Verizon Wireless move took mayor by surprise

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 1:27am

Mayor Bill Purcell and Metro’s economic development office were not aware Verizon Wireless was considering establishing a regional headquarters and moving 550 jobs out of Davidson County to Franklin until after the company made the decision.

At least part of the reason Metro government was out of the loop on Verizon’s search for a new facility may have been the confidentiality of the site search secured by Partnership 2010, the public-private regional economic development arm of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“He (Purcell) would have loved the chance to engage with Verizon,” Purcell spokesperson Sandra Roberts said Monday.

Verizon Wireless announced last week that a $54 million regional headquarters would be established near Cool Springs in Franklin. When completed in 2008, the facility will have a capacity for 1,300 employees. The first workers to move into the new offices will be 550 employees currently working at Grassmere Office Park in Nashville.

Roberts and Tom Jurkovich, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, both said the mayor’s office didn’t know Verizon was interested in establishing a new facility or moving existing employees out of the area.

Jurkovich said in an e-mail Tuesday that while it’s “not the typical process” for businesses to conduct location searches without notifying local officials until after choices are made, “decisions sometimes unfold in this manner.”

For example, he said, Actus Lend Lease relocated to Davidson County from California in 2005 “after conducting an extensive national search” and “without involving city economic development officials.”

“Nashville city officials were not made aware that Verizon was looking for a state site until after the company announced the location,” Jurkovich said. “It happens occasionally that businesses conduct these searches in their own manner and in the strictest of confidence without notifying local officials until after the fact.”

Roberts pointed to Purcell’s economic development track record, maintaining that during Purcell’s administration Nashville secured more corporate headquarters and relocations than any other period in Metro’s history.

“The fact that they want to live in Williamson County is a compliment to Nashville and Davidson County,” Roberts said. “Nashville is the draw.”

Citing confidentiality limitations, Verizon Wireless spokesperson Sheryl Sellaway declined to comment on whether Davidson County — or any other area — was considered for the headquarters. She also declined to comment on whether the company had attempted to communicate with Metro government.

“For us, it’s a business decision that’s based on the best place to do business,” Sellaway said.

Franklin City Administrator Jay Johnson said he first learned of Verizon Wireless’s interest through Partnership 2010. He was contacted about the needs of a then-unnamed company early this year, and began discussions with Verizon Wireless “several months” ago.

Perri duGard Owens, vice president of marketing and communications for the Chamber, declined to discuss any possible involvement between Verizon Wireless and Partnership 2010, as the Partnership is “bound by confidentiality.”

She also declined to comment on the Partnership’s location identification process in general.

“It basically depends on what each situation entails,” Owens said.

A tax incentive may be extended to Verizon Wireless jointly by the City of Franklin and Williamson County, Johnson said. The plan is to offer a 40 percent tax abatement over the course of five years, up to a $500,000 cap, that was determined with consideration for the size of job creation and capital investment. Franklin and Williamson County governments must approve the plan.

But Johnson added that while the tax incentive was probably one factor Verizon took into consideration, the matter was “one of the last things” discussed. Availability of the site and infrastructure were higher on the list, as Verizon Wireless had a specific time frame to meet.

“We could make it happen there very quickly,” Johnson said.

Sellaway declined to comment on other Tennessee cities considered for the facility, also citing confidentiality limitations. But she did say the tax incentives offered by the City of Franklin and Williamson County were “just one” of the factors taken into consideration. The proposed regional headquarters location is close to Cool Springs, an area Verizon Wireless considered desirable to employees, and in a region where a large number of employees can be drawn from surrounding areas.

“There’s a mall, there’s shopping, there’s just a variety of different things in that area,” Sellaway said. “We’re just looking at the best place over all. We did a comprehensive look at the area to make the decision.”

Purcell and Jurkovich were apparently not the only regional economic development officials unaware of Verizon Wireless’s plans. Holly Sears, economic development director of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, said Rutherford County was “never contacted” by Verizon Wireless about establishment of the facility.

“I think it was a fairly well-kept secret,” Sears said. “The Nashville Chamber did a good job of securing confidentiality for the client.”

Verizon Wireless already has an 1,150-employee call center near Murfreesboro that will be unaffected by the development.

