Monday, August 31, 2009

Fair-goers set new record

More than half a million people flocked to this year's Wilson County fair, shattering past attendance records.
In all, 505,434 people attended this year's eight-day fair, which ended Saturday, a jump of 39,000 over the previous year's attendance record.

The Wilson County Fair is the largest agricultural fair in the state — out-drawing even the Nashville-based Tennessee State Fair — and ranks as one of the 50 largest fairs in the nation.

Among the events and exhibits drawing the crowds this year were the usual agricultural exhibits, musical performances and midway rides, but also more offbeat entertainment, ranging from dog-riding monkey races to a Guitar Hero competition.

Organizers had hoped to break the half-million mark this year. The fair shattered records from the start this year, drawing 200,000 attendees on its first weekend and forcing fair officials to bring in shuttle buses to relieve crowding in the parking lots.

Discouraged jobless abandon work searchReal Estate Outlook: Price and Sale Gains

Stimulus money solicited quietly despite disclosure rule

President Barack Obama ordered federal officials to disclose their contacts with lobbyists trying to influence how the government doles out money to jump-start the economy. Yet few such communications have been reported, even though lobbyists say they are busier than ever with the multibillion-dollar stimulus.
Since the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February, federal agencies have reported 197 contacts with lobbyists about stimulus grants.

In August, the entire government reported only eight such lobbying contacts. The Pentagon, which controls about $7.4 billion in stimulus spending, reported only a single lobbying contact so far this year. The Homeland Security Department, with at least $3 billion to spend, reported none.

Yet the paucity of reporting masks activities by lobbyists and clients eager to obtain stimulus money for their projects. Lobbyists have separately reported work related to stimulus projects and in many cases have operated in new ways to skirt restrictions on their efforts to influence stimulus spending.

A spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, Tom Gavin, said agencies are told regularly to disclose contacts with lobbyists on their Web sites.

"It's an ongoing process," Gavin said. "This is the first time ever that these kinds of disclosures are being made."

The lobbying rules apply to about $88 billion worth of competitive grants and loans, the White House said. Much of the $787 billion stimulus package is for spending on tax cuts, Medicaid or grants to states that wouldn't be subject to lobbying at the federal level.

When disclosures are made, the reports vary widely. The Education Department described 19 encounters, including Secretary Arne Duncan's meetings with the NAACP and other groups, some with detailed descriptions of the discussions. Energy Department reports include barely legible scrawls as well as 159 pages of public comments on a transmission infrastructure program.

The departments of Homeland Security, State and Veterans Affairs and smaller agencies such as the Smithsonian Institution have made no such reports.

(2 of 2)

Washington Report: Protecting ConsumersStimulus funds to help VW plant in Tennessee

Seniors' credit card debt grows fastest in recession

WASHINGTON — Alice Smith thought she would live comfortably and quietly in her Hyattsville, Md., retirement community. Instead she is fretfully dodging calls from her creditors.
She owes more than $10,000 to four credit card companies and more than $7,000 to a credit union — in part, she said, because of spending to help her family.

She doesn't give exact figures because she is unsure of them: With late fees and higher interest rates, the amount she owes has grown. Her income has not. Through a pension and Social Security from her former job at a National Institutes of Health laboratory, she receives about $2,000 a month.

Her rent is $955. She doesn't know how she can ever pay down her debts. So she thinks she just might not.

"I am 80 years old," she said, "and I don't need this headache at my age."

Older Americans are among the most vulnerable in this recession. They are carrying debt loads they can barely handle with their fixed incomes, dwindling retirement savings and, in many cases, devalued homes.

Average credit card debt among low- and middle-income Americans 65 and older carrying a balance for more than three months reached $10,235, up 26 percent from 2005, according to a recently released study by the public policy group Demos.

It was the fastest increase of any age group. Soon-to-be retirees also are struggling with debt.

All generations struggle

It's a surprising reversal of fortune for a generation that had been considered more financially responsible than younger generations. Frequent or frivolous use of credit cards had not been a common trait of older Americans, particularly those 65 and older, because credit was not as easily available in their formative years. Now, even they are finding they have little choice but to borrow money.

"What's changed in this challenging economy is that no generation is immune from tough times. And it means that many older adults find they need to use credit cards as a means to stretch a fixed income, meet rising costs, pay for unexpected medical or household expenses, or to even help adult children," said Angela Rabatin, an adjunct professor of finance and contract law at University of Maryland University College and Prince George's Community College in Maryland.

In 2007, the most recent figure available, the percentage of 55-to-64-year-olds who had to use more than 40 percent of their income toward paying down debt was 12.5 percent, higher than any other age group, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which studies pensions and benefits.

Those who were 65 to 74 did not trail far behind, with 11.2 percent contributing that big a chunk of their income toward their debt.

"Even going into the downturn of the economy, a significant percentage of people were at that threshold considered dangerous for debt," said Craig Copeland, a senior research associate at the institute.

Rising medical costs and less-generous health insurance plans, in particular, are burdening retirees and soon-to-be retirees. As the battle over health-care reform rages on, many are turning to borrowed money to pay for prescriptions and doctor visits.

Real Estate Outlook: Price and Sale GainsBest customers fare worst under new credit-card law

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bailed-out banks just got bigger

WASHINGTON — When the credit crisis struck last year, federal regulators pumped tens of billions of dollars into the nation's leading financial institutions because the banks were so big that officials feared their failure would ruin the entire financial system.
Today, the biggest of those banks are even bigger.

The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate U.S. finance. A series of federally arranged mergers safely landed troubled banks on the decks of more stable firms. And it allowed the survivors to emerge from the turmoil with strengthened market positions, giving them even greater control over consumer lending and more potential to profit.

JPMorgan Chase, an amalgam of some of Wall Street's most storied institutions, now holds more than $1 of every $10 on deposit in this country. So does Bank of America, scarred by its acquisition of Merrill Lynch and partly government-owned as a result of the crisis, as does Wells Fargo, the biggest West Coast bank. Those three banks, plus government-rescued and -owned Citigroup, now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards, federal data show.

A year after the near-collapse of the financial system last September, the federal response has redefined how Americans get mortgages, student loans and other kinds of credit and has made a national spectacle of executive pay. But no consequence of the crisis alarms top regulators more than having banks that were already too big to fail grow even larger and more interconnected.

"It fed the crisis; it has gotten worse because of the crisis," said Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

(2 of 4)

Bernanke’s stock rises as reappointment time nearsWashington Report: Protecting Consumers

People in Business

Kathryn S. Rawls was appointed an overseer for the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award. She is president and CEO of nonprofit Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence.
Dr. Condit F. Steil is professor and chairman of pharmacy practice at Belmont University School of Pharmacy. He was at Samford University's McWhorter School of Pharmacy.

Brentwood Academy announced its Trustee Board:

Stuart Dill is chairman. Dill is president of Sanctuary Artist Management.

Mark Graham is chairman-elect. Graham is founder and managing partner for Wheelhouse LLC.

The trustees:

Steve Adams, COO of North American Holding Co.

Buddy Bacon, CEO of Meridian Surgical Partners

Corinne Barfield, Centennial Heart and Cardiovascular Services

Louis Bullard, sales with MillerCoors

Holly Dobberpuhl, community volunteer

Mickey Jacobs, president of TrustCore Investments Inc.

Gordon Kennedy, musician/songwriter/producer

Jessica Pleasant, missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ

Pat Ralls, outreach volunteer

Denny Thompson, president of Den Cap Investments

Alan Whorton, senior vice president of Spheris

Glenn Wilson, CEO of Southstar LLC

Financial services

Ron Samuels was named a leader in banking excellence by The Tennessee Bankers Association. Samuels is chairman, president and CEO of Avenue Bank.

Jana Lisle earned the CPWA designation. Lisle, CFP, CIMA, is vice president of investments with UBS Financial Services Inc.

Health care

AmMed Direct received the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites accreditation from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Sy.Med Development Inc. was listed to Inc. magazine's Inc. 5000, a ranking of the nation's fastest-growing private companies. Sy.Med was ranked 4,479 for 2009.

William Carpenter was named one of Modern Healthcare magazine's 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare. Carpenter, who ranked 27 on the list, is president and CEO of LifePoint Hospitals.

Leadership Health Care announced its 2009-10 board:

Bo Bartholomew is chairman. Bartholomew is president and CEO of PharmMD.

(2 of 3)

Father Ryan High School feels effects of recessionSelling Your Home, Know Your Buyer Market

Father Ryan High School feels effects of recession

Father Ryan High School has shifted the way the school is run, adopting a more corporate-like structure that starts with a president in charge of strategy, fundraising and capital projects. In this more business-like model, President Jim McIntyre studies the big picture, while the principal acts as chief operating officer.
McIntyre, starting his fifth year at the school and third year as president, was a veteran of teaching, coaching and serving as principal at Catholic high schools in Dallas and Columbia, S.C., before coming to Father Ryan.

