Thursday, November 25, 2010

Insurer Humana buying Concentra for $790 million

Insurer Humana said it has an agreement to acquire Concentra Inc., which operates a chain of urgent care clinics with five Nashville area locations, for $790 million.
The acquisition would diversify revenues of Louisville, Ky.,-based Humana, which said that the deal fits well into its consumer-focused strategy. Nearly 3 million Humana medical members live near a Concentra center, officials said.

Pending regulatory approvals, Humana hopes to close the deal in December. Addison, Texas-based Concentra has annual revenues of $800 million.

The privately held company delivers occupational medicine, urgent care, physical therapy and wellness services to workers and the public from more than 300 medical centers in 42 states.

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Vanguard Health Systems will get more time to close acquisition dealBuyers Interested in Walkability

Big retailers tailor outlets to shoppers' frugal tastes

BALTIMORE — Shoppers with upscale tastes but shallow pockets are finding more choices with a recent resurgence in outlet and off-price stores being rolled out by major retailers.
Discount shopping isn't new. Bargain shoppers have trekked to outlet malls for decades seeking discounts. Stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, who buy leftover goods from department stores and other places and sell them at a markdown, have prospered during the weak economy.

But retailers are discovering new opportunities in discount and outlet shopping as frugal consumers are being more careful about what they spend and retailers are looking for ways to grow.

Neiman Marcus opened a new concept it calls Last Call Studio in Rockville, Md., last week. The off-price boutique offers this season's designer goods at up to a 65 percent discount. It is able to offer the prices by buying overstock directly from manufacturers. It also recently launched, an off-price website.

The studio store is different from its outlet stores, Neiman Marcus Last Call, which also offer goods at bargain prices, but are much larger and sell older merchandise.

Tom Lind, senior vice president of stores and store operations for Neiman Marcus, said the retailer is targeting shoppers who might not have time to make a regular trip to an outlet mall, which are typically 30 miles or more from major cities. Now, they can shop the discounts on a weekly basis, rather than four or five times a year, Lind said. The company also hopes to tap into a whole new customer base that might not think they can afford Neiman Marcus.

"The off-price segment is one of the healthier retail segments, and we saw this void," Lind said.

Other retailers are also jumping on the outlet and discount trend.

Macy's launched an outlet for its Bloomingdale's chain this year and is exploring whether to open Macy's outlets, as well. Ann Taylor Stores announced last month that it will expand its factory outlet footprint in 2011 with plans to open 35 LOFT Outlet Stores and five Ann Taylor Factory Stores. It plans to take over locations occupied by Liz Claiborne, which is closing stores. Ann Taylor now has about 110 outlet stores.

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Holiday shopping battle heats upBuyers Interested in Walkability

Wall Street tries to undo financial regulations overhaul

WASHINGTON — The heavy hitters of finance lost big battles earlier this year during the overhaul of financial regulation, but they're working hard to win the war. They're quietly trying to soften, if not kill, some of the more controversial provisions.
Lobbyists for Big Finance are working hardest to neutralize the so-called Volcker Rule, which would force big banks to spin off their lucrative proprietary trading operations, in which they invest their own capital in speculative deals.

The measure — named after its proponent, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker — seeks to prevent big banks from betting against trades they made on behalf of their customers, a popular practice until the financial crisis exploded in 2008. For example, big investment banks such as Goldman Sachs sold customers overvalued mortgage bonds even as they bet secretly that those bonds would default.

Financial lobbyists also are working to soften requirements that Wall Street firms put more "skin in the game" by retaining more mortgage bonds on their books to guard against shoddy lending. They're also trying to undercut the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

RelatedMoney and markets page

Through Republican lawmakers who soon will hold leadership positions in the House of Representatives, big banks are backing proposals that could lead to its being defunded or subject to conditions that weaken it.

New council has oversight

Implementing the Volcker Rule falls to the newly created Financial Stability Oversight Council, whose members include regulators over banks, stock and commodities markets. The Treasury Department is first among equals on the council, which began taking comment in October on how to implement the rule.

Big Finance argues that the new rules are job killers.

"We believe that the Volcker Rule is in fact harmful to the ability of the United States to sustain vibrant capital markets and … to create private sector jobs," David Hirschman, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, wrote to the council. "In its current form, the Volcker Rule will likely add to regulatory uncertainty for banking entities and will hurt the global competitiveness of the financial services industry at a time when growth is most needed."

Volcker wrote a letter to the council, urging regulators to stand pat.

"Clear and concise definitions, firmly worded prohibitions, and specificity in describing the permissible activities will be of prime importance for the regulators," he wrote.

"Bankers and their lawyers and lobbyists will no doubt search for and discover seeming ambiguities within the language of the law."

Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist from Columbia University, reminded council members in a letter that proprietary trading helped cause the near meltdown of the U.S. financial system.

"Through the rise of proprietary trading at our nation's banks and the largest non-bank financial firms, firms doubled down on the accumulation of risk, much of it with little benefit to the real economy," Stiglitz wrote. He added that "the financial system in this country and around the world became disconnected from its fundamental purposes."

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Underwater? Alternatives to Walking AwayGM’s offering likely to leave smaller investors behind

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cable provider Cox to package cell phone service

Cox Communications has becomes the first U.S. cable company to commercially sell its own wireless phone service, taking on AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile.
The third-largest cable company says research shows that its customers want a wireless service packaged with Cox's TV, broadband and wire-line offerings.

Cox initially will offer its service in three markets: Hampton Roads, Va.; Omaha; and Orange County, Calif. The company would not say how long it would take to make wireless available to more than 9 million homes in its territories, which include Phoenix, New Orleans, San Diego, Las Vegas and Providence, R.I.

Cox said earlier this year that about 24 percent of its customers said they are willing to switch to its mobile service.

Getting this far has been a struggle for Cox, which tried five years ago to develop a wireless service, called Pivot, in a partnership with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Advance/Newhouse Communications and Sprint Nextel. But the alliance fell apart in 2008 as the companies grappled with differing agendas and financial problems. Wireless is no longer a major focus for the rest.

The lesson from that failure: "We needed to own the experience from front to back," Cox President Patrick Esser says.

Cox expects to be "competitive to any other provider in the market, not only in rate plan pricing but also with the device portfolio that we have," said Stephen Bye, vice president for wireless.

Cox will offer 15 handsets, including smart phones from HTC, LG and Motorola that run Google's Android operating system.

Cox is looking to win over consumers by addressing some common complaints about the incumbent providers' service, such as overage charges and paying for unused minutes. Cox will offer alerts when a customer is approaching the maximum number of minutes, and give 5 cents back for every unused minute, up to savings of $20 a month. Cox will sell monthly mobile-service contracts starting at $39.99.

Bloomberg News contributed to this story.

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Comcast drives growth with pricier bundlesUnderwater? Alternatives to Walking Away

Pathway invests in low-income entrepreneurs

Clint Gwin is the president of Nashville-based Pathway Lending, a nonprofit lender formerly called Southeast Community Capital that raises capital from financial institutions and the state to lend out to small-business owners in Tennessee.
It got started more than 10 years ago under the Southeast Community Capital name as a micro-lender in Oak Ridge designed for entrepreneurs. It has since grown to make loans to 350 businesses, many of them in low-income or rural areas.

The organization estimates it has helped create 1,500 jobs and keep 3,200 other jobs in place by financing the employers.

Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration has announced new public-private funds this year that will nearly triple the nonprofit's available capital for lending, to $75 million.

Gwin talked with Tennessean banking and finance reporter Naomi Snyder about those funds, what Pathway Lending does, and his dealings with a controversial new firm headed by Reagan Farr, former state revenue commissioner, who reportedly will help solar companies find investors.

How was Pathway Lending founded?

We were founded in December 1999 in Oak Ridge as part of a comprehensive entrepreneurship program. The entrepreneurs were struggling to access capital, and Technology 2020 created Southeast Community Capital to bring capital together and make it available in the Oak Ridge-Knoxville area.

We started as a micro-lender with half a million dollars in capital; and we made loans for $35,000 and less. We continued to grow and attract capital from lending institutions. The individual behind it was Tom Rogers, who was the founding CEO of Technology 2020. He is now with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

How did it move to Nashville?

I joined in 2002 after almost 11 years with the FDIC as a bank regulator. We were seeing a lot of requests from rural parts of the state. At the same time, the state of Tennessee — Matt Kisber's group at (the Department of Economic and Community Development) — also was seeing a lot of those requests. We both started talking about what we could do to make sure the rural parts of the state had access to capital.

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Next Up: Andy Moats

Name: Andy Moats
Company/title: Avenue Bank, executive vice president and chief credit officer

Age: 34

What he does: "I handle all things credit-related for Avenue Bank. That would entail any credit approvals, the underwriting department, all bank policies and procedures, and the loan review department."

