Wednesday, October 28, 2009

U.S. Attorney sues Nashville woman, alleges she misrepresented the incomes of at least 41 clients

The U.S. Attorney's office has sued a Nashville woman who prepares tax returns for a living, alleging she misrepresented the incomes of at least 41 clients.
Federal officials want to bar Karen Liane Miller and her staff from acting as tax preparers and engaging in illegal activity, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court here.

Miller claimed fraudulent refunds for clients that totaled more than $8.3 million, the lawsuit said. The Internal Revenue Service is in the process of recovering the money. Miller’s customers are also potentially subject to penalties, federal officials said.

Nashville judge faces misconduct chargesWashington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax Credit

Database may overestimate number of future doctors

By 2020, the United States will have 100,000 fewer doctors than estimated by the leading source of data on supply and projected changes in the physician work force, according to a Vanderbilt University professor and other medical researchers.

That conclusion comes from a new study that adds to concerns about whether there will be enough doctors to care for patients in the years ahead. Researchers found that delays in an industry trade group's updates of employment data as doctors retire or experience a change in work status lead to overstatements of how many physicians are actually working.

A comparative analysis of U.S. Census data found that far fewer physicians ages 55 and up are remaining active and that younger physicians are entering the work force at a higher rate. That implies a younger, smaller work force now and in 2020 than gets reflected in the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile.

"If we're going to really count on an adequate physician supply — with or without health-care reform — we've got to do a better job estimating the supply and demand for physicians," said Peter Buerhaus, co-author of the study and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Strategies in the Institute for Medicine and Public Health at Vanderbilt.

Female doctors leave, return

Meanwhile, the study published in last week's issue of TheJournal of the American Medical Association contradicts the notion that adding more female doctors to the work force won't increase the future supply of physicians under the theory that many women will leave the work force to raise children.

They do leave, but most often they return eventually, the findings show. The percentage of women doctors over age 55 working at least 20 hours a week soars once their children have grown up.

That's also the age range during which most male physicians start to retire, making the return of the women more critical to pick up the slack.

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TN starts giving swine flu vaccine to health-care workersReal Estate Outlook: Mixed Signals

3 months 'unrealistic' for clearing I-40 rock slide

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- State transportation officials say clearing Interstate 40 where a rock slide blocked the highway in both directions near the North Carolina-Tennessee line could take longer than first thought.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reported the state doesn't have a precise timetable for clearing rocks from the slide, which occurred about 2 a.m. Sunday.

Highway engineer Joel Setzer with the North Carolina Transportation Department says the original estimate of three months probably is unrealistic.

Crews cleared rubble from the eastbound lanes Tuesday and used a tractor-mounted hammer drill to break up some of the large boulders at the base of the 200-foot-wide slide.

Blasting could start Wednesday.

New figures on jobs validate stimulusReal Estate Outlook: Sales Stats and Rates

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nashville judge faces misconduct charges

Davidson County General Sessions Judge Gloria Dumas is facing accusations of misconduct from the state's disciplinary board that oversees judges for chronic lateness and for hiring her own daughter.
Dumas was charged by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary for failing to be on the bench when court is scheduled to begin; for hiring her own daughter without considering qualified candidates; and for overusing a statute that allows judges to occasionally appoint a replacement. A response to the charges is due from Dumas this week.

Investigators for the court's disciplinary panel allege that Dumas appointed someone to handle her docket 33 times in 2008 and 12 times between January and March of this year, with many of the appointments going to the same attorney. The filing doesn't say who that attorney was.

The court also alleges that Dumas is consistently late for the 9 a.m. docket while citizens are waiting to be heard. "It is alleged that by her frequent absence from her duties as General Sessions Judge, Judge Dumas has willfully failed to 'devote full time to the duties of such office,'" Joseph Daniel, disciplinary counsel for the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, wrote in the report.

Dumas, who has been an elected judge in Nashville since 1998, declined to comment through an employee who said that Dumas could not speak about the charges because the case is ongoing.

There is no penalty while the charges are pending, said Laura Click, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Once Dumas has filed a response to the charge, a hearing will be scheduled within 60 days.

Punishment for Dumas if the charges are substantiated could range from a public censure or reprimand to a recommendation for removal from office. Dumas can't be removed from office by the court of the judiciary, but that action could be recommended, Click said. Removing Dumas from office would take an act of the state legislature, Click said.

Investor Report: Investment Buying TipsMiddle Tennessee business bankruptcies

Republican Pat Marsh joins state House

Shelbyville businessman Pat Marsh has been sworn into the state House and assigned to the Commerce and Transportation committees.
Marsh, a Republican, won the traditionally Democratic seat in a special election earlier this month. His committee assignments give Republicans narrow advantages on both panels.

Until now, Republican House Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton had split most committees evenly between the two parties to reflect what had been a one-seat partisan difference in the 99-member House. Marsh's win has now given Republicans a 51-48 advantage.

The move also comes as Williams is seeking to have his full Republican credentials restored. He was stripped of his right to run for re-election as a Republican after he banded together with all the chamber's Democrats to be elected speaker in January.


TN House seat up for grabs TuesdayInvestor Report: Fraternity House Rentals

Gas prices will continue to rise before leveling off

Gasoline prices have risen 16 cents a gallon in the past month and will go a bit higher before leveling off, oil and gas analysts say.
The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.67 Monday vs. $2.69 a year ago, auto club AAA says.

The rise left San Franciscans paying $3.05 a gallon last week, the highest price of cities in the survey, the government's Energy Information Administration reported Monday.

Prices were up elsewhere: 16.4 cents to $2.82 a gallon in Chicago; 10.5 cents to $2.78 in Miami; 8.6 cents at $2.65 in New York; 12.1 cents to $2.60 in Boston; and up 13.6 cents to $2.55 in Denver. Houston had the cheapest gas at $2.49, 12.8 cents more than the week before.

The average price Monday in Nashville was $2.52, which is lower than an average price of $2.69 a year ago.

Pump prices have followed a spurt in crude oil prices, which are up 10 percent the last two months.

Expectations of a global economic recovery have helped drive the increase. The weak dollar is another big factor. That has led investors to put cash in assets such as oil and gold, analysts say. Because oil is priced in dollars on global markets, a weaker dollar drives oil prices up.

'Near the top'

"This is a bubble. We're near the top for oil," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. After breaking the $80-a-barrel mark last week for the first time this year, oil for December delivery fell Monday to $78.68 a barrel as the U.S. dollar strengthened.

Gas prices, meanwhile, may rise a few more cents to catch up, Kloza says.

A 10-cents-a-gallon gain for the rest of the year wouldn't be surprising, says Phil Flynn, energy analyst at research and trading firm PFGBest.

He says the weakness in the dollar has driven the price of oil far beyond what supply and demand would normally bear.

Nationwide, gas supplies are currently about 4 percent above average, says Jim Ritterbusch, president of oil trading adviser firm Ritterbusch and Associates.

Meanwhile, U.S. crude oil supplies, as of the week that ended Oct. 16, were 10 percent higher than a year ago, says Peter Beutel of research firm Cameron Hanover.

Still, any increase in gas prices hurts consumers, many of whom have suffered layoffs, furloughs and pay freezes.

"Higher gas prices just heighten the pain on consumers and gives them another reason to pull back on spending," says Ryan Sweet, economist at Moody's

Oil briefly above $80 as earnings beat forecastsReal Estate Outlook: Warning of Slow Down?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Saturn of Clarksville closes

For the past nine years, Danny Barger has helped customers finance their car purchases at Saturn of Clarksville.
But his job as finance manager ended Friday as the dealership closed its doors, the first casualty among the three Nashville-area Saturn stores owned by Bristol, Tenn., car dealer C.M. "Bill" Gatton. The others are in Cool Springs and Rivergate.

Barger and 16 other employees were let go, all because auto-racing great Roger Penske was not able to complete his takeover of the Saturn brand from financially strapped General Motors.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to do next," Barger said. "I'm kind of in a state of shock. We just found out last week, and it's still hard to believe. I'm going to sit at home for a while and ponder the future."

Penske pulled the plug on the Saturn acquisition Sept. 30, the day before the deal was to close, saying that a preliminary agreement with another automaker to produce vehicles for his independent Saturn operation had fallen through.

Rather than open the process to further bidding, GM said that same day that it would terminate all 350 Saturn dealers and wind down the business instead.

Nationwide, more than 13,000 Saturn dealership and corporate employees stand to lose their jobs, and the "new kind of car company" GM created in the mid-1980s to fight Japanese imports — with its headquarters and manufacturing plant in Spring Hill — will be relegated to history along with such names as Nash, Studebaker, Packard and Oldsmobile.

