VOL. 131 | NO. 34 | Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Council Debates, Forms Minority Business Committee
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council members debated at length Tuesday, Feb. 16, whether or not to form a committee to explore the lack of minority business growth locally.
The council ultimately voted to form an ad hoc committee tasked with coming up within three months a set of recommendations to improve city government’s contract spending with minority businesses.
The recommendations could also include positions on whether the Economic Development Growth Engine should require a percentage of minority business contracting of private businesses who receive tax breaks from EDGE.
An EDGE plan on that point and others is expected in March.
Council member Berlin Boyd questioned the need for the ad hoc committee but not the need for greater minority business growth.
He also cited the construction of the Ikea store in Cordova that met a goal of 25 percent minority participation with four women-owned local businesses hired by contractor Linkous Construction Co. as subcontractors for a total of $4.5 million.
“Zero African-American participation,” Boyd said. “Not one red cent. … So we can discuss this all day long but until we take a different approach, we’re not going to get there.”
Council member Frank Colvett agreed on the need for change but defended Linkous.
“It’s a good construction firm,” he said. “They followed the rules. But I think the rules need to be amended because there are zero African-American firms.”
In planning and development items, the council again delayed a vote on a planned hotel with retail on the northeast corner of Jackson Avenue and Front Street.
But the delay to the March 1 council meeting is to formalize a tentative agreement between the developers, Front Street Group LLC and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Greater Memphis Chamber.
The development was delayed starting last September because of opposition by the hospital and others as the hospital develops an $8-billion plan for its expansion and further development of the Pinch district.
The council approved a used car lot at Chelsea Avenue and Tunica Street as well as another car lot at 5172 S. Third St. The local Office of Planning and Development opposed the Third Street car lot citing the presence of numerous other car lots in the area.
Council members also approved a set of street alley closures south of Southern Avenue that are part of a campus master plan for the University of Memphis.
The council also changed the zoning of the three corners opposite the Nike Inc. North America Distribution Center at New Allen Road and New Frayser Boulevard for development as similar employment centers by Belz Investco.
And the council approved a tractor-trailer yard at McCorkle and Brooks Roads for the second time in two months. Council member Edmund Ford Jr. moved for reconsideration of the development earlier this month.