MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) – To paraphrase the movie Jerry Maguire: SHOW US THE MONEY! That is the feeling of local government leaders when it comes to the $90 million Electrolux construction project. In fact, they’ve put their concerns in writing.
A letter to Electrolux, voicing concerns over a lack of local participation in their building project, was signed on Tuesday night, December 27, 2011.
As of the afternoon on Dec. 28, Electrolux officials were not aware of the letter until abc24.com brought it to their attention.
It was signed by, among others, Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery, who explained his concerns.
“We have hundreds of skilled workmen in this area who should be working on that Electrolux plant,” Lowery said.
The letter to Electrolux, signed by several Memphis and Shelby County elected officials, emphasizes their concern that may not happen, even after multiple bids.
“They said they’ve done this three times,” Lowery told abc24.com. “I don’t understand how they can have three bidding processes and come out without anyone from Memphis, Shelby County or Tennessee.”
When the Electrolux announcement was made in December 2010 with the promise of 1,200 jobs, everybody was smiling.
Then, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said, “I don’t know how anybody with a conscience or warm blood at all could not just be overjoyed at the fact that we’re bringing these good paying jobs here.”
“But what about before they open the doors?” asked Lowery.
The councilman is not pleased that the general contractor for the Electrolux project is from Jackson, Mississippi.
“The state, county and city contributed more than $100 million worth of incentives for this project,” explained Lowery. “Some of that money should be coming back to local residents so that it can be turned over in this economy and not in the economy of the state of Mississippi.”
“They don’t care about Memphis,” Dr. John Gnuschke, University of Memphis professor, told abc24.com. “All they care about is what kind of deals can be done that maximize their profits.”
Not true, said Electrolux spokesperson Eloise Hale, who issued a statement to abc24.com over the phone:
“Electrolux appreciates the support and assistance state and city governments have provided us through this process. We are committed to spending $30 million with Memphis business concerns on this construction project.”
So, perhaps that letter had the desired affect after all.
“I’m hopeful that the letter we sent and the concern elected officials are showing will shake up Electrolux just a little bit to say, 'These guys have been great neighbors to us and we’ve got to make sure their people are employed,'” Lowery said.
Hale also told abc24.com that the company has already been using local businesses in the early segments of their construction project.
The city council is scheduled to discuss the matter at its first meeting in January.