MDHA listens to Dean, suspends using PR firm

Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 4:21pm

Public relations firm McNeely, Pigott & Fox is officially suspended from working on communications for the proposed Music City Center project.

Metro Development and Housing Agency Director Phil Ryan announced in a letter today that he will follow Mayor Karl Dean’s directive to suspend using the PR giant for the new convention center project.

The move comes after an exposé by NewsChannel5 that showed McNeely, Pigott & Fox had billed Metro for more than $450,000 for work on the predevelopment phase of the convention center. The original contract was for $75,000, but was amended by the MDHA board last year to become open-ended.

Dean has called for an audit to be conducted by the Metro Department of Finance of the invoices turned in by the PR firm. The invoices showed McNeely, Pigott & Fox executives were meeting with Dean and his senior aides on a weekly basis.

“Our goal remains being good stewards of public funds,” Ryan said in a letter to Dean and other Metro officials.

McNeely, Pigott & Fox founding partner Mike Pigott said the firm would abide by Dean’s directive.

So far Metro has spent $16 million on the predevelopment phase of the proposed project and allocated another $75 million for land acquisition at the proposed SoBro site. The funds will come out of the hotel/motel and tourism taxes created by Metro Council last year.

20 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 8/6/09 at 2:48

Can we expect a refund of some of this money? The non-documented expenses would be a good start. Maybe those labeled "Email" or "Meeting" or "updates to mayor's speech regarding MCC project" since they have sworn that they were not hired to lobby.

By: producer2 on 8/6/09 at 7:12

read the article JeffF, the funds came out of the hotel motel tax fund, it does not belong to you and can only be used for this project. That does not make it right that it is spent unwisely but it is not yours or mine....

By: JeffF on 8/6/09 at 8:22

government money is taxpayer money. we are the owner of all funds collected by our government. it is sad that you think this is okay just because it was collected for your use.

By: slzy on 8/6/09 at 10:55

producer: are you McFeely or Pigout?

By: Kosh III on 8/7/09 at 6:26

Producer is probably a contractor who wants to build part of the MCC using cheap illegal alien laborers.

By: JeffF on 8/7/09 at 7:39

Producer is a meeting planner slash PR person at a local non profit organization. He is friends with a lot of people working on this project and felt obligated to help. He is one of many people who at one time were working in the news media but the death of that industry has caused them to look elsewhere. PR and meeting planning attracts many of them (when they can get it) .

All these PR people coming from the media keep their contacts, thus the odd behavior by the Tennessean staff and Producer. They view what they do as "favors for friends" instead of breaches of responsibility.

I have a friend that was with the AJC that now works PR for a college in Atlanta. His friend list includes a lot of people who used to work in media that now work in PR in other place.

By: on 8/7/09 at 8:58

If this is such a great thing, why isn't some private entrepeneur jumping on this?

By: producer2 on 8/7/09 at 9:37

Not sure where you get your info but I do no work for a non profit and the majority of my business is outside the State of TN. I am also not a meeting planner, nor do I work for MPF as you pointed out yesterday. I am no different than you except I believe in this project and am willing to stand up for it. Most people here (understandably) do not have a lot of working knowledge on how the meetings industry works. They have been told over and over again by people like yourself that these facilities are money losers and that there is nothing to be gained from owning them. Some, like the poster above ask why private entrepreneurs don't own Centers like this. The answer to these questions is simple. Let's use a sports analogy for an example. Lets say that the MCC and the players on the Titans are the same business. Players only mind you, no seats, ticket sales, concessions, parking, nothing else, just the cost of the players salaries. Do you think any private organization wants to just pay for the players and get none of the ancillary money that is generated by what those players produce? NO they want the other money, the ticket Sales (hotel rooms) concessions (restaurants and bars) parking (parking) and all THAT money that is spent coming to see the players (use the facility) THAT is why private industry does not want to own a center, they can't reap the benefits and true money of having the team (facility) So in essence you are correct, the facility is not a big money maker, just like owning the players only on a football team is not going to make you rich, you must have the other elements to make it work. It is not voodoo, but rather simple business practice. Something as a self proclaimed accountant you should understand.

By: nashbeck on 8/7/09 at 9:38

I agree with Producer. The money was funded by the hotel/motel fund AKA not our taxes.

Stlgtr55- Interstates, highways, etc. are a great thing. How come a private entity isn't funding them? It is funded by the hotel motel tax because the revenue goes to the general fund. Therefore, the government should fund it.

By: shinestx on 8/7/09 at 10:36

funny to listen to dem-wits argue amongst themselves... they're at a loss for a scapegoat. Everyone knows that MP&F is a huge dem-wit Pr firm, connected to all the dem politicians in the state and city in recent elections. that's why I live in williamson.

By: JeffF on 8/7/09 at 11:04

The most profitable and valuable organizations in professional sports are the one who built and own their facilities. There are not many of them there were willing to fund their own homes but they are there. If there is a profit to be made or some other benefit private industry will do it. There are a bunch of privately owned convention centers. They were built to the correct size for the market. The reason why there are no private interests in this thing is there is no one in private investment or industry who thinks these things succeed. Yet that very lack of an endorsement is foisted upon us as a reason we should go forward with this?

