Now that the election is over, let us get back to important things like comparing Memphis/Shelby County to Nashville/Davidson County.
We have the news that Nashville is getting a piece of the Amazon pie, 5,000 high-paying jobs. It comes at a high taxpayer price but is probably worth it. Why Nashville and not Memphis?
Comparing Nashville to Memphis has been a project for me for some time. It is not easy to go through all the published financial data and come up with understandable comparison data. However, let us start with a few facts.
Population: Shelby County: 936,961; Davidson County: 691,243;
Population of the core city: Memphis 653,236; Nashville 444,297
Area: Shelby County: 755 square miles; Davidson County: 525 square miles.
Area of the core city: Memphis, 324 square miles; Urban Nashville, 198 square miles. This means the population density of core city Memphis is 2,016 people per square mile, while the population density of core city Nashville is 2,243 people per square mile.
Memphis' property tax revenue was $458,671,000 and Shelby County's tax revenue was $793,849,000, for a total of $1,252,520,000 or $1.25 billion. Property tax revenue for Nashville Metro was nearly $1 billion dollars: $971,643,000.
The budget of Memphis and Shelby County is $1.88 billion, while the budget of Metro Nashville is $2.23 billion. Budget expenditures per resident for Memphis and Shelby County were $2,006; in Metro Davidson, expenditure per resident was $3,226.
A more concise budgetary measure is called the Statement of Net Position, which presents information on all of a government's assets, deferred outflows of resources, liabilities, and deferred inflows of resources, with the difference reported as net position. Over time, increases or decreases in net position may serve as a useful indicator of whether the financial position of the government is improving or deteriorating.
Metro Nashville's net position decreased by $266 million for the year ending 2017.
The city of Memphis' net position decreased by $58 million for the same year, while Shelby County's net position increased by $86 million.
I think Memphis is a great city, has beautiful trees, consistently great weather, wonderful people, and — compared to Nashville — a low cost of living. So what is the difference? Why did Amazon choose Nashville?
We are told that the 5,000 jobs Amazon will bring to Nashville have an average salary of $150,000 a year. They are jobs that require high-tech skills in management, engineering, computer science, and programming. It is a pleasure to go to the Amazon website, as its ease of use is outstanding and much better than its competitors. However, Amazon's main business is selling things made by others and getting those things to you fast and at a low cost.
Memphis needs to compete in the area of technical job training and skills that are needed in the next few years in manufacturing, health care, auto and aircraft maintenance, warehousing, and transportation. Our new governor has promised to continue free junior college training ("Tennessee Promise"), and hopefully he will allow qualified nonprofits like our local Moore Tech College to participate in the Tennessee Promise program.
Our local shortage of trained people needed by companies like Amazon will not be solved in a few years. But while we upgrade our primary grade education, we need to emphasize trade school education to upgrade our local working wage level and reduce our comparative high poverty level.
Memphis is great, but we can make it grow and prosper with the right education policies. Education is the answer to luring companies to Memphis that need a highly skilled workforce.
Joe Saino is the proprietor of memphisshelbyinform.com, a website devoted to local economic watchdogging.