Will the city continue to have an economic development mayor?

Monday, September 10, 2007 at 1:02am

Prompted by the August announcement that Verizon Wireless is in the process of establishing a potentially 1,300-employee regional headquarters in Williamson County — and moving 500 current workers out of Nashville in the process — a quiet but recurrent issue in debates between mayoral candidates Bob Clement and Karl Dean has been the balancing act between local and regional business recruitment.

“I don’t think it’s gotten the attention it needs,” Dean said Friday. “Regionalism is going to be an issue where the next mayor needs to be a leader.”

“We believe that Davidson County can improve the way it works cooperatively with the State and the surrounding counties and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce on business recruitment issues,” Clement said in a Friday email.

Both candidates say they will be proactive and open about working with businesses considering a move to Davidson County, and that improving the public school system as well as urban safety are integral parts of recruitment of businesses to Nashville.

They do, however, have subtly different ways of approaching the balance between local and regional development.

The current administration supports regional business recruitment — the attracting of businesses to the 10 counties surrounding Nashville — primarily through contributions to Partnership 2010, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s regional economic development initiative.

Mayor Bill Purcell is chair of the initiative, and the mayor’s office pays out annually. Last year’s allotment was $300,0000.

Neither Clement nor Dean said they planned to do any more — or less — to support Partnership 2010 and other regional development than the current administration.

Clement says both that Nashville needs to do a “better job of strengthening our economic core,” and that economic growth “is a regional issue.”

In debates, he has said Davidson County needs to step up its efforts in competing with Williamson County and other areas. He also says Davidson County can improve its work with the Tennessee Department of Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce.

By working cooperatively to “develop a tool kit for recruitment of businesses and industries to the Nashville area” with state and Chamber officials that can be used by all counties in the region, Clement said, a “bidding war with surrounding communities” can be avoided.

Dean said balancing Metro interests with regional development will be a significant issue for the next mayor to address, in terms of issues ranging from business recruitment to transportation and infrastructure. He said Partnership 2010 is “a good thing to support,” but said he recognizes the challenges of both working with and competing against surrounding counties for new businesses.

“There’s an element of competition that’s always there,” Dean said. “But we can’t take the mindset that growth in the surrounding counties is necessarily a bad thing for Nashville. It can be a great thing for Nashville.”

As for Verizon’s move to Williamson County, as well as the decisions of companies including Nissan North America to establish themselves in Cool Springs, Dean and Clement have both noted Nashville’s successful track record of economic growth in recent years and agree that regional development is crucial to the growth of Nashville.

However, the candidates take somewhat different stances on the effectiveness of current business recruitment efforts.

Dean, like economic development leaders of the current administration, cited Nashville’s success in attracting businesses. Dean named Caremark, Louisiana Pacific and Asurion as recent successes. He added that with the number of jobs added to Nashville in the last four years being approximately equal to the number added regionally, Nashville is “getting the lion’s share of the business.”

“I don’t consider that a good thing. I wish they had stayed in Nashville and set up here. But at the same time, we shouldn’t magnify the importance of that,” Dean said. “Any gain in the surrounding counties is not necessarily a loss for us.”

What is to be avoided, Dean said, is anything that causes a Davidson County resident to move to another county.

Clement, however, has in debates with Dean characterized Verizon Wireless’s move to Williamson County as a sign that Metro needs to improve its business recruitment. The booming economy of Williamson County, he says, is a competitor that must be addressed.

A critical issue in business recruitment — especially in regards to differences between Davidson and Williamson counties — is deployment of tax incentives. The last Nashville project to receive any significant form of local tax incentive was the 1999 establishment of Dell’s Middle Tennessee operations, which now employs 4,500.

Williamson County and the City of Franklin, however, have offered tax incentives more frequently. Verizon will receive an annual 40 percent property tax break, up to a $500,000 maximum, offered jointly by Franklin and Williamson County. Nissan was allotted more, receiving a 47 percent property tax abatement from the county expected to be worth $32.5 million. Land for the headquarters was financed, in part, by $15 million from the City of Franklin.

Both candidates say they intend to evaluate possible incentive deals on a “case-by-case basis,” and neither committed to being either more or less willing than the current administration to offering breaks.

Clement did not name specific tax programs that could be considered, or name the types of deals that might be worth government money. He did, however, say he would be open to conversations with businesses.

“I believe we must sit at the table and talk with prospective businesses about the possibility of offering tax incentives,” Clement said. “However, we cannot give away the store.”

Dean also did not commit to being more or less willing than the current administration to provide tax incentives, but he did say factors to consider would be the size of the company and number and quality of jobs provided. He also believes a high-quality public school system is “the major” attractant of businesses.

“If there’s a deal that makes sense for the city, then we ought to at least engage in a conversation about that,” Dean said. “You have to let businesses know that our door is open to talk.”