He has helped raise $5 million for the new football and athletics complex that opened at Father Ryan this fall, and he's boosted annual fund giving from just below $200,000 to more than $400,000 last year. The challenge now is how to raise more money in a recession and maintain solid returns on the school's multimillion-dollar endowment despite volatility on Wall Street.

McIntyre discussed the business side of private education with Tennessean Business Editor Randy McClain as a new school year begins.

How long has Father Ryan operated with a principal/president model?

This is the beginning of the third year of that structure. My job is looking at financial stability, planning and giving. Our enrollment has stabilized. Last year, at the end of school we had 868 students and we opened this year with 893. We draw students from at least seven counties. There's a lot of choice in the non-public school arena.

How expensive was the new sports complex, and how much money is yet to be raised to finish paying for it?

Our campus was incomplete without a stadium. Spiritually, intellectually and physically we want to develop young people, and a stadium can serve as a gathering place for our community. We've been the nomads for 84 years, playing at Vanderbilt for a few years and at other stadiums every week more recently.

We were blessed that we had raised a significant proportion of the money to pay for this facility prior to the stock market's and the economy's downturn. Last Oct. 3 we announced that we had already raised $4.7 million for the project, and I believe that was the day of the lowest point on Wall Street.

(2 of 3)

Bellevue mall as a high school? It’s possibleKnow Your Buyers; Better Their Lives

Nashville's last arcade fights battle of obscurity

Nashville is down to its last video arcade.
Inside the dark room, street fighters, an angry ape and even Michael Jackson beckon your quarters with flashing lights, noisy beeps and a hint of nostalgia.

Would you rather watch the Super Bowl from home or be there, asked gamer Eugene Johnson II, a 31-year-old security guard, as he wrapped up a bout on Street Fighter 4 .

"That's what it's like," he said. "Being here is more exciting than playing at home."

But the video arcade business, much like Pac-Man , is down to its last power pellet.

In Nashville, Game Galaxy at Hickory Hollow Mall is the only traditional arcade left that's not coupled with a restaurant, bowling alley, movie theater or other form of entertainment. There, gamers seek high scores on more than 100 video games and pinball machines, including classics such as Donkey Kong and Galaga , as well as newer titles like Tekken 6 .

"We don't sell food. There are no gimmicks. We just have arcade games," said co-owner Jason Wilson, 33, himself a national-level gamer.

Home games dominate

Actually, it's not surprising that Nashville has a lone arcade — but that the city even has one at all.

Since the zenith of popularity of arcades in the early 1980s, the number of locations has declined sharply, as has the number of arcade machines. The machine count has dwindled from 1.5 million in the early 1980s to 328,000 in 2007, according to the latest industry analysis.

Revenue collapsed from $4.4 billion in 1982 to $904 million in 2007, according to the latest data from the American Amusement Machine Association.

At one point in the 1980s, gross sales in the arcade business outstripped the movie box office.

Most of Nashville's shopping centers lost their arcades years ago, though, and the one at RiverGate Mall closed earlier this year. Opry Mills has an arcade in the Dave & Buster's restaurant.

(2 of 3)

Differentiate Yourself: Build With Home Gateways, Digital Possibilities in MindNashville Chamber named award finalist

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Renters help fill unsold Nashville condos

The gateway condo project to East Nashville, 5th and Main, is starting to lose its eerily empty feeling, and it's counting largely on renters to fill the gap.
A few of the 130 condos light up at night. A TV glow can be seen from an occasional living room. People come and go from the Otter's Chicken Tenders or French-inspired Allium restaurants downstairs. The general contractors have come back to put finishing touches on the building.

The development, which opened last year in the midst of a real estate bust, struggled to sign up buyers. Now, it has shifted gears somewhat, signing up some 15 renters, all of whom have signed a lease with an option to buy their condos, according to Jenn Garrett, managing partner of Village Property Management, which has moved into a sales office in the back.

It's a strategy meant to bring income and tenants into a building that lost a major financing option for its buyers earlier this year when the Federal Housing Administration pulled its backing.

At this point only seven condo buyers have finalized their condo purchases, and courting renters is viewed as a tactic that could help 5th and Main — as well as some other struggling condo projects here — cope with a difficult real estate and lending market.

Rolling Mill Hill, the empty and looming three-building condo development on a hill overlooking the south side of downtown, may be turned into an apartment complex, according to the receiver who took over that building on behalf of lenders in June, attorney John Cheadle.

He said Rolling Mill Hill has gotten interest from several developers, including a "good" offer from an unnamed developer who wants to turn the buildings into apartments, although they were originally intended as owner-occupied condos. No one has bought a condo there yet, although construction is substantially complete.

(2 of 3)

Music gear mecca’s siren song wanesInvestor Report: Auctions a Growing Niche

Savvy shoppers propel comeback of coupons

PORTLAND, Ore. — Electronic coupons, arriving by cell phone, Twitter, e-mail and Facebook, are helping generate an old standby's comeback and bringing in new, younger customers.
Many shoppers, especially young consumers like 30-year-old April Englebert, used to reject coupons printed in newspapers and direct-mail booklets as passe or cumbersome.

But Englebert, an accounting clerk in Portland, Ore., was so thrilled when she cut her monthly grocery bill from $500 to $300, mainly with electronic coupons, that she recruited friends and co-workers to try them.

"It's awesome," Englebert said. "There is a lot of free stuff to be had."

Coupon use had been declining since 1992 as consumers found less need for or some embarrassment in using them. But as the economy worsened, frugal became cool again and their popularity grew.

Use of electronic discounts and coupons more than doubled in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period last year as overall coupon use rose 23 percent, according to coupon-processing company Inmar Inc. They now account for more than 3 percent of all coupons used, up from roughly 2 percent in 2008.

While they still represent a small part of the total coupons used, they have strong potential — growing quickly and providing a new way for shoppers to stretch increasingly tight budgets.

"It does take some significant outside forces for people to wake up and pay attention to the savings opportunities available to them," said Matthew Tilley, director of marketing for Inmar.

Online advertising circulars, coupons sent to a consumer's cell phone based on entering a text code and other e-coupon strategies are gaining ground.

"There's no question this will continue to grow; coupon use continues to be important, especially in the current economy," said Bob Faricy, vice president of market development at The Tennessean .

The newspaper's Web site features printable coupons online at, and allows online readers to flip electronically through big-box advertising circulars at as well. This "Circular Central" feature launched in May at the newspaper.

(2 of 2)

Flat incomes raise concern for recoveryKnow Your Buyers; Better Their Lives

Flat incomes raise concern for recovery

WASHINGTON — Household income in the United States is essentially stagnant, raising doubts about whether consumers already hurt by job losses can sustain an economic recovery.
The now-ended Cash for Clunkers program helped lift consumer spending last month and is expected to deliver a bigger boost in August. But any economic rebound likely would falter if shoppers lack the income to spend more in the long run. Especially in the U.S., consumer spending is essential: It drives about 70 percent of economic activity — more than for most European nations and well above the rates in developing countries such as China.

U.S. retailers already are paying the price for flat income growth and weak consumer spending. A survey of big retail chains showed that shoppers remained tightfisted in July. That raised fears not just about back-to-school sales but also about the holiday shopping season.

"Consumers just don't have the financial firepower to go out and spend more," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "Unless businesses curtail their job cuts, the recovery could very well peter out."

Americans' purchasing power has been battered by the 6.7 million jobs that have vanished since the recession began in December 2007. Companies also have cut costs by forcing workers to take unpaid days off or to work only part time.

Consumer spending edged up 0.2 percent in July, matching economists' expectations. But the flat reading on incomes was weaker than the small rise economists had expected.

"It may take consumers fully a year to get back on their feet," said Sal Guatieri, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Job shortage may put drag on recoveryInvestor Report: Auctions a Growing Niche

Friday, August 28, 2009

Business briefs: Ford adds third shift due to demand

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it would add a third shift to production plants in Michigan and Missouri to meet increased demand for its F-150 trucks and Escape crossover vehicles. The moves offer specifics about Ford's plan to increase production of cars and trucks in the fourth quarter by 33 percent over 2008 levels to a total of 570,000 vehicles. Two of its vehicles — the Focus and Escape — were among the top-sellers under the Cash for Clunkers program.

Solomon Builders has started work on a $6.5 million Nossi College of Art complex. The 400-student college plans to move from Rivergate Parkway to a new facility at Briarville Road and Briley Parkway.


