Counterpoint: Addressing criticisms of our megasite boondoggle article


December 1, 2017 11:33AM

On Sunday, I had a column in the Jackson Sun pointing out the boondoggle that is the Memphis Regional Megasite, a 4,000 acre empty field in rural West Tennessee to which the state can lure no company to relocate. A few days later, former gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter, son of famed Gov. Ned Ray McWherter, took me to task in a response article. While I don’t usually respond to responses, there were a few points Mr. McWherter made that warrant attention. Here are a few points he made, with my counterpoint.

“It is true that the Megasite has yet to draw a major industry to locate on the 4,000-acre site located on Interstate 40 in Haywood County, between Memphis and Jackson.”

 I’m glad we can agree on something. This is getting off to a good start.

“[No] industry is going to commit to the Megasite until the infrastructure necessary to support industry is in place.”

Guess I spoke too soon. Why then has the state sunk more than $140 million into the site to make it marketable to a company without providing the appropriate infrastructure first? Some state leaders sure thought it would work. Instead of buying up the land itself, wouldn’t it have been wiser—and cheaper for taxpayers—to promise only to provide the infrastructure necessary for a company to build a plant there or elsewhere in the region? There’s a case to be made for government providing necessary infrastructure around development, including roads, electricity, water, sewage, etc. But it should do those things after a company makes its decision, not roll the dice in hopes to lure a company to an empty field like it has with the megasite.

“This Megasite…has to be finished to sell it. No one buys a new car or truck without wheels or an engine.”

 They also don’t ask the government to buy them the wheels and engine. They buy the whole car themselves.

“If the Memphis Megasite had been ‘shovel ready’ for construction, it would have been a major contender for industries such as Wacker, Volkswagen, and Hemlock, to name just a few—all of which located in other areas of the state that had shovel-ready sites.”

Let’s talk about Hemlock for a minute. Remember that company churning out a great product and creating tons of jobs for Tennesseans? Doesn’t ring a bell? That’s because Hemlock took $95 million of our hard-earned tax dollars and shuddered its Tennessee plant before it produced a single thing. Surely the good people of West Tennessee wouldn’t want to be the patsies of a scheme that promised them thousands of jobs only to close right at Christmastime. They deserve better than that.