(Memphis) In downtown’s Civic Center Plaza, Qahwa Coffee Shop owner Ted James brews a cup of latte and keeps a watchful eye on the Donnelley J. Hill State Office Building on Main Street and the 900 employees who may be leaving.
“Like you said it would be painful because the businesses here at North Main depend on the businesses(people) so close,” James said.
Last year, a Tennessee State Facilities study consultant recommended to Governor Bill Haslam that the high-rise office building be closed, sold and the workers relocated.
Haslam, who spoke at the University of Memphis today, said if the hundreds of workers in the building move, they’ll still be downtown.
“It’s my intention those folks(state employees) will stay downtown. I just don’t think that building is economical for the state and its taxpayers,” Haslam said.
The talk of shutting down the 11 story building comes less than a week after Pinnacle Airlines announced it would be moving it headquarters from downtown to Minneapolis and taking with it hundreds of jobs.
“Losing Pinnacle(airlines) is something we were sad to see happen, but they’re(state employee jobs) not leaving downtown. They are going to stay downtown. I just personally believe in that,” Haslam said.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is optimistic the jobs will stay.
“Well, certainly it’s disappointing anytime an office building is going to be closed downtown and the impact it’s going to have. I’m assuming we won’t lose the jobs. Maybe it’s just a matter of the location, but certainly if we lose the jobs that would be even greater concern for us,” Luttrell said.
It’s a concern shared with several downtown business owners like Ted James
“I’m hoping they definitely stay and not move out and they’ll(city and county leaders) do what they can to keep the people downtown,” James said.
Mayor Luttrell said he and other county and city leaders will be working aggressively to make sure the hundreds of state jobs remain in downtown Memphis.