Costs cut Cumberland's net income

Cumberland Pharmaceuticals reported second-quarter net income of $300,000, down 72 percent from $1.1 million a year ago as the company saw expenses go up. Net revenue increased 18 percent to $9.8 million. Costs rose to expand the Nashville-based specialty pharmaceutical company's sales force as well as increased marketing and advertising expense, officials said. Cumberland recently became publicly traded through an initial public offering.


Discouraged jobless abandon work searchDifferentiate Yourself: Build With Home Gateways, Digital Possibilities in Mind

Management shake-up at First Tennessee

A management shake-up at First Tennessee has put a recent Regions Financial Corp. executive at the top of the Nashville office.
Doyle Rippee has replaced Tony Thompson as Middle Tennessee market president for First Tennessee, according to the company’s president of banking, Charles Burkett.

Rippee has about 30 years of experience in banking and had been recruited about three months ago from Birmingham-based Regions. He also has experience working as Bank of America’s Tennessee president.

Thompson is now the commercial banking manager in Nashville.

Meanwhile, Mike Edwards, formerly Tennessee Banking Group president, has been moved to Memphis to be in charge of the Memphis banking market, reporting directly to Burkett.

“We’re flattening the organization,’’ Burkett said. “It seemed like an opportunity for us to take advantage of Doyle’s years of experience in Nashville and to focus on our Nashville banking customers and use Tony’s skills in commercial banking.”

Memphis-based First Horizon National Corp., the parent company of First Tennessee, has slimmed down and exited much of its operations outside of Tennessee after the real estate market turned sour.

The company now is focused on its home state – Tennessee. It has been adding branches in Middle Tennessee, not shuttering them.

First Horizon lost $123 million during the second quarter, the fifth consecutive loss for the banking company. However, non-performing assets declined during the quarter and executives expect a return to profitability within the next few quarters.

Remodeling Increasing: How to Get the Best ValueNew law lures new micro-distilleries to Tennessee

Discouraged jobless abandon work search

Kevin Walsh has filled out more than 60 job applications in the seven months since he was laid off by an electrical company, and he's so frustrated with rejection he's about ready to throw in the towel.
He's had only two calls from prospective employers, one a grocery store and another a fast-food restaurant, and the job at Sonic went to a teenager who needed a summer job.

"I've kind of given up," the 36-year-old Franklin man said. "I haven't filled out an application in a month. You go online, and there are no jobs there."

Frustrated workers like Walsh are part of the reason that Tennessee's statewide unemployment rate went down from 10.8 percent in June to July's 10.7 percent.

It's not that the labor market is getting better. Rather, more Tennesseans are discouraged and no longer on the job hunt, which excludes them from the unemployment statistics.

Because of the discouraged-worker factor, a majority of Tennessee's 95 counties saw a drop in unemployment rates in July from a month earlier, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The unemployment rate dropped in 78 counties, increased in 14 counties and remained the same in three others.

Nationally, more than 14 million people are unemployed and another 6 million have abandoned the job search out of frustration, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a job-placement firm.

If discouraged workers were counted in the national unemployment rate, the U.S. rate would have been 16.3 percent in July instead of the official 9.4 percent rate, according to one analysis.

Tennessee's worst unemployment rate was in Scott County at 19.6 percent, and the lowest total was in Lincoln County at 6.9 percent in July. Williamson County had the third-lowest rate at 8.4 percent and Davidson County was eighth lowest at 9.2 percent.

Perry sees decline

The biggest decrease was in Perry County, where a special stimulus program has put 343 residents to work. Unemployment dropped from 22.1 percent in June to 19.3 percent in July, and for the first time in months, Perry County no longer has the worst jobless rate in Tennessee.

(2 of 2)

Unemployment rate goes down in most Tennessee countiesReal Estate Outlook: Encouraging Numbers

People in Business

Avenue Bank announced:
Vickie Storm has been promoted to executive vice president. She is also director of client services.

Abby Flittner is a credit underwriter. Flittner joined the bank as a receptionist in 2008.


Scott Yates is a wireless network engineer at Nashville Computer. Yates had been director of technical service at Excalibur Integrated Systems.

People in BusinessDifferentiate Yourself: Build With Home Gateways, Digital Possibilities in Mind

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bellevue mall as a high school? It's possible

Bellevue Center mall really does look like a ghost town now.
The only store that remains open is Sears. The rest, from front door to back door, are shuttered. Even the parking lots are roped off, to prevent the liability owners might incur with injured skateboarders or walkers. The proposed reinvention into a new kind of retail, with a larger Bellevue library, remains on hold.

But could the Bellevue mall turn into a high school? Either replacing existing Hillwood High, or a new Bellevue High School?

Well, it's a little far-fetched, but completely out there? Not at all.

In fact, after a news story that Antioch's partly empty Hickory Hollow Mall may be used to hold college classes for Nashville State Community College, I called Councilman Charlie Tygard to see if anything along those lines might be cooking for Bellevue mall. Turns out he and Metro School Board member Kay Simmons had a "what if" conversation in the last couple of days.

"If it works for Nashville Tech, can it work for Bellevue?" Tygard said. "Could Bellevue Center be renovated to be a high school?"

The current owners, Foursquare Properties, paid $26 million for Bellevue mall with the intention of building a "lifestyle center" shopping area. Much like Hill Center in Green Hills, it would have pedestrian-friendly sidewalks lined with shops and restaurants. And, best of all for Bellevue-ites, the deal was made to include a large, modern public library.

But the $180 million proposal was put on hold until early 2010 because of the economic crash. Owners simply cannot get anyone to lend them the money.

"I talked to them two, maybe three weeks ago," Tygard said. "No one will loan money unless you walk in with major tenants that are sure things. The major tenants are reluctant to sign deals, because so many shopping centers have never gotten off the ground. It's the old chicken and egg deal."

Tygard said they are still fully committed to the plans. Metro Libraries Director Donna Nicely, and a spokeswoman for the mayor's office, both said that echoes what they have been told. A spokeswoman for Foursquare didn't return a voice mail message.

Nashville West, a shopping center on Charlotte Avenue, is wildly popular and was not around when the Bellevue Center deal was cooked up. If for some reason the redevelopment into a new retail center does not work, Tygard said the mall would be a more centralized location for a high school than Hillwood High is now. And a public library would fit right in.

Simmons said she did not talk to Tygard about moving or closing Hillwood. And until the deal with Foursquare gels or dies, this is all premature. But at the same time, "when the time is right, certainly the community would embrace the idea of a Bellevue High School," she said. She hears routinely that Bellevue residents "would embrace the idea of their own high school."

There is no money available for any of these grand ideas right now, of course.

"But maybe some creative thinking? It is a great property," she said. "It's kind of like spaghetti."

Until you throw it out there, you never know what might stick.

Remodeling Increasing: How to Get the Best ValueNashville medical trade center hires adviser with Vanderbilt ties

Genesco posts $2.7 million second quarter net loss

Nashville-based shoe and hat retailer Genesco Inc. reported on Thursday a $2.7 million net loss in the second quarter, as sales continued to be impacted by a challenging retail environment.
Net sales were $335 million for the three-month period ending Aug. 1, compared to $353 million in the last fiscal year, the company said.

Sales at Genesco's stores opened at least a year, known as same-store sales, declined across all four of its concepts. Same-store sales is seen as a key indicator of a retailer's financial health.

Same-store sales at the Journeys division were down 9 percent, at Hat World Group down two percent, at hip-hop stores Underground Station down 19 percent and at upscale shoe store Johnston & Murphy down 16 percent, the company said.

The company said its earnings were impacted by charges related to merger related expenses, asset impairment and lease terminations, other legal matters and a higher effective tax rate. Excluding these charges, earnings were down two cents per diluted share, beating analyst estimates of a loss of four cents a share. Last year, the company reported a nearly $10.8 million net loss.
Christopher Svezia, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group in New York said in a research note he believes the Journeys division remains well-positioned, but with several key brands such as DC and Converse expanding distributions to other retail chains, Journeys should rely on the strength of its higher priced exclusives.
Genesco said moving forward it expects sales comparisons to improve in the fourth quarter and to meet its expectations of $1.70 to $1.80 earnings for the year. Svezia said helping Genesco in the fourth quarter will be more favorable lease negotiations and slower near-term store growth.
"Looking ahead, while visibility with regard to the economic climate is still quite limited, we remain cautiously optimistic about the second half of fiscal 2010," said Robert J. Dennis, president and CEO of Genesco in a statement.
Genesco shares were trading at $23.18 a share on the New York Stock Exchange, up $2.37 on Thursday morning.

