Memphis Millionaires

While 2010’s numbers were not exactly where the real estate industry would like for them to be, there certainly were some bright spots in 2010’s numbers.

Despite 55 percent of home sales falling below the $100,000 price tag, houses with a selling price of $1 million or greater were up 24 percent from 2009 with 36 recorded.

For more 2010 numbers, check out my report of the Chandler Report’s “Master Your Market” seminar in Friday’s edition of The Daily News.

There Goes the Sunshine

The Memphis City Council is scheduled on Tuesday to vote on approving the city-county legislative agenda to take to Nashville.

One item on the list is an effort to add new exceptions to the state’s open records law for economic development projects.

As Memphis collected a slew of new business recruitments and relocations over the past several weeks, city officials and officials with the Greater Memphis Chamber have been especially vocal about media reporting. Specifically, they say media coverage threatens these deals.

With that in mind, here’s a summary of the economic development item on the legislative agenda:

“Tennessee Common Acts (T.C.A.) 4-3-730 provides that records of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TDECD) are public records. These records are open for inspection unless the Commissioner, with the agreement of the Attorney General, determines that the records should not be disclosed because of their sensitive nature. The statute permits sensitive information to be held in confidence for a period of five (5) years and permits proprietary information—defined as trade secrets, capital plans and marketing information—of economic development projects to be held in confidence indefinitely.

The proposed Act generally follows T.C.A. 4-3-730 and makes comparable provisions applicable to counties, municipalities and development entities that operate as the functional equivalent of a county or municipality for economic development purposes. The proposed Act creates an exception to the Open Records Act for information related to specific economic development projects, but it also requires public disclosure of any proposed contracts and relationship between the economic development prospect and any officer, employee, director or elected official of the county, municipality or development entity.

An alternative amendment would be to allow local entities to seek assistance from TDECD to maintain confidentiality pursuant to TCA 4-3-730.”

A chamber official told the Commercial Appeal the information the protection is being sought for is proprietary information a business competitor might use against them. The language above, however, suggests the new law would create exceptions for proprietary as well as “sensitive” information – whatever “sensitive” is supposed to mean.

If media coverage genuinely threatened these economic development deals, it seems to me the chamber would be more aggressive about saying – with specific detail – that Memphis lost such and such deals because of the media coverage.

If I was a Memphis City Council member, I might have questions Tuesday about why a city mayor who came into office promising transparency and improvement over the previous mayor feels the need to enlist his county counterpart in an effort to change a state law because of potential business recruitments dictating media practices.

(Update: The wording of the legislation defines “sensitive” information as “a file, document or data that is of such sensitive nature that its disclosure or public release would seriously harm the ability of a local industrial development corporation to conclude a PILOT agreement or contract for economic or community development.”

Which appears to be a pretty broad definition. Also, the local elected officials and chamber officials probably will spend most of their time talking about the need for this by focusing on the proprietary information piece. Even though I don’t think anyone in the media was seeking to disclose how Electrolux smelts metal or something like that – just that they’re coming, and what incentives are being offered to induce them to come.)

More on Testing Green

In today’s edition of The Daily News, I discussed the future of energy efficient homes in Shelby and the surrounding counties. Here’s something that I didn’t have room for but was pretty mind boggling.

In 2009, the fall VESTA Home Show was an all-green show – all of the houses were certified to the National Green Building standard.

Jon Ruch of Ruch Builders LLC built a 3,000-square-foot house with about 5,000 people in and out daily over a month’s time. The lights and air were also constantly on.

“Henco Furniture & Home Center did my furnishing for the house and they like to sell lamps,” Ruch said. “I said ‘OK, that’s great, you can put any lamp you want to, but every lamp has to have an ENERGY STAR rated bulb and fixtures.”

The utility bill for the entire month was $86.

“I took that bill and I left it there at the show in the kitchen so people could see it – look at what you can expect,” Ruch said.

Wednesday Morning News Roundup

Here’s a news roundup for your Wednesday morning:

Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson is now a lobbyist on behalf of Tennessee trial lawyers.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen will host a breakfast this morning in Washington D.C. – and hopefully pick up some campaign contributions. An invitation shows suggested contributions of “$5,000 chair, $2,500 host, $1,000 PAC”

Reid Dulberger, manager of MemphisED – “a broad-based partnership of 16 organizations engaged in local economic development” – tweeted Tuesday the MemphisED initiative has helped create 11,000-plus jobs and helped generate nearly $3 billion worth of investment.

Sophie Cousineau, a Canadian writer for the publication “La Presse,” wrote last week about the news that Canadian company Kruger might join other Canadian business prospects scoping out Memphis. Her piece was written in French, and part of it loosely translates as her saying Tennessee is “burdened by unemployment” and “taking desperate measures to attract factories and create jobs.”

Wharton’s Facebook Status

Mayor A C Wharton is in Paris today, according to his Facebook Status:

“In Paris today, addressing European and US officials about Memphis’ global significance as North America’s ‘Aerotropolis.’ Thanks to FedEx and other great corporate partners, Memphis International Airport is the busiest cargo airport on the planet! This pillar of our economy is poised for even more growth in the years ahead.”

The term “aerotropolis” was coined in the mid-1990s by John Kasarda – a business professor at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina – when describing Asian airports that were growing into sprawling airport-cities.

As Kasarda considered how the aerotropolis concept might fit within the American airport model, he noticed Memphis, whose airport ranked No. 1 in the world for cargo and was a passenger hub for a major airline.

Wharton’s appearance comes before the upcoming 2011 Airport Cities World Conference & Exhibition, hosted by Memphis International Airport. With the tagline, “You’ve Got to Get to Memphis,” the three-day event’s keynote speakers are Fred Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corp., and Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines Inc.

A record number of attendees have already made their reservations for the April 11-13 conference, where officials from airport facilities near and far will see firsthand the world’s busiest facility for moving cargo for 18 year and running. Attendees will also get literally a taste of Memphis, with barbecue pitstops and a visit to Graceland.

“The fact that the organizers selected Memphis as the host site for the 2011 annual meeting underscores the fact that Memphis clearly has attained the status as a global city and unquestionably has risen to America’s aerotropolis,” Arnold Perl, chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority and chairman of the “Memphis: America’s Aerotropolis” initiative of the Greater Memphis Chamber, told The Daily News in December.