Roberts, Jurkovich, Sears and Johnson all said the establishment of the Verizon Wireless headquarters would be a boon for the region. According to Johnson, one of Verizon Wireless’s considerations for a site was availability of employees throughout the region.

“We did not see this as competing with Nashville,” Johnson said.

Sears credited the Chamber for succeeding in both retention and creation of regional jobs.

“It’s definitely a regional gain. It’s great for Rutherford County, too,” Sears said. “I think it’s a win-win. I think it’s a great testament to our economy in the mid-state.”

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By: dnewton on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Maybe they figured that the sports teams and convention center beggars in Nashville already had first dibs on the bribe money. This would really be a hoot if Franklin and Williamson county somehow get state money from the Matt Kisber's Economic and Community Development outfit. Secrecy with government subsidies is just plain wrong. If Nashville gave a subsidy and then had to replace the tax money with a tax increase and could not get the voters to go along with it... maybe Nashville is better off not knowing sometimes.

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I wonder how many of the Verizon employees are Predator fans? They get to enjoy ice hockey without having the pick up any of the extra tab. Belle Meade,Antioch,Donelson,Goodlettsville,Joelton,West Meade,Bellevue,Berry Hill,Forest Hills and etc will pick up the tab for them.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The taxpayers of both counties should be glad he didn't know about it. Rather then giveing them 40% tax abatements one of us would have been giving them 100% if they got into a bidding war and Lord knows what else.Davidson Country Taxpayers don't need any more albatroses hanging around our neck.We (the taxpayers) should be looking at why we are supporting Partnership 2010, the public-private regional economic development arm of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce since The first workers to move into the new offices will be 550 employees currently working at Grassmere Office Park in Nashville.

By: sargon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Why would anyone build a headquarters in Nashville with such poor public schools? Williamson County with its better schools is the clear winner in the corporate/regional headquarter business.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

You are right sargon. Even to just live. If someone asks me about moving here and I care about them at all I advise them to move to a surrounding counties rather then here.

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I guess that proves that the move was for the convenience of the top execs who lived in Franklin, and had nothing to do with the company as a whole, incentives, or the good of their employees.

By: EstebanInez on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If I were an executive who was moving to this area, I would go to Williamson or Sumner instead of Davidson. Way to go, Billy Boy! Nice "Deer in the Headlights".

By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

IDGAF, we don't always agree, but you are hitting homers today....Wonderful comments from every one so far.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If Verizon had asked for a new sidewalk or a piece of "art" Purcell would have come running with the tv cameras in tow.

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Dnewton, you have got to stop holding back and say what you really feel! (kidding)Never mind my opinion. Allow me to cloud the issue with facts and truth:I have said in this forum among other things that the city in which I was raised - a former "Sister City" of Nashville - is now a burned out urban war zone with a bunch of new-ish public buildings downtown. Words to that effect.Also that the rich folk drive in from the suburbs for the ball games and conventions, and then high-tail it out of downtown as fast as their SUVs will carry them.Also that one reason for leaving Western NY was the u-n-b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-e level of taxation.New York State has also systematically ran the bulk of big business "out of town" with commercial taxation. The lawyers however remain.It's so not encouraging to see Tennessee not only drunkenly stumbling down the same ruinous road, but actually importing tax-and-spenders from The North to speed up the process.Good luck with that.

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Here's something I forgot to mention . . .If all these guys like Bredesen, Dean, all the cops being hired from The North . . . .If all these people were doing such a bang-up job, and are so well-appreciated, have created such magnificent political and social uptopias where they were . . . .WHY ARE THEY COMING HERE?!?Let me answer with another question.What popular and well-known organic complex is reputed to roll downhill?Honestly, we all have a basic human obligation to use our heads for something other than growing hair or parking a hat.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This is chicken feed compared to the state tax incentives of approx $5 million. They get $2 million for job creation and another $3 million for construction, furniture, and fixtures. 40% off their property taxes for 5 years is just extra gravy.

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Remember they are simply reducing the taxes on the new facility by 40%. Franklin and Williamson County will both receive a lot more tax revenue on a $50 million building with just the remaining 60%. In 5 years, they get 100% of the tax on the $50 million investment. sounds like a reasonable deal to them. Of course, Nashville and the downtown tourism barons would prefer to continue building publically owned facilites that pull in no tax money. Let the other communities deal with economic growth, we want none of that.