Real Estate Outlook: Price and Sale GainsRetail sales dip 0.1 percent in July

Tennessee Livestock Auctions

Reported auctions on Tuesday at Athens, Cookeville, Dickson and Huntingdon, Tenn.
Cattle receipts: 3,757

Trends: Compared with last week, slaughter cows steady to 1.00 lower. Slaughter bulls mostly 3.00 lower. Feeder steers and heifers steady to 3.00 lower.

Slaughter cows boners 80-85 percent lean 39.50-47.50.

Slaughter cows lean 85-90 percent lean 35.00-44.50.

Slaughter bulls 1,100-2,200 pounds 52.50-60.50.

Feeder steers medium and large 1-2: 300-400 pounds 101.00-120.00, 400-500 pounds 95.00-112.00, 500-600 pounds 90.00-107.00, 600-700 pounds 86.00-97.00.

Feeder bulls medium and large 1-2 400-500 pounds 87.50-109.00, 500-600 pounds 85.00-101.00, 600-700 pounds 80.00-93.00.

Feeder heifers medium and large 1-2 300-400 pounds 90.00-106.00, 400-500 pounds 83.00-98.00, 500-600 pounds 80.00-95.00, 600-700 pounds 79.50-89.00.


Tennessee Livestock AuctionsInvestor Report: Auctions a Growing Niche

Unemployment rate goes down in most Tennessee counties

A majority of Tennessee’s 95 counties saw a drop in unemployment rates in July with Perry County seeing the biggest dip.
Although unemployment dropped in 78 counties, the labor market in 14 counties worsened while the unemployment rate remained the same in three counties, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

In Perry County, where a special stimulus program has put 343 residents to work, the rate dropped from 22.1 percent in June to 19.3 percent in July. For the first time in months, Perry County no longer has the worst jobless rate in Tennessee.

The unemployment rate in the Nashville-Murfreesboro metro area dropped from 10 percent to 9.6 percent.

The state jobless rate in July was 10.7 percent, a slight drop from June’s 10.8 percent. Officials attributed the drop to more Tennesseans being discouraged and giving up their job hunt, which would exclude them from the jobless rate.

Real Estate Outlook: Encouraging NumbersTennessee’s jobless rate is worse than it looks

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Clayton fights decline in manufactured homes

Manufactured housing has taken a huge hit in the current recession along with traditional site-built homes, but the industry shows some signs of recovery even though a return to normal could still be a year or more away.
The majority of the Tennessee homes come from Maryville-based Clayton Homes, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which bought the company in 2003.

"For us, 2009 started off pretty rough," said Chris Nicely, vice president for marketing for 75-year-old Clayton. "So far, we're down about 13 percent overall in sales this year, but it could have been worse. When you look at other homebuilding companies, many of them would love to be down only 13 percent."

Clayton is expecting to ship about 28,000 homes this year, or 38 percent of the industry total. The company's seven Tennessee plants are expected to produce about 5,000 of those; the rest will come from the firm's other 30 plants scattered across the country, Nicely said.

The company's Tennessee sales are "still challenged," with Middle Tennessee off about 13 percent for the year, West Tennessee down about 10 percent and East Tennessee off about 17 percent, he said.

"In June, July and August, we have seen an increase in qualified traffic, and a great number of inquiries have been coming in over our Web site," Nicely said. "The number of homes sold has crept up. It's not anything to celebrate yet, but it gives us some reason to be optimistic about the rest of the year."

Clayton earlier this year laid off 90 workers at its corporate headquarters, leaving a staff of about 1,400, and has furloughed about 1,500 workers among its manufacturing plants over the past two years, leaving a work force of about 12,500.

In Tennessee, a plant in Ardmore was idled, and two plants each in Savannah and Bean Station were consolidated into one facility at each site, Nicely said.

The company remains profitable, however, and is expecting to post revenues of $3.5 billion to $3.7 billion for 2009, down from $4 billion in 2008, he said.

(2 of 3)

Harley-Davidson may put plant in TennesseeReal Estate Outlook: Encouraging Numbers

Shoppers, homes show signs of life

WASHINGTON — Americans' pessimism about the economy appears to be lifting, with consumer expectations for the next six months hitting their most positive point since the recession began.
The improvement stems partly from the housing market, as a national gauge of home prices on Tuesday posted its first quarterly increase in three years.

The consumer and housing reports, along with President Barack Obama's reappointment of Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chief, sent the financial markets modestly higher. But economists warned that consumer confidence remains far below levels associated with a healthy economy and might not lead to the increased spending critical for a broad recovery.

"People's spending decisions depend more on whether they have money in their pocket than on how they feel," said Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial.

Still, Cheney and other economists said Tuesday's report on consumer sentiment was encouraging. The New York-based Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence index rose to 54.1, from an upwardly revised 47.4 in July. That reading reversed two months of decline and easily beat analysts' expectations.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity. Consumer sentiment, fueled by signs the economy is stabilizing, has recovered a bit since hitting a record low of 25.3 in February.

A reading of 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing; anything above 100 signals strong growth.

Consumers' expectations for the economy in the next six months rose to 73.5 from 63.4 in July, hitting the highest level since December 2007, when the recession began. The consumer confidence survey, sent to 5,000 households, had an Aug. 18 cutoff date for responses.

More consumers said they were likely to buy a home or a car within the next six months than said so in July's survey. The outlook for jobs also improved, albeit from very low levels.

Good news for housing

The housing sector received positive news, too. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller's U.S. National Home Price Index rose 1.4 percent in the second quarter from the January-March period, the first quarterly increase in three years. Home prices, though still down nearly 15 percent from last year, are at levels last seen in early 2003.

(2 of 2)

Job shortage may put drag on recoveryReal Estate Outlook: Encouraging Numbers

Nissan's Smyrna plant to use methanol to cut costs

SMYRNA, Tenn. — In another cost-cutting move that also makes its car and truck production a little greener, Nissan North America said Tuesday that it will use methanol fuel cells on some vehicles used to haul parts to assembly lines, starting at its plant in central Tennessee.
Executives at the plant near Nashville and the CEO of methanol fuel cell provider, Oorja Protonics of Fremont, Calif., said Nissan was the first automaker to make a commercial switch to the power cells that convert chemical energy in methanol into electrical energy without any combustion.

Nissan is cutting its electric bill and carbon dioxide emissions by making the switch to methanol fuel cells mounted on "tugs," which pull trains of dollies loaded with parts.

Nissan material handling manager Mark Sorgi said the new OorjaPac system will power 60 of the 4,400-pound "tugs," eliminating more than 70 electric battery chargers that use almost 540,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. The net savings: $225,000 a year.

Decline in emissions

The switch by Oct. 1 to an alternative fuel derived from sources such as wood, grass, landfills, natural gas and coal also ends the process of switching out the 2,000-pound batteries for recharging and frees up about a half-dozen employees for other jobs.

"We are going to see how well the program works here before expanding to the other plants," Sorgi said.

Sorgi said Nissan is leasing the equipment. He declined to discuss the financial details.

The switch also eliminates more than 300 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

He said the methanol fuel cells save "almost 35 hours a day that were spent by employees, changing out batteries. There is no changing out of low or dead batteries, which involves a battery technician and 15 to 20 minutes. Now the tug driver can refill the fuel cell in less than one minute and they're on their way."

Oorja CEO and founder Sanjiv Malhotra said that his company was also providing the methanol.

He said the fuel cells will eventually power forklifts and other heavy equipment. "That is right around the corner," he said.

Nissan said the 5.4 million-square-foot Smyrna plant with some 4,000 employees has increased its energy efficiency by up to 32 percent since 2005.

Harley-Davidson may put plant in TennesseeTank, Tankless or Thankless

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tennessee Livestock Auctions

Reported auctions on Saturday, Aug. 22, at Carthage, Crossville and Greeneville, Tenn.
Cattle receipts: 1,859.

Trends: Compared with last week, slaughter cows steady to 2.00 lower. Slaughter bulls 2.00 to 3.00 lower. Feeder steers steady to 4.00 higher. Feeder heifers steady to 5.00 higher.

Slaughter cows boners 80-85 percent lean 42.00-50.00.

Slaughter cows lean 85-90 percent lean 37.00-42.00.

Slaughter bulls 1,100-2,200 pounds 53.00-58.00.

Feeder steers medium and large 1-2: 300-400 pounds 98.00-114.00, 400-500 pounds 96.00-111.50, 500-600 pounds 93.00-104.00, 600-700 pounds 90.00-97.50.

Feeder bulls medium and large 1-2 400-500 pounds 91.00-101.50, 500-600 pounds 84.00-97.00, 600-700 pounds 78.00-91.00.

Feeder heifers medium and large 1-2 300-400 pounds 87.50-99.00, 400-500 pounds 85.00-99.00, 500-600 pounds 82.75-92.50, 600-700 pounds 78.00-86.00.


