On the EDGE of glory

The Memphis-Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine, a still relatively new economic development agency, was formed with a big push by the city and county mayors to streamline economic development and simply a lot of the processes therein.

Wednesday afternoon’s two-hour meeting, though, showed the board is not there yet in terms of the streamlined simplicity envisioned.

One clear example: When longtime Depot Redevelopment Corp. president Jim Covington recapped for the board his search for insurance coverage for the entity, he was only able to present one policy. The other providers he approached looked at EDGE, scratched their heads and decided the structure was too complicated to insure.

Then there’s the fact that two “pre-meetings” were held Wednesday before the EDGE board itself was able to meet. EDGE is supposed to eventually swallow a variety of local boards and agencies, but until it does, some of them are still meeting and conducting business – albeit with EDGE board members.

Make sense?

So, first up Wednesday was a group of people meeting as the local Depot Redevelopment Corp. Fifteen minutes later, without getting up, that same group of people convened, but this time as the Industrial Development Board.

Another 15 minutes or so later, that same group of people convened as the EDGE board.

“It’s taken us 20 minutes to get to the real meeting,” EDGE chairman Al Bright lamented at the start of the “third” meeting.

Among the matters discussed during the EDGE meeting: EDGE president Reid Dulberger talked about his plans to hire staff and find office space.

100 Day Plan Clues

Few clues emerging these days about what Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. plans to roll out Jan. 23 when he makes his state of the city presentation.

Wharton is promising a “100-day” plan of items he hopes to accomplish in short order that will put his long-range plan for the city on track for at least the rest of his four-year term. Some of the goals will be ambitious enough that Wharton has said they probably won’t be completed while he is in office.

But clues about those items have been few and far between.

One came at the Tuesday evening Memphis City Council session as the council worked its way through approving his set of division directors for the new term of office.

When the council got to Public Works division director Dwan Gilliom, several mentioned he will soon have some new duties added to his job which includes operation and maintenance of the city’s infrastructure and solid waste collection and disposal as well as wastewater treatment.

Wharton is now dividing up the tasks that had been assigned to the soon to be abolished but still being investigated Community Enhancement division and trying to put grass cutting and other property maintenance duties in one division. Now those duties are spread across divisions which city Chief Administrative Officer George Little said is something that evolved over the years and is no longer the most efficient way of handling those matters.

So, that’s one guess on what could be coming Gilliom’s way.

Another is Wharton’s return several times to the idea of setting up some sanitation workers into private businesses where they contract with the city for sanitation services – a task that would require a lot of coordination and would have to overcome some very vocal opposition on the council to anything that even remotely feels like privatization.

Gilliom has also been a vocal advocate of the so-far incremental movement of city sanitation services to a system where a citizen pays based on the amount of waste he or she generates. And Gilliom wants to increase the city’s recycling efforts but is hampered by a fleet of aging vehicles

Those are the chief suspects for now.

Stay tuned between now and Jan. 23.

 

Moody’s puts Raymond James on negative watch – because of Morgan Keegan deal

Moody’s Investors Service has put the ratings of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Raymond James Financial Inc. under review for a possible downgrade.

The reason is Raymond James’ announcement that it’s signed a deal to acquire Memphis-based Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. from Regions Financial Corp. That $930 million deal was announced earlier this month and caps a more than six-month search by Regions for a buyer for its investment banking unit.

Moody’s said “the acquisition of Morgan Keegan will result in Raymond James having an increased debt burden and higher cash flow leverage – a departure from the firm’s historic financial profile. This action also reflects Moody’s concern that Raymond James has substantial execution risk in retaining financial advisors from Morgan Keegan’s private client franchise and the accompanying revenues generated by its producers.”

While the Morgan Keegan-Regions announcement included word that Regions is indemnifying Raymond James against all pre-closing activities, Moody’s went on to say it will “also examine to what extent Raymond James will be adequately protected against Morgan Keegan’s pre-closing litigation claims that may arise going forward (e.g. RMK Funds, ARS matters). Moody’s noted that it will also focus on understanding Raymond James’ strategy for the proposed combined capital market businesses and whether Raymond James will maintain its current agency-based focus.”

Grizzlies Get Even (in record, and against the Bulls)

Two weeks after the Bulls gave the Grizzlies a 40-point thumping in Chicago, the Grizzlies answered with a 102-86 victory before a sold-out FedExForum crowd on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“It’s always a great win on Martin Luther King Day in Memphis,” said point guard Mike Conley, who flirted with a triple-double (20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds). “We watched the film (of the first game against the Bulls) and saw how terrible we played.”

The victory was the Grizzlies’ third straight and evened their record at 6-6. The Bulls, who played without former University of Memphis star and NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose (sprained toe), dropped to 12-3. The Grizzlies led by as many as 27 points in the game, which was televised nationally on ESPN.

Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 24 points, Marc Gasol had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and new forward Marreese Speights set a career high with 12 rebounds and also scored 16 points.

“We came out with great energy and focus,” said Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

Forward Luol Deng topped the scoring for the Bulls with 20 points. The Grizzlies out-rebounded Chicago 46-34 and the Bulls made 19 turnovers with just 12 assists.

The day also featured NBA Hall of Famers George Gervin and Clyde Drexler receiving the Seventh Annual National Civil Rights Sports Legacy Award for their contributions to civil and human rights.

More on Schwab

More on our story about the reworking of A. Schwab, Beale Street’s oldest retail institution.

Schwab is one of two parcels of land in the district not owned by the city of Memphis which got the land in the urban renewal period of the 1960s when the Memphis Housing Authority got the land.

The other is the Old Daisy theater owned by Beale Street Development Corporation.

BSDC was the non-profit created to satisfy concerns in the 1970s that the coming redevelopment of Beale Street would ignore the street’s history and heritage as the center of black politics, commerce and entertainment in the 19th and early 20th century. The BSDC is the middle man between the city and Performa Entertainment, the manager and developer of the district.

The BSDC got the Old Daisy for use as an interpretive center for exhibits on the street’s history and heritage. And that’s what the theater did when the district reopened in 1983.

It didn’t last long.

Randle Catron, the BSDC’s long time executive director, talked last year about reviving the role by leading walking tours from the theater but there has been next to no evidence that the Old Daisy is anything more than a rental hall for parties and receptions. It’s also a foothold in the district for the BSDC as the bankruptcy of Performa is still pending in federal bankruptcy court.

Performa settled all of the litigation between it and the city long ago and the bankruptcy filing was part of the process. The problem is Beale Street is more than an agreement between those two parties. The third wheel is BSDC and it hasn’t settled with anyone at this point. When or if that happens the case could then be laid to rest and the city of Memphis would begin establishing the framework for the second phase of the redeveloped Beale Street.

The new owners of A. Schwab, meanwhile, want to do more with the tour groups and school field trip groups that come to the store about two blocks west of the Old Daisy.

Among the items found during the store’s ongoing renovation is a 19th century book about Freemasons, a centennial edition of The Commercial Appeal, half a dozen different types of cash registers and lots of machines no longer used for clothing and apparel items no longer made. There is more than enough there to give young minds on a very old street a good look into the life of another time.

There is your interpretive center established in the Beale Street lease.

It was interesting watching the interaction between Elliott Schwab and Terry Saunders as they sort through items long forgotten in the store.

Saunders came across a small box of shoe buttons covered in dust that she had general plans for somewhere to be determined later. Schwab saw it and began picking some of the dust out. Saunders said she was trying to preserve the dusty look. “There’s more where that came from,” Schwab replied.

 

 

Dansette

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