RelatedNashville People in Business

Background: Born and raised in Nashville, he went to Montgomery Bell Academy and Vanderbilt University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics. He is single.

Why did you choose banking? "With my degree in economics, it seemed like a good fit. I'm able to get my hand in a lot of different industries, and you're very connected to the community when you're in banking."

On landing at Avenue Bank. "I was originally with a large corporate bank here in town, working in their credit department. I left that job when I was asked to help start Avenue Bank in October 2006. I was part of the founding group."

Other interests: "I'm always looking for ways to get involved in the community. I am president of the board of the Nashville Exchange Club Family Center, a nonprofit that exists to help prevent child abuse and neglect in Middle Tennessee."

Favorite places: "Centennial Park is right around the corner from my house and I love going there. I also love going to Titans and Predators games.

What do you like best about Nashville? "It's a big small city, and it has all the sophistication of anywhere else I would want to live — but (with) the comfort of knowing your neighbors and having an open and friendly spirit."

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lack of snow won't slow Opryland hotel's winter show

Rain and warmer weather have slowed the accumulation of machine-made snow that's to be part of Gaylord Opryland's grand reopening holiday sales blitz this week, but no one seems too stressed out about it after six months of costly flood recovery efforts.
The hotel will go ahead with its Christmas decorations and tree-lighting ceremony this evening regardless.

"No matter what happens with the weather, the show will go on," said director of special events Ken Groneck, who is overseeing holiday preparations. Those include a relentless effort to keep churning out 130 tons of snow per day to cover an outdoor children's play area called "SNOW!" debuting this weekend.

Two million Christmas lights strung outdoors on trees and shrubs will be lit with a flick of a switch at 6 tonight as part of the annual lighting ceremony. The Rockettes dance troupe will perform at the public event.

RelatedChristmas over the years at Opryland hotelRenovated Opryland hotel reopens Monday, glitzier than everRenovated Gaylord OprylandChristmas over the years at Opryland HotelGuests return

Already, guests are filling the repaired hotel, which was closed for a half a year after the early May flood.

Elaine and Bob Mason, a couple from Toronto, have visited two or three times before and secured an eight-day reservation for the opening as soon as Gaylord announced the reopening dates.

"We come here because it's such a unique place, the service is great and we like to catch the shows at the Grand Ole Opry ," Elaine Mason said. "It's a little more modern now but still beautiful."

Many of the guests wandering through Gaylord's signature atriums filled with newly planted foliage, potted poinsettias and 200,000 Christmas lights were equally enthusiastic, although 9-year-old Reese Phinney, who lives in Franklin and was visiting the hotel with her parents and relatives from Belgium, had a single complaint.

"There's not as many fish," she said, referring to a man-made waterway snaking through the hotel's interior.

Business is brisk

Early business is brisk among paying customers and guests, though.

The hotel's 2,881 rooms are sold out beginning Friday for advertised holiday events, including the SNOW! exhibit, according to Jenny Barker, public relations director at the hotel.

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CS Week conference group donates $60,000 to flood reliefManaging Solo

Fed's hand strengthens on tame inflation data

WASHINGTON — Consumer prices barely changed for the third straight month in October, strengthening the Federal Reserve's hand at a time when it is defending a plan to boost the economy by buying more government debt.
A report Wednesday from the Labor Department showed that inflation remains super-low.

A steep rise in gasoline prices drove the consumer price index up 0.2 percent in October, the fourth straight monthly increase. But excluding volatile food and energy costs, core consumer prices were unchanged for the third straight month. In the past year, the core index has risen only 0.6 percent, the smallest increase since the index began in 1957.

Many leading Republican economists and lawmakers have criticized the Fed's bond-buying program, saying it could lead to runaway inflation. Some contend the central bank is essentially printing money to lower the value of the dollar and make U.S. goods cheaper overseas.

But other economists say the bigger threat to the U.S. economy is deflation, a widespread drop in prices and wages that could further erode home values and cripple an already weak economy. The nation hasn't grappled with deflation since the Great Depression.

"The data is definitely in the Fed's camp today and should help keep the Fed's critics at bay," said Christopher Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. "There is nothing in this data that would push the Fed off its course of continuing to buy government securities."

Warning signs, however, hint that deflation may be coming closer and the recovery in housing seems to have been aborted.

Among troublesome signs in the October report were price declines on new cars and clothing.

While flat prices may seem like a good thing for shoppers, the Fed would like to see prices rise more quickly to keep deflation at bay. When it announced the bond-buying program, the central bank said inflation is "somewhat low" compared to levels it considers consistent with price stability.

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Stocks retreat; Dow off by 37Real Estate Outlook: Small Gains

GM's offering likely to leave smaller investors behind

NEW YORK — When General Motors finally offers stock to the public today, small investors probably will be left out.
Pension funds, mutual funds and other big institutions all want a piece of the rehabilitated GM. That means the three dozen banks divvying up the new shares may not have much left for individual investors.

And being left out of the initial public offering can mean being left out of some big profits: Shares of newly public companies sometimes jump 10 percent or more on the first day of trading, handing easy money to those lucky enough to get access at the offering price.

"Wall Street is only begrudgingly involving individual investors," said David Menlow, founder of research company The attitude is it's "our ball and our rules."

RelatedWith IPO today, GM caps rebirth as public company

The most important rule of all: The banks handling IPOs — called underwriters — get to pick who gets the shares at the offering price. And critics say those shares often go to favored clients or potential clients — that is, institutions that pay lots of trading commissions to the banks, not the small fry.

"It's still the good-ole-boys network," Menlow said. "As much as the firms would argue to the contrary, it's still, "How much business are you doing with us?' "

The GM sale is one of the largest and most anticipated IPOs in years. For sale are 478 million shares and a piece of an iconic American manufacturer. The biggest seller is the U.S. government, which hopes to cut its ownership from 61 percent to 33 percent or less. The government got the stake in exchange for help in saving GM from near collapse with $51 billion in taxpayer money.

That the small guy had to rescue the company when it was sick but could get shut out now that it's healthy has rankled some investors. The U.S. government had said it wanted small investors to have an opportunity to invest in the IPO, though it never specified just how many shares would be made available.

The backroom deals by bankers helping companies go public have drawn fierce criticism over the years. Longtime Silicon Valley financier Bill Hambrecht says the bankers often don't get the highest price possible for new shares and are rewarded too much for their work anyway. He favors Dutch auctions that allocate new shares to the highest bidders, including small investors. His company, WR Hambrecht + Co., used such an auction to take Google Inc. public in 2004.

Treasury spokesman Mark Paustenbach had no comment on whether an auction was considered for GM or on how many shares will go to individual investors.

Of course, a successful return by GM to the public markets should be celebrated. Though it's not certain Washington will get all its money back, a successful IPO at least makes it more likely. And a lot of small investors shut out of the IPO will have money in mutual funds that are allowed to buy.

AP auto writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report.

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Real Estate Outlook: Small GainsGM raises share price

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

GM raises share price

DETROIT — Fueled by strong investor demand, General Motors is setting a higher share price for Thursday's initial public stock offering. The increase boosts the automaker's market value to $50 billion and moves its largest owner, the U.S. government, closer to recouping all of the money it spent saving GM from ruin.
But even with the increase, GM's value is still short of what the government needs to recover the whole bailout.

During the past two weeks, investor interest in GM has risen as the company's executives flew across the globe making sales pitches to big investors. The company has made profits for three straight quarters and thinks earnings could increase even more if the U.S. auto market rebounds from a 30-year low last year.

GM announced Tuesday that it would raise the price range for common stock being sold this week to $32 to $33 per share, up from the range revealed two weeks ago, $26 to $29.

At $33 apiece, the total value of the 1.5 billion outstanding GM shares would be nearly
$50 billion, up $6 billion in the past two weeks. That's a huge improvement but still short of the $65.6 billion market value needed for the government to get back all of the taxpayer dollars it used to get GM through a painful bankruptcy restructuring.

The government, which became GM's biggest shareholder when it gave the automaker $50 billion to get through bankruptcy, hopes to get the money back through the IPO and several follow-up sales that could take two or more years.

The share price increase and the rising market value are good news, though, because they reduce the amount of money the government has to earn back in the follow-up sales after the IPO, said Joe Phillippi, president of AutoTrends Consulting in Short Hills, N.J.

"If GM performs as expected, the stock will steadily improve in valuation," rising to $45 or more in the next year, he said.

Shares may rise

Bankers handling the GM stock sale, which is planned for Thursday, probably will exercise an option to sell 15 percent more shares from the government and two of GM's other owners, the combined Canadian and Ontario governments and a union health-care trust fund. That could bring in even more money.

