Good intentions pave the way for Memphis imbalances. The FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow corporate community leadership complex, who has good intentions, is much like a basketball team that intends to win but adopts poor practice habits.
The FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow undertakes many of the right things like golf tournaments to promote the city for business development, small business plan contests, articulating “workforce development is the #1 priority” and “free market” rhetoric and on and on. But culturally, over the last 20 years, in practice, the complex effectively stifles thoughtful dissent, connected workforce development, economic measurement and small business while forcing folks into poverty or out of town.
The ‘trickle down” policy stack promoted by the complex in excessive corporate incentives and unmeasured economic development work, is enough to challenge any city’s economic development efforts. That is why it was so alarming and confirming for this blog that the bully hack FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow complex has no intentions of being accountable through measurement when the University of Memphis abandoned their peer city measurement platform in their The Memphis Economy project. This occurring under the U of M FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow Board of Trustees while leaving the taxpayer in a rhetorical bubble.
While good intentions prevail, inadequate measurement leaves costly economic development efforts without direction or accountability and a community in need holding the bag.
This blog, initially, was slow to criticize FedEx, thinking that the exhibited Memphis corporate community leadership could not be coming from FedEx. But reconciling the past 2 years of FedEx in the Memphis corporate community leadership space has significantly shifted that position.
First FedEx, along with corporate America, gets a huge Federal tax cut. Then FedEx runs back to Memphis, continues it’s botching of the workforce development system along with Memphis Tomorrow and grabs $35M in tax incentives for downtown. Then runs to Nashville to collect another $10M incentive for downtown and an additional $21M for the hub automation project. With only 340 new FedEx jobs promised, that’s $66M in tax incentives on the heels of a huge corporate tax cut garnered in one of the lowest business cost centers in the country in Memphis !
Is anyone putting this together ? That’s $194K per new job in tax incentives. What in the hell is going on here ???
The State says $21M are for jobs. Sure, there are new jobs in temporary construction jobs but with hub automaton coming there is no way there is going to be an increase in hub jobs. It would seem with a $21M tax abatement, the state could say something about a projected payback period for taxpayers if there is one. And its not like Memphis is not already over invested in transportation, distribution and logistics as well as corporations through excessive incentives as the true drivers in economic development in small business and workforce development are pushed aside.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee, just wrote recently about a troubling trend of anti-entrepreneurial career treks being undertaken by Millennials provoked through heavy college debt burdens and excessive corporate welfare. These realities drain the system of resources to support small business which is the primary driver local economies.
If one has worked in other communities outside of Memphis, one can see the botching of the Memphis economic development system from the top, where feeding on a community in need has become common place where no one seems to know anything else. That is what seems to have happened with Smith and Nephew, who must know that societal imbalances are not good for corporate commerce.
S&N, who is under new leadership from outside of Memphis, has recently walked away from an estimated $10M in incentives choosing to invest locally and be a good neighbor. The move has received little press coverage but could be a game changer for a community desperately in need of new more forward innovative thinking in the corporate community leadership space. So there is hope with new corporate thinking locally with S&N.
If local Memphis policy and implementation were optimized today, it would take Memphis 10 years to recover back to mediocrity from the last 8 years of FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow visionary trickle down. Get out of the bubble folks !
With good intentions, it looks to be more of the same with the FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow complex. It’s a complex, insulated in a bubble, that concentrates influence and wealth in the same few hands in a rigged system wondering why Memphis does not grow. Its fairly obvious why Memphis doesn’t grow if one has spent much time outside the city and sees Memphis botched from the top stagnated in a rigged social construct of the 1940s…..