Area economic development professionals probably wish that they could give every new elected official an introductory course on confidentiality with potential corporate relocations.
Then follow that initial course up with a refresher, or a knuckle rapping, for letting loose such information.
Had new Franklin Mayor John Schoer taken such an educational course, maybe the city wouldn’t be in danger of losing a prospective employer of about 500 people.
Jackson National Life Insurance Co. executives came to town last week looking around at space. It was a prospect that’s been floating around Nashville as the Lansing, Mich.-based company decides were to relocate one of its divisions.
Schoer’s discussing the prospect in a public meeting may have cost the city up to 500 new jobs. That alone may not have been too terrible. But saying there wouldn’t be any tax incentives made it much tougher to bring the company back to town.
It could be Austin, Texas’ gain or whatever other city Jackson National is considering. But Franklin’s loss also could be downtown Nashville’s gain. The company also looked at the AT&T tower.
Interestingly, Jackson National is considering space now filled by Nissan Americas, one of the best-kept secrets for years until the automaker was close to pulling the trigger.
Whenever the Nissan representatives came to town, it was like a scene from Reservoir Dogs. Meet Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Brown and so on. Real estate representatives know one Nissan official researching the area by only by his first name and didn’t know he was Nissan. It turns out the first name was real.
Economic development officials get apoplectic when word gets out about a prospect, particularly so when it’s an elected official who divulges the name in public.
Corporate relocations are highly sensitive in part because oftentimes the employees who would be moved don’t know their employer is considering such a move. It’s particularly sensitive if a headquarters is involved.
Oreck still has yet to say its headquarters is here. That’s more about sensitivity relative to New Orleans. Yet, most of the company’s headquarters operations will be here near the Nashville airport and Tom Oreck, son of the company founder and the vacuum company’s top executive, bought the late Minnie Pearl’s house.
Fair or not to the employees, companies may be only exploring options and perhaps realize through that process they are better off staying where they are.
Franklin, of course, is getting Nissan as soon as the headquarters building is completed in Cool Springs.
The company got a bevy of state tax incentives. Healthways and Community Health Systems landed tax breaks from Williamson County for moving their headquarters to Cool Springs.
Maybe Franklin doesn’t need to attract more jobs with tax incentives.
Mayor Schoer seems to have sent a strong signal on the use of tax incentives. And Franklin taxpayers probably appreciate that.
The Chatter Class appears Mondays in The City Paper. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org