"Up until the last minute we thought it was a done deal," said Gatton, who has owned the Nashville-area Saturn stores since 1995. "Personally, I think GM and Penske made a big mistake. There is no automotive brand in America that has as much goodwill among its customers as Saturn, and there is no other domestic brand with this kind of positive image. It's a sad, sad day."

Gatton said he will keep the Rivergate and Cool Springs locations open at least through October 2010, when their franchise agreements with GM officially expire. And if he can, he said, he will convert them to other new-car franchises, if any are available.

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Spring Hill, Columbia worry about life after GMKB Home Offers Built to Order Custom Experience

Disability awareness celebrated today in Nashville

At 11 a.m. today, the Nashville Area Employment Consortium will host the third annual awards to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The event will honor several employees with disabilities and several employers who have hired persons with disabilities during a luncheon at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.
The luncheon will include musical entertainment from the Tennessee School for the Blind Choral Group and a keynote address by Judy Denning, choral director. Invited guests include Mayor Karl Dean and Tennessee Labor Commissioner James Neeley.

For more information, call 615-741-1606, ext. 146.


Nashville Business CalendarRemodelers Help Homeowners Lower Heating Costs with Weatherization Programs

Companies' earnings forecast is full of low-balling

CHICAGO — More than 80 percent of major companies reporting third-quarter results this month have beaten Wall Street expectations. So is business that good? No. Are companies gaming the system? Yes.
Corporate America has a habit of low-balling the earnings forecasts used by analysts to determine their estimates. That way, the bar is lower, and companies can easily jump over when the quarter's results are announced — even if profits and revenues have fallen off a cliff.

"Over the last decade, there's been a distinctive tendency for companies to under-promise and over-deliver," said Dirk van Dijk, chief equity strategist of Zacks Investment Research. "Lately companies are being even more cautious. They realize investors can very harshly punish any company that disappoints."

Beating expectations generally gives share prices a quick lift, but the news can mislead investors about the real state of the business — and just how far this economic recovery has to go. In fact, of the companies reporting third-quarter results so far, 60 percent have posted lower net income compared with a year ago.

Still, the recession has accelerated the flow of positive earnings "surprises" as companies play it safe and issue more conservative earnings forecasts. In the past two years, 65 percent of earnings reports have beaten estimates. Even after last fall's financial crisis, the next two quarters had nearly twice as many beats as misses.

This quarter, 81 percent of the first 199 companies listed on the Standard & Poor's 500 index that reported earnings came in above expectations.

The focus on expectations can distract investors from more meaningful numbers. This summer, earnings stories trumpeted how banks beat expectations. Many investors lost sight of the fact that earnings were down considerably for most banks and that troubles still shadow the sector.

Real Estate Outlook: Warning of Slow Down?Stocks appear headed to sharply higher opening

Nashville business calendar

The Career Transition Support Group meeting, 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 26, "LinkedIn and your job search," Brentwood United Methodist Church, 309 Franklin Road, Brentwood. 615-477-5651. Free.


Nashville Technology Awards—"Feel the Beat," hosted by the Nashville Technology Council, 5-8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 27, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 1 Symphony Place. 615-743-3168.


2009 Belmont University Career Day, hosted by College of Business Administration, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, Neely Dining Hall in the Massey Business Center. 615-460-6947.

Older Adult Caregivers' Support Group, sponsored by First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, The Cheek House, 4815 Franklin Road, Nashville. 615-298-9502.

Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting, guest speaker is Deb Woolley, president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, Cool Springs Conference Center, 615-794-1225. $23 members, $30 others.

The Murfreesboro Career Network, 8 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, Integrity House, 2316 Armory Drive, Murfreesboro. 615-477-5651. Free.


Networking/How to Work and Expo workshop, hosted by Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 3-4 p.m. Thursday, October 29, Betty Gibson Hall, Room 107C, of Vol State annex next to campus on Gap Boulevard, Gallatin. Free.


The Career Transition Support Group topic is "Getting Unstuck In Your Job Search," 6:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 2, Brentwood United Methodist Church, 309 Franklin Road, Brentwood. 615-477-5651.

Business & Social Networking Group, 4-5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 3, The Closing Bell, 1524 Demonbreun St., Nashville.

William Pollard, former CEO and chairman of ServiceMaster speaks at Lipscomb University, 7 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 3, Paul Rogers Boardroom, Ezell Center, One University Park Drive. 615-966-1786.

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Middle Tennessee business bankruptciesBuilding Information Modeling On the Rise in the Construction Industry

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jackson Kayak tops industry sales in six short years

SPARTA, Tenn. — In a cavernous factory that once churned out Wrangler jeans, a new kind of American classic is making a name for itself.
Just six years after starting up, Jackson Kayak has come to dominate the $10 million-plus U.S. whitewater industry as maker of the best-selling whitewater kayaks in the country.

At the same time, co-founder, president and chief boat designer Eric "EJ" Jackson, an Olympian and four-time world champion — along with his two talented teens and a son-in-law — continues racking up medals at international freestyle kayaking competitions, most recently at September's World Championships in Switzerland.

It might be a stretch to say this region of Middle Tennessee near the Caney Fork River where the Jackson family lives, paddles and makes boats is the epicenter of the whitewater kayaking universe — but not much of one.

Operating three shifts, 24 hours a day, Jackson Kayak expects to manufacture more than 7,000 boats by year's end, about the same number as last year's record turnout, if not more, despite the economic downturn.

The 45-year-old Jackson may be the old man in a sport of young adrenaline junkies, but years of watching where the industry has gone wrong helped lead him to the unconventional business plan that has him clobbering competitors.

He focuses on direct customer interaction by promoting the sport as he travels for half the year. Instead of selling through big-box sporting goods stores, he deals with smaller shops and protects their sales territories.

"You have lots of big conglomerates in the industry right now, and a lot of times they lose the magic," said Lou Dzierzak, a former managing editor of Outdoor Business , a trade publication for outdoor specialty retailers that follows the kayaking industry.

"Here you've got a boat designer and a world champion," Dzierzak said. "For people in paddle sports, soul is important to them, and Eric can translate that in a way that some marketing manager just can't."

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Sell Short, Get $1,500 in Closing CostsNashville man’s pizza dream takes 20 years to rise

Middle Tennessee business bankruptcies


Assets: $560,500

Liabilities: $410,728

Gemini Logistics Inc.


Assets: $5,530

Liabilities: $125,000


Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church


Assets: $1.2 million

Liabilities: $931,800


Global Construction Inc.

(formerly known as Global Development Inc., Global Contractors), Nashville

Estimated assets: $0 to $50,000

Liabilities: $0 to $50,000

T.F. Homes LLC


Estimated assets: $0 to $50,000

Liabilities: $0 to $50,000

Source: U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Nashville Business CalendarInvestor Report: Investment Buying Tips

Nashville People in Business

Clarence Spalding received the CMA President's Award. Spalding is a CMA board member, chairman of the board's television committee, and former president/chairman of the board.
Gary F. Hunt, P.E., is a principal and strategic consultant for Florence & Hutcheson, Inc. Hunt established the consulting firm The Hunt Group.

Sarah C. Pfeiffer is marketing coordinator for Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon Inc. Pfeiffer worked at Books-A-Million Inc.'s headquarters in Birmingham.

Nitaya Chayangkura received the 2009 Young Engineer of the Year award from the Tennessee Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Chayangkura, P.E., works for Gresham Smith and Partners and serves on ASCE's board as chair of the education outreach committee.

Financial services

KraftCPAs PLLC was named as one of the best accounting firms to work for in 2009 by Accounting Today magazine and Best Companies Group.

Rick Cannone is an office manager at H&R Block's Eighth Avenue South office. He was an office coordinator and tax professional last tax season.

Health care

Baptist Hospital received the 2009 Outstanding Employer Award from the Tennessee Nurses Association.

Dr. Gabriela Morel opened Southern Pediatrics, a pediatric group practice at 740 Cool Springs Blvd. in the Physicians Plaza building.

Nashville People in BusinessWashington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax Credit

Suspicions bedevil tax credits for first-time homebuyers

This year's $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers has attracted as many as 90,000 ineligible claimants — including a 4-year-old child — raising questions about efforts to extend the popular program.
In all, more than $600 million in tax credit claims are suspicious, tax officials testified last week before Congress. The credit, on home sales to first-time buyers that close through Nov. 30, is an important piece of the $787 billion stimulus package enacted in February and is part of the Obama administration's effort to lift housing sales.