At the high end of the new price range, $33 per share, the government could reap as much as $10 billion in the IPO. That's $2.3 billion, or about 31 percent more than it would have made two weeks ago.

If the IPO generates $10 billion for the government, GM would still be on the hook for $30 billion in taxpayer dollars. The U.S. would hold roughly 609 million shares after the IPO. If it sold all of those shares at $33, it would make $20 billion, falling $10 billion shy of getting all of the money back.

But analysts say GM's share price probably will rise above $33 once it begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the company's old symbol, GM. The shares should rise, they say, as auto sales continue to slowly improve during the next few years. If the shares get to $50, the government will get back all $30 billion left from its original $50 billion bailout.

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Real Estate Outlook: Small GainsGM to sell $13 billion in upcoming IPO

Study's leader says mortgage industry problems are broad

WASHINGTON — The problems in the mortgage industry go far beyond the controversy over flawed foreclosure documents and call for an overhaul of the system of administering home loans, the state attorney general leading a nationwide investigation told a Senate panel Tuesday.
As Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller testified at a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, senators also insisted that focusing solely on the so-called "robo-signing" is a mistake. And the banking industry was criticized for maintaining that the problem was mainly technical.

That view "shows a certain type of arrogance," Miller said.

"There's so much at stake," he told the panel. The entire system of servicing and modifying mortgages, and foreclosing on borrowers must be changed "so that it works productively," he said. A resolution could involve penalties for mortgage companies that don't comply with required practices, Miller said.

"We'll need ultimately agreement from the banks and so far our discussions have been productive," he said.

CNBC reported that Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. are nearing a settlement with the 50 attorneys general in which they would compensate borrowers whose homes were improperly foreclosed upon.

But Miller said after the hearing that a settlement wasn't close. "That's totally wrong. We're a long way from an agreement," he told reporters. "We're at the beginning stages of a negotiation."

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TN borrowers could benefit from national mortgage investigationUnderwater? Alternatives to Walking Away

UPS to hire 50,000 temporary workers for holidays

ATLANTA — UPS plans to hire about 50,000 temporary workers to handle the crush of holiday shipments this year.
United Parcel Service said Tuesday that it expects to deliver 430 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The busiest day should be Wednesday, Dec. 22, when UPS expects to deliver 24 million packages worldwide, up nearly 60 percent from a normal day.

Rival FedEx said it expects to move nearly 16 million packages on its peak day, Dec. 13.

RelatedJobs resources, tips and videos

Economists watch the predictions from UPS and FedEx for hints about the direction of the economy. Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and many consumer goods are handled by UPS or FedEx.

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Stores beef up staffs for holiday seasonReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

David Bohan: People spend as much time using media as sleeping

Doctors tell us we need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Let's say we get a full eight hours. That leaves us with 16 hours to do all the other stuff we need to do each day — work, eat, spend time with family, pray, read, etc.
Well, if you are "average," you are spending at least half of your waking hours with media, according to a survey by media research giant Ipsos OXT. In fact, its Longitudinal Media Experience survey found that daily media use has grown by 40 minutes each year since 2008.

One of the big reasons for increased media use is portability. Laptop computer ownership grew from 46 percent in 2008 to 63 percent in 2010. Almost one-quarter of all U.S. consumers now have Web-enabled smart phones.

Devices coupled with increased bandwidth and seemingly universal cell service now allow for communication virtually anywhere anytime.

"Today's consumer is benefitting from a media ecosystem with better content, media access and technology," said Ned Greenberg, vice president of Ipsos OXT. "They can be more in control of their media experiences than ever before."

Time spent watching television is at an all-time high. Nielsen reported that the average person watches 35 hours and 34 minutes of television weekly. Also, households have more televisions than people. There are four or more TVs in almost one-third of all American homes.

Another factor is that time-shifted viewing has exploded as the presence of digital video recorders has increased (1.2 percent of households in 2006, but 37 percent today).

"The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional television viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside simultaneous usage argues something quite different," said Matt O'Grady, media product leader at Nielsen.

So assuming your job or school does not allow you to spend half your time using media, how do you get in your eight hours a day? We do it by multi-tasking.

In December 2009, Nielsen reported that 59 percent of everyone age 2 and older watching television was online at the same time.

Stay busy, consume media

So what else are we doing while we watch television? One big thing is using social media. In fact, 40 percent of online time is spent playing games, e-mailing or visiting social network sites, and social network time is growing — up a half-hour per user per day in just the last year.

"Communications is now entertaining, and entertainment is communications," said Bruce Friend, president of Ipsos OXT. "The speed at which things can be delivered thanks to broadband, and the ways it can be delivered, with digital video recorders and video on demand, mean that the speed of change has ramped up in an unprecedented way."

For marketers, one message is clear: Find ways to get your product or service on a screen.

David Bohan founded BOHAN Advertising|Marketing, a Nashville agency with clients in travel, hospitality, health care and consumer products, in 1990. He has worked in marketing and advertising since earning a degree at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1970.

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Meager increase forecast for holiday retail salesReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

Good jobs vanish, may never return

WASHINGTON — The well-paying, predominantly white-collar jobs that once sustained many American communities are disappearing at an alarming pace, keeping the unemployment rate stubbornly high despite the end of the Great Recession.
More troubling, these jobs in accounting, financial analysis, commercial printing and a broad array of other mostly white-collar occupations are unlikely to come back, experts predict.

There isn't a single cause to the trend. Some of it is explained by changing technology, some of it is the result of automation. Sending well-paying jobs to low-cost centers abroad is another big part of the story. So is global competition from emerging economies such as China and India.

The result is the same in all cases, however. Jobs that paid well, required skills and produced vital communities are going away and aren't being replaced by anything comparable.

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"Unfortunately, the evidence is that you see a form of downward mobility of workers who are displaced from middle-skilled, stable career occupations," said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an interview.

Autor published a much-discussed paper in April, suggesting that the U.S. labor market has become polarized, with employment growth in the high-skill, high-wage end, and the low-skill, low-wage end. The vast middle, he concluded, is shrinking.

"The Great Recession has quantitatively but not qualitatively changed the direction of the U.S. labor market," Autor concluded, pointing to an accelerating trend that he said has been under way for more than a decade.

Income keeps declining

Lois Williams-Norman is on the upper end of what could be called a middle-skill job, working her entire career in corporations as an internal financial and budget expert.

Like millions of Americans, she has had to swallow her pride and step down the income ladder.

"I've gone from a six-figure income to seriously looking at positions that are going to be paying probably half as much. So over the past 10 years, my income has continued to decline year after year," Williams-Norman said during an interview in the western New York city of Rochester, in between networking events where she searched for employment.

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Disney hopes bear's success in Japan will translate elsewhere

ORLANDO, Fla. — A few weeks ago, Disney introduced a new costumed character into company theme parks in Orlando and California. He did not arrive alone.
"Duffy the Disney Bear" made its debut in Walt Disney World's Epcot and Disneyland's Disney California Adventure with an army of merchandise. Park souvenir shops began stocking three sizes of stuffed-plush bears and accompanying Duffy costumes, key chains, magnets and more. Additional souvenirs are on the way: Disney says it will have nearly three dozen Duffy items for sale in its theme parks within the next year.

It's a long line of products — all riding on a character that even many Disney fans don't know.

Not in movies

Duffy, unlike Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear and other well-known Disney characters, has never starred in an animated movie or television show. He is instead a retail creation of Tokyo Disney, where he is one of the most sought-after souvenirs in the Japanese resort that draws 26 million visitors each year.

Now, after a brutal recession that sapped spending in its domestic parks, Disney is betting Duffy's merchandising strength in Japan will translate to the U.S.

"This is really a model that we've not done before," said Dara Trujillo, manager of merchandise synergy and special events for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Born in Orlando

Duffy was actually born in Orlando. The stuffed bear, which has a Mickey Mouse-shaped face and a Mickey-shaped birthmark on its hip, was initially designed as a unique product to sell in "Once Upon a Toy," the 16,000-square-foot toy shop that opened in Disney World's Downtown Disney in 2002. But back then it was known only as "Disney Bear," and it never caught on.

But two years later, the toy was adopted by Tokyo Disney, where executives were searching for fresh content for Tokyo DisneySea, one of the resort's two theme parks. They figured it could sell well in Japan, where teddy bears are a popular cultural symbol.

