Tax Freedom Day in Tennessee is here

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The federal income tax deadline looms, but Tennesseans have reason to celebrate.
As of April 5, Tennesseans collectively had made enough money to pay their total federal, state and local tax bill for 2014, according to the Tax Foundation’s annual Tax Freedom Day calculations.
Tennessee has one of the earliest Tax Freedom Days in the country, according to the Washington, D.C. based think tank’s annual report. Only Louisiana (March 30), Mississippi (April 2), and South Dakota (April 4) achieved tax freedom earlier this year.
For the nation as a whole, Tax Freedom Day arrives on April 21 —  three days later than last year “due mainly to the continuing economic recovery, which will boost federal tax revenue collected through the corporate, payroll, and individual income tax,” according to a news release.
“Arguments can be made for why the collective tax bill is too high or too low, but in order to have an honest discussion, it’s important to understand where we stand,” Tax Foundation economist Kyle Pomerleau said in the release. “Tax Freedom Day gives us a vivid representation of how much we pay for the goods and services provided by governments at all levels.”
Other highlights from the Tax Freedom report:
– Americans will spend more on taxes in 2014 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.
– Americans will spend 42 days working to pay off income taxes, 15 days for excise taxes, and 11 days for property taxes.
– Americans will pay $3 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of more than $4.5 trillion, or 30.2 percent of the nation’s income.
The Tax Foundation, which generally is critical of all tax increases, describes itself as a nonpartisan tax research group.
Click here for the full Tax Freedom Day report.

Regal theater to get ‘immersive’ 4D technology

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A Regal Entertainment Group movie theater in Los Angeles will be the first theater in the U.S. to get new 4D technology.
AEG, a global sports and entertainment presenter, announced Monday that it has signed a deal with a South Korean company, CJ 4DPlex, to open a 4D theater at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14 in Los Angeles this summer.
“Los Angeles was the natural choice for the first U.S. location to carry 4DX. We wanted to bring this experience to where all the movie magic happens,” Byung Hwan Choi, CEO of CJ 4DPlex, said in a news release.
Officials with Knoxville-based Regal Entertainment, the largest movie theater operator in the U.S., could not be immediately reached for comment.
The new movie technology delivers an “immersive 4D experience to excite all five human senses. Features include motion, wind, strobe, fog, vibration, mist, rain and even scent-based special effects that go far beyond 3D,” the release says.
Some 14,000 4D seats are currently available in 91 theaters in 23 countries.
It’s uncertain how fast 4D tech will spread to other U.S. theaters or if it will make it to Knoxville. But it would be cool way to experience a blockbuster action movie.
AEG is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Anschutz Company, a major investor in Regal Entertainment.
CJ 4DPlex is the world’s first 4D cinema company for feature films. Headquartered in Seoul and with international offices in Los Angeles and Beijing, the company provides 4DX cinema systems for exhibition partners along with 4DX codes of major Hollywood titles.
Click here for the AEG news release

Malibu Boats gets some love from Motley Fool

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Following its successful IPO a few weeks ago, Loudon-based Malibu Boats is getting some love from a Motley Fool writer.
The maker of performance sports boats is in better shape than its competitors and positioned to take advantage of an improving market for power boats, Motley Fool writer Mark Lin says.
Here’s an excerpt from Lin’s Fool report:
“Malibu Boats is the outright market leader in performance sport boats and has seen its market share in the category increase from 23.9% to 32.9% over the past five years. Even more noteworthy is the fact that almost all of its major competitors lost market share during the period, suggesting that Malibu Boats hasn’t just ridden along on industry growth but has gained a real edge over competition.”
Competitors Mastercraft and Brunswick, maker of Sea Ray Boats, which have manufacturing plants in Vonore, Tenn., can’t like that assessment.
Malibu, which completed its IPO on Feb. 5, reported a gross profit of $11.7 million on sales of $43.9 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31.
Click here for the Motley Fool report.

