A Look Back, as Pinnacle’s Pilot Disembarks

With the departure of Pinnacle Airlines Corp. CEO Phil Trenary that was announced today, I think it’s interesting to recall one of the most prominent developments for the company – and its home city – that occurred in recent months, and which is still unfolding.

It’s the move of its corporate headquarters from the area around Memphis International Airport to Downtown Memphis, where Pinnacle decided to take a chance on a building that’s making a comeback (One Commerce Square) and politely declined what were described as generous overtures from other areas, like north Mississippi, which badly wanted the company to look beyond Memphis.

In the spring of 2010, Memphis businessman Karl Schledwitz ran into Trenary Downtown. Trenary, at that point, had already long had his eye on One Commerce.

But when the building faced foreclosure and the bank took ownership, Trenary told Schledwitz it was starting to look like a deal wasn’t going to be possible.

Crestfallen, Schledwitz asked for just one thing: time. Specifically, how long could Pinnacle hold out before Downtown was definitely off the table?

Schledwitz wanted to try and line up a group of local investors to buy the building and negotiate with Pinnacle.

“I can give you until the next board meeting,” Trenary said at that time.

It turned out to be enough. A group of investors was assembled to buy One Commerce from US Bancorp. The investors, in turn, negotiated a deal with Pinnacle.

The deal included a trio of 13s: On Dec. 13, Pinnacle signed a lease for a 13-year term for up to 13 floors.

Forget the omen of bad luck associated with that unlucky number, though. Luck clearly had nothing to do with the outcome, given the commitment and personal involvement of civic and business leaders to make the deal happen.

And an abiding interest from Pinnacle’s leadership, including its outgoing CEO, to keep the company’s roots in Memphis.

Tennessee Among the U.S. States with Weakest Unions

Here’s some interesting data, if you’ve been following all the talk about unions coming out of Wisconsin and elsewhere.

According to the Marketwatch news service, there was a nearly 50 percent drop in union members in Tennessee over the past decade. The total number of workers in Tennessee grew by 90,000, but union members dropped from 211,000 to 115,00.

The drop-off over the decade is “by far the largest of any state.”

“Most of this drop-off in unionized workers occurred in the private sector, which lost more than 90,000 union workers over the decade,” according to Marketwatch. “Today, only 2.2% of private workers are in unions, the second-lowest rate in the country.”

The Meaning of 17%

While we are in a kind of post election lull, let’s talk about voter turnout in the March 8 election.

There was a decent amount of Twitter traffic about this election night shortly after we posted a turnout percentage.

For those who missed it, 17 percent of the city’s 420,000 voters participated either on election day or during the early voting period.

From the reaction to that percentage, a good place to start the discussion seems to be whether it is possible to accept the decision made by those voters as valid and still be alarmed that such an important issue drew so few people to the polls.

Is the turnout a red herring to divert attention away from a decision made by ground rules that partisans on all side of the issue understood going into the voting period?

Does the voter turnout somehow make the issue of schools consolidation less vital? Or is the low turnout an indication of confusion in a political scenario in which the terms of a yes vote changed even as early voting was underway?

Or is this as simple as it rained on election day and people didn’t want to stop on their way to or from work and vote?

The answer could be all of the above and more. It has been ten years since voters in Shelby County have had an off election year. And the next scheduled off election year is 2013.

Give our questions a spin around the block and let us know what you think. Even add a few questions to the pot if you want.

On the other hand …

On the one hand …

A tea party organizer for one of the many such groups in Tennessee was quoted this week as follows: “We all love teachers, we need our teachers, and we need to support our teachers, but we need to get rid of collective bargaining,” Northeast Tennessee/Kingsport Tea Party Organizer Britt Buehrig said.

“Tennessee also has a budget deficit. We need to meet it. We can meet it by curtailing some of the benefits that teachers are receiving. The counties and school districts can negotiate contracts that they can afford, because right now the state is going bankrupt.”

In other words, things are pretty bad when it comes to the state budget.

On the other hand …

There’s enough wiggle room for the state to absorb operation of the largest school system in the state.

Tenn. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told reporters this week that the state ought to reach down and, never mind the voters’ wish that the two local systems consolidate and continue on their way, have MCS taken over by the state.

Paying back Uncle Sam

A regulatory filing Wednesday afternoon from First Tennessee Bank’s parent company First Horizon National Corp:

“On March 9, 2011, First Horizon National Corporation completed the purchase and cancellation of a common stock purchase warrant issued to the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2008 in connection with First Horizon’s participation in the Treasury’s Capital Purchase Program. The warrant had given to the Treasury the right to purchase 14,842,321 of First Horizon’s common shares for $8.757 per share. First Horizon paid the Treasury $79.7 million to purchase the warrant. The warrant purchase was preceded by First Horizon’s purchase on December 22, 2010 of all outstanding shares of preferred stock which First Horizon had issued to the Treasury in 2008 under the Capital Purchase Program. The Treasury no longer holds any securities of First Horizon under that Program.”

Dansette

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