VOL. 132 | NO. 242 | Thursday, December 7, 2017
Richard Smith Talks PILOT Reform at Chamber Luncheon
By Patrick Lantrip
Richard Smith, president and CEO of FedEx Trade Networks and the incoming chairman of the board for the Greater Memphis Chamber, is calling on industry leaders to reimagine Shelby County's tax incentive programs.
“I want to make certain that when businesses come to Memphis or consider growing within Memphis that we are known as the most business-friendly city in the world,” Smith said Wednesday, Dec. 6, during the chamber's annual Chairman's Luncheon at The Peabody. “As a community, we need to take a hard look at what is working and what is not working in Memphis when it comes to recruiting and growing business and how our elected body is working with us towards that goal.”
Smith took the opportunity to tout the socially responsible and transparent nature of the current payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, system before advocating for a reimagining of the program.
“Even the name – payment-in-lieu-of-taxes – indicates a payment,” he said. “It makes it sound like corporate welfare, when it is not. In fact, it is our only economic development weapon. We really need a better name for it.”
He cited the number of companies, especially in the industrial sector, who have chosen North Mississippi over Shelby County as the impetus for action.
“No new speculative industrial space has been built in Memphis since 2008, while over 6 million square feet is being built right over the state line in North Mississippi with the hopes of luring some of our companies away,” Smith said. “Any good businessperson knows that the two things a customer hates is risk and uncertainty. The more risk and uncertainty you present to a business, the more commerce will simply flow around you.”
To help counter the loss of jobs and companies to North Mississippi, Smith urged his fellow business leaders to support the chamber’s efforts to streamline local tax incentive policies and processes in order to prevent jobs from leaving and to make it easy for new companies to relocate to Memphis.
In conclusion, Smith reiterated the importance of the upcoming governor’s race on the future of Memphis’ economy.
“All the candidates know that West Tennessee is the key to winning the election, so we need to ensure that they commit to an agenda that address the economic development needs of Memphis and Shelby County,” he said.