VOL. 126 | NO. 127 | Thursday, June 30, 2011
Memphis Law Talk
Biggs Erases Stumbling Blocks for Companies
By Sarah Baker
Before Lodie Biggs ever stepped foot into law school, he was coached on business ethics from his Depression-era grandfather.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
Growing up in Millington with a dad who worked long hours, Biggs would spend the majority of his Saturdays learning about capitalism, the stock market and entrepreneurship.
“He basically gave me a business education on his kitchen table,” Biggs said. “That influenced me more to have drive and to go out and take risk. Work is its own reward. Whatever you do, do it exactly perfect no matter what, don’t compromise.”
Now an attorney at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, Biggs specializes in commercial real estate and economic development. He’s helped bring thousands of jobs to Memphis by enticing companies with payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) incentives.
“I’m objective about pros and cons, but I have a natural incentive to get companies to want them to locate in Memphis as well, so I help them through that process,” he said. “I don’t want them to find a stumbling block. I’d rather go ahead and smooth it over, clear it up and make it easier for them to move into town.”
Recent deals Biggs has touched include Electrolux, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc., City Brewing Co., Pinnacle Airlines Corp. and the U.S. Foodservice expansion in Hickory Hill. While he enjoys being able to market the city and get business in the door, Biggs said his greatest professional accomplishments are the lessons learned along the way.
“It’s the constant reaffirmation that the people who are detailed and work hard and are good lawyers continually are successful,” Biggs said. “You can’t let your guard up, you’ve got to be focused and detailed 100 percent of the time because it’s so dangerous. Putting together these deals are like a big puzzle. You’re all in or not at all and I like that about this job.”
It’s that all-or-nothing mentality that Biggs and Memphis have in common. Over the past 12 years of his career, he’s seen deals run the gamut from a steady stream of small- to medium-sized distribution and warehouse projects to now those that are on a much larger scale.
“(Memphis) Mayor (A C) Wharton has said numerous times over the last couple of years that you’re either in the game of economic development or out of the game,” he said. “For so long, our reputation was we’re out of the game. Now we’re back in the game. I’ve never seen the city and county mayor come together and pursue projects like they’re doing now; the momentum is unreal.”
He admits that over time, it’s easy to become complacent to what the city has to offer. But by being involved with landing businesses that spur economic growth, Biggs said he’s constantly reminded of the strategic advantages the city has to offer.
“I had a company tell me we plan to come to Memphis and buy facilities just to keep them out of our competitor’s hands,” Biggs said. “They wanted to take the assets and buy them just so nobody else can have them, whether they use them or not. That was a pretty big eye opener for me. What other city can say people have done that?”
“I’m objective about pros and cons, but I have a natural incentive to get companies to want them to locate in Memphis as well, so I help them through that process.”
– Lodie Biggs
Attorney, Baker Donelson
About eight out of 10 companies Biggs helps bring to the city do so because of logistics. Out of those eight, about five plan to relocate solely because of FedEx. With that track record, he’s bullish that Memphis is poised to become the hub of logistics for the next 30 years.
“Just by moving to Memphis, a company’s logistics expenses go down by X amount,” he said. “It’s a quantifiable advantage and you just forget that as a native Memphian. You think that our city is like Louisville or Houston and it’s not. If you look at our infrastructure, it keeps getting better and better.”
When he’s not working, Biggs enjoys exercising and spending time with his family of “ie’s” – his wife Stephanie, and their three daughters, Mollie, Kadie and Abbie.
“If it’s not about my job, if I didn’t read it in a business publication and if my wife didn’t tell it to me, I don’t know about it,” he said. “I’ll be 39 in August; with three kids and this career, that’s all you can do.”