports the bill.

– The Associated Press

Kustoff Among Lawmakers In Va. Train-Truck Collision

U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Germantown was among the members of Congress on a train bound for a Republican conference in West Virginia Wednesday, Jan. 31, when the train collided with a truck in Crozet, Virginia.

“I am OK and security and doctors are on board,” Kustoff tweeted shortly after the collision. “I am praying for those who may be seriously injured.”

Fellow Tennessee Republican Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah was injured in the collision but tweeted that he was being tended to by doctors.

“I was standing up when the accident happened,” Fleischmann tweeted. “A little bit shaken up, and praying for all of my colleagues.”

– Bill Dries

SCS Could Demote Hamilton High Principal

Monekea Smith, the suspended principal of Hamilton High School, would become a classroom teacher under a recommendation by Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

Smith was suspended in December after an investigation into a grade-changing allegation concluded she authorized changing a child’s grade from failing to passing.

Some grade changes are permitted by school system policy, but SCS alleges the changes Smith made were “unjustified” and “without the knowledge or approval of the teacher.”

They also say she “acknowledged there was no legitimate reason for the grade changes.”

The recommendation came Tuesday, Jan. 30, as the SCS board approved the process for Smith to appeal the allegations.

When Smith was first suspended, the school system said it would be with a recommendation that she be fired. Hopson said Tuesday his recommendation includes a 20-day suspension.

At this point, Smith has been suspended without pay for 34 days. Hopson indicated the school system is still negotiating the matter of back pay for the 14 days beyond a 20-day suspension she will have already served.

Also at its first business meeting of the new year Tuesday, school board members approved the sale of 12 acres in Capleville where Capleville High School once stood. The land is being sold to Speedway LLC for $475,000, with Speedway paying the $29,500 commission and any closing costs.

The board also approved the demolition of Fairley Elementary by Barnes & Brower Inc. for $157,332.

Both Fairley and Raineshaven Elementary were closed when a larger Westhaven Elementary was built in Whitehaven. Students from those schools were merged into Westhaven when the school opened in August 2016.

– Bill Dries

First Horizon Taps New Communications Chief

First Horizon National Corp., the parent company of First Tennessee Bank, has hired a new chief communications officer to replace former head of corporate communications Kim Cherry, who recently left after more than three decades to launch her own firm.

Candace Steele Flippin has joined First Horizon as executive vice president and chief communications officer. As such, she’ll develop and lead communications across all areas of the company.

Steele Flippin is a public relations leader with more than two decades of experience in communications and public affairs.

Prior to joining First Horizon, she was divisional vice president of public affairs for Abbott Laboratories and previously held leadership positions at St. Jude Medical, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals and Ketchum Public Relations.

– Andy Meek

Embassy Suites Memphis On the Market

Embassy Suites Memphis, 1022 S. Shady Grove Road, is on the market, according to HREC Investment Advisors.

Built in 1989 and renovated in 2015, the five-story, 173,000-square-foot building sits on nearly four acres near the busy intersection of Poplar Avenue and Ridgeway Road in East Memphis.

In addition to 220 rooms, Embassy Suites Memphis has 8,200 square feet of meeting space and is home to Frank Grisanti’s Restaurant, which is leased until 2019.

Embassy Suites Memphis was most recently appraised at $24.4 million in 2017, according to the Shelby County Assessor.

– Patrick Lantrip

Nike’s Memphis Facilities Earn LEED Certification

Both the Nike Tennessee U.S. Footwear Distribution Center and its office building in Memphis have earned silver certifications through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building program.

Memphis-based Pickering Firm Inc. provided the engineering and architectural design services for the 1.6 million-square-foot expansion of the distribution center as well as the 77,644-square-foot, two-story office building on New Frayser Boulevard in Northridge.

Among the project highlights, the office building has seen water use reduction of 42 percent and energy cost savings of 29 percent, while the distribution center has reduced water usage by 35 percent and cut energy costs by 31 percent.

Thirty-two percent of the materials used in the office building and 34 percent used in the distribution center were produced, extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site, and 32 percent of the office building materials and 25 percent of the distribution center materials contained recycled content.

Sixty-seven percent of the on-site general construction waste for the office building and 51 percent for the distribution center was diverted from the landfill.

Adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings and flooring systems used in both buildings meet the low-emitting materials standards for volatile organic chemicals, helping assure higher indoor air quality for occupants.

