MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We’re the global transportation hub with FedEx routing packages through our airport each day. The corporation, like International Paper and Electrolux, made deals with the city. They pay fewer taxes and promise to keep their huge operations here in Shelby County. They call it PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes.
“We call that corporate welfare and they’re trying to put our people, the retirees and trying to put them on real welfare,” said Thomas Malone, President, Memphis Firefighter’s Union.
Malone hates the practice. He says the city gave multi-million dollar companies tax breaks instead of paying into pension programs for the firefighters who risked their lives protecting Memphis citizens.
“We got people 80 years old who had their insurance snatched out underneath them,” said Malone.
Mayor Wharton’s chief of staff, Bobby White, listened and later the Chief Economic Development Officer, Reid Dulberger, said Malone and this report had it wrong.
“This issue is an issue around the world. Companies go where they get a return on investment. We may not like it but that’s the real world,” said Dulberger.
He said the city never does a deal where they lose money and other cities give better deals all the time. It’s how Memphis lost Pinnacle Airlines last year, to Minneapolis.
He says the program helped, it didn’t hurt.