Tennessee think-tank’s annual “pork report” critical of Memphis economic development projects

Tennessee think-tank’s annual “pork report” critical of Memphis economic development projects

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Wednesday, conservative think-tank The Beacon Center of Tennessee put out its annual “Pork Report” to track what it calls government waste in the state. The group included multiple Memphis projects on its list.

The report contains Memphis economic development projects that have made headlines in 2019. But Wednesday, EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County) cautioned the way the report was presented is not entirely accurate.

For 2019, The Beacon Center puts FedEx Logistics’ move to the old Gibson guitar factory in downtown Memphis on its list of “taxpayer waste.”

FedEx got $3 million in local incentives and $10 million in state funding to relocate the headquarters of FedEx Logistics, a subsidiary company, from East Memphis to downtown.

“If we’ve going to give money, it should be new companies coming to the area to create jobs,” said Mark Cunningham, with The Beacon Center of Tennessee.

The write-up fails to mention that FedEx Logistics’ move will result in 689 additional jobs downtown, according to documents filed with the state. Roughly half of those are expected to be new positions, with average salary of $80,000 annually.

“The role of the government is not to give a multi-billion dollar corporation millions of dollars to stay here and add a few jobs,” said Cunningham.

The report also takes aim at a planned $75 million expansion by Elvis Presley Enterprises on the Graceland campus that was approved by Memphis City Council members after months of delays. The plan includes added retail and exhibit space, cabins with an RV park, and an addition to the Guest House at Graceland.

The Beacon Center says $75 million in incentives has been authorized, but a city spokesperson said Wednesday that’s not accurate.

EDGE said they couldn’t provide a dollar value for the incentives Wednesday but cautioned the incentives would be repaid from revenues derived from the project itself, sales tax, and a tourism surcharge, among other methods. It’s also slated to create 500 new jobs over the next decade.

“They should not be holding taxpayers hostage to get even more money for this private property,” said Cunningham.

EDGE, responsible for administering incentive programs in Memphis and Shelby County, said they give no direct cash incentives and no money comes from city or county general funds.

“They have a specific point of view. They are not responsible for energizing the Memphis economy. We are,” said an EDGE spokesperson in response to The Beacon Center report.

Representatives for Elvis Presley Enterprises declined to comment on the report.

“FedEx Logistics is excited that our new headquarters is being built in downtown Memphis, bringing hundreds of new jobs and investment to the community. We are thrilled to be part of the revitalization of downtown Memphis,” wrote a FedEx Logistics spokesperson, when WMC Action News 5 inquired for comment.

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