Council wants EDGE board's input on economic development

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - City and county leaders are voicing their concerns over the board who offers incentives to lure development to the Mid-South.

The question being raised: is it time to restructure the program?

City and county leaders sounded off about their concerns during the joint meeting Thursday night.

Many suggested tweaks need to be made to the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) board's voting and deciding powers when it comes to the offer given to companies.

Since its creation in 2011, EDGE said it has brought nearly 17,000 jobs to Memphis and Shelby County.

Those jobs came to the area from companies who've received a payment in lieu of tax or PILOT incentives and include companies like IKEA and the relocation of the Service Master headquarters.

But lately, the economic development board is drawing criticism.

"I think with a few tweaks we can make it a lot better," Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland said.

"I just think that the structure could be a little more different than the way it is right now," City Councilman Martavious Jones said.

As it stands now, EDGE is made up of an 11-member board of directors appointed by both City of Memphis and Shelby County mayors.

Of the 11, nine are voting board members along with one non-voting member from both the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission.

City and county leaders say they want more of a voice in the decision-making process on the incentives offered before they vote on spending that taxpayer money they are tasked with budgeting.

Mayor Jim Strickland's office never provided a statement, but Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said he's open to change.

"I think anything that has to do with the board is certainly open for question and should be questioned," Luttrell said.

Sub-committees were created Thursday for city council members and commissioners to come together and discuss these issues further.

Reid Dulberger, president/CEO of EDGE, provided the statement below, which only shared the economic impact EDGE has provided to the city and county.

"In the past seven years, EDGE projects have created and retained nearly 17,000 jobs in Memphis/Shelby County with an average annual salary of $72,074.  Additionally, these projects have generated more than  $1.1 billion of new tax revenue for the City and County.  EDGE's performance is mission aligned with our vision that all people in Memphis and Shelby County should have an equal opportunity to enjoy economic prosperity as the foundation of healthy, productive lives."

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