City asked to help lure new industry

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Brookhaven aldermen are weighing the “bird in the hand” versusmore in the bush approach to industrial development.

In a special meeting Tuesday, the city board was asked toobligate up to $1 million in Wal-Mart bond repayment money as partof a proposal to lure an industry to this area. Another option forthe “Wal-Mart money” is to use it as part of the city’scontribution in a joint effort with the county and chamber to builda new industrial park.

“A bird in the hand is worth a lot,” said Ward Five Alderman TomSmith.

In this case, it would be worth about 150 above-average hourlywage jobs in the automotive supply industry, said Chandler Russ,Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce executivevice-president. Russ said he was under a confidentiality agreementwith the prospect and could not reveal its identity.

“It is a real strong company with a strong financial statement,”Russ said.

Brookhaven is one of several communities under consideration forthe new operation. He mentioned three others in Mississippi, fourin Tennessee and one in Alabama.

Russ said the company is looking for a 50,000 square feetfacility that could be expanded to 100,000 square feet. It alsoneeds 10 acres, which Russ said could be from the recently-acquiredFender property near the current industrial park.

As part of the chamber’s proposal, the Wal-Mart funds could beincluded to construct a building that would be leased to thecompany. He said using the funds for that would be part ofpositioning Brookhaven’s proposal in comparison with others.

“If we put our best foot forward, then we’ll have a strongcompetitive advantage over the other communities,” Russ said.

Russ said he received information on the project Monday and musthave a proposal ready by Thursday. He said the company is expectedto make a location decision by the end of July.

Board members were receptive to the chamber’s request, but WardOne Alderman Dorsey Cameron sought assurances regarding jobcreation. He mentioned one industry that located here that had notproduced the expected number of jobs.

“We’re not getting the jobs that were promised,” Cameronsaid.

Russ said language regarding jobs creation could be included inthe memorandum of understanding with the company. He said that isfairly common in today’s market.

Mayor Bob Massengill said the question is whether to obligatethe Wal-Mart money or to hold off and use it toward the newindustrial park. He said the company may or may not acceptBrookhaven’s proposal.

The city and county have each been asked to pursue approximately$2 million bond issues for the new industrial park project. Shouldthe company locate here, Russ said its lease payments on thebuilding could be applied toward the city’s bond issuerepayment.

Most aldermen Tuesday expressed support for going after theindustry with a known number of jobs that would be produced. Theysaid there was some uncertainty with the proposed industrialpark.

“It could sit out there five or 10 years and not create anyjobs,” said Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner.

Aldermen delayed action on the prospect proposal until a noonmeeting Wednesday. Officials said the extra time would provide anopportunity for Massengill to review company financial records andother information before the board acts.