The housing industry has been pushing to extend the credit or even expand it to include more homebuyers to keep momentum going in the nascent recovery of home sales and prices. But the White House, looking at the estimated $1 billion monthly cost, has been less eager.

"Based on the administration of the credit today, I am very concerned about the IRS' ability to effectively administer the credits that are claimed before the Dec. 1 deadline, let alone any credits that may be claimed within future extended deadlines," Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George testified before the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee.

The tax credit goes to buyers who had not owned a primary residence in the past three years and earned less than $75,000 as an individual or less than $150,000 as a married couple.

But through late August, more than 19,000 taxpayers had listed the credit for properties that hadn't been purchased, filing claims worth nearly $140 million, George said. Nearly 74,000, claiming nearly $504 million, appeared to have already owned a home, he said.

An additional 582 supposed first-time homebuyers turned out to be younger than 18 years old, claiming nearly $4 million. Although officials said some circumstances would allow minors to purchase a home, most of the suspicious cases seemed to involve parents pulling the strings because their own incomes were too high.

George said more than 3,200 taxpayers claimed nearly $21 million through tax returns filed with individual taxpayer identification numbers, often used by nonresident aliens, who are excluded from the program.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nashville man's pizza dream takes 20 years to rise

Stephen Ray, 54, is finally seeing the light at the end of the oven.
The Green Hills resident recently accomplished his dream of taking rolled bread topped with pepperoni and cheese to the mass market. The product, called PizzaBarz, is sold at some Dollar General stores and in vending machines. It was a quest that took more than 20 years.

No stranger to the restaurant industry, Ray worked many years as a restaurant manager and owner of his own bakery and restaurant. But nothing prepared him for the arduous process of taking something baked from the kitchen to mass-market manufacturing, he said.

It began in 1987 when Ray didn't want to waste the leftover cheese and dough after his staff produced cheese bread at his bakery. Instead of throwing away half a pound of scraps, Ray decided he would turn it into cheese sticks — foot-long breadsticks topped with baked cheese. Soon, the product became a popular treat and generated more money than anyone ever thought, Ray said.

Ray expanded his cheese stick business by selling the treats at Opryland amusement park. There, on a typical weekend, Ray says he sold more than 1,300 a day. Convinced he had a hot seller on his hands, Ray began selling his cheese sticks to amusement parks and festivals around the nation, including at Six Flags in Northern California.

Ray later met Randall Hall, a Subway franchisee and the two began dreaming of a machine that could make the cheese sticks utilizing four cheeses — cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan and Monterey Jack. At the time, the businessmen focused on four flavors — pepperoni, bacon-cheddar, nacho-jalapeno and cuatro queso.

10 years to find machine

Ray spent the next 10 years calling companies that specialized in making machines for bagels and pizzas.

Some claimed they could make a machine that would work, but the difficulty was in processing both a dry cheese like Parmesan and a soft cheese like cheddar. The machine would get gummed up.

"We got left at the altar many times," said Hall, vice president of sales and marketing.

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Gun buyers, dealers blast NYC reportReal Estate Outlook: Mixed Signals

Home sales shoot up 9.4 percent as buyers race to get tax credit

WASHINGTON — Racing to complete their purchases before a tax credit for first-time owners expires, homebuyers pushed sales up last month by the largest amount in more than 26 years.
After jumping 9.4 percent in September, home resales are up nearly 24 percent from the bottom in January, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. But the housing market's momentum could easily peter out if Congress doesn't extend the credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers beyond its current Nov. 30 deadline.

John Kindschi, 33, an aircraft mechanic who lives north of Seattle, didn't want to miss out. After a yearlong search, he and his family bought a three-bedroom house for $206,000, completing the purchase last week.

"It was getting down to crunch time," he said. "We had no idea if the credit was going to be extended."

Nationwide sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million last month, from a downwardly revised pace of 5.1 million in August. It was the strongest month in two years and beat economists' forecast of 5.35 million, according to Reuters. Sales, however, are still down 23 percent from their peak four years ago.

In another positive sign, the inventory of unsold homes on the market fell almost 8 percent to 3.6 million. That's less than an eight-month supply at the current sales pace, and the lowest level since March 2007.

The competition for low-priced foreclosures has become fierce in places like Las Vegas and Southern California. Aldo Martin, 28, of Covina, Calif., had to put offers on 16 houses before having one accepted this week.

"We'd go look at eight houses, and if we liked five of them, make offers," said Martin, a sales supervisor. "Your odds are better. We got aggressive."

Marty Rodriguez, owner of a Century 21 real estate brokerage east of Los Angeles, said half of her transactions last month were low-priced foreclosures and short sales, in which the sales price is lower than the mortgage balance.

"You have so many buyers in that lower price range," she said. "Sometimes my agents are writing five offers for one buyer on different properties just trying to get one property — and not getting accepted. It's a little crazy."

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AT&T launches Internet phone in Nashville areaWashington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax Credit

Bank in Florida is 100th to close this year

WASHINGTON — Bank closings for the year hit 100 on Friday when regulators shut down Partners Bank in Florida. Financial institutions nationwide have collapsed under the weight of soured real estate loans and the recession.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over Partners Bank, a small bank in Naples, with $68.7 million in assets and $63.4 million in deposits. Stonegate Bank, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agreed to buy the deposits and assets of Partners Bank.

The 100 failures are the most in a year since 1992 at the height of the savings-and-loan crisis.

They have cost the federal deposit insurance fund about $25 billion so far this year, and hundreds more bank failures are expected to raise the cost to about $100 billion through 2013.

Depositors' money is not in danger.

The FDIC is backed by the government, and deposits are guaranteed up to $250,000 per account.

The 100 bank failures this year compare with 25 last year and three in 2007.

Pinnacle CEO sees little indication of recovery in NashvilleWashington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax Credit

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pay cuts run risk of talent exodus

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's pay czar said Thursday that he hoped his move to slash the salaries of the highest-paid employees at the seven largest recipients of federal bailout money would not lead to an exodus of talent that would prevent the taxpayers from being repaid.
"The taxpayers are in deep with these seven companies, and one of my primary obligations is to see to it that the taxpayers' dollars are returned to the U.S. Treasury," said Kenneth Feinberg, the special master for executive compensation under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

He said he does "not accept as a priority" that the government should be vindictive or punitive about executive compensation, but he acknowledged that Americans are upset about huge bonuses and salaries at companies that received bailouts.

"I'm extremely sensitive to the public outrage about this," he said.

The "real challenge" in setting pay limits, he said, was to balance the fact that the seven companies owe the taxpayers billions of dollars with the proposition that they should not reward excessive risk in getting that money back.

The aim, he said, was to "make sure that key people stay on the job in order to get that money back."

Feinberg released his rulings on the pay packages for the five senior executives and 20 highest-paid employees at the companies receiving "exceptional government assistance." They are American International Group Inc., Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., General Motors Co., Chrysler and the automakers' financing arms, GMAC and Chrysler Financial. Altogether, they have received $240 billion, or more than half, of the TARP money invested.

Feinberg also encouraged Wall Street to follow his lead voluntarily and structure its pay to reduce risk-taking, though he acknowledged he has no authority to force them.

"I personally believe that it's a lost opportunity for a broader marketplace not to take advantage of what we've learned in this process," he said, but he pointed out that his jurisdiction "begins and ends with these seven companies."

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Oil briefly above $80 as earnings beat forecastsWashington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax Credit

Jobless rate dips in most of Tennessee

Brighter economic news and unemployment rates that have leveled off may be signs the country is in recovery, but it sure doesn't seem that way to some job hunters in Nashville.
"It's a dog-eat-dog world with so many people looking for jobs," said Michael Ivey, 34, an HVAC maintenance worker who was at a new computer lab at the Edmondson Pike Library for online job hunting on Thursday.

Ivey has found himself competing with engineers for maintenance jobs and now has to wear a suit and tie to impress at interviews when in the past jeans and T-shirts were good enough, he said.

New figures show that 73 of Tennessee's 95 counties had double-digit unemployment rates in September, a slight improvement from August when 82 counties were at 10 percent or higher.

The highest rate was in Lauderdale County in rural West Tennessee at 18.9 percent, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Williamson County had the second- lowest rate at 7.5 percent. Lincoln County had the lowest rate at 6.9 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for jobless benefits nationally rose more than expected last week, as employers remain reluctant to hire even with the economy showing signs of improvement. Claims had fallen in five of the previous six weeks and most economists expect that trend to continue, but at a slow pace, as jobs remain scarce.

