economic development

Haslam quip to Hagerty: Make Japanese crane TN official state bird

Bill Hagerty, former commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development and now U.S. Ambassador to Japan, says Gov. Bill Haslam once joked about replacing the mockingbird with the crane as Tennessee’s official state bird, reports WKRN. The red-crowned crane is the official national bird of Japan.

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Nashville getting Major League Soccer team

Press release from Major League Soccer

NASHVILLE – (December 20, 2017) – Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber today announced that the historic and culturally dynamic city of Nashville, Tennessee has been awarded an MLS expansion club.

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ECD deemed winner of Beacon’s TN 2017 ‘Pork of the Year’ award

Press release from Beacon Center of Tennessee

In the 12th annual Tennessee Pork Report, the Beacon Center revealed that state and local government officials wasted more than $400 million of taxpayer money this past year.

The Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. The Beacon Center allowed Tennesseans to choose the infamous “Pork of the Year” award, and it really came down to the wire. After nearly 400 votes were cast, the “winner” of the award was the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development for their Industrial Machinery Tax Credit. The department took 34% of the vote in the public poll.

In one of the most inefficient instances of corporate welfare in recent years, Tennessee taxpayers paid a whopping $67 million annually for a mere 55 jobs per year from 2011-2014, which adds up to $1.2 million per job. Even if the program’s main goal isn’t to create jobs, it is not the government’s role to help buy equipment for some private companies on the backs of Tennessee taxpayers. The $14 million of tax dollars given to the Opryland Hotel to build a waterpark (that residents are not even allowed to use) came in a close second with nearly 32% of the vote. Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold and the state Jobs4TN Program came in the 3rd and 4th with 19% and 15%, respectively.

The Beacon Center prints the Pork Report every year to make sure state and local governments are held accountable for how ineffectively they spend our tax dollars. The wasteful spending in this report should make Tennesseans’ blood boil. We hope that government officials will use this report to slash wasteful spending in 2018.

The 2017 Pork Report comes from state and local budgets, media reports, state audits, and independent research conducted by Beacon Center staff and scholars.

Note: The full 2017 “Pork Report” is HERE. Excerpt of some highlighted stuff as ‘nominated’ for Pork of the Year:

Jobs4TN: This state-based program has been taking millions of taxpayer dollars for years, spending more than $60 million in 2016- 2017 alone. This money then goes to a select few fortunate companies for their hiring and professional development needs, empowering government to pick winners and losers, and leaving left-out employers across the state to compete with these subsidized businesses.

Opryland Waterpark: The city of Nashville decided to give $14 million to Gaylord Opryland Hotel to construct a waterpark, and while taxpayers are footing the bill, the waterpark is open only to those staying at the hotel.

• Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD): ECD’s Industrial Machinery Tax Credit has doled out an astonishing $1.2 million in taxpayer money…per job. The tax credit has created just 55 total jobs at a cost of nearly $67 million.

• A Sheriff’s E-Cigarette Inmate Scheme: Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold profiteered off a captive audience of local inmates who were sold e-cigarettes from Arnold’s company—earning him and his wife nearly $75,000 over the course of their scheme, which was later exposed by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

Note: Arnold pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced to four years in prison. Randy Boyd, who resigned as ECD commissioner earlier this year, is running for governor.

More on Trump getting a Hawkins County subdivision lot — maybe just a promotional stunt?

Rogersville developer Phillip Henard tells the Kingsport Times-News that he got the “crazy idea” of quitclaiming a lot in a subdivision he owns to President Donald Trump a year or so ago and presidential associates recently agreed to accept it. But he denies speculation by a local utility district official that the move was part of an effort to get water service into the Grandview Estates subdivision.

The newspaper otherwise elaborates on earlier cryptic reports about transfer of the subdivision lot, which were based on a press release issued by Henard, after reviewing the deed and interviews with Henard and Lakeview Utility District Superintendent Tim Carwile.

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Decline in Tennesseans seeking work tied to record low unemployment

Though the labor market has grown robustly nationwide this year, progress has been uneven across blue states and red states, reports the Wall Street Journal — using Tennessee as an example.

An increasing number of people in red states have stopped looking for work, while a larger share of people in blue states are actively in the workforce.

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Opposition develops to new megasite in Montgomery and Robertson counties

Opposition has surfaced to plans for creating an new 1,800-acre industrial megasite in Montgomery and Robertson counties, reports the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. An online petition against the plan had garnered more than 230 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

One of the people behind the petition, Debra Moore, who lives “almost next-door” to the proposed megasite in Montgomery County, said residents have two basic concerns.

“The people out there are concerned about the impact on the farmland, which is some of the best farmland in our county, as well as the additional debt that (Montgomery) county would take on,” Moore said. “I guess we were all surprised … at why they had to skip-jump from Montgomery County’s existing industrial park (near exits 4 and 8 of Interstate 24), all the way out here.”

Residents who live near the proposed megasite chose the location because “they want to get away from the city,” Moore said. “They want the quiet lifestyle.”

… “We certainly respect the rights of residents in the area to voice their opinion, pro and con, on this development,” said Margot Fosnes, president and chief economic development officer with the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce. “This particular area has many qualities that make it attractive as a megasite, water availability and rail access being two critical assets. We are very cognizant of the importance of agricultural lands and their value to Robertson County and would work to make sure this project did not negatively impact these interests.

“This project could go a long way to providing more options for our farm families to keep their children and grandchildren working close to home.”

In an emailed statement, Robertson County Economic Development Board Chairman Roger Blackwood said the megasite is a realization of the board’s primary goal to create more, high-paying jobs for residents.

Note: The referenced petition is HERE.

ECD commissioner: Memphis Megasite needs another $72M in state funding

Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe says another $72 million in state funding is needed to complete work on the Memphis Regional Megasite, reports the Jackson Sun. That would push total state investment in the 4,100-acre site, so far unused, well past the $200 million mark.

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State to spend another $2M on Megasite, seeking consultant to help

The state of Tennessee is asking for $2 million next year to whip the Memphis Regional Megasite into shape, a process that will include hiring an outside consultant to assess why the decade-long project hasn’t yet landed a major manufacturer, reports WPLN. The state has already spent about $140 million on the Megasite.

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Boyd approved $1M grant to state Senate candidate’s company; Company PAC gave Boyd $5K

Shane Reeves, a Murfreesboro businessman seeking the GOP nomination in state Senate District 14, sent Randy Boyd’s gubernatorial campaign a $5,000 donation a year after Boyd as economic and community development commissioner signed off on a $1 million state grant to Reeves’ company, reports Tennessee Star.

The Star says this has unnamed “political observers” questioning whether Boyd “used his previous office as a platform to prepare a gubernatorial campaign by directing state grants to local officials and businesses who might, and in many cases have, support his run for governor.”

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West TN Megasite spurned by Toyota Mazda; Black campaign sees ‘inexcusable loss for our state’

State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe has confirmed that the Memphis Regional Megasite as been eliminated from consideration for a new Toyota-Mazda manufacturing plant, reports the Jackson Sun. A second, undisclosed company has also rejected the site.

Diane Black’s gubernatorial campaign promptly issued a statement to media declaring the decision indicates a failure to make Tennessee a business-friendly state – an apparent reference to former ECD Commissioner Randy Boyd, one of Black’s opponents in the GOP gubernatorial campaign, and perhaps to Gov. Bill Haslam. Neither are mentioned by name in the statement.

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