In a second article on the state’s TNInvestco program, The Tennessean’s Jamie McGee reports on legislative approval of the effort in 2009 and a move afoot for follow-up legislation – with more state spending – that has been pitched by lobbyists in Tennessee but won’t be pushed in 2016.
TNInvestco is a modified version of what is known by the acronym CAPCO, or “certified capital company.” Major companies involved are Enhanced Capital, based in Manhattan, and at least two other out-of-state investment groups — Advantage Capital Partners in St. Louis and Stonehenge Capital Company in Baton Rouge, La.
Tennessee passed an improved version of the CAPCO model in 2009, one that yields more returns for the state and includes more oversights, but it still carries high costs. Enhanced, which partnered with Nashville-based Council Capital, was the only CAPCO fund chosen to participate in the state’s $200 million TNInvestco program.
Despite failing to secure more lucrative terms for investors, the CAPCO funds have not abandoned their interest in Tennessee. In November lobbyists for Enhanced and Stonehenge reached out to lawmakers and economic development officials to gather support for other capital programs that leaders in other states and policy analysts have described as expensive, exploitative and lacking results to justify the amount of state spending.
… The CAPCO groups’ new concept for Tennessee, which would have targeted rural areas, is no longer on track to be filed this year. While the state has avoided this legislation in 2016, these funds could resurface in the coming years. (Note: There’s a review of similar legislation approved in other states, including Arkansas and Georgia.)
… Enhanced, Stonehenge and Advantage brought a CAPCO bill to Tennessee in 2009 and hired a team of lobbyists including Bo Johnson, Baylor Swindell, Anna Windrow and Nathan Poss. State Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and state Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, who saw benefits in a jobs bill in the wake of the recession, sponsored the bill. Former Tennessee Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr and Matt Kisber, Economic and Community Development commissioner in former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, also worked on developing the bill.
… Throughout the TNInvestco bill process, only a handful of lawmakers, namely state Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, asked questions about how it worked, and they were often met with misleading responses. In 2009 Lynn expressed skepticism that the state would reap returns, and she was the only lawmaker not to vote for it. By 2010, several lawmakers had objections to the law.
“I am very concerned about some of these deals that put the state at risk and a private company comes out a winner no matter whether the deal flies or folds,” said state Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, who voted against additional funding for the program in 2010. “TNInvestco is a good example of that, and I was very concerned about it.”
…When asked about a potential New Markets bill in Tennessee, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd said his office had been approached in November by Johnson, who was acting on behalf of Enhanced Capital. Boyd said he was told that a similar structure had been developing in Ohio.
An Ohio Rural Jobs Act, supported by Enhanced, Advantage and Stonehenge, has passed in Ohio’s Senate. In a structure that resembles New Markets legislation, the rural jobs bill would lead to $75 million in investments, incentivized by $45 million in tax credits, with insurers securing the transactions.
State Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said in mid-November he would be sponsoring a bill that had moved away from the New Markets model to a rural development bill that would be a $100 million investment program.
“Based on what other states have done and what Tennessee has done in the past, we have a very good blueprint of what not to do and what has not worked and (are) putting in place a plan that we think is very successful,” Sexton said. Investments would go “toward existing rural businesses, to help them expand and grow when they might not have enough capital or borrowing power to do it.”
The day after Sexton’s comments, lobbyist Johnson, hired once again by Enhanced and Stonehenge, said the rural jobs proposal was no longer moving forward.
Johnson said the “idea of a New Markets bill in Tennessee was discussed but never proposed.” I