The state unemployment rate came in at 10.5 percent for September, down from a month ago when it was 10.7 percent but higher than the national rate of 9.8 percent. A year ago the state jobless rate was 6.9 percent.

The rate worsened in 11 counties, improved in 83 counties and was unchanged in one county.

Conditions for embattled Perry County, which for months has had the worst rates statewide, appear to have improved, although it still has the sixth-highest rate at 17.6 percent. A job-creation program funded by the federal stimulus brought more than 300 jobs to the area.

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Real Estate Outlook: Mixed SignalsEconomists say U.S. on path to recovery

Nashville Business Calendar

QuickBooks Pro Training 101: Understanding the Very Basics seminar, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23, Tennessee State University, Avon Williams Campus, 330 Tenth Ave. N. 615-963-7179. Cost: free.
Kiwanis Club of Nashville luncheon meeting, guest speaker is Mayor Karl Dean, 11:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 23, Millennium Maxwell House, 2025 MetroCenter Blvd., Nashville. 615-391-0123.

Washington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax CreditPeople in Business

Nissan to offer commercial line in 2010

Despite the sluggish economy that has sent two U.S. carmakers into bankruptcy court this year, Nissan North America Inc. will move ahead with plans to launch its first line of commercial vehicles next year, company officials said Thursday.
The vehicles, beginning with a large van based on the Nissan Titan pickup chassis, will go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2010 and will be assembled at the company's plant in Canton, Miss., said Brian Carolin, Nissan's senior vice president for sales and marketing in North America.

A concept of the vehicle was put on display in the lobby of the company's headquarters building in Franklin.

Although overall auto sales are down about 35 percent this year, "We're holding our own," Carolin said during a media briefing in Franklin. "We're not slowing down in tough times."

Besides the commitment to the commercial-vehicle rollout, Nissan also has invested heavily in its sedan lineup for 2010, including significant changes to its flagship model, the midsize Altima, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the company's U.S. sales, said John Curl, the company's senior manager for Nissan product planning.

Nissan assembles the Altima at its Smyrna and Canton plants.

The automaker also announced a major new marketing campaign for the Altima, "Quality You Can Love," based on the car's winning of the top spot among all sedans in its class in the 2009 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, a major automotive-industry benchmark.

The marketing push emphasizes the car's emotional aspects along with its quality, focusing on styling and performance, along with its reliability, Curl said. The campaign includes TV, print and online advertising.

While Nissan's year-to-date U.S. sales through September totaled just 520,410 vehicles, a 25.2 percent decline from 2008, the company has gained in its overall U.S. market share this year — now 6.7 percent, an increase of 0.1 percentage point, Carolin said.

Its share of the car market is now 8.1 percent, he said, and Nissan vehicles accounted for 8.7 percent of new-vehicle sales during the recent federal Cash for Clunkers rebate program, he said.

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Spring Hill, Columbia worry about life after GMReal Estate Outlook: Sales Stats and Rates

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New jobless claims rise more than expected to 531,000

WASHINGTON -- The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected last week, after falling in five of the past six weeks, as employers remain reluctant to hire even with the economy showing signs of recovery.
The Labor Department said Thursday that new jobless claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 531,000 last week, from an upwardly revised 520,000 the previous week. Wall Street economists had expected only a slight increase, according to Thomson Reuters.

Economists closely watch initial claims, which are considered a gauge of layoffs and an indication of companies' willingness to hire new workers.

The four-week average of claims, which smooths out fluctuations, fell slightly to 532,250, the lowest since mid-January and about 125,000 below the peak for the recession, reached this spring. But claims remain well above the 325,000 that economists say is consistent with a healthy economy.

The number of people continuing to claim benefits did drop for the fifth straight week to 5.9 million, from just over 6 million. The figures on continuing claims lag initial claims by a week.

Many recipients are moving onto extended benefit programs approved by Congress in response to the recession, which began in December 2007 and is the worst since the 1930s. Those extensions add up to 53 weeks of benefits on top of the 26 typically provided by the states.

When those programs are included, the total number of recipients dropped to 8.8 million in the week ending Oct. 3, the latest data available, down about 50,000 from the previous week. That decline is likely due to recipients running out of benefits, rather than finding jobs, economists say.

Many analysts expect the economy grew as much as 3 percent in the July-September quarter, but employers are reluctant to hire as they wait to see if such growth can be maintained.

The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in September from 9.7 percent, the department said earlier this month, as employers cut 263,000 jobs. The recession has eliminated a net total of 7.2 million jobs.

More job cuts were announced this week. Sun Microsystems Inc. said it plans to eliminate up to 3,000 jobs, or 10 percent of its worldwide work force, as it awaits a takeover by Oracle Corp., a deal being held up by antitrust regulators in Europe.

Among the states, Florida had the largest increase in claims, with 9,976, which it attributed to layoffs in the construction, service, manufacturing and agriculture industries. New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Arkansas had the next largest increases. The state data lag initial claims by one week.

California reported the largest drop in claims, down 7,062, which it attributed to fewer layoffs in the construction, service, and manufacturing industries.Tennessee, Maine and Nebraska also reported decreases.

Stocks appear headed to sharply higher openingReal Estate Outlook: Mixed Signals

Pinnacle CEO sees little indication of recovery in Nashville

The president and chief executive officer of Nashville's largest locally based bank said he doesn't see signs of a meaningful recovery in the local economy.
Pinnacle Financial Partners' Terry Turner made the announcement following a late Tuesday earnings report in which the bank said it lost $4.85 million in the third quarter, or 15 cents per share.

The bank also postponed the buy-back of about $95 million worth of shares from the federal government that it had sold as part of the Treasury's bank rescue program last year. Pinnacle had raised about $109 million in common stock this summer with the possibility of paying back the federal government late in the third quarter or early in the fourth.

Peyton Green, a managing partner and bank analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach in Nashville, said the delay was probably a good move for the bank.

"That would be like dropping your wind insurance in August when you live in a hurricane area and everyone knows the storms come in September," he said.

Turner explained that the bank's business customers aren't seeing much growth in revenue, and if their financial situations are improving, it's probably because they have cut expenses, mostly jobs.

"It takes job growth to affect consumer spending," he said. "Most people would readily acknowledge that they don't see strength in their company's financials."

However, he said real estate values appear to be stabilizing, because appraisals aren't as low as they were six months ago.

Pinnacle's nonperforming assets rose 21 percent between the second and third quarters of this year to $144.5 million. A year ago in the third quarter, the bank made $8.8 million in profits.

Pinnacle attributed its most recent quarterly results to an increase in the allowance for loan losses as it prepares for the possibility of future bad loans, particularly in land development and residential construction loans. The allowance for loan losses was $82.9 million at the end of the third quarter, up from $66 million during the second quarter.

Also, the bank paid $1.21 million to the federal government in preferred stock dividends in the third quarter.

On the other hand, Pinnacle, which has $5 billion in assets and is the Nashville area's fourth-largest bank, continues to grow deposits and profit margins. Core deposits grew 16 percent from the third quarter a year ago, to $2.2 billion.

The bank also recently signed a six-year marketing agreement with the Tennessee Titans to replace Regions Financial Corp. as the team's bank. Despite the 0-6 losing season this year, Turner said the deal, which includes marketing Titans-themed checking accounts and debit cards to fans, was attractive to the bank because of the fans' loyalty to the team.

Pinnacle's stock price rose 62 cents in trading Wednesday on the Nasdaq, to $12.50 per share, in part because of the strong growth in deposits and the fact that investors already had been expecting losses in the quarter, Green said.

Washington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax CreditFirst Horizon loss narrows

Alexander warns Obama shows Nixon tendencies

WASHINGTON — Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said Wednesday that the Obama administration appears to be launching a Richard Nixon-like political strategy of making an "enemies list" of people who disagree with the president.
Alexander, who once worked in President Nixon's administration, warned the White House that such a "street brawl" approach of attacking political opponents "can get you in a lot of trouble."

Alexander offered no evidence that Obama is developing a list, as Nixon famously created for his opponents. But, he said, "I have an uneasy feeling only 10 months into this new administration that we're beginning to see the symptoms of this same kind of animus developing."

"It's a mistake for the president of the United States," he said. "Let's not start calling people out and compiling an enemies list."

White House spokeswoman Gannet Tseggai responded that it's Republicans who "seem to be formulating lists of people and policies to oppose" while the president "is focused on tackling the list of critical priorities that Washington has ignored for too long."

The president "remains committed to working with Republicans to include their best ideas, even if he doesn't get their support," Tseggai said.

