Tennessee center to get new owner and new image

BY Al Urbanski

The willow is associated with weeping, and the appearance of WillowTree Plaza in Cookeville, Tennessee, is certainly sad by modern standards. But now the center near Tennessee Tech University has a new owner and, soon, will get a new look.

Boca Raton-based Fimiani Partners has purchased the 110,000-sq.-ft. center for $4.2 million and plans to invest in a new roof, a repaved parking lot, and a new paint job for Willow Tree.

“Willow Tree Plaza’s close proximity to Tennessee Tech and Cookeville Regional Medical Center makes it an appealing location for retailers,” said Fimiani President Mike Fimiani.

Tenants at Willow Tree include Save A Lot, Harbor Freight Tools, Aaron’s and Family Dollar.

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New Market closes on 34th center

BY Al Urbanski

Formed just three years ago, an aggressive acquirers of grocery-anchored centers has purchased its 34th property.

New Market Properties, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Preferred Apartment Communities, has acquired Irmo Station, a Kroger-anchored center in Columbia, South Carolina. The company targets high-yield suburban markets in Texas and the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions and market-leading grocery anchors such as Publix, Kroger, and HEB.

“We are thrilled to partner again with Kroger on this high-sales-volume location, and we believe the tenants at Irmo Station will continue to benefit from the surrounding population with [average household] incomes of over $82,000," said New Market CEO Joel T. Murphy.

The company reports having closed on $330 million in retail real estate during 2016.

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Regulatory Wrap-Up: Where state and national policy impact retail



Overtime: The Labor Department called for public comment on the Obama administration's overtime rule which increased the salary threshold to $47,476/yr. The public comment request is viewed as a first step to rescinding or updating the rule, which has been temporarily blocked from going into effect because of a court ruling in December 2016. Secretary Acosta has acknowledged the need to raise the threshold but has voiced concern that the $47,000 level is too high.

Vermont: A study committee that was created by the legislature to investigate the economic impacts of a potential minimum wage increase announced they will begin meeting in August. The committee will meet several times over the coming months and will issue a report no later than December 1.

Montgomery County, MD: Council member Marc Elrich reintroduced legislation to increase the county minimum wage to $15/hr over the next three years with automatic adjustments in subsequent years tied to inflation. The bill passed earlier this year but County Executive Isiah Leggett vetoed the measure. Elrich and several other council members have since announced their intent to run for the county executive seat and will continue to elevate this issue, and Leggett’s veto, for political gains.

Paid Leave

Chipotle: Reports have surfaced, sourced from viral employee videos, alleging the recent norovirus outbreak at a Virginia Chipotle was compounded by non-compliance with company sick leave policies. The outbreak has also triggered lawsuits from sick customers who ate at the Sterling, VA location.


Chicago, IL:The legislation seeking to implement a restrictive scheduling mandate similar to San Francisco was moved to the rules committee which represents a significant procedural delay for the bill. Business advocates continue to meet with members of the city council and the mayor’s office to discuss the challenges associated with this legislation.

Oakland, CA: Reports indicate that scheduling legislation may be under consideration by the city council towards the end of the year. No legislation has been announced or introduced.

Health Care

U.S. Senate:Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare suffered defeat as GOP Senators John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) broke ranks and voted with democrats against a last ditch effort from Republican leadership to repeal key pieces of the ACA. Following the vote, Leader McConnell acknowledged on the floor of the Senate that “it is time to move on” likely signaling the demise of the seven-year effort to repeal the landmark healthcare law.

Labor Policy

Joint Employer: House Republicans, along with a few democratic cosponsors, introduced their long-awaited legislation that rolls back the National Labor Relations Board’s joint employer standard established under the 2015 Browning-Ferris decision. The legislation would provide clarity to franchisors and franchisees and protect employers from increased liability.

EEOC Pay Data: The House Appropriations Committee added an amendment to the relevant spending bill that prevents the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from implementing the 2016 rule that requires employers with 100 or more employees to submit salary data with their annual EEO-1 forms. If the language included in the appropriations package does not ultimately become law, the first employer reports with salary data would be due March 31, 2018.


Tax Reform: Republican leaders announced the abandonment of the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) as a central part of their tax reform efforts. The BAT provision (which would put levies of up to 20 percent on thousands of imported consumer items as a way to pay for overall tax reform) was successfully opposed by importers and consumers across the country.