To make sure, they gave it a push. First came an elaborate back story: The bear had been made by Minnie Mouse, who gave it to Mickey to keep him company whenever he traveled. Mickey named it "Duffy" because Minnie gave him the bear in a duffel bag.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dr. Charles P. Mouton hopes to build on Meharry Medical College's legacy

As senior vice president of health affairs and dean of Meharry Medical College's medical school, Dr. Charles P. Mouton leads an academic and clinical enterprise ranked among the nation's top producers of primary care doctors.
With an estimated 30 million more Americans expected to obtain insurance coverage under the health law passed earlier this year in Washington, access to sufficient primary care doctors will become even more critical.

Mouton, who joined Meharry on July 1 after a stint chairing the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Howard University's College of Medicine, spoke with health-care business writer Getahn Ward about the role of academic health centers in meeting that supply-and-demand challenge. He also discussed what he sees as the importance of maintaining a diverse labor force of doctors in the United States to deliver care.

How did you end up choosing family medicine as a specialty?

When I grew up in New Orleans, my exposure to medicine was through having a family doctor. I decided to go to Howard University, and I majored in mechanical engineering.

I finished mechanical engineering and entered Howard Medical School. I originally thought I wanted to be a surgeon mainly because one of the faculty leaders there was probably one of the most dynamic individuals in the surgery community, even to this day, and I wanted to be just like him.

I didn't really get exposed to family medicine until late in my senior year, and I had actually already matched to surgery. Once I started to get into my training program, I discovered that wanting to have my own patients was of primary importance for me. So, I switched out of surgery to go into family medicine. I wanted to have the opportunity to engage in these (patients') lives.

And although surgery was fun — and I was good at it — it is basically a sub-specialty where you rely on referrals, and you don't have the chance to make an intense connection as you do with family medicine.

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Hospitals reach out to suburbs for outpatient dollars

Development Briefs: Suffolk Construction opens office

Suffolk Construction Co. Inc., a privately held construction management company, said last week that it has established a national health-care construction office in Nashville, at One American Center at 3100 West End Ave.
The company said its health-care construction business has grown 20 percent in the past few years, and during the past five years it has delivered more than 500 health-care projects nationwide worth an estimated total value of $2.5 billion.

Leading Suffolk's National Healthcare Group is Executive Vice President Terry Brantley. During his 30-year career as a health-care construction executive, he has managed major health-care client programs for not-for-profit and for-profit systems, including Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., HCA, Triad Hospitals, Community Health Systems, and Quorum Health Resources.

Chris Gilliam is vice president, director of operations; Craig Mulliniks is director of preconstruction services; and Paul Moffat is project executive.


White House Lowe's plans expansion

Home improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. is expanding its space at its millwork facility in White House, going from 143,532 square feet to 252,000 square feet, according to its landlord, HSA Commercial Real Estate in Chicago.

The building is at 510 Hester Drive.


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Managing SoloHealth care propels Nashville economy

Nashville-area Business Bankruptcies

Blu Sky Media Group Murfreesboro
Assets: $73,373

Liabilities: $298,712

Filed Nov. 11

Seagraves Holdings LLC, a Georgia limited liability company, Manchester

Assets: $18,005

Liabilities: $1.03 million

SOURCE: U.S. Bankruptcy Court

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Tennessee Commerce has $1.5M loss, bad loanManaging Solo

Tech advice: Recover pics from memory card

I accidentally formatted my camera's memory card. Is there a way to recover my photos?
There are a few free file recovery programs that will work. Recuva is a powerful free recovery program. It will work on almost any digital media, but it may not detect all photo file formats.

Zero Assumption Recovery is designed to read photo files, including many proprietary RAW formats. When recovering files, do not restore files to the same place you are recovering them from. You will overwrite the files you are trying to recover. Visit www.ko to download these free programs.

I have several flash drives. Some are much slower than others. Why is that?

Flash drives are based on flash memory. However, not all flash memory is created equal. There are faster and slower varieties. Naturally, faster varieties are more expensive. Speed is also dependent on the memory controller.

A basic memory controller will be slower than a high-quality memory controller. That means bargain or off-brand flash drives tend to be slower. Manufacturers often put read and write speeds on flash drives. Look for faster speeds. I recommend a write speed of 30 MB/s or faster.

I am concerned about using public Wi-Fi when I travel in my RV. Can I set up a personal router to rebroadcast the signal securely?

Rebroadcasting a Wi-Fi signal isn't terribly difficult, but it is hard when it isn't your own network. In some cases, it won't be possible. Plus, it won't add much extra security. The connection between your router and the public Wi-Fi won't be encrypted. You're better off making sure your computer is secure. That means installing security software, including a firewall.

Disabling file sharing is also a good idea. Visit for links to free security software and to learn how to disable file sharing.

Apple just released iLife '11. It looks like it has some good features. However, I just bought a Mac recently. Do I have to pay to upgrade?

ILife, Apple's popular media software suite, helps you manage your photos, create music and edit videos. It comes bundled on all Mac computers. Apple also sells upgrade versions for older computers. You may be able to get a free copy, depending on when you bought the computer.

All Macs purchased in October get a free upgrade. You just pay for shipping and handling, which is $7. Otherwise, it will cost you $50, plus shipping. You can order the upgrade from Apple's website. The free upgrade cannot be picked up at an Apple Store.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet. E-mail questions to

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EVO tops iPhone 4 in many featuresReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

Nashville People in Business

Vanderbilt University education scholar Richard Milner won the 2010 Carl A. Grant Multicultural Research Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education. Milner is Betts associate professor of education and human development at Vanderbilt's Peabody College of Education and Human Development.
The White House Fellows Foundation and Association awarded Phoenix Holdings President Sam Howard the 2010 John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award.

Collier Roofing of Nashville is designated as the national 2010 Contractor of the Year for Commercial Roofing in the November issue of Roofing Contractor Magazine.

The Middle Tennessee Certified Commercial Investment Member Chapter recognized members certified in commercial real estate at the association's fall business meeting: Moren Adenubi with Crown Realty, Austin Barrett of HCA, Amy Byrd with Healthcare Realty Trust, Jim Foley with CB Richard Ellis, Brian Forrester of The Shopping Center Group, Joe Massa with Marcus & Millichap, Jay McRae with OGA Realty, Park Owen with The Parkes Companies and Julie Wilson with Healthcare Realty Trust.

Belmont University's McWhorter Hall received a Citation of Excellence Award in the national Learning By Design competition sponsored by the National School Boards Association and Stratton Publishing and Marketing Inc. Earl Swensson Associates designed the building that holds the university's School of Pharmacy, School of Physical Therapy and Department of Psychological Science.

Anchor Trailways & Tours won three distinguished marketing awards for best magazine, best public relations and best trailways website at the National Meeting of the Trailways Transportation System.


Fifth Third Bank promoted Buffy Bundshuh to manager at its downtown Nashville location. Luis Parodi was hired as the bank's Tennessee Community Reinvestment Act executive. Jacob Kassinger and James Victery were hired as retail personal bankers. Michael Bishop, Jason Hill and Jared Autrey have been hired as retail financial center managers.

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Managing SoloNashville People in Business

Holiday shopping battle heats up

NEW YORK — From free shipping from Walmart to Sears stores open on Thanksgiving for the first time, the battle for holiday shoppers' dollars has begun in earnest.
The early competition to break through shoppers' caution about spending promises savings for those willing to buy amid an economy that's still worrying many. It also promises convenience. Retailers are offering deals anytime, anywhere their customers want, through websites, smart phones and Facebook.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that typically kicks off holiday shopping, is not only being marketed as "Black Friday week," but for a growing number of stores, "Black Friday month."

As for Thanksgiving, some retailers like Sears and Gap's Old Navy hope shoppers will head to stores after they finish their turkey feasts. On the Web, Kohl's Corp. and Target Corp. are among many merchants dramatically stepping up deals that day, counting on that holiday to be one of the busiest days of the year online.

"Everything is faster and sooner," said Dan Grandpre, editor-in-chief of, which opened an office in Dublin, Ireland, a few months ago to monitor the frenetic pace of offers, particularly during the holidays. Dealnews is based in Huntsville, Ala.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is clearly going for the jugular in the holiday retailing fight. It announced Thursday that it will offer free shipping on nearly 60,000 online items — with no minimum purchase requirement. The offer, which includes most electronics, jewelry and toys, will run through Dec. 20. Return shipping is also free, or items can be returned to a local store.

Wal-Mart's free offer comes on top of similarly aggressive free shipping programs from Target and J.C. Penney. Wal-Mart's deal adds to the discounter's Site to Store program, which lets customers buy an item online and have it shipped free to their local Walmart store for pickup. is even testing a service at nearly 800 stores that lets customers see inventory and purchase products right from home. The online orders usually are ready to be picked up at a store within four hours.