Alexander's criticism, which echoed weekend remarks from Karl Rove, the former adviser to President George W. Bush and a Fox News contributor, comes amid an unusual public feud between Fox News and the White House. Alexander also cited widening disputes between the administration and business groups such as the insurance industry, Wall Street banks and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Several top administration officials have sharply criticized Fox News in recent days, saying the cable television channel acts like a wing of the Republican Party and shouldn't be viewed as a legitimate news organization.

The president bypassed Fox News Sunday during a string of appearances on news shows recently, and Fox News officials have said the White House threatened a boycott. The White House has denied that and says it will book administration officials on Fox News shows.

The administration also has taken on the Chamber of Commerce, for example, suggesting that the group is out of touch with the business community on health care, climate change and other issues.

Insurers say health bill would jack up premiumsWashington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax Credit

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wheelchair maker to build new plant in Lebanon

Wheelchair maker Permobil Inc. said it would build a new $12 million plant in Lebanon and double its Wilson County work force within the next three to five years.
The Swedish company employs 85 in Lebanon, where it has operated from Eastgate Business Park since 2000. Work on Permobil's new North American Operations Center should start this month on a 17-acre site in Park 840, with completion set for next summer.

Local real estate brokers Ronnie Wenzler and Charley Hankla represented Permobil in acquisition of the site.


Real Estate Outlook: Sales Stats and Rates800 hard at work building VW plant

Nursing school opens in Mt. Juliet

Cumberland University is expanding its nursing program to Mt. Juliet where the school hopes to attract working adults to its night and weekend nursing program.
The CU Center for Professional Development in the Health Sciences will open in January in the Shiloh Shopping Center on Lebanon Pike in Mt. Juliet, Cumberland President Dr. Harvill Eaton said.

The location will be convenient for people who live in the western portion of Wilson County and the eastern part of Davidson County.

During the planning stages, the university had hoped that the program would be attractive enough to bring in a class of 25 students. However, so many people have expressed an interest in the program that Eaton anticipates at least 50 in the first class.

"We're not trying to duplicate what we do or what other places do in terms of offering day classes for 19-22-year-olds. This will be nights and weekends for the working adults," Eaton said.

"Nurses are in such incredible demand. There are only a certain number of seats available at all of the nursing schools around the area. We decided to look at evenings and weekends, and in particular, who that would be attractive for," he said.

School eyes expansion

The school has partnered with Mt. Juliet-based Environmental Sciences Corporation to give anatomy/physiology and microbiology students access to state-of-the-art laboratories.

"You will find no better labs anywhere in the country," Eaton said.

"Often times, students who would otherwise be ready to enter the BSN completion program have not completed prerequisite courses in microbiology and/or human anatomy and physiology," Dr. Carole Ann Bach, dean of the Jeanette C. Rudy School of Nursing at CU said in a written statement. "Thanks to our partnership with ESC, those students who enroll in the BSN completion program but have not completed those prerequisites will be able to take those laboratory-intensive courses under the instruction of CU faculty in ESC's cutting-edge laboratories."

ESC is not charging the school for the partnership, Eaton said.

"They (ESC) want to see growth in Mt. Juliet. This is company-to-company help. We feel like we're helping Mt Juliet. And Environmental Sciences is doing this through sheer generosity.

"Peter Shulert is on my list of great guys," Eaton said about ESC's chief executive officer.

While the program will start out offering a bachelor of science in nursing, Eaton looks with an eye toward the future at expanding to offer more health care-related programs.

"It's partnerships like the one between Cumberland and Environmental Sciences Corporation that will ensure the University continues to extend quality professional development opportunities to the broader community," Eaton said in a written statement. "As our new health sciences initiative evolves, we'll continue to research other ways in which the University may continue to serve the community and its people."

Investor Report: Fraternity House RentalsBethel University nursing program wins full approval

5 senators may be key in shaping health-care reform

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee voted to approve major health-care reform legislation. The next step is to prepare the legislation for action on the floor of the Senate.
Momentum is building for favorable action, but the Senate must still master a delicate balance. Many Senate Democrats want to expand the Senate Finance Committee version to include the public plan and other controversial provisions.

If those get added, Senate centrists, both Democrat and Republican, will withdraw their support. The prospect of Senate Democrats overreaching may be the biggest obstacle to ultimate passage.

In an interesting twist of fate, three of the centrist Senate swing votes are former commissioners of insurance. Let's take a quick snapshot of five key senators who may decide the eventual fate and the shape of health-care reform.

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine

Last week, Snowe became the poster girl for bipartisan health reform by being the only Republican to vote with the Democrats in the Senate Finance Committee. She is a third-term senator who was orphaned at age 9 by her mother's cancer and father's heart disease.

She represents a small state whose insurance market is dominated by one large firm. Likewise, her colleague, Collins, is a moderate Republican who joins Snowe in being two of only three Republican senators to vote for the stimulus bill earlier this year.

Collins is a former insurance commissioner. Neither Snowe nor Collins has shown interest in the public plan, but both are key votes, and perhaps the only Republican senators who may vote in favor of health reform.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.

On the Democratic side, Lincoln is up for re-election next year, and the Arkansas polls show her with approval ratings at an abysmal 36 percent. Since 67 percent of Arkansas opposes the public plan, Lincoln was one of three Democrats to vote against that option in the Senate Finance Committee.

If the Democratic leadership forces her to support health reform, it may come at the cost of a Democratic Senate seat in Arkansas.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Similarly, Ben Nelson is a key Democrat from Nebraska. He is also a former state insurance commissioner and a former head of an insurance company. He knows the insurance industry well and is uneasy about federalizing it. He doesn't want to support a public plan and may vote against it. The final Democrat on the bubble is Bill Nelson. He is also a former insurance commissioner. Bill Nelson has received nearly 60,000 calls, letters and e-mails from his Florida constituents opposing health reform.

Congress is on the cusp of a historic occasion, and restraint may now be the key to passing a bill. While significant movement has occurred in the last week, the key voting still lies ahead.

Washington Report: Preserving Homes and Communities ActInsurers say health bill would jack up premiums

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oil briefly above $80 as earnings beat forecasts

Oil prices briefly rose above $80 a barrel Tuesday as better-than-expected U.S. corporate earnings boosted investor confidence and the dollar fell against other major currencies.
By mid-afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for November delivery was down 14 cents at $79.47 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the session, it rose as high as $80.05 a barrel before falling back. The contract rose $1.08 to settle at $79.61 on Monday.

Crude did a chin-up over $80 a barrel for the first time this year after Apple Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. reported third quarter earnings Monday that beat analyst forecasts. Caterpillar Inc., Coca-Cola Co. and DuPont are scheduled to report later Tuesday.

Crude demand has remained sluggish this year as the global economy recovers from recession. With the U.S. Federal Reserve keeping interest rates at near zero percent, investors have flocked to stocks and commodities to make money.

"This rally isn't based on fundamentals. It's about risk appetite," said Jonathan Kornafel, Asia director for market maker Hudson Capital Energy in Singapore. "Money is looking for some kind of return."

Commodities like oil and gold are bought and sold in dollars, making them cheaper and more attractive to investors when the U.S. currency falls.

The euro rose to $1.4976 from $1.4944 late Monday in New York, while the British pound rose to $1.6447 from $1.6370.

JBC Energy in Vienna said the break above $80 was "in line with gains in equities and a dollar loss."

"However, we see little support for the rally, which is now eight days old, and think that at some point OPEC spare capacity of about 6 million barrels and massive on- and offshore stocks -- to mention just a few of the bearish items -- will trigger a correction phase," JBC said in a report.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil was up 0.11 cent to $2.0533 a gallon. Gasoline for November delivery lost 0.57 cent to $1.9815 a gallon. Natural gas for November delivery jumped 15.4 cents to $4.989 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for December delivery fell 4 cents to $77.73 on the ICE Futures exchange.

First Horizon loss narrowsReal Estate Outlook: Warning of Slow Down?

Fisher's focus on saving Titans, not job

Titans owner Bud Adams, who wants to see improvement from his surprisingly miserable football team, has put Coach Jeff Fisher on notice.
Yet as the Titans head into their bye week, Fisher said his first priority is getting his players on track toward their first victory. Job security, he said, is a distant second.

"I am looking forward to this week and I can't wait to get started tomorrow and working through this week to try and help and improve this football team,'' Fisher said on Monday. "I am not in any kind of survival mode or fearful of my job or concerned about job security whatsoever."

On Sunday the Patriots steamrolled the Titans, 59-0, the worst loss in franchise history. On Sunday night, Titans owner Bud Adams told The Tennessean he wouldn't make a coaching change during the season, but offered no promises about Fisher's future if things don't improve.

