Memphis Ponders Whether It Hands Out Corporate Welfare the Right Way

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There’s a lot of tussling going on in Memphis as the city’s movers and shakers debate the best ways to disburse corporate welfare.

According to the Memphis Daily News, a seven-member city group is studying the effectiveness of EDGE – the city-county Economic Development Growth Engine.

EDGE hands out tax abatement incentives.

Members of this group want to know if they should take the city out of EDGE and create a city Industrial Development Board to make things more efficient, the website reported.

Members of the group met for the first time this week.

Council member Reid Hedgepeth said economic development interests need a “czar” to help run things.

“Now is the time to streamline the process so that we have this czar that can come and say, ‘Memphis can do this deal. I say we can compete at this level. We’re ready. Here’s the application, Turn it in. Let’s go,’” the website quoted Boyd as saying.

“Right now, at the rate we are going, everybody says ‘that’s not my responsibility’ or ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I didn’t know we wanted to turn that in and compete on this deal.’ Time out on excuses.”

Eric Miller, with the Greater Memphis Chamber, said he wants “more confidentiality for prospects, including using project names to identify them.”

As The Tennessee Star previously reported, Memphis and Shelby County have an unelected board of 11 people who have enough power to grant millions of dollars in tax abatements to corporations.

Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer previously told The Star that city and county officials aren’t getting results under the current way of doing things.

Under the current system, the EDGE CEO is accountable only to the city mayor and the county mayor.

Both mayors appoint the EDGE board of directors, although county commissioners and city council members vote to confirm them.

Otherwise, county commissioners and city council members have no sway over their respective mayors.

EDGE previously gave $9.5 million in tax incentives to bring IKEA to Memphis.

EDGE spokeswoman Nora Boone told The Star she had no comment on any of the conversations about her organization that took place this week.

“I am sorry but I am not in a position to say anything,” Boone said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]









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One Thought to “Memphis Ponders Whether It Hands Out Corporate Welfare the Right Way”

  1. The problem in Memphis is that the EDGE Board started by Memphis Tomorrow, a local CEO organization, has been engaged in a practice of local wealth transfers known as “retention” payment-in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) program as opposed to economic development. Retention PILOTs abate taxes for existing corporations to stay in Memphis/Shelby County as the local real estate industry locks in long term leases. The retention PILOT program employs bogus incomplete accounting to justify excessive local PILOTs that undermine the tax base while sacrificing true economic development in safer/paved streets, better workforce and transit. It’s all address on my website at