By: Nashville Voter on 12/31/69 at 6:00

In the end Williamson County will spend a one time $5M to get the project. The property taxes ALONE from this project will amount to $1M per YEAR---- thus in year 6 the county starts to make money----this does not count all the other economic activity the project will generate. Get real guys----it's just math, no more, no less.

By: Dean_DECEPTION on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What do we have to show for the 8 years of Bozo Bill & Krazy-Karl Dean?2 Property Tax increases and an Economic Development Office that is so incompetent that they don't even know about a major move of over 500 jobs out of Davidson Co.Oh yeah, we also have the Round-About with the Statues of Naked people dancing in a circle.Send Krazy-Karl back to Boston with Bozo when he goes to Harvard!VOTE FOR CLEMENT FOR MAYOR!

By: Nashville Voter on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Actually I have heard Dean on this point and like what he has to say. Have not heard Clement on this but assume he will do more too. "Dean_Deception" sounds like a campaign blogger to me but I could be wrong I guess. I wish the paid bloggers had to ID themselves so we could seperate the opinion from the campaign BS.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What did Dean have to say about it? I'm guessing from what Purcell said, Dean didn't know anything about it.

By: Nashville Voter on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Dean said that he would look at incentives differently than Purcell. Clement, I understand said the say thing. Hard to blame people for Version going to WC when they didn't know about it. Plus with all due respect to DD, Dean has not worked for Metro for over a year????? Anyway DD is likley a paid blogger so we should expect her to not let the facts get in the way of a good post!

By: negiti on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I am not a paid blogger - for the record.500 jobs all at once, in one sitting, from the loss of one headquarters, in a town as small as Nashville is a big deal. How many months or years do we imagine this has been in the works?But maybe your correct, Nashville Voter. The Chamber of Commerce was probably too busy resisting the "English First" initiative to make note of one of the biggest single employers in town making tracks to a (for the time being) county with a functional public school system.Maybe the Mayor's Office shouldn't be in regular contact with the biggest businesses in the area. They were probably distracted by all the time and energy it is taking to give everyone raises on the way out of office, and defending the illegal alien population.Just keep giving these folks a pass - before too many years pass, you too will be delighted by the urban blight and rock-heavy taxation The Rust Belt has been enjoying for decades.

By: theplantsman on 12/31/69 at 6:00

“The fact that they want to live in Williamson County is a compliment to Nashville and Davidson County,” Roberts said. “Nashville is the draw.” Chortle, chortle, chortle! If anyone believes that bovine manure, then he/she should quit drinking Richard Courtney’s Cum-by-yah Kool-Aid and drag her/his knuckles out of the dark cave and check out the other areas. In addition to Williamson County, check out the Chattanooga, Tennessee area, (close proximity to Atlanta, Huntsville, Birmingham, Knoxville, Nashville, and is on I-75) and my favorite, Knoxville, Tennessee. Though I am a resident of Nashville/Davidson County since 1998, the more time that I spend in Knoxville, and other cities, the more I appreciate the higher quality of life in the Knoxville, Tennessee area as compared to Nashville and the other cities.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What was the last big company that moved into Metro Nashville, not the Middle TN area?

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

When you give incentives and let businesses move in here (anywhere) for nothing there really isn't much difference in that and illegals. In fact it increases the demand for illegals with our low un-employment.They need services but are not supplying the money to pay for them.Once you get beyond a certain point/need paying for jobs has a negitive effect on a community.Take the Sounds "deal" as an example they would have paid no taxes (would have went to pay off debt and perhaps even make a profit for them) yet we would increase the student population by 400 plus police ,fire and other services for a negitive cash flow for the city which other taxpayers would have to pay.

By: Silence Dogood on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Nashville Voter - For the record, Dean did not leave Metro until January 2007, that would be nine months ago, LESS THAN A YEAR. But hey, what are facts when something else sounds better.

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Don't forget though, Williamson county has a higher unemployment rate than Davidson. They need these jobs more.

By: Nashville Voter on 12/31/69 at 6:00

SD you are correct. Not quite 9 months actually. Point is why blame him--Dean--- for something that happened this week---9 months after he left. Not like we should blame Clement for the war in Iraq---oh wait he did vote for that didn't he...well pick something that happened after he left Congress. My point is let's talk about stuff they did and not stuff the paid campaign blogger post up here for us to talk about.