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Value remains important for Christmas shoppersBuyers Interested in Walkability

Bank of America takes aim at lawsuit complaining of 'robo-signers'

Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. lender, asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought by foreclosed homeowners who accuse it of racketeering.
Dwayne Ransom Davis and Melisa Davis sued last month in Indianapolis, claiming Bank of America "routinely" submitted perjured affidavits to support foreclosures. They lost their Knightstown, Ind., home last year.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank, in papers filed Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, said the Davises were improperly using a federal court to attack a state court proceeding and hadn't shown they were injured.

"While plaintiffs claim they do not seek to overturn the judgment in the foreclosure action, it is clear they are trying to do precisely that," in violation of federal law, Bank of America told the court.

The Davises didn't ask the court to reverse their September 2009 foreclosure. They said in their complaint that the use of "robo-signers," or people who sign affidavits attesting to facts underlying foreclosures without actual knowledge of them, constitutes racketeering.

They seek class-action, or group, status for anyone whose home was taken under such circumstances since October 2006, and compensatory damages, which would be tripled under U.S. racketeering laws.

"Plaintiffs plead no facts to support their claim that the result, i.e. a judgment of foreclosure, would have been any different had the alleged inaccuracies in the underlying affidavit been discovered in the state court proceeding," Bank of America said.

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The foreclosure freeze: questions and answersUnderwater? Alternatives to Walking Away

Nissan recalls 600,000 vehicles

DETROIT — Nissan Motor Co. is recalling more than 600,000 vehicles in North and South America and Africa because of steering or battery cable problems.
The Japanese automaker said Thursday that the steering recall affects 303,000 Frontier pickup trucks and 283,000 Xterra sport utility vehicles in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries. Nissan said a corrosion problem with the lower steering column joint and shaft can limit steering movement, making the vehicles difficult to steer. In some cases the corrosion can cause the joint to crack.

Nissan also is recalling 18,500 Sentra sedans because of a battery cable terminal connector problem that can make the cars difficult to start or stall at low speeds.

The Frontiers covered by the recall are from the 2002 through 2004 model years and were made from July 9, 2001, to Oct. 20, 2004, in Smyrna for the North American market, Nissan said in a statement. Frontiers made from Nov. 30, 2001, to June 26, 2008, in Curitiba, Brazil, for South and Central American markets are in the recall.

The 2002-2004 North American Xterras in the recall were made from July 9, 2001, to Jan. 6, 2005, also at the Smyrna plant. Xterras made from Feb. 17, 2003, to June 13, 2008, in Curitiba, Brazil, for South and Central American markets also are affected.

Owners will be notified in early December when parts are available. Dealers will fix the problem at no cost to the owners.

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Auto sales top 2009 but flat since AugustReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paid tax preparers must sign up for new ID number, IRS says

People who charge others to prepare their income-tax returns must sign up with the IRS to get a new federal preparer identification number before doing any returns for tax year 2010, the federal agency says.
The new ID number is part of the IRS move to begin regulation of those who make it a business to prepare returns for others.

Later, they will also be required to take an IRS competency test and complete continuing-education courses to be eligible to charge for tax-preparation services, said David R. Williams, the IRS official in charge of the new regulatory program.

“All must have a preparer ID number as a first step in identifying who is preparing tax returns,” Williams said today in a conference call with reporters.

“We are trying to get the message out” to people whose business it is to prepare returns, he said, “and get a broader message to consumers that we are taking steps” to make sure that tax preparers are qualified.

Tax-preparers may apply for the ID number online at, The process takes about 15 minutes, and has to be completed by everyone who prepares returns for a fee, even those who already had an IRS tax-preparer number in the past, Williams said.

The ID number is officially known as the Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN, the IRS said.

Sixty percent of taxpayers use tax-return preparation services, the IRS said, and an additional 30 percent use tax-preparation software programs.

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Local business briefs: Community Health Systems expands in S.C.Real Estate Outlook: Small Gains

Private equity firm invests in MedSolutions

A Boston-based private equity firm has acquired a minority stake in MedSolutions, the Franklin-based radiation benefits manager.
Additional terms of the minority investment by TA Associates weren't disclosed. Mark H. Carter, a TA principal, and David S. B. Lang, an advisor at the private equity firm, will join MedSolutions’ board.

Current MedSolutions investors MedCare and Ridgemont Equity Partners will each retain a portion of their stakes.

MedSolutions employs more than 500 people, including at its headquarters and at call centers here and in Melbourne, Fla. The company provides cost management for more than 27 million individuals.

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Scripps TV unit to relocate HQ to KnoxvilleUnderwater? Alternatives to Walking Away

Small businesses turn to microlenders when banks say no

DALLAS — Michelle Matta had never heard of microfinancing before landing a microloan.
After working for a promotional products company for eight years, she decided to branch out on her own. In 2007, she started A Turtle Loves Me, using her husband's nickname.

Within a week, she landed her first big contract — a $152,000 order for travel mugs from Corner Bakery Cafe. Within a month, she spent $5,000 in family savings.

Six months later, she asked her bank of 20 years for a $25,000 loan to buy an embroidery machine. The bank turned her down because she hadn't been in business for three years, Matta said.

Undeterred, she approached microlender Accion, which lent her the $25,000 at 13.5 percent interest.

"I really thought this would be a company that I ran on my credit cards for a while," said Matta, 42, who dropped out of high school at 17. By the end of 2007, sales totaled $233,000, and the home-based business was profitable. In the second year, her husband was able to quit his trucking job to work with her.

Since then, she has received two small loans from Accion Texas-Louisiana, which is based in San Antonio but has a Dallas office.

Microlending — lending small amounts of money to help people start or expand a business — usually is associated with developing countries.

Such programs began in the 1970s to provide credit and banking services to the poor.

On the rise in U.S.

Microlending is on the rise in the United States, filling a void as banks have tightened credit in the past few years. It serves a crucial role in helping entrepreneurs, especially low- to moderate-income people and minorities, gain access to capital.

U.S. microlenders made 9,191 loans totaling $100.9 million in fiscal 2008, the latest data available from the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit research group. Most of them provide loans up to $35,000, with a third making larger loans. There are
360 microlenders in the U.S.

U.S. microlenders have existed "below the radar" for a couple of decades, said Tammy Halevy, a senior vice president at the Association for Enterprise Opportunity in Washington.

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TN, bankers form partnership for loan fund to kick-start small businessesUnderwater? Alternatives to Walking Away

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stocks retreat; Dow off by 37

NEW YORK — Stocks pulled back Monday as traders retreated from a rally that brought indexes to their highest levels since the peak of the financial crisis in September 2008.
Gold crossed $1,400 an ounce to another record on Monday as traders looked for safe places to park money.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 37.24, or 0.3 percent, to close at 11,406.84. It surged 2.9 percent last week after the Federal Reserve announced a $600 billion stimulus package for the U.S. economy.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index fell 2.60, or 0.2 percent, to 1,223.25.

RelatedMoney and markets page

The Nasdaq composite index continued to outperform other market measures, as it has done all year, edging up 1.07, or 0.04 percent, to 2,580.05. The technology-focused index is up 13.7 percent for the year, compared with a 9.4 percent gain for the Dow and a 9.7 gain for the S&P 500.

Financial companies were down the most among the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500 index. Technology, energy and materials companies were the only groups in the index to show meager gains.

"Today is shaping up to be a modest sell-off, and that's to be expected," said Barnaby Levin, a managing director at HighTower Advisors.

Earnings lifted stocks

Stocks have risen in recent weeks on better-than-expected corporate earnings reports and the introduction of a bond-buying program by the Federal Reserve that is intended to stimulate the economy by driving interest rates lower and encouraging spending.

The dollar rose 0.5 percent against a broad basket of currencies. That's a negative for big U.S. companies such as Caterpillar Inc. that do a lot of business overseas, since a stronger dollar makes their products more expensive in other countries. Caterpillar was off 0.5 percent, and Boeing Co., another big exporter, was off 1.5 percent, putting it in a tie with Travelers Cos. for biggest laggard among the 30 companies that make up the Dow.

Despite weakness in other financial stocks, shares of Bank of America Corp. rose 1.9 to make it the best performing company among the Dow 30, followed by Hewlett Packard Co. and Cisco Systems Inc.

The euro fell 0.8 percent from recent highs, in part on renewed concerns about the debt burdens of the weaker economies among countries that use the Euro. Ireland announced Thursday that it would raise taxes and seek additional cuts in government services to rein in its deficit.

Yields on 10-year Irish bonds rose sharply in response. U.S. markets had swooned this spring over concerns that a fiscal crisis in Greece would spread to Portugal, Spain and other weak economies in the euro zone.

