“Do Better” bill raises expectations for development in Nashville

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“Do Better” bill raises expectations for development in Nashville

On November 21, District 7 Council Member Anthony Davis introduced Ordinance BL2017-983. Metro Council now has the opportunity to make economic development in Nashville and Davidson County a lot more equitable, inclusive, and transparent.

Stand Up Nashville is in full support of what is aptly being called the “Do Better” bill. This legislation would take practical steps toward transforming our city into a place where all residents have a chance to fully participate in and contribute to Nashville’s economic development and prosperity. This simply is not the case right now.

The ordinance specifically calls for more transparency in the approval process of cash grants and property tax freezes known as PILOTs for large businesses. Currently, these incentives, which need approval by Metro Council and the Industrial Development Board (IDB), get fast-tracked with insufficient information and scrutiny. The bill would also address the current lack of accountability regarding the number and quality of jobs that the businesses awarded these incentives actually create, and whether all residents have a fair shake at getting one.

The “Do Better” Bill gives Metro Council an effective tool to determine whether the common good is being served by the incentive under consideration, as well as a way to suspend or end an incentive agreement if the company fails to hold up its side of the bargain. In other words, it would help Metro Council make better business decisions on behalf of all of its constituents, not just big corporations.

This is how the bill would work. Any company seeking a cash grant or PILOT through IDB would have to submit a project proposal to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development (ECD) that addresses the following:

  1. The type and number of jobs that will be created, including whether those jobs will be permanent or temporary, and how many will be filled by Davidson County residents.
  2. A workforce plan that discloses whether the company will use temporary or staffing agencies, the Nashville Career Advancement Center, subcontractors, or other third parties on the project, and how much those jobs will compensate in wages and benefits.
  3. Whether the project will use apprentices from training programs certified by the Department of Labor.
  4. Whether the company has had any safety or wage and hour violations in the past ten years.

The ECD would then present this proposal to Metro Council prior to a vote on the incentive to ensure an informed decision is made. If awarded the incentive, the proposal would become part of the incentive agreement. The company would also have to submit quarterly reports to the ECD to ensure that it was holding up its end of the deal.

The “Do Better” Bill rests on three values: open and transparent governance that allows for public debate on critical economic decisions, prioritizing equitable and inclusive economic development for public investment, and creating opportunities for every Davidson County resident to provide for their own basic needs and those of their family.  Stand Up Nashville believes that these values are not just good policy ideas, but are unalienable human rights.

You don’t need a PhD in economics to see that the current incentive model isn’t fair and doesn’t benefit the whole community. It’s time for our policy to reflect that we’re all in this together. We must do better. This bill is our chance to do just that.