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VOL. 133 | NO. 29 | Thursday, February 8, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Welders & Machinists, MLGW & Trust and Blockchain

By Bill Dries

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A new report shows jobs in demand in the Memphis area at a time when we are again talking about which expansions and new businesses should be getting incentives and how to get better paying jobs. The annual report by CERT – Center for Economic Research in Tennessee – shows high employer demand for information technology, health care, engineering, business and financial operations and welding.

The concentration of welders in the Memphis area is 57 percent below the national average, which would explain why the welding center annex at Moore Tech was a busy place when we were there last month. Machinists here are making an average annual wage of $45,000, which is 8 percent higher than the national average. The study comes with a warning about looking just at the percentages for job growth. The new and emerging jobs may show large growth but not involve that many new jobs overall.

The race for the Republican nomination for Tennessee governor has included some discussion about whether higher education – what happens after and maybe during high school – values something other than the traditional four-year college degree. And in his final State of the County address at Memphis Rotary this week, county mayor Mark Luttrell called for “economic diversification and high-wage job growth.” He also talked a bit about his political origins and how he went from running prisons to running for office about 16 years ago.

Does a warehouse of 600 assembled and ready-to-go bicycles for rental mean spring is closer that the six weeks projected by groundhogs last week?

As promised when last we met, a closer look at the 2 percent gas and electric rate hikes for MLGW approved Tuesday by the Memphis City Council. The debate by the council before the votes indicates this is not a settled issue and the coming of a new leader for the utility will see some if not most on the council questioning a lot of long-held assumptions about MLGW.

At the stateline Wednesday, a groundbreaking at Gateway Global Logistics Center for a 1-million square foot warehouse to be leased by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. of Ohio. This will be Cooper’s largest distribution facility in the U.S.

Plans for a three-story mixed use building at G.E. Patterson and Front where the Downtown Blue Monkey and before that the original South End stood before it was destroyed in a fire. This would be a restaurant on the ground floor and four rental units upstairs. It goes to the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. next week for a PILOT.

Blockchain is a digital public ledger for bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions. At least that’s what it was designed to do. Fredrik Voss of Nasdaq was in Memphis this week to talk to The Economic Club of Memphis about the other uses being found for it in areas like global trading and supply chain accounting.

The Memphis Police Department is conducting an internal investigation into who forgot to check to see if there was anyone in an impounded van that went to the police lot seven weeks ago. The body of the man who had a gunshot wound was found Monday. This comes up from time to time in various ways. More than a decade ago, the fire department discovered a body in a van well after putting out the warehouse fire around it. And jailed drug kingpin Craig Petties, according to testimony at a 2012 federal court trial of two of his associates, got his stake to build his empire in the drug business when he and others jumped a fence onto the police lot in Frayser and retrieved $450,000 in cash from the trunk of a car. The car was impounded when police busted the driver -- whom Petties was selling drugs for -- on drug charges.

The state office that has been the tip of the spear in government outsourcing efforts in the Haslam administration has a director and eight immediate underlings who make a combined $714,300 in pay a year. Our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard balances that and other costs with the savings to the state in the outsourcing efforts in his “View From The Hill” column.

Elsewhere in Nashville, the investigation of Mayor Megan Barry is underway. And The New York Times on the scandal.

Rolling Stone on the soundtrack for Robert Gordon’s new book “Memphis Rent Party” that is about half unreleased stuff including Alex Chilton and the Randy Band in 1979 at Procape Gardens, a Midtown venue he favored for a time that was part of the scenery in Gordon’s “It Came From Memphis.” “Memphis Rent Party” is out March 6.

The soundtrack for the HBO Elvis documentary “The Searcher” is out April 6 in several forms and formats. It includes a few alternate takes, rehearsal versions and the Witchcraft duet with Frank Sinatra from the television special marking Elvis’s return to performing after his hitch in the Army. It also has an entire disc of earlier and later versions of songs he recorded or was influenced by including The Orlons' version of “Heartbreak Hotel”, Odetta’s version of “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” – a Bob Dylan tune -- and a Tom Petty cover of “Wooden Heart.

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