In addition, Nike made a commitment to alternative transportation by providing bicycle storage at both facilities; changing rooms and showers for bike riders; and preferred parking for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles. The distribution center also has easy access to public transportation.

LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions, resulting in high-performing buildings that are more energy efficient, use less water and have higher indoor air quality.

Nike’s distribution center in Northridge now totals 2.8 million square feet – the equivalent of 49 football fields – and is the company’s largest in the world, serving as its primary distribution center in North America.

– Daily News staff

New Pizza Place Coming To Crosstown Concourse

Two local restaurateurs are looking to carve out their own slice of the Crosstown Concourse.

Elemento’s Neapolitan Pizza, founded by Adrian Accury and Justin Dorah, will soon begin construction on a new location at 1350 Concourse Ave., according to a $350,000 building permit application filed with the Office of Construction Code Enforcement on Monday, Jan. 29.

Ybos & Sons Construction Inc. was listed as the contractor, while Looney Ricks Kiss was tapped to handle the design work.

Crosstown Concourse was represented by Shawn Massey with The Shopping Center Group in the lease.

Accury is also the owner of Ciao Baby Pizza, located at 890 W. Poplar Ave. in Collierville.

– Patrick Lantrip

Explore Bike Share Seeks Volunteers to Unpack Bikes

Explore Bike Share is inviting the community to help unpack bike-share equipment Tuesday through Thursday, Feb. 6-8, in anticipation of the system’s spring launch in Memphis.

Six hundred state-of-the-art BCycle Dash bikes were set to arrive Thursday and Friday, Feb. 1-2, in more than 600 boxes, according to Explore Bike Share operations director Rajah Brown.

The shipments will be staged in the nonprofit's warehouse – donated by Benjamin Orgel, Billy Orgel, Adam Slovis, and Tom Marsh – through a partnership with Advance Memphis, whose forklift trainees will offload and organize boxes for community volunteers to unpack.

Individuals can volunteer in two-hour shifts Tuesday through Thursday to unpack each bike from its box. Participants will get a free month of bike-share membership in exchange for their time.

“This is a system designed by Memphians for Memphis and, as such, we are always seeking opportunities to get more people involved,” said Sara Studdard, community engagement & marketing director of Explore Bike Share.

For more information and volunteer registration, visit explorebikeshare.com.

– Don Wade

FedEx Europe President To Retire in June

David Binks, president of FedEx Europe and CEO of TNT, will retire at the end of June, FedEx Corp. has announced.

Binks has been with FedEx since 1983 and was instrumental in the Memphis-based company’s acquisition of TNT in 2016.

Ben Nappier, FedEx senior vice president of finance-international, will succeed Binks in the Europe-TNT position effective June 1. As co-chairman of the FedEx Integration Leadership Council, Nappier was involved in the integration of TNT into FedEx.

Helena Jansson, a 20-year FedEx veteran, will succeed Nappier as SVP of finance-international.

– Bill Dries

Lyft Launches Fundraising Initiative for St. Jude

Rideshare company Lyft has teamed up with country music star Brett Eldredge to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through a new fundraising initiative.

An in-app feature called Round Up & Donate will allow Lyft riders to round up their fare to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to St. Jude.

The new initiative already has been spotlighted on the daytime TV show “The Ellen Show,” and it was announced in Memphis at St. Jude on Monday, Jan. 29.

Eldredge is supporting the new initiative after recently hosting a special concert for St. Jude patients that was sponsored by Lyft.

– Andy Meek

FedEx Training Drivers To Spot Human Trafficking

FedEx Corp. is launching an educational training program on Truckers Against Trafficking for team members at FedEx Freight, its less-than-truckload unit. The education program coincides with National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Truckers Against Trafficking is a nonprofit that educates, equips, empowers and mobilizes members of the trucking and travel plaza industry to combat human trafficking.

Truckers Against Trafficking also announced FedEx Corp. as a platinum-level sponsor in support of the organization’s work with the trucking industry to combat human trafficking.

“The American trucking industry has proven time and again that they are working alongside law enforcement to disrupt trafficking networks and aid in the recovery of victims,” Truckers Against Trafficking executive director Kendis Paris said in a statement. “The partnership between TAT and FedEx will significantly increase the trained ‘eyes and ears’ along our nation’s roadways, and we are thrilled to be working with such an industry leader.”

