Tax breaks OK’d for three companies, as Shelby County commissioner calls for hold on PILOT process

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More jobs could be coming to Memphis after the Economic Development Growth Engine approved PILOT tax incentives to three different companies.

EDGE says the incentives would keep 315 local jobs and create 100 new jobs with an investment of more than $55 million into the city.

View the companies’ PILOT applications here

But at least one Shelby County leader wants to put a 180-day hold on PILOTs, which have been controversial. While they attract companies to the area by saving them tax money, they also cost the county revenue.

The EDGE board says Max Tools wants to expand in this southeast Shelby County location, investing $20.9 million and creating 35 new jobs with an average salary of a little more than $37,000 a year. They were approved for a 10-year PILOT.

Just up the road off Mendenhall, EDGE awarded pharmaceuticals company Eversana a 15-year PILOT to stay in Memphis after they say they were looking at options to build elsewhere.

The company said this would keep the more than 300 jobs here and create more than 50 new positions with an average wage of nearly $43,000.

Finally, Ubiquiti, Inc., Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera’s New York-based technology company, wants to create a distribution facility in Memphis, creating 25 jobs with an investment of $5 million. Ubiquiti was provided a 10-year, fast track PILOT. 

The announcement of these PILOTs came just hours after Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer called on fellow commissioners to support her proposal of a 180-day moratorium on PILOTs issued, as well as extensions.

“It is important for us to have successful and thriving businesses, but those businesses must have an impact on the people who work for them as well,” she said. 

Sawyer said many PILOTs go to companies that don’t pay a living wage, provide health care or hire temporary workers. She said companies need to be investing in education in our communities. 

Sawyer explained the moratorium would allow EDGE, the county trustee and assessor to look at options to move forward in an equitable way. 

Reid Dulberger, president and CEO of EDGE, called PILOTs the community’s most effective development incentive, but acknowledged that many call PILOTs  a necessary evil.

“No one likes to have to compete for private sector investment but we, in fact, live in a competitive world,” he said.

Dulberger said he doesn’t argue a PILOT discussion isn’t needed, but said during the time of the pandemic weakening the economy, we do not want to slow or reduce economic development.

The proposed moratorium “will have an immediate and lasting impact on our community and our ability to attract and retain growth,” he said.

Sawyer was the only commissioner to vote yes on the proposed moratorium, though a few others abstained and did say the PILOT process needs to be evaluated. The full commission will vote again Monday.

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