Behind the Headlines — March 27, 2015

Behind the Headlines — March 27, 2015


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visit DHGLLP.com. (female narrator)
Production funding for
“Behind the Headlines” is is made
possible in part by.. A look at the explosive growth
in North Mississippi tonight on “Behind the Headlines.” [theme music] I’m Eric Barnes, publisher
of the “Memphis Daily News.” Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight
by Chip Johnson, mayor of
Hernando, Mississippi. Thank you
for being here. Also,
Daron Musselwhite, the mayor
of Southaven, Mississippi. Thank you
for being here. Kevin Doddridge who is C-E-O
of North Ridge Electric Power. Thanks for coming. And Bill Dries, senior reporter
with the “Memphis Daily News.” So, we’re talking about growth. We’re talking about the
explosive growth over the last many years and
I’ll start with you. You’ve been mayor
for now ten years. What was the key to making
this sort of growth happen? Well, I think there’s a
lot of pieces to the puzzle. But the over-arching piece is
just an overall quality of life that we’re
trying to create. And I think all
of that is built on a high quality
public education. We can do all of
the other things. But if we don’t have high
quality public education, we’re not going to have the
educated work force to provide the workers
for these jobs. So, I think that’s
the base of everything. And then we build on top of that
with incentives for business, with good roads,
good infrastructure, a healthy community. DeSoto County was just named the
healthiest county in the state of Mississippi again yesterday
for the fifth year running. So, there’s just a lot of
different pieces to it. And Mayor Musselwhite,
you would agree, I assume. What have been other priorities
and the keys to making the kind of really explosive
growth happen in Southaven? Well, in Southaven, we’re
specifically similar to what Mayor Johnson said. We have
quality schools. We have
quality healthcare. And the
housing market.. I think the housing market has
been key in Southaven in the late ’80s,
early ’90s. You know, the residential
subdivision started going up and made it an
attractive place to live. Also, the key
geographic location. You know, we’re near
big city amenities. But we also have, you know,
that small town feel for people to live in. And then,
obviously public safety. You know, when you
have all those things, if you don’t have a
safe place to live, you know, people are not
going to want to live there. So, in Southaven, we’ve been
fortunate over the years that we’ve been able to have all
those amenities and still have a safe place to live. And from an economic
development point of view, your involvement in.. I mean, there’s been
tremendous growth in, you know,
warehouse distribution. I mean, just industrial
and light industrial. How is that happened
from your point of view in economic
development? Not just with, you know,
North Central Electric. But just the whole recruitment
and retention and relocation of businesses. Well, the best start was a firm
foundation that we had in 1970, when Holiday Inn moved out into
the Olive Branch area to form a training facility. There’s was really
nothing in that area. Southaven had formed
several years before, as a residential area, but
when we had that foundation of industrial development, but
when you brought Holiday Inn training, you brought
Holiday Inn press as well. So we had a firm
foundation of industrial growth, that spread into a
small commercial growth. And we had a good school system,
but as the schools improved, we kind of saw a
good mix of all three, the industrial, the
small commercial, and then the rooftop
started to come after that. With the increased
infrastructure and the road infrastructure, that’s when the
logistics came in several years later, in the warehousing. Yeah, Bill. So, at this point, after a lot
of hard work by a lot of people, this is all starting to job, I
guess it’s already jelled in in so many ways for all
of your communities. To your point, is
this a mosaic, really? Are there areas in Desoto County
where there are strengths? Particular strengths in
warehouse versus residential, mean, is that what we’re
seeing, kind of a puzzle coming together here? Well, we can identify
this as Desoto County, but, really, the development is
a far reaching regional approach and I think we are
seeing that, especially, with the construction
of the Interstate 269, that’s gonna really link West
Tennessee and Eastern Arkansas at some point. So, in Desoto
County, especially, in the Olive Branch area, we’re
able to concentrate on logistics warehousing, but in the future,
as we have to confront air quality standards, in the like,
it may make more sense to push some of the
heavy industry, maybe into some
regional counties. Maybe push it to the East in
Marshall County or something like that, but we can all still
take advantage of the mix by having that interstate
loop coming through there. Mayor Musselwhite, talk
about Southaven’s development, in particular,