"I'll have to make my decision after the season is up,'' Adams said. "Right now we're not doing too well, and that worries me.''

Dating to last season, the Titans (0-6) have lost eight games in a row. The Jaguars, Colts and Patriots outscored them by a combined 127-26 the past three weeks.

"I am a coach and do the best I can with this football team," Fisher said. "I have a good coaching staff. I have tremendous confidence in my coaching staff and tremendous confidence in the players that we're going to get this turned around.''

Fisher, in his 15th season as head coach, is under contract through 2011. His overall record is 128-108, but he is 5-6 in the playoffs — 0-3 since his last postseason victory in the 2003 season.

Practices will be closed to the media this week and there is potential for lineup changes, Fisher said. Although questions about his job are swirling, he said it comes with the territory.

"There's all kinds of distractions on the National Football League," Fisher said. "It is how you deal with them."

Although Adams said he doesn't believe in making changes in season, he's done so before. Fisher got the job in 1994 when Jack Pardee was fired after a 1-9 start. In 1993, Pardee guided the Oilers to a 12-4 finish.

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New figures on jobs validate stimulusReal Estate Outlook: Sales Stats and Rates

Nashville files suit to seize 7 properties for convention center

Metro government officials have taken the first steps toward seizing downtown property for a proposed convention center.
The Metro Development and Housing Agency filed condemnation suits against seven groups of property owners in Davidson County Circuit Court on Friday. The agency said in the petitions that it had deposited more than $31.2 million to pay what it considers "just compensation" to acquire the properties by eminent domain.

The county property assessor's office appraised the properties for more than $24.3 million collectively this year.

Metro is considering building a 1.2 million-square-foot, $600 million convention center on about 15 acres south of Sommet Center and First Baptist Church. Mayor Karl Dean and the Metro Council decided last summer to borrow about $62 million to start acquiring property, even though financing plans for the center and an attached hotel are still coming together.

Joe Cain, MDHA's development director, said last week that the agency would continue negotiating with property owners even after starting eminent domain proceedings. Cain said the lawsuits were necessary to ensure that the city has the property in hand by January.

MDHA has already reached agreements with seven other property owners.

The properties

In its court filings, the agency said it was willing to pay:

• $2,835,000 for Christie's Cabaret, which was appraised for more than $2.33 million.

• $14.8 million for a 5.66-acre site owned by Tower Music City II LLC, part of Tower Investments. The site was appraised for $12,550,600.

• $4.8 million for the Musicians' Hall of Fame, which was appraised for a little more than $3 million.

• $1,774,300 to Nashville Downtown Platinum LLC for two parcels appraised for $1,157,300.

• $905,000 to Hugh Cates, A.M. Downing, Richard Downing, Donna C. Downing and Lamar Advertising for a site appraised for $637,100.

• $4,906,500 for the Greyhound bus station, which was appraised for $3,775,500.

• $1.25 million to Billy D. and Beverly G. Pitt for a parcel appraised for $926,400.

Councilman Jim Gotto has proposed a Metro Charter amendment that would give the council the right to approve or reject any use of eminent domain.

The council previously delegated that authority to MDHA by setting up redevelopment districts in areas that are considered blighted.

Nashville council delays decision on buying land for West police precinctInvestor Report: Fraternity House Rentals

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Station Inn is out of place, but still at home, in Gulch

Amid the glamour and glitz of high-rise condos, trendy restaurants and upscale storefronts, the gritty Station Inn plays on as an anachronism in the Gulch, the redevelopment area just southwest of downtown.
But the old, one-story building, with a simple interior filled with a small stage and hodgepodge of tables and mismatched chairs, has its charm and a worldwide reputation as a premier venue for live acoustic bluegrass music.

"It's as real as Nashville gets," said Pat Isbey, who has made a documentary film about Station Inn and set up a barbecue business there six months ago. "I just can't imagine it going away. This place is timeless.

"It's more than just a music venue; it's a museum and a place for people to meet, and it has really cold beer, which is important," Isbey said.

Bluegrass fans everywhere know the joint, said Brian Bailey, 67, who visited one recent night from his home in British Columbia. He said he was on his way to New York for a school reunion and decided to detour through Nashville just to drop in and hear music.

"I play bluegrass in a little group back in Canada, and I've known about the Station Inn for years," he said. "If you're into bluegrass, you can't avoid hearing about it. You never know who's going to show up here, and none of the performers ever get swelled heads. Everyone is down to earth."

Some of the biggest names in country music — Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss and even Dolly Parton — have popped in (generally unannounced) to sing along with whichever band is playing.

That's exactly what happened last week as the regular Tuesday night group, the Mashville Brigade, did some serious picking. About 11:30 p.m., country star Dierks Bentley walked in, trailed by a CBS-TV camera crew.

The band invited him onstage, and Bentley sang two traditional bluegrass songs, playing along on guitar. The crowd, which numbered fewer than 50 on a rainy night, cheered wildly.

"That's the coolest thing about the Station Inn," said Steve Brown, visiting from northwest Arkansas. "I've been coming here for 18 years now, and I always visit whenever I'm in Nashville. I've seen some of the greats here, including Earl Scruggs, Emmylou Harris and even the legendary Bill Monroe."

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Washington Report: Tax Credit ChangesWarner Music Group Corp. expands Nashville operations

BarCamp 'unconference' focuses on social media

Michael Warden came to BarCamp Nashville Saturday to learn about creating a blog to help brand his fledging handyman services business.
He left the annual gathering for Nashville's tech and social media community with strategies such as taking money that would have gone to direct marketing and spending it on building a presence on Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"I'm learning that the social media is the way to go, not the mass media," said Warden, who started Precision Handyman eight months ago after losing his job as a process engineer with an auto parts supplier.

Warden was among 600 participants attending back-to-back 25-minute sessions on topics such as measuring return on investments in social media and using iPhone applications to interact with customers.

"You can't stop it. You can either drive it, or it will run you over," Scott Gordon, one of the presenters and a partner in Brentwood-based staffing firm Vaco Technology, said about social media. "You better figure it out now."

Under BarCamp's "unconference," or self-organizing model, speakers submitted topics for presentations and the level of interest of participants helped determine the final lineup. There was also a room for unscheduled sessions. Attendees submitted feedback through Twitter that was displayed live on screens near the meeting rooms.

This year's BarCamp at Cadillac Ranch bar off Broadway featured more programmers, developers and entrepreneurs who have started businesses as presenters. Some used their platforms to rally the community to work together to build up the local tech scene.

"If we don't do something about it, the best entrepreneurs are going to leave this city or go back to other jobs," said Marcus Whitney, a co-founder of BarCamp Nashville who now leads a push dubbed Enterprise LAMP to educate executives about business value of newer software offerings.

Calling for Tax Advice the Inexpensive WayAt BarCamp Nashville, techies will catch up on latest trends

Nashville People in Business

The Bank of Nashville said:
Jonathan Williams is private client relationship manager in the West End office. Williams had been manager of the Green Hills office.

Tracy DeSirey has been named assistant vice president. She currently serves as assistant manager in the main office.


Aubrey Smith is a hair stylist at Harlow, A Salon on Music Row. Smith is a graduate of local Paul Mitchell, The School of Nashville.

Health care

Sterling Primary Care announced:

Dr. Julia Gomez is a physician board certified in family medicine. Gomez completed her residency at Rush-Illinois Masonic Family Practice in Chicago.

Dr. Robert Macmillan is a physician board certified in family medicine. He completed his residency at the University of Tennessee Family Medicine.

Dr. Marc Rosen is a surgicalist at Baptist Hospital. Rosen had been program director of the general surgery residency-training program and assistant professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of the New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine.


Lauren "L.T." Thomas will become national promotions coordinator for Arista Nashville. Thomas had been associate director of promotion for Golden Music Nashville.


Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority said:

Butch Gellband is director of planning. Gellband had been manager of planning.

Stephanie Ladd was named director of human resources. Ladd had been manager of human resources.

People in BusinessTake a Back-to-School Approach to Prospecting

Saturday, October 17, 2009

At BarCamp Nashville, techies will catch up on latest trends

BarCamp Nashville's debut a couple of years ago was an eye-opener for Chuck Bryant to what he considers the many "cool things" happening with technology in Nashville.
"There were a whole lot of people who didn't feel like they had a community to plug into and that changed overnight," said Bryant, chair of the planning crew for this year's BarCamp and chief operating officer of e-commerce startup BorderJump LLC.

