Nashville, Chattanooga companies lead in TN corporate welfare

Companies bases in Nashville and Chattanooga are leading beneficiaries of “taxpayer handouts to big businesses in Tennessee,” according to Beacon Center of Tennessee statewide listing of incentives and tax breaks.

The new Beacon website, Endcorporatehandouts.com, “is the start of a large public awareness effort on corporate favoritism the Beacon Center will run over the next couple of years,” says a news release.

Further: “The website features an interactive map that tracks which businesses received handouts from the state and local governments. Nashville, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Memphis, and Charleston round out the top five areas for private businesses receiving taxpayer money. The site also features a brand new video on corporate favoritism and a ticker with the Tennessee businesses that have received the most taxpayer money over the past decade.

“…”This is a really exciting start in our effort to educate the public on the unfair and unethical practice of giving the tax dollars of hard-working Tennesseans to multi-million dollar corporations. Ending corporate handouts is an issue that those on both sides of the aisle can come together to support. This isn’t an issue of right and left, it’s an issue of right and wrong.”

The site says $3 billion in “corporate welfare” has been provided to 470 companies since 2005, about 3 percent of the state’s 170,000 companies.

The Commercial Appeal has story on the report. An excerpt:

Companies in the Nashville area have received $887.1 million in state grants and local tax breaks since 2005, compared to $862.5 million in Chattanooga and in third place $318.8 million in the Memphis area.

…Cunningham concedes legislators could be reluctant to dial back tax breaks.

“Philosophically they may agree with us but it’s hard to stop what they are doing when they can say they’re bringing jobs to their district and they’re getting (campaign fundraising) donations from the companies in a lot of cases,” Cunningham said. “We want to focus on the state handouts and get people to understand what these are. They’re hurting any small business or any competing business that doesn’t get that money but is paying taxes.”

The report could also fuel debate among Memphis civic leaders who insist the state legislature and the governors have been stingy in Memphis compared to Nashville.

That argument was heard last fall when local leaders urged Gov. Bill Haslam to commit state money to the expansion near Downtown of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which has begun the first phases of what is expected to total $1.1 billion in new construction.

Haslam this spring earmarked about $12 million for infrastructure work around St. Jude although local officials say they could use in excess of $70 million for what is regarded in Memphis as a major economic development project.