Filed under: City Business
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By: dnewton on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It is only a matter of time before the offering of incentives to get new starts corrupts itself into the practice of paying bribes not to leave. They area already at this point in North Carolina.

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Did I read that correctly?- Purcell is the Chair of an organization that brings business to the 10 counties around Nashville?- Purcell paid in $300,000 most recently to the effort (is that his money or tax money?)- Purcell didn't know Verizon was hotfootin' it out of town?- Purcell continues to enjoy wide support and popularity?Boy! That's NICE work if you can get it!Hey! That GAY DISTRICT EXPANSION ON CHURCH STREET alone ought to rake in the revenues!! What with the GAY PORN shop(s), and all the hetero foot traffic and business that will be engendered by the increased degree of social comfort . . .

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Do you call providing entertainment for the residents of Cheatham,Dickson,Sumner,Wilson,Williamson,Montgomery and Rutherford economic expansion?

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Paying businesses to move here is a net loss, not only in tax revenue but the escalation of property taxes and homes for those paying for the incentives.All things being equal people/taxpayers are better off with businesses locateing on the other side of a country line then your side.We have one of the best incentives to move here and that is being one of four no income states and haveing low business costs of property and labor and no reason to increase services while reducing revenue by the newbes.Not one deal pays its own way or makes any economic sense. Attracting businesses with incentives is a double edged sword for the taxpayers cutting them both ways. If we had City and State INCOME taxes it may and just might be their end game. Don't underestimate their long range planing. Look at the garbage burner and the Sounds for a clue not to mention Dell which we pay per employee per year beside the free property and free property taxes for lower end jobs which many do not even live here.Seems the pigs in the pokes they have been selling us really contain rattlesnakes.

By: Muzhik on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Economic development brought us the Arena, the Coliseum, a major road expansion outside Opryland which then closed and Gaylord gives us Opry Mills resulting in 2000 fewer jobs. Dell giving us less jobs than origionally indicated. I think Davidson Coulty can leave the "pleasures" of economic development to the surrounding counties. The taxpayers can't afford any more economic development.

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Shoveling monies out of the public coffers to give to Bud Adams and Organized Crime 2010 among others is clearly n-o-t economic development.Giving away the Sthalman Building - geez, I would have paid a dollar for it - comes closer, but still gets filed under D for dumass.But the GAY DISTRICT will fix everything . . .Who elected these folks anyway? (teehee)

By: exportlaw on 12/31/69 at 6:00

That Karl Dean supports Partnership 2010 is no surprise: Not only has it been the darling of Purcell and Bredesen, but it is designed to benefit big business from out-of-state at the expense of existing small business and residents. Partnership 2010 has been since its inception designed to take the taxmoney of current residents and businesses to subsidize the relocation of large new businesses and their key employees by giving the newcomers incentives denied to existing small businesses that are capable of expanding. While the direct beneficiaries are the newcomers, the principal beneficiaries are the developers, brokers, contractors and financial industry that reap windfalls from such marquis expansions, not to mention the politicians who get photo-ops and credit for bringing "new jobs

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Hmmmm . .Please allow me to ask again: if all these people - from all these educationally and economically depressed areas of the country - who have sold their overpriced homes and property to escape their respective slumps/recessions/whathaveyou - are so damn desirable - why are the communities from whence they come faltering and failing?!?And why is it such a great idea to recruit them to come here?I know! The GAY DISTRICT . . .

By: Rocket99 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

negiti clearly has a problem. No where in the article is the "Gay District" mentioned but yet he brings it up time after time. Also, just what gay porno shops are on Church Street?

By: Rocket99 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Even though all of the businesses are not locating to Davidson county, the county still sees some benefit. Some of those relocating will live in the county and others will spend money in the county.

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

But . . Rocket99 . . the GAY DISTRICT . . it's just such a good idea!Dare I say it out loud? An idea whose TIME HAS COME!And with all the economic good news coming out of Purcell's, Bredesen's and (potentially) Dean's efforts, the GAY DISTRICT will simply build and build and build on all that economic gaiety. Translation: Purcell is a highly developed book worm sans the twin moral and ethical compasses needed to initiate and implement positive and equitable and lasting change. Dean shows clear indications of being from the same stunted gene pool. A "Gay District" will further depress a marginally successful business area by driving out anyone regardless of orientation who does not wish to make either a passive nor overt statement by simply being in the area.Gay porn shops will be one of the "improvements" a GAY DISTRICT will bring. Evidence? Check a-n-y gay neighorhood, a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e in the entire world.Yes my good RocketMan, I have a problem. And so does every poor slob that has to sit under one more day of the current mayoral direction. A direction that Dean appears to be committed to following.

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'm sorry . . . forgot . . . WHY was it a good idea to have Dean (or Bredesen for that matter) come down here??Oh yeah . . to spread the wealth!Right?