Today, the technology "unconference" is expected to draw up to 600 people to Cadillac Ranch bar and grill off Broadway, a doubling of the first year's attendance that Bryant considers one sign of Nashville's making strides in rising from a second to first-tier technology city.

Programmers, social marketers, bloggers, and Web and graphics designers, among others, will participate in a day of mingling and making speeches and presentations to others about their latest projects — including new Internet applications and various topics of interests.

BarCamp is touted as an "unconference" because the free event is user-generated or self-organized. Participants, including those who want to make presentations, had to sign up online in advance. Sessions are assigned gathering rooms at BarCamp based on levels of interest, with one room set aside for unscheduled sessions.

The brainstorming falls into categories such as: content, code (programming), marketing, social media/networks, gear (hardware), and Nashvegas, which relates to this city's tech community.

An addition this year is the Nashville debut of Ignite, basically five-minute speed presentations featuring 20 slides that automatically rotate after a few seconds. It's actually a post-BarCamp event, beginning at 4:30 p.m. at The Big Bang bar off Broadway.

Between each BarCamp, the community stays in touch through social networking sites including Twitter and a monthly Geek Breakfast Nashville, where topics might be podcasting, blogging or open source technology.

Business opportunities

Relationships forged at BarCamp sometimes lead to business opportunities. Consider Tim Choate, CEO of Murfreesboro Web software technology company Bondware Inc., who attended last year's BarCamp.

Choate recalls chatting with a handful of programmers and has since done business with some of the Web-hosting companies he met.

"It's pretty effective in attracting the people involved in new technology, Web technology and Internet-type businesses and in engaging people that are working in those areas," Choate said of BarCamp. Sponsors this year include The Tennessean , e-mail marketing firm Emma and CentreSource Interactive Agency.

Warner Music Group Corp. expands Nashville operationsDifferentiate Yourself: Build With Home Gateways, Digital Possibilities in Mind

First Horizon loss narrows

The Memphis-based parent company of First Tennessee Bank, First Horizon National Corp., reported a better-than-expected loss of $52.9 million on Friday.
Its third-quarter earnings came in at 24 cents per share, as expenses, bad loans and loan loss provisions all declined during the quarter. But analysts had expected an average 32-cent loss for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters.

The bank's performance was much better than the same period a year ago. First Horizon's $52.9 million loss, in fact, was less than half of the $125.1 million, or 58 cents per share, it lost in the July-September period in 2008.

The stock climbed 1 cent to $13.50 per share in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

"(First Horizon) management continues to stick to their knitting,'' said Adam Barkstrom, an analyst with Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc., who has a neutral recommendation on the stock. "They haven't been overly optimistic on the improvement of things. I think they've been much more realistic than other management teams."

The First Horizon report came on a day when other bank stocks were falling. On Friday, Bank of America reported a disappointing $2.2 billion loss for the quarter, as it wrote off an additional $1 billion worth of bad loans on its books. Its stock fell 84 cents to $17.26 per share in Friday trading as the Dow Jones average closed down overall by 67 points to finish the week at 9,995.91, just shy of the 10,000-point benchmark it had achieved earlier in the week for the first time since early October 2008.

First Horizon officials said they're continuing to wind down their mortgage and construction loan business outside Tennessee, which has been an albatross for the company for more than a year.

Morgan Keegan & Co. analyst Robert Patten said in a note that he expects First Horizon's residential real estate lending portfolio outside of the state, which accounted for nearly 75 percent of bad loans, to be a thing of the past by year-end.

Patten, who is bullish on the stock, said that will help the bank, and he expects a profit for the company in the first quarter of next year.

First Horizon's allowance for loan losses fell about 2 percent to $944.8 million during the quarter. The bank also has seen growth in deposits.

"We have enjoyed some good growth in households, both in terms of deposits and businesses,'' said Doyle Rippee, Nashville regional president. "Our loan growth has been strong in consumer business. We opened new banking centers last year, and our pipelines for new business are growing."

The bank has 48 branches in the Nashville metropolitan statistical area, up from 46 two years ago. Deposits in the area climbed 1.6 percent from last year to $1.64 billion as of June 2009, according to the latest deposit market share report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. First Tennessee is the sixth-largest bank in the Nashville area.

Management shake-up at First TennesseeCalifornia Enjoying Summer Sales Sizzle

Gov. Bredesen leads second mission to China

As Gov. Phil Bredesen leads about 30 private industry leaders to China next week on his second trade mission to that country, what's not on the agenda is the thorny tire-for-chickens dispute between the two countries.
Last month, the Obama administration slapped a tariff on Chinese tire imports, which was met with the retaliatory threat of a tariff on American chickens and automobile parts, all of which involve some Tennessee business interests.

Instead, the focus of the governor's trade mission is continuing to develop relationships with business and political leaders started during Bredesen's initial China trip two years ago and by the opening of a Tennessee trade office in Beijing that year.

"The first trip in 2007 was introductory," said Matt Kisber, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, who also will be making the 10-day trip starting Tuesday. "There was a lot of ceremony, which is part of the Chinese culture. This will be a real working trip."

John Scannapieco, an attorney for Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, who also went on the trade mission in 2007, said he managed to nab a Chinese wire-manufacturing client named Fushi out of the last trip. It bought the Copperweld plant in Fayetteville a few years ago and continues to manufacture there.

"People complain about China taking jobs," Scannapieco said. "We actually think if you can attract investment here, you can save a lot of jobs as well."

China is the third-largest export market for Tennessee, after Canada and Mexico. Tennessee sold $1.36 billion in exports last year to China, mostly chemical, agricultural and scrap products.

This time, state leaders will focus on selling Tennessee's health-care, green-energy and transportation and logistics businesses, with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and FedEx representatives joining the expedition.

Also on board will be several more leaders from the health-care sector, including Caroline Young of the Nashville Health Care Council and Healthways Chairman Thomas Cigarran.

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Building Information Modeling On the Rise in the Construction Industry800 hard at work building VW plant

Friday, October 16, 2009

New figures on jobs validate stimulus

WASHINGTON — Businesses reported creating or saving more than 30,000 jobs in the first months of President Barack Obama's stimulus program, according to initial data released Thursday by a government oversight board.
Military construction led the way, and states in the South, including Tennessee, and Southwest saw the biggest boost.

The new job numbers, in line with expectations for such an early accounting, offer the first hard data on effects of the $787 billion stimulus program.

The figures are based on jobs linked to less than $16 billion in federal contracts and represent just a sliver of the total stimulus package. But they also represent a milestone of sorts for an administration that promised unprecedented real-time data on whether the program was working.

Until now, the White House has relied on economic models to argue that the program created jobs and eased the recession. The numbers help shift the discussion from whether the program is creating jobs to whether it is creating enough to justify its enormous price tag.

"These are the most thankful employees you'll ever want to see," said Robert Del Riego, majority owner of Frederick, Md.-based Re-Engineered Business Solutions, who said he hired 33 new employees, mostly skilled laborers looking for work in the dismal construction market.

He expects to hire six more to help with water and sewer projects in Arkansas and North Carolina and small construction jobs at other sites. His company won $1.9 million in Army Corps of Engineers contracts.

"It's extra work and with work, hopefully you make a profit," he said. "But the main thing is, it's putting real guys back to work."

Projections exceeded

The White House said the new numbers are validation that the administration was on track to hit Obama's goal of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year.

"The early indications are quite positive," said White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein, who said the report "exceeds our projections."

Tennessee, California, Florida and Texas showed strong gains. Tennessee reported earlier this week that 7,710 jobs were created or saved as a result of the stimulus spending.

The construction industry showed the strongest numbers in Thursday's report, accounting for about a third of the jobs thanks to contracts to repair military bases.

Despite those gains, unemployment in the construction industry remains high, at 17.1 percent. That's down from its February high of 21.4 percent.

Washington Report: $8,000 Home Buyer Tax CreditTennessee’s federal stimulus spending tops $200M

Bank errors often cause mortgage aid rejections

WASHINGTON — Towana Gooch, a single mom who lives with her 10-year-old daughter, was on the verge of losing her town house in suburban Maryland after her mortgage lender kicked her out of a government loan modification program. The problem, she says she was notified, was a 7-cent error.
Later, the lender told her the tiny error wasn't actually the issue, that her low income disqualified her from the program. She called the bank trying to get to the bottom of it all, but she got no answers and feared there was nothing to head off foreclosure, which had been scheduled for today.

After an inquiry by The Associated Press, the bank, America's Servicing Co., a division of Wells Fargo & Co., finally returned her call this week to apologize for the 7-cent error and say the foreclosure sale had been put on hold for now.