Prices for Treasury bonds fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond rose slightly to 2.55 percent, from 2.53 percent late Friday.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on Monday defended the central bank's stimulus program in a meeting at the New York Society of Security Analysts. Bullard said that the pace of economic recovery had slowed, which made deflation, rather than inflation, a greater concern for the Fed.

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Dow settles near 2010 high as voters go to pollsReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

Music industry recovers after flood destroyed instruments, venues

In a white clapboard house on a quiet street in Berry Hill, a six-month marathon effort to save dozens of flood-damaged musical instruments remains a daily labor of love with the goal of salvaging Nashville's best-known industry from near disaster.
Joe Glaser's repair shop has resuscitated about 100 guitars — along with musicians' livelihoods — some of which were "given up for dead" after being found warped or smeared in river sludge when the Cumberland River overflowed after torrential rains in early May.

Damaged goods sat waterlogged in artists' homes, in recording studios and inside the massive SoundCheck music storage warehouse near the river, where working musicians and big-name stars alike stored thousands of valuable instruments.

"In the beginning, when I saw all of those instruments, I thought, 'Oh, no way. It's too many. They're warped. They're dead. It's hopeless,' " said Glaser, who has been repairing guitars in Nashville for 30 years.

RelatedFlood cost Nashville a year's worth of economic activityNashville Flood 20102010 Flood StatisticsNashville Flood: Six Months After

"Then we just focused on one instrument at a time. In a lot of cases, instruments couldn't be saved. But in others, in a peculiar way, the guitars sound better. They've got more soul."

Nearly every aspect of Nashville's music industry was hurt in some way by May's flood, but slow and painstaking restoration efforts such as Glaser's are getting musical landmarks back in shape, companies back on their feet and musicians back in business.

For instance:

• SoundCheck, the 160,000-square-foot warehouse and rehearsal studio that stored an estimated 60 percent of Nashville musicians' instruments and professional gear, reopened in July. Insurance and Small Business Administration loans covered $2.2 million in damages to the facility, but owner Ben Jumper said few musicians had insurance to cover an estimated $10 million in damages to individual instruments stored there.

• The Schermerhorn Symphony Center sustained $40 million in damage when up to 24 feet of water flooded the building's basement and sub-basement. Two weeks ago, power was finally restored. Two 10-hour shifts of workers continue on the highly specialized restoration work required to maintain acoustic perfection in the hall, while experts in San Francisco work to save a valuable and badly damaged organ. The symphony is on track to reopen with a New Year's Eve concert, featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman.

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CS Week conference group donates $60,000 to flood relief

Gaps in broadband access persist as use grows

WASHINGTON — The U.S. still faces a significant gap in residential broadband use that breaks down along income, education level and other socio-economic factors, even as subscriptions among American households overall grew sevenfold from 2001 to 2009.
What's more, even when controlling for key socio-economic characteristics, the U.S. continues to confront a racial gap in residential broadband use, with non-Hispanic white Americans and Asian-Americans more likely to go online using a high-speed connection than African-Americans and Hispanics.

Those are some of the key conclusions of a new analysis of census data released Monday by the Commerce Department.

It found that the percentage of households that connect to the Internet using broadband grew to 63.5 percent in 2009 from 9.2 percent in 2001, reflecting increases across nearly all demographics.

The report — prepared by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, and the Economics and Statistics Administration — is based on a census survey of about 54,000 households conducted in October 2009.

The new study provides some of the deepest analysis yet of broadband usage trends in the United States. And it is likely to help guide Congress and the Federal Communications Commission as they develop policies to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable high-speed Internet service.

The analysis, said Lawrence Strickling, head of the NTIA, shows that "there is no single solution" to make this happen.

Among the major findings:

• 94.1 percent of households with income exceeding $100,000 subscribed to broadband in 2009, compared with 35.8 percent of households with income of less than $25,000.

• 84.5 percent of households with at least one college degree subscribed to broadband last year, compared with 28.8 percent of households without a high school degree.

• 77.3 percent of Asian-American households and 68 percent of non-Hispanic white households subscribed to broadband last year, compared with 49.4 percent of African-American households and 47.9 percent of Hispanic households.

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More Americans’ credit scores sink to new lowsBuyers Interested in Walkability

Internet guru launches new Web browser

SAN FRANCISCO — The Web has changed a lot since Marc Andreessen revolutionized the Internet with the introduction of his Netscape browser in the mid-1990s. That's why he's betting people are ready to try a different Web-surfing technique on a new browser called RockMelt.
The browser, available for the first time today, is built on the premise that most online activity today revolves around socializing on Facebook, searching on Google, tweeting on Twitter and monitoring a handful of favorite websites. It tries to minimize the need to roam from one website to the next by corralling all vital information and favorite services in panes and drop-down windows.

"This is a chance for us to build a browser all over again," Andreessen said. "These are all things we would have done (at Netscape) if we had known how people were going to use the Web."

Andreessen didn't develop the RockMelt browser the way he did Netscape, whose early popularity waned as Microsoft Corp. bundled its Internet Explorer browser with the Windows operating system.

RockMelt is the handiwork of Tim Howes and Eric Vishria, who formerly worked with Andreessen. But Andreessen's seal of approval has been stamped on the startup.

The biggest chunk of RockMelt's $10 million in funding has come from the venture capital firm that Andreessen runs with his partner, Ben Horowitz. Andreessen also sits on RockMelt's board.

Facebook connection

Facebook's imprint also is all over RockMelt, although the two companies' only business connection so far is Andreessen. He also serves on Facebook's board.

RockMelt works only if you have a Facebook account. That restriction still gives RockMelt plenty of room to grow, given Facebook has more than 500 million users.

After a Facebook user logs on to RockMelt with Facebook account information, the person's Facebook profile picture is planted in the browser's left-hand corner, and a list of favorite friends can be displayed in the left-hand pane. There's also a built-in tool for posting updates in a pop-up box.

The features extend beyond Facebook and Twitter. RockMelt includes a tool that shows results from Google searches in a drop-down box, while the browser's right-hand pane is reserved for listing favorite websites.

RockMelt stores each user's preferences on a remote server, making them available on any computer that has the browser installed on its hard drive.

RockMelt is starting with a modest goal: It hopes to attract 1 million users as it extends invitations to people interested in trying the browser. Requests can be made through

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Google’s unusual strategy based on calculated logicBuyers Interested in Walkability

Holiday airfares climb higher

Many fliers will pay more — sometimes half as much more — for airline tickets this holiday season.
On some routes, fares are up to 59 percent higher than last year for travel before Thanksgiving and up to 40 percent higher before Christmas, according to an analysis by travel site

"Domestic airfares hit bottom in May 2009, were relatively low for Thanksgiving last year and now have crept up," says Rick Seaney, president of

The reason: Consumers who stopped flying during the recession are taking to the air, and airlines have reduced the number of seats available in the last few years to cut costs, Seaney says.

Overall, FareCompare says, domestic airfares are up an average of 17 percent for travel late this month, late December and early January over a year ago. That analysis was of fares among 50 cities. Many popular routes are costlier to fly, Seaney says.

Fares for popular flights analyzed

At USA TODAY 's request, FareCompare analyzed the cheapest nonstop coach fares on 10 popular domestic routes connecting to such major hubs as Atlanta,
Dallas, New York and Los Angeles. The fares were valid Nov. 1 for flights departing one day before Thanksgiving and two days before Christmas.

On Nov. 1, the cheapest nonstop, round-trip ticket between Boston and Minneapolis was $859 for a Nov. 24 departure and a Nov. 28 return. That price on Delta Air Lines was 59 percent more expensive than for the same days last year.

It was also 59 percent more expensive on Nov. 1 to fly between Philadelphia and Orlando, departing Nov. 24 and returning Nov. 28. US Airways and AirTran Airways were charging $522 for the cheapest nonstop ticket, compared with $328 last year.

For all 10 routes analyzed by, the cheapest nonstop, round-trip ticket for Thanksgiving travel was higher than last year. The price was at least 13 percent more on nine routes.

Ticket prices for Christmas travel also are more expensive on all 10 routes.

Orbitz, the giant online travel agent, also reports more expensive holiday fares. It analyzed three major routes — New York-Los Angeles, New York-San Francisco and Chicago-San Francisco — and found average airfares for tickets booked through Oct. 1 were up to 30 percent higher for travel during the upcoming Christmas and New Year's season.

Orbitz says the busiest days to fly during the Christmas season will be Dec. 23 and Dec. 26, and the lightest days will be Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.

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Nashville area’s median home price is highest in 2 yearsReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

Recession radically alters shopping habits

NEW YORK — Layaway, once the province of the poor, has gone mainstream. At the Mall of America in Minnesota, shoppers dart in for just one or two things. In New York, socialites do the unthinkable: They wear the same ball gown twice.
During the Great Recession, people made drastic changes in how they spent their money. They stopped treating credit cards as cash. They learned to save and learned to wait.

