AmSurg and Oberto Sausage Company are the latest corporations on the receiving end of tax breaks from the city, after the Metro Council gave final approval to incentive packages for each on Tuesday night.
The deals did face a bit more opposition than has become expected with the increasingly frequent arrangements but still passed overwhelmingly, with votes of 34 to 5 and 35 to 4 respectively.
For AmSurg, the largest operator of ambulatory surgery centers in the country, the council approved a $2.3 million dollar tax break over eight years, meant to ensure the company’s headquarters remains in Davidson County. They will receive a 100 percent property tax abatement for the first two years and a 60 percent abatement for the next six.
Currently based out of two buildings in the Burton Hills development in Green Hills, AmSurg is consolidating their headquarters into a new three-story building within the same development.
Oberto, which is planning to renovate and operate a manufacturing facility on Armory Drive in South Nashville, will receive a 50 percent break on the difference between the 2011 property taxes paid and what they would pay under the newly increased rate. The estimated total tax break for the five-year deal is $700,000.
According to analysis from Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper, the Washington state-based jerky maker will be increasing full-time jobs at the facility from 130 to 310 within the five years.
Councilman Josh Stites, a consistent opponent of Metro’s tax incentive packages, offered amendments that would have required the companies to reach job-creation benchmarks in order to receive the full tax break. They were defeated, but the idea of including more accountability in similar deals going forward found support.
Councilmen Jason Holleman and Phil Claiborne each told the council that they supported Stites’ idea, but would not vote for it this time because they were hesitant to change the deals at the last minute. They each expressed a hope that such provisions would be considered by Mayor Karl Dean’s administration in the future.
“As we go forward, we’ll listen to this, and we’ll build into it,” said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling. “The process is the process, and you can’t really negotiate at the last minute. And so I think if this had started when the bill was first introduced and some of the concerns were voiced better, maybe we could have made some of these arrangements. But going forward, we heard it and we’re going to do better. We always try to improve.”
Riebeling also echoed comments from Councilman Sean McGuire, who said that a company like AmSurg, which started in Nashville and has been based in the city for more than 20 years, had proven itself as a worthy partner. Performance standards are important, he said, particularly when there is not a standing relationship with the company.
The council also gave unanimous approval to the mayor’s $110 million mid-year capital spending plan. A majority of the funds in the plan will go to the city’s stormwater program and the new Lentz Public Health Center. The plan also includes improvements to the Bridgestone Arena and the new downtown police precinct.