Home auctions increasingly help banks shed foreclosuresInvestor Report: Auctions a Growing Niche

People in Business

First Farmers & Merchants Bank said:

Miriam Green is branch manager II for a branch in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. Green was administrative assistant.

Melissa Goodman is a business banking relationship officer in Cool Springs.

Health care

William D. Wright is chief legal officer for The Little Clinic. Wright had been with Stites & Harbison.

People in BusinessMore Biz in Tough Market: Success Secret #11

Nashville company starts work on hospital in China

Design work is under way and construction should start next year on the first hospital in China planned by a company founded by members of the Frist family.
Nashville-based China Healthcare Corp. said that locally based Gresham Smith Partners along with the Shanghai Institute for Architecture Design and Research are designing the 500-bed hospital planned for Cixi, a city of nearly 2 million people 100 miles south of Shanghai.

Earlier this year, China Healthcare received final government approval for the acute-care hospital that would replace the 150-bed People's #2 Hospital. It owns a 70 percent stake in the joint venture and the Cixi government owns 30 percent.

The new hospital would blend the best of Western health care with the best of the East, said Chuck Elcan, chief executive of China Healthcare.

"We look forward to working with Cixi government officials to bring new services and additional capacity to serve the people of Cixi and surrounding areas," he said.

Elcan started China Healthcare more than a year ago with his father-in-law, Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr., a co-founder of hospital operator HCA Inc.; and Henry Zhou.

Last year, Elcan said the founding group saw an opportunity to take U.S.-style hospital management to China.

On Monday, China Healthcare said it has started to assemble an experienced management team for the Cixi hospital and is exploring other opportunities in China.

Tsung-Mei Cheng, a health policy analyst in Princeton, N.J., said there could be more opportunities for the private sector as China's government has increased its health-care budget for the next three years by $124 billion. That includes more money to improve access to hospital care by building new facilities in underserved areas, officials said.

Cheng, however, doesn't expect full-scale privatization of hospitals because China's previous attempt at reform using a market-based approach failed during the 1990s.

Remodeling Increasing: How to Get the Best Valuechange:healthcare chosen to support research effort

Les Paul's death revives interest in vintage guitars

WASHINGTON — Gil Hembree was 20 and working the counter at Kitt's Music on G Street NW when he spotted a 1962 Gibson catalog featuring the music-making duo of Les Paul and Mary Ford.

It wasn't the couple that caught his attention but rather the guitar slung over Paul's shoulder: an original-style, single-cutaway Gibson Les Paul model with a gold finish.

That was in 1966. Soon after, Hembree saw a newspaper ad for a 1952 Gibson Goldtop Les Paul. He paid $100 to a country music fan for it and later sold it to a musician for $400, a profit that helped cover tuition at American University, where he studied accounting.

"He had no idea, and I didn't really either at the time, what these were worth," Hembree said of the transaction. "I just thought they were cool." That sparked Hembree's decades-long hunt for vintage guitars to buy, collect and sell — often at a profit. Today a 1952 Goldtop in excellent condition is valued at $15,000 by Vintage Guitar magazine, which publishes an annual price guide.

The Aug. 13 death of Paul, whose innovations transformed popular music and paved the way for rock 'n' roll, has spurred fresh interest in vintage guitars. Collectors consider certain models with Paul's signature on the headstock the grand prize; the guitars often are sold in private deals featuring authenticators and incredible sums of cash.

Rare guitars are among many items whose value has surged with the explosive rise in wealth late in the last decade that inspired investors to sink cash into goods such as art, rare coins and antiques.

Like any investment, collectibles have potential for great gains and for a steep slide to oblivion (think Beanie Babies). Timing is everything, and even investments with lasting value (homes, for example, and, yes, guitars) can get carried away in a bubble.

Financial planners caution against speculating on collectibles. "To make 10 or 20 percent on your collectibles," said Michael Walther of Oak Wealth Advisors in Deerfield, Ill., "the piece probably has to appreciate 50 to 100 percent from what you paid for it."

(2 of 3)

People in BusinessCalifornia Enjoying Summer Sales Sizzle

People in Business

First Farmers & Merchants Bank said:

Miriam Green is branch manager II for a branch in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. Green was administrative assistant.

Melissa Goodman is a business banking relationship officer in Cool Springs.

Health care

William D. Wright is chief legal officer for The Little Clinic. Wright had been with Stites & Harbison.

More Biz in Tough Market: Success Secret #11Nashville medical trade center hires adviser with Vanderbilt ties

Monday, August 24, 2009

change:healthcare chosen to support research effort

Nashville-based health care consumerism company change:healthcare was selected to support a medical research effort headed by Temple University School of Medicine.
GeneSyn IP Ventures LLC, a partner in the research collaboration between Temple and two other Philadelphia area entities, hired change:healthcare to help participants of the consortium more easily gain medical information and communicate with each other.

Selling Your Home, Know Your Buyer MarketNashville medical trade center hires adviser with Vanderbilt ties

Video ads will run inside U.S. magazine

An upcoming issue of Entertainment Weekly will include what's being billed as the first video advertisements ever in a print magazine.
According to The Associated Press, a video player with a 2-inch screen will be embedded on heavy-stock paper — similar to what's used by greeting cards that play bits of music — and inserted into the magazine.

And as in those cards, the video will start up as soon as the insert is opened.

The first ads will be for CBS and Pepsi — they'll appear in the magazine's mid-September TV preview issue — but not in all copies.

The magazine, which would not disclose the cost of the ads, said the insert will only be distributed in the Los Angeles and New York areas.

The video player, made by the L.A. company Americhip, also includes a little speaker. The ads will open with the cast of the show The Big Bang Theory joking about the video and explaining how the reader can bring up clips from the network's fall lineup. The soft drink ads are for Pepsi Max diet soda.

Nashville investors buy ‘Scene’Calling for Tax Advice the Inexpensive Way

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Phil Mickelson loses hunger for SouthEast Waffles

Golfer Phil Mickelson and two other businessmen have withdrawn their offer to buy a Nashville-based Waffle House franchisee out of bankruptcy, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Nashville.

Mickelson's group, called GS Acquisitions LLC, had offered $20.2 million in cash and payments over time to buy franchisee SouthEast Waffles in July. SouthEast Waffles operates 105 restaurants in four states.

Executives involved in the bid were Terry Pefanis, former chief operating officer of Franklin-based Big Idea Inc.; Steve Loy, chief executive of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Gaylord Sports Management, which manages pro sports figures; and Mickelson, a two-time winner of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga.

The group's bid was officially withdrawn in bankruptcy court after unsecured creditors in the SouthEast Waffles bankruptcy case said they wouldn't support the plan, said Gary Murphey, SouthEast Waffles' court-appointed chief restructuring officer.

The only other bid left for the restaurants is a nearly $19 million offer from Norcross, Ga.-based parent company Waffle House Inc. Jon Waller, Waffle House's vice president and general counsel, said Tuesday that he believes creditors will agree to the proposal and confirm it in court.

While SouthEast Waffles believed GS Acquisitions' bid was a "good and viable offer," Waffle House had objected to confirmation of the plan and said it would contest the Mickelson group as a franchisee.

Waffle House said it wouldn't give GS Acquisitions expansion rights or the right to an exclusive territory, according to court documents.

Allegations, bankruptcy

SouthEast Waffles has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid accusations from two banks of missing money through an alleged check-kiting scheme. SunTrust Bank has sued the franchise's former CEO James Shaub II and its former chief financial officer, Rebecca Sullivan, alleging they participated in the scheme.

Shaub has said he had no knowledge of the situation, while Sullivan has said any actions she took were part of following Shaub's orders.

When the company filed for bankruptcy last August, it had $50 million in debts and $10 million in assets, according to court records. In addition, the company had owed nearly $2.8 million in federal employment taxes.

Judge to rule on whether Visteon can cut retiree benefitsInvestor Report: Bankruptcy Filings

Home auctions increasingly help banks shed foreclosures

A small crowd gathered for the auction of a Shelby Avenue home in East Nashville — one of about 30 properties repossessed by a bank and being sold by Bob Parks Auction Co. in a whirlwind tour this week.
The historic home's renovations were nearly complete, including immaculate hardwood floors, exposed brick around the fireplaces, a new kitchen and fresh paint. The county tax appraisal listed the house as worth $297,300.

After the auction, someone walked away with it for $166,000. Even the buyer thought his winning bid seemed too low.

"I'm surprised it didn't go for more,'' said Stewart Levine, who won the bid on behalf of a local investor, Lane Wallace. "In this market, things are just down."

