Site selection experts from six nationally known firms got a “red carpet tour” from the Greater Memphis Chamber Wednesday, June 5, in a recruitment effort that included a look at the industrial infrastructure of the Memphis area.
They also got assurances from state leaders out of Nashville that the administration of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is behind the local efforts.
Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty spoke just before the annual “Red Carpet Tour,” emphasizing a geographical advantage that is unique to Tennessee.
“We’ve got competitive advantages that in sum beat every other state that is contiguous to our state,” he said before the luncheon.
The statement is important because Tennessee is bordered by eight states, more than any other state in the union.
No corporate executives from companies that might be looking to relocate or expand were introduced at the event. The site consultant firms included the RSH Group, Mohr Partners Inc. and Arledge Partners Real Estate. Corporations rely on such consultants for a set of finalist sites for their plans.
“They really can place projects anywhere they want to, not only in the United States but in the world,” Hagerty said. “We compete on a global basis. … We are now at the fore of the Southeast. We’ve got so much positive momentum going on.”
Chamber president John Moore touted the local “Made in Memphis” report on the manufacturing sector where miscellaneous industries that didn’t fit some of the broad manufacturing categories were the top category with 6,170 jobs, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.
“It means we are diversified,” Moore said.
The top category for manufacturing jobs was paper with 4,870 employees followed by machinery, chemical, fabricated metal and food manufacturing.
The tour took the consultants to local manufacturing, logistics and research facilities.
Stops on this year’s tour included Mallory Alexander logistics, the Canadian National and BNSF intermodal facilities, Medtronic, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation and Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc.
Mitsubishi had its formal opening in April in southwest Memphis. The plant that makes large power transformers weighing several hundred tons is one of two big economic development achievements for city and county leaders. The other is the Electrolux plant, also in southwest Memphis, which makes ovens and stoves for the North American market.
As both plants open and hire workers, the Memphis economy got a jolt this week when Delta Airlines announced it plans to de-hub Memphis International Airport in the fall. The de-hubbing will mean dropping the number of Delta flights to approximately 60 a day and the loss of more than 200 jobs among Delta passenger service and cargo employees.
Delta’s announcement came the same week that Memphis International Airport marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the terminal building.
A Tennessee comptroller’s office report on city government finances, meanwhile, mentioned the city’s aggressive use of payments in lieu of taxes to recruit companies relocating in Memphis and expanding in Memphis and the impact of those incentives on the tax base.
Hagerty didn’t mention state or local incentives or tax breaks or freezes in his comments. And the Haslam administration has de-emphasized the use of traditional incentives in favor of state “fast track” grants that come from a pool of state money that can be accessed quickly.
Hagerty has also said before that the administration often cautions local governments to be selective in their use of incentives as one factor to lure a prospect that is already leaning toward a site in their city or county.
His message to the site consultants was that the state is part of the local efforts with a reach that is international.
“We go out and call on companies that have operations in our state and make sure those companies are expanding and growing here and being taken care of,” he said, adding they also call on new prospects.
Haslam and Hagerty travel to Europe in July on an economic development mission with a trip to Asia slated for the fall.