Now the recession is over, at least technically, and the economy is growing again, at least a little. But many changes in spending habits that most Americans first saw as temporary have taken hold, perhaps for good, some economists say.

This is the reality of the new American consumer — focused, cautious and tactical.

In Jacksonville, Fla., Bernie Decelles and his wife both have jobs and own their home. They recognize that the economy is still fragile, though, and that they work in industries still struggling. They scrutinize every purchase they make.

"It used to be if we saw something, and liked it, we bought it," said Decelles, a salesman for a company that makes storage equipment. "Nowadays, no way."

In dozens of interviews nationwide with shoppers, retailers, manufacturers, economists and analysts, The Associated Press identified key changes in consumer behavior that have endured after the recession. They include:

• Americans are buying brands and shopping at stores that they shunned before. They are trying more store-brand products for things such as detergent and beer. Goodwill and consignment shops are attracting customers across the income spectrum. And people are putting big-ticket items on layaway rather than whipping out charge cards.

• Consumers are taking a surgical approach to shopping, buying only what they need, when they need it. Pantries are no longer filled with weeks' worth of food, nor closets with clothes bought seasons in advance. Shoppers are visiting fewer stores, traditional and online, and getting only what's on their shopping lists.

• The wealthy are spending again, but their behavior is much like everyone else's. They are buying more timeless and classic goods: watches and handbags that won't go out of style quickly. They are even — gasp! — recycling some of their most expensive clothes and wearing them twice.

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Value remains important for Christmas shoppersReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Next up: Andrew Kintz

Title/company: Managing director, SunTrust Sports & Entertainment Specialty Group
Age: 34

How many people report to him: 12 staff members in Nashville and Atlanta who handle all the financial needs of musicians, their assets, mortgages, their bank accounts and career financing

Background: Began as a commercial lender in Atlanta but thought wealth management might be more interesting, because of dealing with all aspects of a client's life, from who is going to inherit the family business to how to expand. "It was so much more exciting than what I was doing."

RelatedNashville People in Business

The company helped pay for his training, as well as his executive MBA at the University of Georgia.

What really worked for him: He picked an internal mentor at the company, Thomas Carroll, who later ended up picking him for his current job.

How he handles supervising people older and more experienced: "I'm here to fight all the internal battles. They need someone who knows all the ins and outs of the organization. If they're having trouble closing on a mortgage in Texas, they need someone who can make that happen in the organization."

Drawbacks: Working six days per week and many evenings going to social events. "It takes a person with a special mindset. You have to have a spouse who has bought into it. … I was an English major. I haven't read a book since vacation."

What he likes about the job: He sometimes can't believe he gets the access to the great musicians he does. When he's backstage at the Ryman Auditorium, visiting clients, he tells himself: "I can't believe this has happened."

When not at work: Hikes at Percy Warner Park with his wife or plays with his two children


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Buyers Interested in WalkabilityBerkshire Hathaway unit buys Nashville beverage distributor

Diverse fan base helps CMA in time of change

In August, Steve Moore formally took over as chief executive officer of the Country Music Association, charged with leading the genre's biggest trade organization in an era of declining music profits.
Moore is a music industry veteran who moved to Nashville more than 25 years ago to become the first executive director of Starwood Amphitheatre, the former outdoor concert venue in Antioch. He has worked as a concert promoter and booker ever since, joining AEG, the world's largest concert promotion, special events and touring company, seven years ago.

Moore joined the CMA board of directors two decades ago and became chairman of the 6,000-member group in 2009. For the time being, Moore will continue serving in a dual role as CMA's chief executive and as an AEG executive, but he expects to formally resign from AEG at year-end to join CMA full time.

Moore spoke with Tennessean music business reporter Anita Wadhwani in advance of the CMA awards later this week.

What does the audience for country music look like now, and how has that changed over past decade or more?

It has changed, and it continues to change. The good news about the country consumer is that he could be from 9 to 90 years old.

From a demographic perspective, it probably encompasses the entire spectrum of the population. From a psychographic perspective, it's fragmented and artist centric. Taylor Swift, as popular as she is, is heavily popular with a certain demographic — that is, a younger male and female group.

You've got other artists like Brad Paisley who appeal to a different sector. And so would Keith Urban and Brooks & Dunn and Carrie Underwood. The beauty of the format, if you look at our top 10 artists, they appeal to a different demographic as well as different psychographic.

That gives us more breadth of exposure and more depth to the fan base than other typical formats.

Since the genre has such a diverse fan base, what are the challenges in matching that audience with corporate sponsors? How do those conversations work?

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Hospitals reach out to suburbs for outpatient dollars

Nashville-area hospitals are adding more services closer to where people live, hoping to attract better-paying, commercially insured patients — as well as provide basic care and medical tests in settings that don't require an overnight stay.
After taking a pause on construction amid a slower economy, hospitals here are once again starting to invest in outpatient services — often in suburban settings — to bring medical tests and minor surgeries to the places where many people live.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center recently revealed plans for a $200 million, 500,000-square-foot outpatient services campus in Franklin that will consolidate some noncritical services under a single roof. It's all designed to capture market share in one of the nation's wealthier counties and build brand loyalty.

Rival TriStar Health System wants to set up a satellite emergency department of its Centennial Medical Center in Spring Hill. It would offer diagnostic services,
X-rays, ultrasounds and CT scans 24 hours a day.

In recent years, Saint Thomas Health Services has been expanding its presence in Williamson County, including by opening an outpatient rehabilitation clinic in Cool Springs last year.

The outpatient boom is part of a national trend. In the past two years, hospital outpatient care has accounted for the most growth in health-care spending for the typical American family of four, according to actuarial consulting firm Milliman. From 2009 to 2010, it rose to 17.1 percent of total costs, outpacing growth in other categories such as inpatient care, physician services and prescription drugs.

Another study by McKinsey & Co. suggests outpatient care accounts for 40 percent or more of U.S. health system spending, with same-day hospital care the fastest-growing part of that. Overall, outpatient spending was expected to be about $163 billion this year.

"Typically, hospital companies place their assets in markets that are growing," said Frank Morgan, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets in Brentwood. "You want to put your business in high-growth markets, places that have a strong base of residents with insurance."

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Getahn Ward: Baptist, St. Thomas improve efficiencyReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

After election, market faces rare trifecta

NEW YORK — Next year will be a year unlike any other for the stock market.
The Republican takeover of the House on Tuesday means Wall Street will be contending with three situations in 2011 that drive stock prices:

• The year before a president faces re-election.

• The year after a president has lost control of Congress.

• The second year of a fragile economic expansion.

The market often behaves a certain way in each of those situations, but history isn't helpful now because investors have never faced this trifecta. What's clear is that what happens in Washington will be watched even more closely by investors next year.

"This election is more important than the average one because of all of the economic and policy issues that remain uncertain," said Robert Doll, the chief investment strategist at BlackRock, an investing firm with $3.4 trillion in assets under management.

Any mishandling of the economy by politicians will mean that "the fragile economic recovery we have is going to be hit over the head, and we would have to think about a double-dip recession all over again," Doll said.

On Day One after the mid-term elections, the Dow went up. The closely watched index closed at 11,215.13 on Wednesday, a high for the year after the Federal Reserve announced that it plans to buy
$600 billion in Treasurys to stimulate the economy.

Looking ahead, here are three situations coinciding next year and how they could affect the stock market in the long run:


Since 1945, the Dow Jones industrial average has gained an average of 19 percent the year before a sitting president runs. That's more than double the 7.9 percent average annual gain during the same period. If you take out the 10 years when the president was running, the average gain drops to only 5.8 percent.

No one has been able to prove why this happens. One theory is that the president pushes through politically popular spending measures to help his re-election. But that doesn't explain why the market also tends to rise in the third year of a president's second term. The Dow rose 25.2 percent, for example, in 1999, the third year of President Bill Clinton's second term. Since 1902 the Dow has gained, on average,
13.7 percent in the third year of a president's first term and 10.9 percent in the third year of a president's second term.

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1 big trade led to market plungeReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

GM to sell $13 billion in upcoming IPO

SAN FRANCISCO — Setting the stage for its long-awaited return as a public company, General Motors Co. said Wednesday it will sell $10 billion in common stock and another $3 billion in preferred shares in the open market later this month.
GM said it expects to offer 365 million common shares at a price between $26 to $29 each. Another 60 million in series B mandatory convertible junior preferred stock will be included in the deal.

The underwriters also will have the option to buy up to an additional 54.75 million common shares from shareholders and 9 million shares of preferred stock from the company to cover over-allotments.