– Daily News staff

Homeless Work Program Increases Scope, Pay

Work Local, a Downtown-centric program providing work opportunities for homeless Memphians is expanding its scope using additional funding from the Downtown Memphis Commission and the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The program, which is run by Hospitality Hub with primary funding from the city of Memphis, will expand its Downtown services to five days a week starting in early February.

Hospitality Hub began the initial phase of the program in November 2016, providing $9 hourly work shifts and a hot meal at the end of each five-hour shift. Since then, more than 400 participants have taken part in the program, which provides trash-collection and other sanitation services. The program and its participants completed nearly 200 blight-reduction projects during the first year in operation. The new plan will create two shift times with eight miles of Downtown coverage per shift, more than doubling the current scope. In addition, workers’ pay will increase from $9 to $10 per hour.

“We are really encouraged by the initial results of this initiative and agreed to help fund the expansion, but the program still needed other local partners,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement. “We are proud to see the Downtown Memphis Commission and CVB step up in support of this innovative initiative and the positive impact it has on our Downtown.”

The Work Local initiative is designed to create a safer alternative to panhandling and has succeeded in providing a cost-effective program for reducing trash and blight in the Downtown core. The new proposed program boundaries will run from Exchange Avenue on the north to G.E. Patterson Avenue on the south, and from Front Street on the west to Danny Thomas Boulevard on the east.

“We are proud of what this program was able to do in two days per week during the initial trial,” stated Jarad Bingham, chief strategist of Hospitality Hub. “When expanded to five days, we feel the impact on the lives of our participants and our Downtown will be great and we are excited about what’s to come.”

– Daily News staff

Pinnacle Files $1.3M Permit For Midtown Bank Branch

Nashville-based Pinnacle Financial Partners has applied for a $1.3 million building permit for its planned bank branch at the corner of Union Avenue and Rozelle Street.

Pinnacle is building the more than 4,100-square-foot branch with drive-thru service at 155 Rozelle on property that’s been vacant since the former Sean’s Cafe burned down in 2016. Because the project falls under the Midtown Overlay portion of the Unified Development Code, the bank had to seek a variance last year with the Board of Adjustment for the orientation of the drive-thru, an alternative streetscape layout and the use of a 20-foot setback.

Memphis Pinnacle chairman Kirk Bailey said the bank is excited about helping lead reuse of the property at that corner, and that “Midtown is a community we haven’t been able to fully service.”

“This office helps us expand our ability to reach all of Memphis,” Bailey said in a statement. “Between this office, our new loan production offices opening soon in Whitehaven and Raleigh and our mortgage office under construction in Southaven, we are becoming more a part of the fabric of our city.”

In other Pinnacle news, the bank has recruited two client service advisers and two other financial services professionals across four offices in Shelby County.

Cindy Rakowsky brings 10 years of financial services experience to her role of client service adviser for Pinnacle’s Oak Court office. Jason Nickel, with 14 years of experience, is a client service adviser for the firm’s main office on Shady Grove Road, and Mia Harmon brings 10 years of experience to her role of financial specialist at the Wolf River office. Ashley Hester, also a financial specialist, brings nine years of experience to Pinnacle’s Forest Hill office.

– Andy Meek

Memphis Football Hires New WRs Coach

University of Memphis coach Mike Norvell has added Desmond Lindsey to his staff to coach the Tigers’ wide receivers.

At Southern Miss in 2016, Lindsey coached the tight ends and helped the Golden Eagles to the New Orleans Bowl. Last season, he moved to coaching the wide receivers, helping junior wideout Korey Robertson to a breakout year, with 72 catches for 1,070 yards, 11 touchdowns and five 100-yard receiving games.

Lindsey began his coaching career as the wide receivers coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. In 2008, he joined the staff at West Alabama, working with then-offensive coordinator Will Hall, who was hired as Memphis’ associate head coach in January.

He spent six seasons on the staff at UWA, including the last three as assistant head coach, before joining Hall’s staff at West Georgia in 2014 as the assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach.

Having served as the recruiting coordinator at West Georgia, Lindsey continued to be an important part of the recruiting plan at Southern Miss.

“Desmond has tremendous relationships in South Mississippi and throughout the region, having grown up in Taylorsville and playing college ball at both Jones Junior College and Delta State,” Norvell said. “He’s a relentless recruiter and will be a tremendous representative of our community on and off the field.”