By: WSPanic on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Let's take a look at this. Verizon and Healthways just wanted property tax abatement. VW gets a 40 percent break for a 5 years in Williamson County. Have to assume Healthways is in the same range. So now, Nashville doesn't have either company or the 4,000 combined jobs. That's 4,000 people that will eat lunch and generate sales tax revenues for Williamson County schools, not Metro. That's 4,000 people that will shop on break or after work at Cool Springs Mall instead of Green Hills mall and generate even more sales taxes for Williamson Co. Folks, property tax abatement does not mean Metro Nashville writes a check, it just means the company pays a little less on a much larger property tax bill than it would have. Take your pick -- be competitive and offer incentives, or be prepared for higher property taxes or be prepared to cut schools' budget. . . .

By: Rocket99 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

negiti, you clearly live in your own world inside your narrow mind. Or is it that YOU really want to open a porno shop on Church St and just trying to get some free publicity?Just wonder how many "gay districts" you've visited.

By: Rocket99 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Another thing negiti, east Nashville is supposedly a "gay neighborhood". Where are the "gay" porno shops in east Nashville?

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

RocketFella,It's Gay DISTRICT, not Gay Neighborhood. If we're going to foil, let's at least do so on the same platform.I'm both sufficiently self-described and anti-social to not care one way or the other what anyone thinks if I am standing/sitting in a restaurant, hetero or gay porn shop, library, whatever. I am not a great fan of porn shops, gentlemen's clubs and such, but I don't hold them against anyone else.UNLESS they threaten the economic development of an area of town that means something to me.Speaking of Gay Districts, have You been to San Fran or Amsterdam for instance?

By: Rocket99 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

negiti, you are the one that 1st said gay neighborhood. Just referring back to your own statements. Guess you need to reread your own posts. Sorry that you feel you are being attacked. Guess you may be a lil paranoid about being pulled out of your closet.

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

RocketFella,Please note the personal attack approach you are using against someone whom you don't even know.That suggests you're possibly . . . Socialist? Gay? Liberal?? I was gonna say "ButtWipe

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Rocket99:"Even though all of the businesses are not locating to Davidson county, the county still sees some benefit. Some of those relocating will live in the county and others will spend money in the county." Why? For the higher taxes or the lousy schools?

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Well my aplogies then Rocket, I did not mean to veer from the idea and phrase, "District".I am however running out of fluid to piss on you with, and have to get back to work.You after a gay encounter dude? Gonna have to move on down the road - Dickerson Road perhaps?

By: dnewton on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Most of the motivations for economic development are anecdotal rather than based on objective data. The biggest economic failure in the state is the attempt to use TDOT as a tool of economic development. They are not subtle about it either since the idea is highlighted in the TDOT long Range Plan 2005 to 2030. Paychecks from manufacturing peaked out in Tennessee in 1979. The total has been going up but at a rate below the inflation rate. This peak happened several years before NAFTA. The legislature has ordered TDOT to build County Seat Connectors starting in about 1989 and the government data on industrial paycheck volume has not responded. We have special exemptions for condemnation of property if the industrial or highway excuse is offered courtesy of the legislature. We still have 35 county seats and 4 billion dollars to go on that project. We have an economic development organization in every county and over 600 empty buildings in this state waiting for the next factory or call center. Still the build-it-and-they-will-come-mentality dominates. The idea that we have to do it because every one else is doing it keeps the emotional component of the decision making process alive and well. Breathtaking income transfers from urban to rural areas out of the TDOT budgets have not had the intended effect and only exaggerated congestion in the urban areas. Davidson county has recently had two years of population decline and I noticed that there was a lower than expected school count by about 1000 this year. These hints should have been as threatening as any earthquake beneath our feet. Businesses do not need incentives. They need reasonable taxes and they need property rights that do not routinely disappear under condemnation and zoning changes. To me, the fact that there is enough extra cash floating around so that incentives may be given is proof that taxes are too high in the first place.

By: Rocket99 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Sorry negiti. I don't hang out in those places like you do. Not into the kink you just described as a self interest.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Export IMO you are doing serious damage to your reputation by being a cheerleader for Clement today. The scuzzball is not worth it.

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Where did you get the information that Davidson county's population has declined the past two years? I'm not aware that there are any population figures or estimates newer than 2005, which saw a 6.6% increase compared to 2000.

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Negiti is referring to Dean's promise to use public funds to expand the gay district, which seems to have bought a large percentage of the gay vote.

By: exportlaw on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Id: With respect, I'm not a cheerleader for Clement, but I've known Karl Dean for 29 years. There are other folks I would have preferred; but, I'll take Clement over Dean.

By: theplantsman on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Export, you, too? Sorry, Idgaf, but I am with Export on this one because Karl Dean is the GREATER of the two evils that has the lobbyist of Nashville's divisive communities – The GLBT, Black Ministers and Illegal aliens supporting him. We cannot grow into the great society that we are destined with these hateful and divisive segments of our community working to destroy our community.