Even as Governor Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” plan headed toward a showdown in Nashville, in Memphis another pent-up controversy was also headed for some overdue reckoning.
On Wednesday's committee agenda of the Shelby County Commission is a call for open discussion of the future of the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE), which guides industrial and business expansion and awards economic incentives toward that end.
Republican member Steve Basar, chair of the commission's economic development committee and the commission's ex officio member of the 11-member EDGE board, placed the discussion item, stated as “Update on EDGE and Pilot Programs” and scheduled to be heard early Wednesday by the Economic Development and Tourism committee, which he heads.
Basar said he had heard "rumblings" of discontent about EDGE on the commission, including possible calls for the board's abolition, and, as an EDGE supporter, wanted to address it.
Much of the discontent was an adverse reaction to the EDGE board's recent decisions on PILOTs (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes), and of the unprecedented awarding of a substatial PILOT to furniture giant IKEA, the first ever granted to a retail operation (and evidently the last, as EDGE spokespersons have since maintained).
Basar insisted that only minor modifications were needed in the EDGE process— such as requiring recipients of incentives to guarantee higher target levels for jobs created.