Lindsey has twice been selected to participate in the Bill Walsh NFL Coaches Fellowship Program, working with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009 and with the Tennessee Titans in 2013. In 2012, he was one of 30 coaches from an NCAA school selected to participate in the NFL/NCAA Football Academy in Dallas. That academy provides 30 college coaches and coaches from 30 NFL teams with development and networking opportunities to enhance their chances at success in the football coaching industry.

– Don Wade

SCS Begins Additions At Delano, Grahamwood

Shelby County Schools has applied for building permits for classroom additions to two schools totaling $6.3 million.

A $2.5 million permit for Delano Elementary School, 1716 Delano Ave., would add seven classrooms to the Frayser optional school, which has an emphasis on technology.

A $3.8 million permit for Grahamwood Elementary School, 3959 Summer Ave., would add a 10-classroom building to that optional school’s campus.

– Bill Dries

MUS, Hutchison Sponsor Trafficking Symposium

International Justice Mission representatives will be in Memphis next week to discuss the organization’s work to end modern-day slavery and protect the poor from such violence.

Philip Langford, IJM vice president of international advancement, and Dawn Gary, IJM director of strategic partnerships, are set to speak at Memphis University School’s annual Robert M. Metcalf Symposium on Thursday, Feb. 8. MUS is partnering with Hutchison School for the presentation, which will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Hutchison’s Sanders Lecture Hall, 1740 Ridgeway Road. The program is free and open to the public.

More than 40 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery, which the International Justice Mission defines as the use of lies or violence to force another person to work for little or no pay. Dedicated to ending slavery and protecting the poor from such violence, IJM works around the world to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors,and strengthen justice systems.

The Metcalf Symposium at Memphis University School is an annual lecture series founded by William Halliday and lower school principal Clay Smythe, both MUS alumni, to encourage reflection on the ethical traditions of western civilization, consistent with the school’s Christian tradition. This is the 20th anniversary of the series.

– Daily News staff

Loeb Renovating Former Donald’s Donuts

Loeb Properties has filed a building permit application for exterior renovations to the former Donald’s Donuts location at 1776 Union Ave.

Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc. is listed as the contractor on the $131,818 building permit application filed with the Office of Construction Code Enforcement.

In November, Donald’s Donuts owner Pimol Sam told several local media outlets that Loeb Properties declined to renew the lease of the local, minority-owned business, which expired on Dec. 31.

No tenant was listed on the application.

The longtime doughnut shop was known as Howard’s Donuts when Sam took over in 2005. He changed the name to Donald’s Donuts in February 2006.

– Patrick Lantrip

Impact America Offering Free Tax Prep Services

Impact America - Tennessee is again providing free tax preparation services for working families in the Memphis area in partnership with Rhodes College, the University of Memphis, Christian Brothers University, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, the Junior League of Memphis, Graduate Memphis, the South Memphis Alliance and JUICE Orange Mound.

Services are now available for working families and individuals making up to $54,000 a year. Interested individuals should call 844-TAXES-TN to schedule a free appointment or visit impactamerica.com/free-tax-services for more information. Daytime, evening and weekend hours for tax preparation are available.

The tax preparation locations are:

Binghampton Development Corp., 280 Tillman St.

• Soulsville Town Centre, 915 E. McLemore Ave.

• Ed Rice Community Center, 2907 N. Watkins St.

• Church Health Crosstown Concourse, 1350 Concourse Ave.

• Orange Mound Community Service Center, 2572 Park Ave.

• Social Suds Resource Center, 1044 S. Bellevue Blvd.

The tax preparation service is aimed at assisting families eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the federal government's largest and most successful anti-poverty program for low-income, working families.

Impact America’s SaveFirst initiative is in its fourth year of operation in Memphis. Last year, IRS-certified students from four campuses prepared tax returns for more than 1,100 families, helping them secure more than $1.7 million in tax refunds and saving them more than $440,000 in commercial tax preparation fees.

– Daily News staff

U of M, SCS Partner To Grow Teacher Pipeline

The University of Memphis and Shelby County Schools announced Friday, Jan. 26, a new River City Partnership to help address the school district’s most critical challenges, including the lack of a pipeline of highly skilled new teachers, poor teacher retention rates and the need to equip teachers with greater cultural awareness.