As I said yesterday, this center is not a need. It is a very, very, very expensive and risky "want" by a very small portion of the Nashville economy. The meeting planners and hospitality industries employ a minute amount of the total workforce. Yet we are being asked to back the most expensive civic project in the city's history on their behalf. I would be more comfortable building something for one of the dozen or so industries in town that do provide a real economic and employment benefit to the city (one of the ones that does not have to count bars and restaurants as part of its own in order to inflate its real importance). At least with them there would be some sort of justification for $1 billion.

By: JeffF on 8/7/09 at 11:16

Do you remember the good ole days Producer when you said that there were just four of us loons really against this thing and we were just posting over and over again wasting our time? I believe you stated that the attendance at meetings proved we were in the minority. Seeing how MPF kept a lid on who could attend those meetings and Jamison just called them on it, do you feel a little bit silly falling for that taxpayer financed hype? The Deaniacs working feverishly to avoid a public referendum and the different voices appearing on these sites should tell you that you may be in the minority.

I look forward to the long delay in obtaining financing. I will really be amused when after waiting more than a year to seek the financing that we will be told:
# there is no time to have a referendum
#any delay will just make it more expensive
# the cost of the vote will be a waste of taxpayers money
# We can't stop now we have already spend X million dollars ($16 million currently) and already own the land. (something the council was told would not happen when they starting approving things in the odd sequence)

Yes I have just laid out ahead of times the talking points your industry and the mayor's office will use against our getting to vote. Will you be gutsy enough to go ahead and use them, or will you have to come up with more excuses why hearing from the public is a bad idea?

By: JeffF on 8/7/09 at 11:19

There was a poster here once called FurryBaseball that told us we were all wasting our time that the downtown stadium was coming and we were all wasting our time. He followed all of his posts with a "Play Ball". He slithered away once the stadium deal fell apart (and probably after the team quit paying him to monitor these boards). We beat him up pretty bad.

Why do I bring that up? Well the stadium was much more popular than this thing ever was.

By: producer2 on 8/7/09 at 11:51

Name the free standing, private facilities not attached to hotels please?

By: JeffF on 8/7/09 at 12:02

Sands is one I can think of off hand.

Seems like dismissing convention centers that are attached to hotels is awful short sighted since the wet dream for all public center supporters now is to get a thousand room behemoth attached to theirs at public expense. Build this one without the hotel and then you can dismiss the private ones with a hotel. Otherwise you are simply deflecting with poor logical arguments. Those in expensive hotels should not throw stones and other expensive hotels.

I will be curious to see if Gaylord will see weakness hear and decline the hush money they received to keep quiet on this project. They are one of the many, many, many businesses that will receive nothing from this billion dollar "investment" in our future. In fact their hush money further widens the deficit between the bond obligation and the revenue streams.

By: JeffF on 8/7/09 at 12:14

One more:
Dallas Market Center with 625,000 square feet of exhibition space (and no hotel)
Also the Chicago Merchandise mart because it hosts exhibitions on flexible exhibition space (no real hotel)

The Sands example is funny because it was attached to the hotel but then the hotel left. 1.1 million square feet though. Wow.

By: producer2 on 8/7/09 at 12:46

YOu so miss the point. Of course privately owned hotels want to own their own facilities because that is how they fill hotel rooms and make money! Duh..ding ding ding...the lite goes off. The Sands is attached to the Venetian and guess who is a partner in the facility.. once again ding ding ding you win the prize. Neither the Dallas or Chicago marts have ever been used in the traditional sense as a convention facility. They are as their title describes them, Market Centers and Merchandise Marts. They are specific to their genre and if they do host any trade shows as in Chicago it is solely on the merchandise side.

Please just one real example if you can....

By: producer2 on 8/7/09 at 1:25

oh and by the way, my money says there will still be a baseball stadium built in or near downtown in the next 3 to 5 years.

By: JeffF on 8/7/09 at 2:14

The Dallas center advertises its space for trade shows and conventions. In fact they quiet regularly compete with the public facility there (the foundering one) for conventions. In fact they have as mush exhibition space as we are trying to build here. They just also happen to have permanent and smi-permanent display space and office space.

This sure looks an awful lot like events that use the typical convention center. It also looks like a list of events that convention centers lately have been booking in order to get feet on the floor so they do not look like they are failing as bad. Whoops there are several events on that page that look an awful lot like the events are loser of a center (we are too small to host anything boo freakin hoo) currently hosts.

Maybe what this private center should do is to have a PR firm glorify every event at a cost of $285 an hour so they too can be called a convention center. Maybe have someone peruse the news sites making sure no one says anything bad about the vents?

By: producer2 on 8/7/09 at 4:21

ok on a technicality you got ONE! And you and I both know that none of the meetings that we would bid on in Nashville or most any other city are going to that facility. Didn't think you could back up your erroneous talk...