IP asks for tax breaks in order to stay in Memphis

IP asks for tax breaks in order to stay in Memphis

(WMC-TV) - International Paper is asking the city of Memphis for huge tax breaks on a new building and its aircraft.

Without a deal, the Fortune 500 company could take its business and the jobs to Mississippi.

Members of the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis known as EDGE are appointed to oversee business negotiations like the International Paper deal.

As more information hits the press, not everyone agrees on how the deal is being handled.

"I think we're jumping the gun here and getting too far ahead before we have the information in front of us," said Heidi Shaffer, Shelby County Commissioner.

"They need to back off, get out of it and let the professionals handle it," said Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz.

Ritz is talking about Memphis city and Shelby County mayors. He thinks the mayors should back away from the business table.

"This is the first pilot that I can recall in my 35 years in Memphis where the mayors have gotten involved in the details of a pilot," said Ritz.

"The EDGE board was supposed to take politics out of this business," said Shaffer.

Shaffer says it is Ritz who should keep his hands off of the deal.

Reports that Ritz proposed to place himself on an International Paper negotiating committee prompted Shaffer to contact the county attorney to determine whether Ritz has that authority.

"He certainly does not", affirmed Shaffer.

In a recent meeting with IP executives and others, Ritz confirmed that IP is pushing for a $100 million building expansion.

Instead of a 30 year pilot, IP prefers a 15 year tax break even on its corporate aircraft. That, Ritz says, is not a possibility.

"We don't do rolling stock, we don't do airplanes. Think about it, Federal Express," said Ritz.

Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins also sat down with the paper giant executives. He says the bottom line is keeping IP.

"It's important that we need to do everything we can and that we provide a legitimate reason for them to stay here," said Collins.

If International Paper decides to stay put, Ritz says the company is considering building skywalks to connect a new headquarter tower.

Meanwhile the mayors have confirmed they are working with Tennessee economic developers to secure a deal.

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