Auctioneers say bank-owned property auctions are on the rise this year, as banks are under increasing pressure to unload real estate repossessed from foreclosures, and as builders and homeowners struggle with outsized debt and less income.

Although there are deals to be had, investors and auctioneers alike warn that it pays to know the rules of the game and the potential auction pitfalls.

"It's kind of a gamble," said Dale Hire, who has been buying and renovating homes for almost 20 years. For those with cash on hand and a good deal of chutzpah, there have been plenty of opportunities to buy. Nationally, residential real estate auctions last year ticked up 1 percent to $17.1 billion in gross sales revenue, despite slower real estate sales overall, according to the National Auctioneers Association.

Locally, even though sales of homes and lots fell 29 percent here in 2008 from the year before, auctions have shown surprising popularity. On Tuesday, more than 100 auctions were listed in the Nashville area alone.

"It's across the board that a lot of companies are seeing an increase,'' said Charlie Montgomery, an owner in Comas Montgomery Realty and Auction in Murfreesboro. He attributes the increase to a rise in the volume of foreclosures and owners hoping to sell as quickly as possible.

The average home listed took 87 days to sell in the Nashville area in July, according to the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors.

(2 of 2)

Nashville Chamber named award finalistInvestor Report: Auctions a Growing Niche

People in Business

Rion McDonald is director of institutional research for Columbia State Community College. McDonald was research and planning analyst for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

Sarah Hughes is a client manager with Willis of Tennessee Inc. — Nashville. Hughes worked for Nortel Networks in risk management.


Rick Murray is director of marketing and brand development for the country music radio program After MidNite with Blair Garner. Murray had been president of Greylock Entertainment.

Music gear mecca’s siren song wanesInvestor Report: Auctions a Growing Niche

Health supplier networks asked to defend policies

For hospital chains such as HCA Inc. and Community Health Systems, buying medical supplies in bulk has helped control expenses.

As Congress searches for ways to cut health-care costs, the supplier networks or group purchasing organizations through which products are bought from "preferred manufacturers" find themselves in the spotlight again.

Brentwood-based HealthTrust Purchasing Group is one of seven industry players to receive letters from a group of senators concerned about whether the groups' business practices contribute to higher health-care costs at taxpayers' expense.

In letters sent last week, Sens. Chuck Grassley, Herb Kohl and Bill Nelson asked the purchasing groups for copies of sample contracts that outline any tiered discounts offered to buyers for reaching specific volume targets.

The senators also want to know about the contracting groups'
relationships with hospitals, manufacturers and other vendors, and about how they pay for additional services.

The congressional critics are concerned about possible reduced competition and increased costs for payers such as Medicare.

Grassley and Nelson are members of the Senate Finance Committee, whose duties include ensuring that taxpayers' dollars are spent efficiently on drugs and medical devices. Kohl is on the antitrust subcommittee, which aims to keep industries competitive and ensure that patients have access to the best medical devices at reasonable prices.

Curtis Rooney, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Health Industry Group Purchasing Association, said the industry plans to comply with the senators' request, adding that answers to many of their questions were already available on a Web site that the trade group created.

(2 of 2)

Nashville medical trade center hires adviser with Vanderbilt tiesWashington Report: Controversial Legislation

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stocks tumble amid investors' worries

NEW YORK — Investors are finding out what everybody else already knew: The consumer isn't going to spend the economy into recovery.
Major U.S. stocks indexes tumbled by the biggest amount in six weeks Monday as investors grew worried that they have been too quick to bet on an economic rebound during the market's five-month rally. Overseas markets plunged and investors' demand for safe-haven investments sent the dollar and Treasury prices shooting higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average skidded 186 points and the major indexes fell at least 2 percent. The Nasdaq composite index was hardest hit, falling 2.8 percent, but it also had the biggest advance as Wall Street rallied this year.

A shudder in China's main stock market touched off a wave of selling that spread to Europe and then the U.S. A drop in quarterly profits at home improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. added to worries that an improvement in the economy is far off.

Joe Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading LLC, said the selling was warranted.

"The economics obviously don't support where we've been," he said.

The slide on Wall Street was steep but felt more controlled than the plunges of the past year because stocks ended just off of their worst levels and because analysts have been calling for a retreat after the Dow and Standard & Poor's 500 index raced up 15 percent in only five weeks.

The Shanghai stock market tumbled 5.8 percent Monday as investors worried that stocks had risen too quickly and that the Chinese government would tighten bank lending policies.

Optimism backlash

Worries grew as Lowe's said consumers are putting off big purchases. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Some investors used to seeing a quick bounce-back in stocks have underestimated how difficult the recovery could be, even though many analysts have warned that it could take well into 2010 for the economy to regain strength.

Now, with consumers facing high unemployment, weak home prices and mounds of debt, investors are worrying that they had grown too optimistic even though the stock market tends to improve before the economy after a recession.

The Dow fell 186.06, or 2 percent, to 9,135.34, its lowest close since July 29.

The S&P 500 index fell 24.36, or 2.4 percent, to 979.73. Last week it was up 49.7 percent from a 12-year low of 676 in early March.

Wall St. seeks to extend rallyCalifornia Enjoying Summer Sales Sizzle

'Nashville Scene' may change hands

SouthComm Inc. is in talks with the owner of the Nashville Scene about a deal that could bring the city's alternative weekly paper under the umbrella of the expanding Nashville-based media company.

The acquisition would fit SouthComm's strategy of buying publications at bargain prices in a difficult media environment in hopes of benefiting from an eventual rebound in advertising revenue and other changes in the media landscape.

For Village Voice Media, owner of the Nashville Scene, SouthComm's interest could provide a way for it to sell a publication that has lost pages and ad revenue in the past year, allowing it to concentrate on larger markets such as New York and Los Angeles where it also has alternative weeklies.

SouthComm, led by former Scene publisher Chris Ferrell with financing from investor E. Townes Duncan's private investment firm, has been on a buying spree.

The City Paper,, Music Row, Medical News Inc. and Her Nashvilleare among its holdings.

Operations of several of the publications were consolidated, including eliminating overlaps in management, to cut costs.

Challenges lie ahead

SouthComm also faces the challenge of moving from print to more online delivery of news and uncertainties about whether enough advertising dollars will follow along with that evolution.

(2 of 2)

New law lures new micro-distilleries to TennesseeTank, Tankless or Thankless

Nashville-based prison operator CCA will get new CEO

Damon Hininger, who started his career at Corrections Corporation of America as a prison guard more than a decade ago, will succeed John Ferguson as chief executive of the Nashville-based private prison operator effective Oct. 15.
Hininger, who now serves as president and chief operating officer, also will get a seat on the board. Ferguson will retain his role as chairman of the board of directors but will retire from daily operations of the company.

The company said Ferguson, 64, is scaling back his involvement under a succession plan put in place when Hininger took over as president last year. With nine grandchildren, Ferguson said he wants to have more time to spend with family.

"While at CCA I faced many opportunities and challenges, but I always found it fulfilling and rewarding," Ferguson said in a statement. "Although I will continue to be involved with CCA's board, and expect to remain quite active during the transition, I look forward to the next chapter of my life."

In 1996, Hininger joined CCA as a prison guard in Leavenworth, Kan., and has held a variety of posts since then, moving quickly into the executive ranks. He holds a bachelor's degree from Kansas State University and a master's of business administration degree from Belmont University.

Ferguson arrived at CCA nine years ago, and was named chairman of the board and CEO in July 2008. Hininger was promoted to president and chief operating officer at the same time.

A mentor and friend

Hininger praised Ferguson's contributions through the years.

"John has been a real mentor and a friend," Hininger said. "When he first came in, it was one of most tumultuous times in the company's history. He built a very good management structure, and brought a very collaborative culture to the organization, putting us on a path to grow in a meaningful way."

The company houses about 78,000 prisoners daily under contracts with the federal government and individual states. California is the largest state customer, Hininger said.

CCA provides beds for about 3,500 California inmates now, and has a contract calling for that to increase to 8,000. California's recent budget crisis put that contract in doubt for a while, but the state now plans to "continue ramping up" the contract with CCA, Hininger said.

The company also has contracts to add 750 beds for Arizona prisoners at a facility in Colorado and to expand two Georgia prisons by 1,500 beds. It also recently broke ground in Nevada for an additional 1,000 beds for the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal prisoners, Hininger said.

CCA is the nation's largest private prison operator, and the fifth-largest prison operator overall, including various state and federal systems.

People in BusinessCalifornia Enjoying Summer Sales Sizzle

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Law firms court clients with flat fees

When Gaylord Entertainment Co. needed a law firm to help prepare and file a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the hotel company's executives arranged to pay a flat fee for the work — rather than a law firm's hourly rate.
That gambit saved Nashville-based Gaylord as much as 20 percent on the project, said Carter Todd, Gaylord's general counsel.

