Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland fired back Friday at a Graceland official who said Thursday that the city has been unresponsive to the company's expansion plans.
Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of Graceland Holdings LLC, told a crowd in Whitehaven Thursday evening that Strickland has not been willing to work with Graceland on its proposal to construct a performance arena and convention center.
Weinshanker discussed how the development would “uplift” the neighborhood and urged residents to support the plans, which he claims the mayor “won’t even speak to us” about.
In a statement responding to these claims, Strickland said Weinshanker’s words are “all about his desire for public money,” which the mayor says is needed for public safety services.
Strickland’s full statement reads:
"At a meeting last night in Whitehaven, Elvis Presley Enterprises managing partner Joel Weinshanker made some misleading — and downright false — claims in regard to the economic development plans he’s made public.
Today, I want to correct the record.
Cut through it all, and this boils down to one thing: Mr. Weinshanker simply wants more public cash for his business.
We want him to build whatever entertainment complex he wants to build. We’re excited to see it happen, in fact. But he wants to build it with your money — cash that would have to come out of our operating budget. All told, that amounts to about $3 million.
Let me make a finer point on it: Mr. Weinshanker wants us to direct taxpayer money that would otherwise go to services like police and fire to his business. We would have to cut city operations to enable these cash payments to a business that keeps 100 percent of the profits.
I chose not to do that.
As for the manufacturing facility he proposes, I’ve told him for over a year that we want him to build it. We’d be thrilled to work with Elvis Presley Enterprises on a tax incentive to bring new jobs to our city — not unlike when we grant incentives for other projects to bring jobs. We stand ready to make it happen.
Also, please know that, contrary to what Mr. Weinshanker said last night, we have indeed met with him to discuss his plans. I’ve met or spoken on the phone with him about half a dozen times. Members of my staff have met with him or members of his staff more times than that.
But at the end of the day, please understand that Mr. Weinshanker’s words are all about his desire for public money, and my decision not to divert taxpayer money from services to his private business."
This comes after the Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) earlier this month unanimously approved the convention center and tentatively okayed the arena, pending judicial review.
City officials are still concerned that the arena could violate the city’s noncompete clause with the Grizzlies for the FedExForum.