Pennsylvania: The Senate released their budget last week and it included an expansion of sales tax nexus requirements for out-of-state sellers that use a marketplace to sell into the state. The final outcome is unclear because both the deadline for enacting a new budget has long since passed and the House has voiced opposition to any tax increases. It remains to be seen whether or not the two chambers can produce a budget prior to the Governor implementing a spending freeze.

Massachusetts: The Department of Revenue issued a regulation this week establishing that apps and/or files on a customer’s computer or smartphone does establish a physical presence for sales tax collection purposes. The action comes after the administration abruptly rescinded a similar directive in June after it drew a lawsuit from online sellers focused on the legal authority of the directive. The attorney general's office advised the administration that the directive would have more authority if positioned as a regulation.

Rhode Island: A provision included in the state budget proposal obligates out-of-state sellers to report to consumers their use tax liability at the time of purchase. It also obligates marketplace providers such as Amazon to report to the state information about third party sellers who do not collect. These provisions are modeled after Colorado’s landmark 2010 law and will go into effect two weeks following passage of the budget.

Sugar Tax

Cook County, IL:Circuit Judge Daniel Kubasiak dismissed the lawsuit initiated by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association to stop the penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks from taking effect. The new tax was set to go into effect July 1 but the judge ordered a temporary restraining order as a result of the lawsuit to further study the issue. The county filed a motion to dismiss the industry lawsuit which the judge sided with today. It is unclear at this point when the tax will take effect.


National Governors Association: The NGA announced that 38 states have signed a compact to improve state cybersecurity. Retailers that have experienced massive data breaches at the hands of cyber criminals welcome a potential partnership with states looking to increase security.


South Korea:President Moon Jae-in appointed a new minister for trade in the midst of ongoing Trump rhetoric critical of the existing Korean-U.S. trade deal and a recently initiated “special session” by the USTR to “modernize” the agreement. South Korea had requested a delay in the special session until a new trade minister is in place.

Trade in Services Agreement: Trade officials from the United Kingdom discussed a potential scaled-down TISA with the U.S. as a result of the inability of the European Union to reach a consensus position on data flows. However, the UK cannot take part in formal negotiations until it exits the EU.

Steel: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross urged steel industry executives to voice public support for administrative action on steel imports. The administration is considering implementing a somewhat arcane provision of international trade agreements (section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act) which would allow the U.S. to initiate an investigation to determine whether national security is threatened by specific imports. A decision on action awaits a Commerce report which is not due until Jan 2018. There have been several reports of dissention within Trump’s economic advisors as to the appropriate path forward regarding the ongoing steel trade imbalance with China and the rest of the world. Secretary Ross has recently signaled his willingness to negotiate prior to the U.S. taking retaliatory action. Should the U.S. take action against a country like China on the steel issue, it could trigger retaliations that would negatively affect the cost of imported goods.


Maine: The legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of legislation that amends the state’s renewable portfolio standard by requiring that 10% of all retail electricity sales in the state must come from new renewable capacity resources from 2017 to 2022. However, discussions of another potential override continue in the aftermath of Governor LePage’s veto of net metering legislation.


Texas: The controversial bathroom bill, which seeks to regulate which bathrooms transgender people can use in schools and public buildings, passed the Senate 21-10 during this week’s special legislative session. The bill now advances to the House where it faces more opposition, most importantly from the House Speaker.

Key Takeaways

• The legislative agenda for entry-level employers took a tremendous hit this week. In addition to the failure of repealing the ACA, which many employers placed at the top of the priority list, prospects for comprehensive tax reform dimmed significantly as well. Much of tax reform would have been funded by “savings” from health care reform as well as revenues collected from the Border Adjustability Tax (BAT) which was abandoned this week. Those two outcomes have essentially closed much of the window for comprehensive tax reform this year.

• The permanent dysfunction in Washington has been officially replaced by a state of permanent chaos. As such, while many states and localities were patiently waiting for federal action on a variety of issues important to entry-level employers, look for them to jump back into policy leadership on Medicaid, taxation, leave and other benefit-related issues.

Legislature Status for Week of 7/31/17

• The United States Senate is in session until August 11, 2017

• The United States House of Representatives is in recess until September 5, 2017

• Eight state legislatures are currently in regular session

• CA, MA, MI, NJ, OH, PA, RI, WI

• Three state legislatures are in special session

• AK, IL, and TX


We've recently launched a podcast that focuses on politics and policy for the restaurant industry. You can listen to the "Working Lunch" podcast by clicking here or on iTunes here.

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The Regulatory Wrap-Up is presented by Align Public Strategies. Click here to learn how Align can provide your brand with the counsel and insight you need to navigate the policy and political issues impacting retail.


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