AmSurg, Oberto tax breaks head toward likely approval

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 11:54pm

Two more sets of corporate tax breaks are headed toward likely approval, after the Metro Council advanced them without discussion Tuesday night.

The deals, one for surgery center developer and operator AmSurg, and the other for beef jerky maker Oberto Brands, come on the heels of a $66 million package for Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America passed last month.

In fairness, there was little discussion of any measure at Tuesday night’s meeting, which was especially brief, perhaps due to threat of inclement winter weather. But the council has not needed such a motivation to quickly pass tax breaks and other economic incentives in the past. Under Mayor Karl Dean, the council has approved over a dozen arrangements of the kind with businesses, often with few, if any, dissenters among them.

One consistent opponent of the policy is Councilman Josh Stites, and the latest round has not changed his mind.

“I think what we see, if anything, is these offers are getting gradually worse,” he told The City Paper after the meeting. “We now have one, AmSurg, where they’re literally moving in the same development. We just indiscriminately reward tax breaks to companies. There is no stated policy from this administration on when they decide to give it and when they don’t, and that’s concerning.”

AmSurg, the largest operator of ambulatory surgery centers in the country, is currently headquartered in two buildings in the Burton Hills development in Green Hills. As Stites noted, they have planned to consolidate their headquarters into a new three-story building within the same development.

To make sure that plan kept AmSurg in Davidson County, Metro is offering the company an eight-year deal, with a 100 percent tax abatement for the first two years, and a 60 percent abatement for the remaining six. The total tax break over the eight years would be $2.3 million for the eight-year period, according to analysis prepared by Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper.

According to that same analysis, the deal does not include any performance incentives and AmSurg has not promised to increase the number of jobs at their headquarters, where they currently employ 420. However, the company has committed to a 15-year lease of the property, meaning that Metro would receive 100 percent of the property taxes on the headquarters after the first eight years.

Oberto is planning to renovate and operate a manufacturing facility on Armory Drive in South Nashville. According to Cooper’s analysis, the company will be increasing from 130 full-time jobs at the facility to 310 within five years.

The Washington state-based beef jerky manufacturer will receive a 50 percent discount on the difference between the 2011 property taxes paid and what they would pay under the newly increased rate for five years. The estimated total tax break for that period is $700,000.

Both incentive packages will be up for a final vote at the council’s next meeting Feb. 5.

2 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 1/16/13 at 5:41

This should come as no surprise to anyone. The strings are pulled and the puppets dance.

By: bfra on 1/17/13 at 4:38

The wooden headed puppets of Karl Dean, at time referred to as councilpeople.