Though her story is striking, Gooch is far from alone in her problems with the Obama administration's loan modification program, which provides federal subsidies to encourage lenders to renegotiate rather than foreclose on certain borrowers. Seven months in, many qualified applicants are being rejected, often through bank errors, with no avenue of appeal. Until this month, lenders didn't even have to tell them why.

"If the servicer messes up, even by accident, there is no meaningful way to complain, no real appeals process, no viable ombudsman to consider," said Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition in San Francisco. "Most importantly, there are no consequences to the banks for failure to do what they have promised to do."

Gooch, who lost her job as a recruiter earlier this year, said she had been thrilled last month when the bank notified her that her monthly payment would be cut in half, to $938. Gooch agreed to the payment and even logged on to the White House Web site to post a public comment personally thanking President Barack Obama.

"I was so confident in this that I didn't make a plan B or C," she said from her town home in Upper Marlboro, Md.

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Washington Report: Preserving Homes and Communities Act$650,000 in grants to help fund affordable housing in Middle TN

Vista-Pro begins staffing new Nashville headquarters

Vista-Pro Automotive LLC, formed in August by the merger of two auto-supply manufacturers — including a spinoff of the former Visteon Corp. — has begun moving the first of an expected 100 employees into its new Nashville headquarters, the company said Thursday.
After temporarily basing its operations at the company's plant in Sparta, where it makes starters and alternators for the automotive aftermarket, Vista-Pro has now hired or transferred the first 35 workers for its new headquarters in the Two Lakeview Place building in Century City Office Park, said Steve Hoane, the company's vice president of sales and marketing.

Vista-Pro Chief Executive Officer Roger Brown said Nashville was chosen for the headquarters because of its "central location, quality of life, high-quality work force and great infrastructure."

15 will transfer from Conn.

The company is the combination of Wynnchurch Capital's Vista Automotive LLC, created last year from assets of the bankrupt Visteon, and the North American operations of Proliance International Inc., formerly based in New Haven, Conn.

An additional 15 former Proliance employees will move from New Haven within the next month, bringing the total of Vista-Pro headquarters workers to 50, Hoane said.

An additional 50 will be transferred from other cities over the next year.

Hoane said the combined company has about 1,700 employees at its U.S. and Mexican plants.

The company also makes one part in Bowling Green, Ky., for the Chevrolet Corvette. It is the only example of a product that Vista-Pro provides directly to an auto manufacturer.

Most of its products are sold to automotive service facilities and parts warehouses, Hoane said.

While suppliers to the beleaguered automakers have struggled over the past two years, automotive aftermarket suppliers have thrived because many people are keeping their cars longer, putting off new-vehicle purchases and spending money on maintenance instead, Hoane said.

"The economic downturn has actually been good for us," he said.

"The more miles people drive their cars, the better it is for the aftermarket."

Warner Music Group Corp. expands Nashville operationsBeacon Capital Partners Makes History with First Multi-Tenant Platinum LEED Existing Buildings

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hillsboro Plaza to see more changes

Ten Thousand Villages of Nashville is making a big move within a short distance.
Seven doors down, to be exact.

But the move to a bigger suite in their present shopping center, Hillsboro Plaza, means more display room and extra space for staff to work.

"We've needed more space for years," said Lisa Pierce, Ten Thousand Villages of Nashville's executive director, who said there just wasn't adequate room for staff to work with incoming items and inventory.

Pierce said they started looking for space about a year ago and were going to move into a planned development on Richard Jones Road. But the development fell through, and they started looking for a space elsewhere in Green Hills.

"(Brookside Properties) originally planned to really change this shopping center, which didn't really fit in with what we were doing," Pierce said. "But their plans changed, and the suite seven doors down really appealed to us. We were able to work out a move."

The store began moving on Sunday, Oct. 11, and took great pains to make the move as environmentally friendly as possible. The store reopens today.

The move is just one of the changes happening at Hillsboro Plaza. For the past few months, Hillsboro Plaza's exterior has been in the midst of a makeover. The renovation includes painting, signs, landscaping and some sidewalk work. Part of the makeover included a public vote about whether to keep the old, funky neon Donut Den sign or replace it with a new one. Residents voted overwhelmingly to keep the old, familiar sign.

There are new tenants coming to the shopping center.

The space Ten Thousand Villages is vacating will be taken over by Signature Nail Spa for its expansion, said Brookside Properties Executive Vice President David Crabtree. Signature Nail Spa owner John Tran said the space will allow them to expand to 60 spa chairs and have the space to do facials and foot massage. The expansion should be finished in mid to late December, Tran said.

Chipotle Mexican Grill will open in the space that once housed Wolf Camera. Crabtree said space has been cleared for an outside patio.

It was announced in the summer that two locations of the national chain were coming to Nashville. The other will open on West End Avenue. Both locations, which will be the chain's first in Tennessee, are projected to open by the end of the year.

Next to Chipotle, Crabtree said Computers Plus will be opening, and the company is in negotiations with other retailers. He expects the shopping center will be at capacity by the end of the year, with 15 tenants.

Federal Reserve’s ‘5 Tips for Shopping for a Mortgage’Outsourcing company may move call center to downtown

Ford, UAW reach tentative labor deal

DETROIT — Union leaders from Ford's factories voted Tuesday to recommend that members approve a deal to lower the automaker's labor costs to match those of its Detroit rivals.
The deal, which runs until 2011, gives workers a bonus if they ratify the agreement and guarantees new vehicles for five assembly plants. But it also bans strikes over wages or benefits, freezes entry-level wages and changes work rules to require some skilled-trade employees to do more than one job.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said Tuesday that the deal brings Ford Motor Co. on par with Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Co., which were given concessions as they headed into bankruptcy protection earlier this year.

He conceded that talks with Ford, the only Detroit automaker to avoid bankruptcy and government aid, have been tough because of its relative success. Ford mortgaged assets several years ago to borrow $24 billion for its restructuring, a decision that helped it stay out of bankruptcy court.

"It's been a delicate balance throughout this process. We want Ford to do well, and we knew as they continue to improve that it would make ratification a little more difficult," Gettelfinger said. "But at the same time, this is not really a concessionary agreement. It's got more positives for our members than it has negatives."

About 250 local leaders attended the meeting. Gettelfinger said the vote to recommend the agreement was "close to unanimous."

Local chapters to vote

Local leaders will try to sell the deal, which changes the terms of a 2007 labor agreement, to Ford's 41,000 UAW members. Gettelfinger said there is no deadline for local votes to be held, but the sale could be tough because of opposition to concessions. Voting probably will begin this week.

Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman at a large Ford pickup truck factory in Dearborn, Mich., said many union members are against the no-strike clause because it gives up the union's biggest bargaining chip in the next round of contract talks.

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Investor Report: Bankruptcy FilingsLabor Department boosts inspections

New Tennessee building code designed to reduce energy waste

Drafty windows, chilly attics and wasteful air conditioners are coming under attack from the state government.
An effort is under way to curb Tennessee's energy-hogging ways with a statewide building code that proponents say could cut consumption in homes by 30 percent or more.

The code would add to the cost of a home, but it has drawn little opposition from local governments or builders. They say they would benefit from the creation of more uniform building standards throughout the state, while buyers of new homes would recoup the upfront cost within three years.

The building code is an often-overlooked aspect of Gov. Phil Bredesen's plan to encourage conservation and foster green energy in the state. It could have a dramatic effect by gradually reshaping the way homes are built, particularly in rural areas where rules have been looser.

"It may cost a little bit on the front end," said Alex Tapia, a Tennessee-based program manager for the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, "but it's going to be paying back for years."

The law attempts to tackle the issue of energy waste in Tennessee. The state's 2.6 million homes consume the second-most energy, per unit, in the country.

At 1,301 kilowatt hours of power, the average Tennessee household consumes more than double that of a home in New England.

Much of the power being used is wasted. Although the state's utilities supply customers with some of the cheapest electricity in the country, Tennessee households wind up spending about $100 a month more than residents in 35 states, according to data compiled by the U.S. government.

State officials believe some of the biggest waste occurs in Tennessee's rural communities. Sixty of the state's 95 counties have no residential building codes.

A task force appointed in 2008 by Gov. Phil Bredesen recommended that the state establish a code that would address energy efficiency and other aspects of construction, noting that 38 states had already done so. The legislature approved the plan in June as part of a comprehensive bill that also set aside money for a West Tennessee megasite and established a fund to make state buildings more efficient.

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Overall Customer Satisfaction With Home Builders and New-Home Quality Improve SignificantlyClayton fights decline in manufactured homes