If Tennessee Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean gets elected governor then he’ll invest more state taxpayer dollars in Memphis and the west Tennessee region.
Dean made this promise while touring Memphis this week.
This, even though leaders in that corner of the state don’t get much when they invest local taxpayer money in projects meant to attract new business.
According to the Memphis Daily News, Dean wants the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to set up an office in Memphis. There he said he will use state resources to focus on boosting women-and minority-owned businesses.
“Dean is ‘very specific’ about building economic opportunities for women and ethnic groups, which he could do through executive order or legislative initiatives,” according to the paper.
Dean, the paper went on, wants to do that by improving procurement programs to make it easier for women and minorities to compete for contracts. He also wants to recruit businesses to the Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County.
In an opinion column last year, Beacon Center of Tennessee President Justin Owen said state officials have spent more than $140 million in taxpayer money to buy and develop the site to attract a large manufacturer to the area.
The Beacon Center is a Nashville-based free market think tank.
“Despite big talk by state officials about bringing thousands of jobs to the downtrodden area, the Megasite remains an empty field of broken promises,” Owen wrote.
“And officials’ efforts to lure a company to the area continue to falter. Just a few weeks ago, Toyota-Mazda, the subject of the state’s most recent courtship for the site, eliminated it from consideration for a new auto plant. Another unnamed company has reportedly also rejected the site as its future home.”
ECD officials, Owen wrote, want to hire a consultant to help find a tenant for the land.
“That will cost taxpayers an additional $2 million next year,” Owen said.
“And the state now has to run a sewage pipe from the site to the Mississippi River, costing more money and seizing homeowners’ property along the way via eminent domain. All for a company that is only real in the imaginations of politicians and bureaucrats in Nashville.”
Then there’s the Memphis Economic Development Growth Engine. EDGE is an unelected board of 11 people in Memphis and Shelby County. The organization gave $9.5 million in tax incentives to IKEA so it would build a store in the city. Mayors from both the city and the county appoint the 11 board members.
Memphis officials have already given away plenty in incentive packages.
Seven years ago, for instance, state officials gave away $100 million so Electrolux would set up shop in Memphis, with city and county officials adding on an additional $20 million each.
Members of the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office had already warned Memphis officials to tighten the city’s finances, or the state would intervene.
Memphis taxpayers paid $30 million to convert the long-troubled Memphis Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops resort. The revenue for that project came from taxes on hotels, motels and car rentals.
Elsewhere in west Tennessee, more specifically Lake County, $50 million in federal stimulus money funded a Mississippi River port that has thus far failed to attract much business interest, according to Tennessee Watchdog.
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