In the current recession, companies are demanding more flexibility and certainty in legal fees in a bid to control costs. That's putting pressure on law firms — and coaxing many to offer discounts or alternatives to rates that can reach $1,000 an hour in some big legal markets, such as New York City, where Nashville companies sometimes hire legal talent for particular projects.

Cost-conscious companies such as Gaylord, a hotel chain and owner of the Grand Ole Opry , also are offering more work to regional and local law firms — including the ones in Nashville where hourly rates are easily half of the fees charged by big national law firms.

"We've been able to get good value right here because of quality of the Nashville bar," said Todd, who received help from Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Mitch Walker in preparing a registration statement to allow Gaylord to issue new securities.

Traditionally, lawyers have billed clients at an hourly rate that's often determined by the attorney's experience and the going rate in the market. That rate is multiplied by time spent on the matter. Clients typically get an itemized bill for services performed.

Some legal experts say that though creativity in pricing should continue, talk about the death of the billable hour is greatly exaggerated.

"It tells them something about what work was done and what they're getting for their money," said Keith Simmons, Bass Berry's managing partner, about why some general counsels and clients prefer billable hours even amid cost-cutting urgency.

In cases involving litigation, it can be more difficult to charge a flat rate because of how complex a case might be and uncertainty over how many depositions might be needed or how the opposing side will pursue its case.

(2 of 3)

New law lures new micro-distilleries to TennesseeRemodeling Increasing: How to Get the Best Value

Boss-worker relationships need limits

There is a risk in going into business with friends — if the business relationship sours, the friendship almost certainly will end.
But what if you find yourself becoming friends with employees you hire in your business?

This is the question that one of our student entrepreneurs asked while we were chatting in my office the other day. He had observed other young entrepreneurs becoming buddies with their employees and wasn't so sure that was a good practice.

In a small business, becoming friends with employees is a natural occurrence. A small group of people working closely toward common goals often develops friendships with each other. You all suffer together through the trials and travails of start-up and early growth, which can create strong bonds.

We know that facing common adversity is powerful for building teams. Such camaraderie can be a critical element in building a strong culture in the business and in creating loyalty among your staff.

But, it is important for the entrepreneur to keep certain boundaries as such friendships develop.

No matter how strong the team becomes, the entrepreneur is the one person who is ultimately responsible for the outcomes of the business — the one who personally has everything on the line.

Hard decisions will have to be made at crucial points in the growth of the business. And no matter how hard it may be, the entrepreneur must make the best decision for the future of the business even if it may not be in the best personal interest of all the individual employees.

Be the 'shock absorber'

As the business owner, there are certain things you should never share with your employees.

If they have become your friends, you may feel that you can share your deepest fears about the business with them. This is a mistake.

First and foremost you are their leader. It is your job to communicate confidence and commitment to the vision, even when times are tough.

You need to be what I call their "emotional shock absorber." Your confidence and commitment will be what keeps them on task and doing what needs to get done to survive rocky times.

If you share your fears and doubts, as you might with a good friend, you run a real risk of creating a climate of hopelessness and defeat in your company.

At the end of our discussion my advice to the student entrepreneur was that it was OK to become friendly with employees, but to maintain certain limits. It is fine to socialize, but remember that you are the owner and the boss 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It is not unlike the parent/child relationship as the child moves into early adulthood. While parent and child find their relationship can evolve more and more into one of friendship, there remains a certain boundary based on their familial relationship.

Friendships with your employees need to also have these boundaries.

Tank, Tankless or ThanklessMusic gear mecca’s siren song wanes

School fees, health costs cancel fall in other prices

WASHINGTON — For Americans who want to see their doctor or send their kids to college, the costs of doing so are rising, even as prices for many basic goods — such as food and housing — fall.
The most recent Labor Department report on the Consumer Price Index showed that inflation was nonexistent in July. Consumer prices fell 2.1 percent from the previous year, the biggest decline in almost 60 years, mostly because of plunging energy prices — down 28.1 percent since peaking in July 2008.

Still, even excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, so-called "core" prices rose only 0.1 percent in July and by only 1.5 percent in the past year.

Health-care and education costs both rose more, as they have for years.

The cost of medical care increased by 3.2 percent in the past year, the government's report said, as the price of hospital services jumped 6.5 percent.

Education costs, which include tuition and child care, rose 5.6 percent in the past year. The price of textbooks and supplies jumped 8.4 percent, the department said.

Here are some other details of the consumer price report, by the numbers.

Good grocery news

1.3 percent: July drop in meat, poultry, fish and egg prices

0.6 percent: Drop in prices for dairy and related products

0.3 percent: Drop in fruit and vegetable prices

Sorry, smokers and drinkers

0.3 percent: July increase in alcoholic beverage prices

2.2 percent: Rise in tobacco prices

Eat out or stay home?

-0.5 percent: July change in "food at home" prices

+0.1 percent: July change in "food away from home" prices

Pay more to fly, less to stay

-2.1 percent: July drop in prices for "lodging away from home"

2.1 percent: Rise in airline fares

Ladies pay more, men pay less

-0.7 percent: Change in price of men's and boys' apparel

+1.2 percent: Change in women's and girls' apparel

You won't believe these prices

+0.5 percent: July change in prices for new cars

0 percent: July change in prices for used cars

Pricier in July

0.5 percent: Increase in price of telephone services

1.1 percent: Increase in price of shoes

0.6 percent: Increase in water, sewer and trash collection services

What got cheaper?

3.2 percent: Drop in prices for personal computers

0.3 percent: Drop in cost of household gas and electricity

0.8 percent: Drop in gas prices

California Enjoying Summer Sales SizzleTwo tax plans would take a big bite from the rich

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bailed-out companies face 'pay czar'

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's "pay czar" is embarking on a review of proposed compensation packages for the top employees at seven companies that are on government life support, marking the first time a federal official will have veto power over how much private-sector executives are compensated.
Kenneth Feinberg, who ran the government's fund for families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has 60 days to approve or reject the compensation plans submitted this week from bailout recipients. They include American International Group Inc. and General Motors.

He is expected to complete his review by late October, although Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said Friday that the 60-day clock will not start until Feinberg makes a determination that a company's submission is "substantially complete." He said it could take some days, if not weeks, for Feinberg to make that determination for each of the seven companies.

Friday was the last day the companies could submit proposed pay packages for their 25 highest earners. Feinberg is expected to negotiate the packages with the companies and also will approve broader compensation formulas that will apply to the 75 next-highest-paid workers at each company.

Feinberg will have a difficult balancing act. He faces pressure to curb diamond-studded compensation packages that have led to public outrage. At the same time, he must ensure that financial institutions and car companies can keep talented executives needed to steer them clear of government assistance.

Free market advocates, meanwhile, fault the government's role in overseeing the private compensation.

"In our country's heritage, we do not look kindly on the federal government insinuating itself into the private marketplace and micromanaging these companies," Feinberg told National Public Radio in June. "On the other hand, there's this populist sentiment today that there was excessive compensation paid to high-level company officials."

Compensation experts say Feinberg probably will seek changes that would align pay packages with executives' performance.

(2 of 2)

Experts point out where good buys might beWashington Report: Controversial Legislation

Judge to rule on whether Visteon can cut retiree benefits

WILMINGTON, Del. — A Delaware bankruptcy judge is weighing whether auto parts supplier Visteon Corp. can terminate retiree health-care and life-insurance benefits for thousands of current and former workers.
After a two-day hearing, Judge Christopher Sontchi told attorneys Friday he would consider the evidence and arguments. He gave no indication when he would rule.

"I feel that the record is sufficiently complex and the law is sufficiently complex to require the court to thoroughly review the record," said Sontchi, whose ruling could affect some 6,600 retirees and their families, and about 1,000 future retirees.

Visteon has argued that the retiree benefits are one of its largest liabilities and pose a significant obstacle to a successful reorganization. The company claims the retiree health and life insurance subsidies, also known as "other post-employment benefits," constitute a liability of about $310 million and projected cash costs of $31 million this year alone.

"Providing OPEB is a crippling financial and competitive burden to the sponsoring debtors' business," Visteon attorneys wrote in a court filing. "Unless changes are made, the sponsoring debtors cannot continue to provide these discretionary benefits and survive."

Visteon officials assert that the benefit plans contain provisions giving the company the unilateral right to revise or terminate them.

About one-third of the retirees are not yet eligible for Medicare, federal health insurance.