UT beats Florida in Forbes college basketball rankings

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Florida may be the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA mens basketball tournament, but the University of Tennessee is a much more valuable team, financially speaking.
UT is a sparkling No. 15 on Forbes’ 2014 list of the most valuable college basketball teams, with a team value of $14.1 million and a profit of $8.5 million.
Among its Southeastern Conference foes, the Vols trail only Kentucky, NO. 3 on the Forbes list with a team value of $32.5 million. But UT is well ahead of the Gators who finished outside Forbes’ Top 20 with a team value of $10 million +.
The financial details for the current rankings are from the 2012-2013 season and come from the U.S. Department of Education database, says Forbes, which published its 2014 list on Monday.
Ticket sales, alumni contributions, parking and concessions and NCAA tourney payouts are among the revenue sources cited by Forbes.
“Unlike our professional sports valuations, our college basketball values don’t represent what a team would sell for on the open market; as college teams, they obviously cannot be bought or sold. Instead, we use a weighted methodology to determine how much value the top college basketball teams generate for their athletic departments, universities and fellow conference members,” Forbes’ writer Chris Smith reports.
No. 1 on the Forbes list for the third straight year is Louisville with a team value of $39.5 million and a sizzling profit of $24.7 million.
The Vols lofty Forbes ranking continues to benefit from the tournament payout earned by the 2010 team, which made the NCAA Elite Eight and came within a whisker of the school’s first Final Four.
The Vols play their first NCAA tournament game since 2011 on Wednesday when they go up against Iowa.
Click here for the Forbes report.

87-year-old’s Ruby Tuesday review goes viral

Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday

You can’t put a price tag on millions of folks reading a positive story about your business.
Maryville-based  restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday recently was the beneficiary of just such a publicity bonanza a review by  a review by 87-year-old restaurant critic Marilyn Hagerty went viral
Hagerty, a columnist for the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald liked her local Ruby Tuesday, in particular the salad bar and cloth-like napkins.
Bloggers, websites and other digital outlets went crazy. The viral explosion landed Hagerty an interview on NBC’s Today Show where she told Lester Holt she just didn’t get why her reviews went viral.
This wasn’t Hagerty’s first brush with viral fame. A couple of years ago her review of the local Olive Garden sparked a similar viral outburst.
Given its recent financial troubles, Ruby Tuesday should be thankful for the Hagerty generated publicity.
In its most recent financial report, Ruby Tuesday reported a quarterly net loss $34.4 million, or 57 cents per share, and said it would close 30 underperforming locations.
Olive Garden reportedly got a much-needed boost from the Hagerty review and subsequent viral publicity. Not everyone sees the same thing happening for Ruby Tuesday.
A Motley Fool writer said any boost will be short-lived.
“However, it’s not likely that this brave and crafty senior citizen will have any long-term impact on Ruby Tuesday.”
That’s too bad. Ruby Tuesday could use all the help it can get.
Click here for Hagerty’s Ruby Tuesday review
Click here for the Motley Fool analysis.
Click here for Hagerty’s Today Show interview

Productivity takes a hit with March Madness — but who cares

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The Big Dance is almost here and workers coast to coast will soon ignore their jobs to watch their favorite college basketball team battle in the annual NCAA tournament.
Millions of workers will watch games on office TVs, company computers and smartphones. An estimated 50 million Americans will participate in March Madness office pools.
The basketball frenzy is fun, but it’s also costly for businesses.
For every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament, companies nationwide will lose nearly $2 billion in lost wages, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
“There are distractions every day at the office, but the first week of the annual men’s college basketball tournament is particularly hazardous to workplace productivity.  While March Madness distractions may not alter the nation’s quarterly GDP numbers, you can be assured that department managers and network administrators notice the effect on work output and company-wide internet speeds,” John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a news release.
In a 2012 MSN survey, 56 percent of workers said they would spend at least an hour a day on March Madness activities, according to the news release. This year that would mean more than 77 million workers will spent work time watching games, keeping up with their office pool and talking to co-workers about the tourney.
Based on an average hourly wage of $24.31 — as noted in the most recent employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — that would mean “$1.9 billion in lost wages for each hour of work time spent on March Madness,” the release said.
Despite the productivity loss, companies should avoid the temptation to crack down on basketball activities, Challenger said.
“Department managers may notice that their workers are more distracted and the IT department may notice the loss of bandwidth.  However, at the end of the day, it is unlikely that a few days of March Madness distraction will impact the company’s bottom line,” Challenger said.
However, taking a hard line could hurt morale, which would have a long-term impact on productivity.
Companies would be better off trying to engage workers by promoting an office pool that’s free to enter, encouraging employees to wear their team colors or even serving a catered lunch on the first two days of the tournament, Challenger said.
Click here for the Challenger news release.