“The University of Memphis recognizes the challenges facing the Shelby County region can be addressed through a stronger education system – and that must be cultivated from the ground up,” U of M president M. David Rudd said in a statement.

Supported in part by funding from the US Prep consortium, the River City Partnership will place unique emphasis on recruiting and training local teacher candidates, with a special focus on identifying educators from underrepresented groups, including African-American males and Latinos.

“We want to increase the number of students who graduate from area high schools, attend the UofM and then return to Shelby County Schools to put their training to work in the classroom,” said Dr. Kandi Hill-Clarke, dean of the College of Education.

The River City Partnership also will encourage teacher candidates to intentionally select the urban education pathway, creating deep partnership with local schools and implementing high school teacher cadet programs to build an early interest in teaching as a career.

“Classrooms in America are becoming progressively diverse,” said SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson. “The impact of having educators with the ability to stimulate and challenge various student populations can intensely improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps.”

Memphis and Shelby County are nationally recognized as ground zero in urban education reform.

“This partnership is key to transforming the way classroom teachers recognize their own cultural individualities and build on the various cultural norms of our urban students,” said SCS Chief of Schools Sharon Griffin. “Cultural competency and awareness inform teaching practices and result in an educational system designed to serve all students well.”

– Don Wade

Trustmark Corp. Reports Q4, Full-Year Earnings

Trustmark Corp., the Jackson, Miss.-based parent company of Trustmark National Bank, has reported net income of $15.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, which represented diluted earnings per share of 23 cents.

For the full year, Trustmark’s net income totaled $105.6 million, or $1.56 per share.

Among the highlights for 2017, deposits were up $521.5 million, or 5.2 percent. Revenue also totaled $592.2 million, an increase of $30.7 million, or 5.5 percent. Mortgage banking revenue in the fourth quarter totaled $6.3 million, up $1.9 million from the prior quarter.

Mortgage loan production in the fourth quarter totaled $337.5 million, a seasonal decrease of 1.2 percent from the prior quarter and a 17 percent decrease year-over-year, which the bank said was mostly due to lower refinancing activity and rising interest rates.

In 2017, mortgage banking revenue totaled $29.9 million, up 6 percent from the prior year. Mortgage loan production totaled $1.4 billion in 2017, down 15.6 percent from the prior year in a decrease the bank attributed to a highly competitive third-party origination environment.

– Andy Meek

Memphis Health Care Facility Under Investigation

The Tennessee Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services department is investigating the care home were a woman who died outside City Hall earlier this month lived.

Shelley Thompson was reported missing the day before her body was found on a park bench outside City Hall. She lived at Taylor Brown Garden Healthcare facility, 111 Lucy Ave., which has been licensed by the state since October 2008.

Police say Thompson left the home after some type of argument the night she was reported missing. They believe she died of exposure in the below freezing temperatures that night. But the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s office will rule on Thompson’s cause of death.

– Bill Dries

County Unemployment Drops to 3.7 Percent

Shelby County’s unemployment rate hit 3.7 percent in December, down significantly from the 5.6 percent unemployment rate a year ago, according to the latest preliminary figures from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

It also marks a decrease from the county’s unemployment rate of 4 percent in November.

Eighty-nine of Tennessee’s 95 counties experienced unemployment under 5 percent during the last month of the year. Seventy-seven counties saw their rates decrease, including Williamson County, which had Tennessee’s lowest rate at 2.2 percent, a drop of 0.3 percentage points from the previous month. Davidson County’s rate of 2.3 percent was the second-lowest in state and represents a decrease of 0.2 percentage points from November.

“It’s great the counties with the lowest rates all experienced a decrease in unemployment during December,” TDLWD commissioner Burns Phillips said in a release. “But Tennessee’s economic outlook is even more encouraging when you compare the year-to-year figures for every county in the state.”

Only seven counties saw their rates slightly increase during December, including Rhea County, which had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 5.6 percent. Even with a 0.2 percentage-point increase, Rhea County’s jobless number for December 2017 was down 3.3 percentage points from its December 2016 rate of 8.9 percent.

The statewide unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in December.

The statewide rate is seasonally adjusted, while the county rates are not. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools and other recurring seasonal events.

– Daily News staff

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 291 21,272
MORTGAGES 0 160 16,194
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 23 1,487
BUILDING PERMITS 258 692 41,920
BANKRUPTCIES 1 117 6,579
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 23 3,097
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0