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Gabe Thomas and Dustin Douglass, former co-owners of Collier Construction, have joined with Bryan King to start a new homebuilding firm known as Rock Point Homes (RPH).

The new company has started construction on Signal Farms, a 26-home modern farmhouse community on Signal Mountain.

"We are a homebuilding company dedicated to the quality of the lives that will live there," said Thomas, the president of PRH and currently vice president of the Chattanooga Area Association of Homebuilders. "All three of us have a lot of experience in the construction industry and want our work to be done with integrity.

TVA helps Duke in restoring power

The 80 TVA construction personnel sent to Wilmington, North Carolina, to help restore power expect to soon return to Tennessee after aiding the power restoration for Duke Energy.

Duke estimates about 1.4 million customers lost power immediately after Hurricane Florence flooded much of the coast of North and South Carolina. More than 300,000 customers were still without power this week.

"Everybody here is glad to see us. They've been blowing their horns and waving as we arrived here in Wilmington," said Inspector Tim Dilbeck with U.S. TVA Police and Emergency Management. "They're ready to get their power turned back on."

Though Florence has left the South, major flooding has essentially cut off Wilmington from the rest of the state. The city of about 119,000 residents was in the center of the storm when Florence first came ashore Thursday. It has received about 27 inches of rain since.

Apart from crews on the ground, TVA has one helicopter to the region to perform line inspections and another to carry supplies into the Wilmington area.

Tennessee deploys mobile jobs centers

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development deployed two mobile American Job Centers Wednesday to assist with Hurricane Florence recovery efforts in South Carolina.

Teams departed from Nashville and Knoxville and will travel to a staging area in Columbia, S.C. The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) will then assign the mobile job centers to areas of the state affected by Hurricane Florence.

"We are fortunate in Tennessee to have resources like the mobile job centers for our citizens to use on a daily basis," Tennessee Labor Commissioner Burns Phillips said. "When our neighbors need assistance, it's in the spirit of Tennessee to step up and volunteer these resources to help them get through this disaster."

The crews going to South Carolina have firsthand experience working in disaster situations. They were dispatched to Pigeon Forge in December 2016 to assist with disaster unemployment insurance benefits following the Gatlinburg wildfires.

U.S., Canada talks continue on NAFTA

U.S. and Canadian negotiators — facing a deadline at the end of the month — are working long hours to keep Canada in a North American trade bloc.

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland resumed talks Wednesday with U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer.

"Our negotiators have been really hard at it, including an all-night session last night that ended at 7 a.m.," Freeland told reporters.

President Donald Trump began negotiations last year to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The U.S. and Mexico reached a preliminary deal last month designed in part to shift more auto production to the United States. But Canada wasn't part of that agreement. Freeland is trying to get America's No. 2 trading partner back into the trade bloc.

The countries are under pressure to reach a deal by the end of the month when Lighthizer must make public a copy of the full text of the agreement with Mexico. Until then, he has wriggle room to reinstate Canada.

Construction rises to 7-month high

U.S. home construction rebounded in August at the fastest pace in seven months but applications for new building permits plunged, sending mixed signals for an industry that has been struggling with rising lumber costs.

Housing starts increased 9.2 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.28 million units, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Housing starts had declined 0.3 percent in July and 11.4 percent in June. The increase was the biggest since a 10.2 percent advance in January.

Application for building permits, considered a good indication of future activity, fell by 5.7 percent in August after a 0.9 percent rise in July. Permit applications have been down four of the past five months.

Builders have struggled this year to deal with rising costs for lumber, land and labor. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that lumber prices have shot up by about $7,000 per home since the start of 2017, largely due to tariffs the Trump administration has imposed on imports of Canadian softwood lumber.

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