GM also predicted a third-quarter profit of between $1.9 billion and $2.1 billion with sales of about $34 billion.

Those numbers would mark a dramatic improvement from the third quarter a year ago when GM, fresh out of bankruptcy, reported a loss of $1.15 billion on net revenue of $26.35 billion.

"We are extremely pleased with the level of progress the company is making," GM Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell said. "We will deliver a solid and profitable first year post-bankruptcy, and we are continuing to improve our balance sheet and, most importantly, the quality of our vehicles."

Looking ahead, the Detroit-based automaker said it sees more profits in the fourth quarter as well, though the earnings likely won't be quite as strong as they were in the first three quarters of the year.

GM is slated to post its detailed third-quarter results next Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, GM reported a 3.5 percent jump in October U.S. sales to 183,759 cars and trucks. GM's four remaining brands — GMC, Cadillac, Chevy and Buick — have increased their sales by 22 percent this year, while the industry has only risen about 10.5 percent year-to-date.

"It would have been more advantageous had GM logged more solid quarterly earnings like this one before it went public," said Michelle Krebs, an analyst. "But there's a push by GM and from other places — including the federal government — to have GM go public and get the government out of its business."

GM is expected to begin its IPO road show this week, price its share offering on Nov. 17 and begin trading in New York and Toronto the following day.

Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs & Co., Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank Securities and RBC Capital Markets will serve as the joint book-running managers for the deal.

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Real Estate Outlook: Small GainsCBay files to sell shares in U.S., lists Franklin HQ

TNInvestco money lures Boston health tech startup

A Boston-based health-care technology startup moved to Nashville this week after receiving $4.5 million in capital from the state's venture capital fund, TNInvestco, and other local investor groups.
Shareable Ink, which opened an office in Burton Hills on Tuesday, has developed software that converts handwritten medical notes to electronic medical records in near real-time.

The nine-member company plans to move most of its staff to Nashville by the end of the year. It is hiring six additional staffers in Nashville, President and CEO Stephen Hau said. It will maintain a regional office in Boston, Hau said.

The company is the latest beneficiary of TNInvestco, a state investment fund established last year that has raised $146 million in investment dollars by selling tax credits to insurance companies.

The Tennessee Angel Fund, one of six such enterprises established as part of the TNInvestco program, completed the investment package in partnership with other investors.

Those include the Nashville Capital Network's Angel Fund and Angel Group, the Martin Companies and Heritage Group Holdings.

"This is exactly the kind of early-stage investment envisioned by the state of Tennessee when it created the TNInvestco program," said Sid Chambless, managing partner of the Tennessee Angel Fund and executive director of the Nashville Capital Network.

Shareable Ink was launched two years ago and markets its software to customers ranging from single-physician practices to large health-care companies. It recently partnered with Dallas-based T-System to tailor its product for emergency rooms, Hau said. Hau said the move to Nashville was a natural fit.

"I'm a firm believer that Nashville is the health-care capital of the country," Hau said. "I'm here to be part of it."

Reach Anita Wadhwani at 615-259-8092

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Real Estate Outlook: Small GainsHealth care propels Nashville economy

Car sales indicate a strong October

A handful of automakers reported Tuesday that they saw car sales increase in October compared with a year ago, but a final tally on the month's sales won't be complete for another day.
Election Day split the reporting of auto sales, with the larger automakers, including Ford Motor Co., Nissan and General Motors, expected to come out with their numbers today.

Hyundai Motor America, the largest automaker to report Tuesday, said its U.S. sales rose 38 percent last month to 42,656 vehicles from 31,005 a year earlier.

The gain was led by sales of the Sonata, which were more than double those of a year ago. The automaker has introduced turbo and hybrid versions.

Smaller automakers Porsche Cars North America Inc. and Suzuki Auto also booked gains for October.

Optimism grows

Other analysts are talking with optimism about how the month will wrap up.

A Ford analyst predicts the final tally will show sales "broke through the glass ceiling" in October to achieve the highest unaided pace in more than two years.

Industrywide, light-vehicle sales are projected to top a 12 million annual pace for October, said George Pipas, Ford Motor Co.'s sales analyst. That's the highest rate since September 2008, excluding the spike in sales that resulted from the U.S. government's Cash for Clunkers incentive program in August 2009.

"This is certainly a good sign and an indication the fourth quarter will be higher," Pipas said.

Consumers were attracted to dealerships by closeout sales on 2010 models and heavy advertising for "pickup month" by Ford and GM, Pipas said. Ford gained market share last month, he said.

"Since the fourth quarter of 2009, the sales rate has been advancing on a quarter-by-quarter basis," Pipas said. "The economy is growing, albeit at a modest pace. Unemployment and home prices are still very much a drag."

Ford expects U.S. auto sales "may be close to 13 million" in 2011, Pipas said. Last year, automakers sold 10.4 million cars and trucks, the lowest since 1982.

"New-vehicle traffic and selling rates in October are better than we expected," said Earl Hesterberg, CEO of Group 1 Automotive Inc. "There appears to be a very good chance that this will be the best seasonally adjusted selling month of the year."

AutoNation, the largest U.S. auto retailer, said sales are being helped by improved access to credit.

"The prime segment is all the way back. The near-prime segment is performing well," Chief Operating Officer Michael Maroone said. "It's really the subprime segment that's still under pressure."

Bloomberg News contributed to this story.

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Auto sales top 2009 but flat since AugustReal Estate Outlook: Small Gains

Dow settles near 2010 high as voters go to polls

NEW YORK — Major stock indexes rose Tuesday as investors awaited the results of congressional elections, putting the Dow Jones industrial average near its highest point of the year.
The Dow Jones rose more than 60 points. It has now traded above its 2010 closing high of 11,205 four times over the past two weeks but failed to close above that level each time.

Small companies performed especially well. The Russell 2000, the index that tracks the performance of smaller corporations, jumped 2 percent to 712.89.

The index is up nearly 14 percent for the year, roughly double the return of the Dow and the broad Standard and Poor's 500 index.

Uncertainty over the effects of the midterm elections and the size of the Federal Reserve's expected stimulus program due today have kept the market from ending with either big gains or losses in recent days.

Eric Thorne, an investment adviser with Bryn Mawr Trust Wealth Management, said many traders have been using the end of the day to take short-term profits. With the economy still looking weak, there's no guarantee stocks will continue to climb.

An expected win for Republicans in the House could set up a scenario that leads to gridlock in Congress, meaning there could be a slowdown in new government spending and regulatory reform.

Traders are waiting for the Federal Reserve to wrap up a meeting where it is expected to announce plans to stimulate the economy. There is uncertainty about exactly how big a bond-buying program the Fed will announce, which also has tempered movements in stocks in recent days.

The Dow rose 64.10, or 0.6 percent, and closed at 11,188.72. It reached its closing high of 11,205.03 on April 26.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 9.19, or 0.8 percent, to 1,193.57. The S&P 500, which is more closely watched than the Dow by professional investors, also is still below its 2010 high of 1,217.28, reached on April 23.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 28.68, or 1.1 percent, to 2,533.52.

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Real Estate Outlook: Small GainsMeager increase forecast for holiday retail sales

Gaylord may spend up to $10 million for better levee

Frustrated by what CEO Colin Reed called the "very slow pace" to develop a communitywide flood prevention plan, Gaylord Entertainment Co. may soon spend up to $10 million to improve the levee surrounding its resort to a standard of 500-year protection.
That is a level that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees flood protection, has urged the hotel operator to build throughout years of discussions about the company's private levees on the Cumberland River.

Those disagreements predate the May 2010 flood, although tens of millions of dollars in damage caused when the Cumberland topped its banks six months ago raise the urgency of taking some action.

In a conference call with stock analysts on Tuesday, Reed said he plans to brief the hotel company's board on potential plans to spend $7 million to $10 million on a levee high enough and strong enough to prevent another catastrophic flood of Gaylord's resort.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center has been closed for six months after the flood, but it is scheduled to reopen within two weeks after a multimillion-dollar renovation and redesign.

"Over the course of the next two, three or four months, if we see the broader plan for the community (levee) moving forward, we will probably put our shoulders behind (it) to try and get that moving," Reed said. "But if it doesn't move quickly, we will move expeditiously … on building a 500-year-levee to protect our building here in Nashville."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency "will support it from all the conversations we've had with this agency, which has really been trying to help us protect our business," Reed said.

The Army Corps of Engineers and Gaylord have been publicly at odds, at times, since the May flooding caused more than $250 million in damage at Gaylord properties — from its hotel complex to the nearby Grand Ole Opry House and the Wildhorse Saloon downtown.

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