Manpower: Metro Knox hiring to improve in 2Q

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Hiring in metropolitan Knoxville is expected to show healthy improvement in the second quarter, according to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released Tuesday.
Seventeen percent of Knoxville area employers surveyed said they planned to add jobs in the April to June period, while only 1 percent said they would trim payrolls, Manpower reported.
Construction related businesses are among a broad range of area companies expected to add jobs in the coming quarter.
“We’re seeing a lot more activity in construction. We’re seeing a lot more opportunities,” said  Bill Garibay, president and CEO of ES&H Inc., a Knoxville-based company that provides professional services in construction, remediation, environmental, and safety and health support.
An improving economy is driving increased hiring, said Garibay, who also is president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee.
“The economy is making a turn. The housing market is making a turn and people are starting to spend money,” he said.
Area employers were considerably more cautious about adding jobs in the first quarter when 13 percent said they would hire in January through March period, while 9 percent expected to cut staff , Manpower reported.
In addition to construction, other Knox area job sectors with the best employment opportunities include, durable goods manufacturing, nondurable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, wholesale and retail trade, financial activities, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality and government, Manpower said.
Nationwide, 19 percent of employers surveyed plan to add jobs in the second quarter and 4 percent said they would cut staff.
Manpower surveyed more than 18,000 employers across the country for its second quarter report.

Scripps Networks Interactive bids for United Kingdom broadcaster

Scripps Networks Interactive headquarters

Scripps Networks Interactive headquarters

Knoxville-based Scripps Networks Interactive is among three U.S. cable TV networks looking to buy a United Kingdom broadcaster, according to published reports.
The lifestyle media company is in the running to acquire the U.K’s Channel 5, according to a report by The Financial Times, which cited an unnamed source “familiar with the process.”
Cable networks Viacom and Discovery Channel also submitted bids by the Feb. 27 deadline, as did private equity group Saban Capital, according to the story published Friday by the British business news organization
The amount of the bids is unknown, but Channel 5 is reportedly seeking a price of $1.17 billion, according to Financial Times.
All of the bidders declined to comment, the Financial Times reported.
Scripps officials on Monday could not immediately be reached for comment.
Channel 5, a general entertainment broadcaster, launched in 1997. It was purchased in 2010 by English newspaper and magazine publisher Richard Desmond.
International expansion is a priority for Scripps Networks, which has invested heavily in building its global audience over the last several years. In 2012 it purchased the U.K.-based Travel Channel International Ltd.
Scripps Networks Chairman Ken Lowe said last month in a conference call with analysts that the Travel Channel audience in the United Kingdom increased 57 percent last year and said Scripps is making “steady progress” in expanding its presence in Russia, Poland, the Philippines and other international markets.
Scripps Networks also has in recent months made a number of executive appointments for its international operations. Last month, Kevin Chorlins,was named to the newly created role of senior vice president of international content and brand strategy.
Click here for the Financial Times report.
Click here for more from Variety.

Apple tops Fortune’s ‘most admired’ companies list

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CORRECTION: This post has been updated to remove an incorrect reference to TeamHealth of Knoxville appearing on Fortune’s 2014 ‘Most Admired’ companies list. The 2014 list did not include companies in TeamHealth’s industry sector

For the seventh consecutive year, Apple is No. 1 overall on Fortune’s list of the Top 50 World’s Most Admired Companies, followed by Internet retailer Amazon.com and Internet search engine Google.
Rounding out the top five are investment guru Warren Buffett’s firm, Berkshire-Hathaway, and coffee giant Starbucks.
Tennessee’s only representative among the Top 50 is FedEx Corp. The Memphis-based package delivery company is No. 8 overall and No. 2 in the delivery industry, behind Germany’s Deutsche Post.
The Top 50 list and industry sector rankings are based on a survey of executives, directors, and analysts who rate companies in their industry on a variety of criteria, including investment value and social responsibility.

Click here for Fortune’s complete list of World’s Most Admired Companies.

John Burlingame retiring from Scripps Networks board

Scripps Networks Interactive headquarters

Scripps Networks Interactive headquarters

Scripps Networks Interactive announced that John Burlingame will retire from the Knoxville-based lifestyle media company’s board of directors when his current term expires.
Burlingame’s retirement will mark the end of a lengthy corporate relationship with the Scripps family and the Scripps companies.
A retired partner in the law firm of Baker & Hostetler, Burlingame has been a director of Scripps Networks since 2008 when it was spun-off from The E.W. Scripps Co., the owner of 19 television stations and newspapers in 13 markets, including the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
Burlingame served as a director of E.W. Scripps for 24 years, retiring from the Cincinnati-based company’s board in 2012.
In addition, he had been a  trustee of the Edward W. Scripps Trust since 1987. The family trust, which had controlled the company since 1922, terminated in October, 2012, and is in the process of winding up.
Scripps Networks portfolio includes the cable and Internet brands Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel, and Great American Country.