Leaders debate PILOT proposal - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Leaders debate PILOT proposal

Meetings of the PILOT Review Committee usually do not include fireworks. But Wednesday's did.

"I mean, this is not a one person show up here," exclaimed committee member and Memphis city councilman E.C. Jones.

Jones was fired up over Shelby County Commissioner, and fellow committee member, Julian Bolton's objection to tax incentives. So fired up, he suggested the company might want to leave Memphis.

"If I was in your position today--I'd withdraw this and go down to DeSoto County," said Jones.

Medtronic wants to expand it's business here. Plans include three new buildings and the promise of 600 additional jobs.

"Yhe incentive is just to encourage us to expand--it's in no way corporate welfare--at least in our opinion, it's not," said company spokesman Bert Kelly.

But Bolton does not believe the company needs some $20 million in tax breaks to break ground. He says other politicians need to back him up.

"If you don't have the strength to represent the public and vote "no" when you're in doubt--then you really don't need to be in office," argued Bolton.

Bolton finally bolted after his powers of persuasion failed.

"You don't throw the baby out with the bath water," said committee members and Memphis city councilman Rickey Peete. "If you've got the opportunity for a company like that to expand, you need to take it," he added.

While sold on these incentives, others admit, Memphis and Shelby County's PILOT program does need to be pondered.

"And clearly, I think incentives have been offered in the past that might not have been good investments," said committee members and Shelby County commissioner Bruce Thompson.

And as more proposal for tax breaks hit the table, increased scrutiny will likely follow. Clearly, Medtronic had the majority of this committee sold. However, the company did agree to a 30 day delay. Officials hope to address Commissioner Bolton's concerns.

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