VOL. 11 | NO. 16 | Saturday, April 21, 2018
Local Legislators Continue Efforts to Reform EDGE
By Patrick Lantrip
The push to reform the way the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County operates continued Friday, April 20 at a joint subcommittee meeting held by the Shelby County Commission and Memphis City Council.
The meeting, which was hosted by commission chair Heidi Shafer, is part of a larger look by both legislative bodies into the structure, function, and effectiveness of EDGE and the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce.
“This is going to be the first of possibly a few meetings to try to move us along in what we’re trying to do to make sure that our economic development programs are moving in the way that we would like them to,” Shafer said.
Most notably at the subcommittee meeting, city council chair Berlin Boyd outlined a new tax incentive plan aimed at attracting large corporate offices and advanced manufacturing operations that he said arose from a meeting earlier in the week with both mayors, EDGE president and CEO Reid Dulberger, and Greater Memphis Chamber chair Richard Smith.
The new plan, which is tentatively called Memphis Opportunity Package, seeks to offer a “carrot” approach to minority and women owed businesses.
“At EDGE, we have a program that requires companies that are getting a PILOT to have a 25 percent minority goal,” Boyd said. “But what we have noticed is 25 percent of nothing equals nothing because we haven’t seen the needle move.”
Meanwhile, the Memphis Opportunity Package offers a basic, up-to-10-year PILOT incentive based solely on the jobs, wages, and capital investment, but with the opportunity to earn up to 10 additional years based on the percentage of money they plan to spend with MWBEs instead of making that spending a requirement.
For example, under this program a qualify company would be given anywhere from 2 additional years for spending 15 percent with MWBEs to 10 additional years for spending 50 percent. An additional five more years for spending north of 55 percent is possible, but would have to be approved by the Commissioner of Economic Development and the Comptroller of the Treasury.
“We’re trying to test the waters to see if this program works, because we’re not recruiting in this space currently,” Boyd said. “I’m of the point that we have to get aggressive, we have to get real about economic development and growth.
Schafer also gave an update on the first tangible steps to reforming EDGE’s structure.
“There is some language moving through the city side that would begin a first critical piece, which would be having EDGE report to its board,” Shafer said. “And I think that is a big thing that could free up EDGE to respond quickly.”
Shafer said that as soon as that language clears city council, it will move on the county commission for approval.