The Beacon Center just launched a new website created for the purpose of educating and informing the people of Tennessee on the use of corporate handouts in our state.
A corporate handout is a financial incentive given to a business often as an inducement to get the business to locate or expand in Tennessee. It is often called economic development. It may include cash handouts or so much payment for each job created or exemption from certain taxes or agreements to train the workforce or development of the industrial site. It is often a package of incentives. The Beacon Center says it is "simply when the government takes your hard-earned tax dollars and hands that money over to big corporations, normally with little oversight or transparency." "Tennessee has doled out an astonishing $3 billion in corporate handouts since 2005," says Beacon.
Beacon argues that the practice is unfair to small businesses and other firms who wish to compete in the state of Tennessee. "The purpose of EndCorporateHandouts.com is to shine a bright light on these facts so that this unethical practice can be stopped and prosperity can be attained by all Tennesseans, not just big corporations." says The Beacon Center in announcing the website.
The website has a "who got the loot" map. You can hover your mouse over a spot on the map and see which corporation got how much at that location.
In the video on the website, Beacon recounts that Hemlock Semiconductor took $95 million dollars from taxpayers and never created a single job and never even opened their doors. While I am totally in philosophical agreement with Beacon and would like to see an end to corporate welfare, I think it is more complex than just stopping the practice. If Tennessee did not provide incentives then some other state would have Fed Ex and Volkswagen instead of Tennessee.
I feel the same way about Nashville's corporate welfare as I do that of the State. Nashville has given away millions in tax increment financing schemes and industrial development funding to lure or keep businesses. However, if we did not do some of this, those companies that came to Nashville would be somewhere else.
I do not think cities should incentivize sports franchises to locate in their city either. Why should poor people who will most likely never go to a foot ball game be taxed to fund a stadium for some rich man's sports team? I would like to let those rich boys who never grew up pay for their own arenas and stadiums. However, that is the way it is done. A city not willing to fund or help fund a facility does not get a sports franchise.
While I think corporate welfare is wrong, it is not easy to unilaterally disarm. If Tennessee did not engage in economic development, Tennessee would be much poorer. How do you get off the merry-go-round while it is still spinning? I think that is the question that needs to be addressed but I am pleased to see Beacon expose the extend of corporate welfare.