Saying the word “recovery” is easier than finding consistent indicators that are crucial to a recovery actually occurring.
In these pages we have chronicled the transfer of property for more than a century from one name to another. And that is economic movement.
But as in most of our affairs as a community, we must have a plan beyond that daily or weekly movement that gets to the root of what a recovery means. It means more people at work with jobs that pay a decent wage. Our goal should be an expansion that includes those left out for too long in a city with a historically high poverty rate. That poverty rate includes plenty of Memphians who work more than one job.
We believe that kind of transformational planning should do several things at the same time. One is to attract new businesses within our borders capable of adding jobs beyond the existing numbers and their month-to-month fluctuations. The other is to see existing local businesses with a sound, unshakeable business plan take a reasonable leap to a well-thought-out expansion.
And we must always remember that the goal is not to reach a certain number of jobs and then recite the corporate names we have attracted over and over again like some kind of sorcerous incantation that will keep our recovery intact.
Those marquee corporate names help create momentum. But they are no substitute for a committed, well-thought-out strategy that we do not see presently.
We can’t mark time with our efforts. We have to grow and that means movement with a purpose – not for the pursuit of jobs numbers as if they are different levels in some kind of carnival game involving a sledgehammer and a bell at the top.
What we must seek is sustainability and that might mean that some prospects who are looking for a quick cash infusion and place to light for a brief time are not in our future.
We are too easily distracted by big economic plums that require big incentives that in some cases have been nearly equal.
And while we’re at it, we think a more judicious use of payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreements in pursuit of sustainability should include exempting that portion of the tax rate that goes to education from being part of the agreement.
That is a commitment we believe anyone who seeks to become part of our community and not a flash in the pan should be able to make. But it is essential that we get to work in a meaningful way on making it easier to become a part of a recovered Memphis as well as grow in the future Memphis that is the real economic development prize we should seek.