'A death sentence'

Attorneys for the United Auto Workers and International Union of Electrical Workers argued that the plans were subject to collective bargaining agreements and the company has no unilateral right to terminate them. Even if Visteon had such a right, they said, it was lost when the company filed for protection under the bankruptcy code, which includes a provision requiring a debtor to continue paying retirement benefits.

"It is, for some, a death sentence," said Susan Jennik, an attorney representing workers who retired from two Visteon plants in Indiana. "Retirees who are receiving cancer treatment or who have heart disease ... are now faced with the termination of lifesaving medical treatment."

Visteon attorney Steve McCormick said the company had gone to great lengths to avoid what he described as a difficult but necessary decision.

He argued that the bankruptcy provision cited by the unions does not apply in Visteon's case, and that all the collective bargaining agreements have expired except one. The existing agreement, which covers workers at a plant in Lansdale, Pa., includes a provision that the benefits plan can be changed or terminated at any time by Visteon, he said.

"Everyone recognizes that this is just truly a miserable deal for some of these people," McCormick acknowledged.

Investor Report: Bankruptcy FilingsTwo tax plans would take a big bite from the rich

Former AIG chief, others settle suit for $115 million

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former American International Group Inc. CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg and others have agreed to pay $115 million to settle fraud claims in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Ohio state pension funds and shareholders across the country.
State Attorney General Richard Cordray announced the agreement late Thursday, the third such settlement from the lawsuit for a total of $284.5 million.

Cordray said Friday that the Ohio share of the settlement wasn't known and would depend on how many parties join the
class action.

The agreement must be approved by a federal court in New York and the boards of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, the State Teachers Retirement System and the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund.

Greenberg was forced out of AIG after charges that the company had engaged in deceptive accounting practices surfaced.

Greenberg could not be reached for comment Friday. A message seeking comment was left for his attorney, Bertil Lundqvist, in New York.

In addition to the settlement monies, Cordray said the goal of the legal action with Ohio as the lead plaintiff was to challenge Wall Street fraud. "We think accountability is important. We think it's necessary to establish that, so going forward these kinds of things won't happen again," he said.

"What we do here is set precedent, so if people engage in the same kind of misconduct they will be held responsible."

The lawsuit sought damages for investors who bought AIG securities between Oct. 28, 1999, and April 1, 2005.

Last week the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Greenberg had agreed to pay a $15 million fine to settle fraud charges tied to an accounting scandal earlier this decade at AIG that led to Greenberg's ouster in 2005. The following year, AIG paid more than $1.6 billion to settle charges of improper accounting.

Investor Report: Bankruptcy FilingsPsychiatric Solutions selling business unit for $70 million

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nashville medical trade center hires adviser with Vanderbilt ties

A Dallas-based company with plans for a medical trade center in Nashville has hired the former head of a Vanderbilt-linked think tank as a senior adviser.
David Osborn will be based here and will have responsibility for strategic development of the Nashville Medical Trade Center, which Market Center Management hopes to open as early as next year. Osborn was executive director of the Health Care Solutions Group, a public policy organization created by Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Nashville Health Care Council. That group ended operations last month.

Osborn's hiring comes as Market Center Management explores potential sites for what could eventually become 1.5 million square feet of year-round space to showcase medical gadgets and health-care technology.

The trade outpost also could host seminars, medical conventions and serve as a site for continuing education programs.

Leasing the current Nashville Convention Center site downtown is among long-term possibilities for a site, especially after a new Music City convention hall is built south of Broadway.

As a consultant, Osborn will work with Nashville health-care and community leaders to develop a vision for the medical trade center and encourage companies to showcase products for the industry there.

"The goal is to bring value to the health-care industry," Osborn said. "Purchasers would be able to come to one place, see all of the products, services and emerging technologies they need, and be able to make a much more informed decision about purchasing without having to travel to multiple places."

The Health Care Solutions Group closed three years after it started. Projects undertaken included a Web site developed during last year's presidential elections to educate the public about health-care issues.

"It was a business decision that reflects the times we're in and Vanderbilt's need to use its resources on priority items closest to home," Osborn said of the think tank's closure.

Washington Report: Controversial LegislationTwo tax plans would take a big bite from the rich

New jobless claims rise unexpectedly to 558,000

WASHINGTON -- The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week, while continuing claims fell sharply.
The Labor Department says new claims increased to a seasonally adjusted 558,000, from 554,000 the previous week. Analysts expected new claims to drop to 545,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

The number of people remaining on the benefit rolls fell to 6.2 million from 6.34 million the previous week. Analysts had expected a slight decline.

The four-week average of initial claims, which smooths out fluctuations, rose by 8,500 to 565,000, after falling for six straight weeks.

Unemployed short on opportunities, benefitsInvestor Report: Auctions a Growing Niche

Retail sales dip 0.1 percent in July

WASHINGTON -- Retail sales outside of autos turned in a disappointing performance in July, underscoring concerns about the timing and durability of a recovery from the worst recession since World War II.
The Commerce Department says retail sales fell 0.1 percent last month, a much worse performance than the 0.7 percent gain that economists had expected.

While autos, helped by the start of the Cash for Clunkers program, showed a 2.4 percent jump -- the biggest in six months -- there was widespread weakness elsewhere with gasoline stations, department stores, electronics outlets and furniture stores all reporting declines.

Walmart expands its laptop offeringsInvestor Report: Auctions a Growing Niche

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Nashville area hoteliers can't get money for growth

Two weeks before the spring groundbreaking of Candlewood Suites in Lebanon, Praveen Patel pulled the plug on its construction.
With tourism and corporate travel declining and hoteliers cutting room rates dramatically to stay in business, Patel decided to delay the May construction of the 91-room, extended-stay hotel to November.

"Tourism is down right now," said Patel, who operates hotels in the region. "Everyone is cutting back."

It's a choice more businesses are making — it has become more difficult to get financing for projects, and it's not clear when the market will improve. The number of U.S. hotel rooms in the pipeline dropped nearly 25 percent in June, compared with the same month last year, to 501,476 rooms, according to Hendersonville-based Smith Travel Research. In Nashville, about 2,500 rooms are in some phase of planning or construction.

"Financing a hotel is nearly impossible," said Rick Frazier, vice president of marketing and leasing for Alex S. Palmer & Co. The developer has put on hold West End Summit, a 25-story combined Intercontinental Hotel and condo project on West End Avenue in Nashville. "I don't know of anybody that can put a project together in this environment."

The commercial mortgage-backed securities market, which provided funding for many hotel developments, still remains tight, Frazier said. The alternative — traditionalbanks — is requiring developers to come up with 40 percent equity, or cash investment, to qualify for a loan, a nearly impossible financial commitment for many developers. A few years ago, developers could get a loan with 15 percent down.

The hotel at West End Summit was supposed to be completed next year, but construction hasn't even started, and there's no telling when it will.

The Fairfield Inn and the Hampton Inn, two hotel projects in the Nashville West shopping area with more than 100 rooms each, have been put on hold. So has the 109-room Residence Inn at the SuperTarget off Interstate 24 and Sam Ridley Parkway in Smyrna.

(2 of 2)

Investor Report: Auctions a Growing NicheMusic gear mecca’s siren song wanes

Nashville Area Chamber's activism earns honors

It's the equivalent of winning the Super Bowl for chambers of commerce.
That's how Nashville Area Chamber President and Chief Executive Ralph Schulz views the organization's recognition as national Chamber of the Year for 2009 by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

The association, also known as ACCE, is made up of the leaders of more than 1,300 chambers across the nation. It gave Nashville the top award in the large-cities category, beating two other finalists — Louisville, Ky., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

ACCE President Mick Fleming said Nashville was chosen over a field of dozens of competitors largely because of the chamber's "proactive response to the current challenging economic environment," as well as initiatives such as its successful campaign against the English-only proposal that was defeated by Nashville voters in January.

"The criteria are not only that chambers are successful in their own business operations, but that they are able to advance the business community's agenda and make an impact on regional prosperity," Fleming said.

"We had a strong field in our largest-chamber category," he said. "All three of the finalists demonstrated that they were doing the right things to be proactive in regional development initiatives, especially with Cedar Rapids, which fought to recover from a devastating flood. And even though Nashville was the winner, the other two certainly were not losers."

The nearby Bowling Green (Ky.) Chamber of Commerce won the award for midsize cities, and Columbus, Ind., won among smaller cities.

Just to be permitted to compete for the award, a chamber must first meet a long list of benchmarks that are judged by a "jury of peers," Fleming said. Judges are executives from chambers that have won the award in the past.

Nashville's selection came as a pleasant surprise, Schulz said, particularly because he "didn't even know we were a nominee until we were named one of the three finalists," he said.

(2 of 4)

Nashville Chamber named award finalistMore Biz in Tough Market: Success Secret #11