Council advances incentive plan for HCA's West End development

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 11:12pm

The Metro Council Tuesday advanced an incentives package for Nashville-based HCA that is among the largest the city has ever offered.

Mayor Karl Dean’s proposal, aimed at incentivizing the health care giant’s plan to relocate two of its division headquarters to the long-vacant West End Summit property, will be up for a final vote at the council’s next meeting Dec. 4.

The incentives package is projected to total nearly $66 million. It includes a 100 percent property tax abatement of up to $3 million per year for 15 years — with a five-year extension available if the company continues to occupy the space — a $1 million one-time payment to cover HCA’s relocation costs, and an annual payment of $500 per employee. The state is also providing a $2.1 million incentive grant as part of the deal.

The proposal was moved along Tuesday without discussion, but council members said it had generated plenty at a recent meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee.

Councilman At-large Charlie Tygard, one of the council’s conservative voices, told The City Paper that he supports it.

“When I sat down and did the math — the hole in the ground right now is producing $128,000 of property tax per year,” he said. “If the building is appraised for $225 million, which is the building and parking garage, that would produce $4.1 million under current tax rates, of which we would rebate $3 million back. So the net effect, if you take all the jobs credits and everything else, the net effect to Davidson County is still positive. The benefit will be hopefully spurring development in that whole midtown area and for that reason it’s probably a good idea.”

Tygard said the council also needs to explore setting up criteria for smaller businesses, who want to expand and create more jobs, to have access to similar incentives.

But Tygard’s support for the HCA incentives puts him at odds with another conservative, Councilman Josh Stites, who argued that cost of the incentive is more than most citizens are willing to give away just to fill a hole on West End with two HCA towers.

“If you look at it from the pocket-price for the average taxpayer,” Stites told reporters after the meeting. “There’s 646,000 people here, in the most recent census. It’s a $60 million, probably a $66 million deal. It ends up being $95.74 per citizen in Davidson County. So you go to the average person and say, ‘Hey, you want to pay $100 for HCA to build a new building?’ That’s a hard sell.”

Citing numbers from the secretary of state, Stites said only 12 out of 9,000 for-profit corporations registered in Davidson County have access to similar Metro offers. He granted that incentives have indeed been given to some of the city’s largest employers, but also argued that the amount of jobs created by such deals represent an exceedingly small portion of the county’s overall workforce.

“It’s not sustainable,” he said. “You can’t continue to do that.”

As for greater access to tax incentives for smaller businesses, Stites said he’s planning on filing legislation in January aimed at the type of even playing field Tygard alluded to.

“So all those people that say small companies should have access to it, they’ll have the chance to put their vote where their mouth is,” he said.

In other council news:

The council gave initial approval to the mayor’s proposed buyout program for Metro workers, advancing it a second reading at the Dec. 4 meeting.




13 Comments on this post:

By: Badbob on 11/21/12 at 4:50

The rich get richer and the rest of us pick up the tab.

I don't remember all these great property tax increase discussions when they ran all the private businesses out of downtown to build LP field, the arena, or the convention center and converted those property taxes to ZERO.

BTW, how will HCA pay for improvements to the interstate connection at Broadway, and the increased traffic on West End? It will be impossible to get through that area for about 4 hours a day after they build that.

By: Loner on 11/21/12 at 6:42

Steve Hale used a novel term: incentivizing. My Spellchecker objects to the word, but I think it's the perfect word to describe this massive give-away to a corporation that does not really need or deserve this kind of government charity.

The image of the Frist family with a tin cup in hand, begging for $100 per County resident in as to keep the Frist family living in the grand style that they have become accustomed to.

It takes world class chutzpah for a billionaire beggar to ask for more handouts from the public.

Mayor Dean has a lot of nerve to act as the Frist family's solicitor and benefactor. The mayor is supposed to represent the public interest, not the interests of wealthy and selfish cor[orations and their fat-cat CEO's.

By: producer2 on 11/21/12 at 8:35

let me know when your bill comes in the mail. I have never actually seen one.

By: bfra on 11/21/12 at 8:50

producer - Then you must not own anything or spend anything in Davidson Co.

By: producer2 on 11/21/12 at 11:47

i have not seen a property tax increase have you? A tax increase would require you and I to vote on it.

By: bfra on 11/21/12 at 11:57

producer - Look again!

By: producer2 on 11/21/12 at 12:49

Was it an increase or was it returning to previous levels? Not unlike the current Federal administration that would like to return to the previous levels that the last Democratic administration left when the budget was balanced and there was a surplus.
A true property tax "increase" is only possible if voted on and approved by the citizens of Davidson County. The previous tax cuts by Bush on the National level and Purcell here were "gifts" as Romney likes to say to get you to vote for them. When you make those cuts you need to also cut spending which neither one of the aforementioned administrations did. Facts are facts and everything else is just Republicans trying to scare you. Thank goodness the majority is smarter than that.

By: NewYorker1 on 11/21/12 at 1:07

I wish Metro would give me something instead of taking from me.

Living in America feels like living the uncle that raped you.

By: bfra on 11/21/12 at 1:47

producer - You can spin it any way you want, it is still a tax increase. Read the article!

By: producer2 on 11/21/12 at 2:01

It's not me who is spinning it, it is the writer of the article. Semantically he is correct, it is more than you paid the year before but it is not a property tax increase. It is exactly the same as allowing the Bush era tax cuts to expire. In both instances you would return to the level you paid previously. A true property tax increase requires a vote of the general population. Plain and simple.

By: Ask01 on 11/21/12 at 5:41

What producer2 conveniently omits is Mayor Dean deliberately set the....adjustment, that's a good word, just below the threshhold to trigger a vote, thereby denying the citizens a voice.

Call it what you will, we are still paying more property tax than last year and that is increase. Look it up. No matter how the issue is spun about, it is still an increase in which we were denied a voice.

One note, don't even mention our Metro Council representatives. Most are useless pawns of the mayor and I suspect haven't breathed clean air since he took office.

By: bfra on 11/26/12 at 7:52

Ask01 - producer is a Karl boy! If Karl said the sun was going to start setting in the East, producer would argue that he is right.

By: on 11/26/12 at 3:58

producer you are an idiot, period. badboy if you think the traffic will be bad when it is built (I don't) then wait till 'ya see it if King Karl gets his east-west connector bus line, with it's removal of the center turn lane, through the council. Ask01 your correct in stating the obvious about the elephant in the room. Tygard is looking at this the right way. If you really want to be angry, then look at the whole city block between Church & Commerce and Seventh & Eighth Ave's. Feds condemned the whole thing, never had the money to build a building and now Metro gets no property taxes at all. Congress doesn't have the money to build eighteen federal courthouses across the country so all the small businesses that were in that block and all the property owners that were forced to sell their property, had to do it for no reason at all. And the beat goes on.