because to his point, this all gets more complex
as you go along and there are concerns like the clean air
standards that come into play with growth. Well, Southaven,
being a fairly new city, you know, Southaven just became
a city in 1980 and we have been blessed with extremely
fast rate of growth. And with that, the planning has
been a little haphazard because things happen so fast, you know,
over the last 20 to 25 years or so. As we move forward, we’re
looking for a more planned growth, we wanna be
more selective about, you know, where we put
things and how we zone things, but it comes down
to good zoning, just a better
planned zoning. Mayor Johnson,
from your perspective, how does Hernando fit into what
is going on and what’s next on the horizon? Well, I think we are the
oldest city in Desoto County, we started in 1836, but
our growth came later, after Southaven So we had
the luxury of seeing what had happened in Southaven and we
were able to get our zoning in place and our comprehensive
planning in place before the big boom came, so we
were blessed with that. But, I think what you’re gonna
see coming is the intersection of I-69 and I-55 is in the
city limits of Hernando. And when 269 opens, I think
you’re gonna start seeing corporate headquarters and
class- A office space dotted along that route. Does that sort of
growth, I mean, is part of the subtext that
that sort of growth comes to the detriment of Memphis. I mean, is it an either-
or, sometimes that plays out somebody, you know, a company
moves from Memphis and it’s sort of people, in Memphis,
are upset and people in, you know, in Desoto County
are happy or even residents are sore? Is it an either –
or kind of equation, that everything good that you
guys are talking about in earned and deserved, is in the
detriment of Memphis? And I think
that could happen. And we have a
regional mayor’s council. Mayor Luttrell, Mayor
Wharton, Mayor Musselwhite, myself , all the regional
mayors are working together, because we understand
this is a regional plan. If Memphis fails, we
all fail, we know that. So we want
Memphis to do well. We have, what I like to
call, a friendly rivalry. I would love to
get every business, but if Mayor
Musselwhite gets one, I cheer for him. And when Memphis
gets a new business, we all cheer for Memphis,
because we know some of those people are going to
live and shop in our area. So, as the, we need to make sure
we focus on a strong regional approach so we don’t do
things to the detriment of our
sister cities. Would you
agree with that? I would and even more so, I’m
not a cliche kind of person, but I did hear a
cliche the other day, that I liked. That the rising tide rises all
boats and I think that in a lot of situations, yeah it does hurt
neighboring cities when they don’t get the development that
they want it goes to one of the neighboring cities and
somewhat competitors. But I think, the big picture, it
does help everyone when there’s quality development. And an example of
that is that, you know, we just broke ground on
the Tanger development off Church Road. And that ties in well
with Memphis tourism, you know, when you have,
downtown Memphis and all that it offers and then Graceland and
it just makes sense that Tanger development will
give another, you know, another opportunity for the
tourists to come to the area. So it’s gonna benefit
Memphis and Southaven. Yeah, Tanger development its
outlet malls what some 70, an outlet mall with
70-something stores is the plan. Right, it’s the
initial 70 upscale stores, but it is an outlet shop. (Eric)
Right. Yeah, I think 46
throughout the United States, but this… …And Kevin
Kane, from, you know, Memphis C-V-B, was at
the ground breaking, I think, and Bill
quote him in his story, him saying, “Look, all these are
dollars and all these are people to the area.” You know, they’re gonna maybe
stay on the Memphis side and shop on the Desoto
County side or vice versa. Well, you’re bringing people,
that are not in the area. (Eric)
Right. So, when you’re bringing people
to spend money to the area that you would not, otherwise,
have, I think it benefits the whole region. Right. Let’s talk a little bit from the
economical development point of view and that the
incentives and, you know, we talked
a lot about that, on the show, the
last couple of years. Because it’s gotten to be
somewhat controversial, in Memphis, the way PILOTS are
done and it’s a system that I’d say too often, that
everyone comes on says, “I don’t like PILOTS.” Even the people
who sell the PILOTS, don’t like the PILOT system,
because it’s bulky and difficult and it’s confusing. Mississippi has always said
to have a very simple system. What are the advantages of your,
how do we tax? Give me a lesson 101, if you
can, on how tax incentives and so on work in Mississippi
and then I’ll kinda compare it to Tennessee. Okay, the mayors will
probably have a little bit more experience as far
as the taxation. I do know, that when it
comes to the simple PILOT is, you’ll often hear people discuss
that you hate to grant an industry, an in lieu of tax and
miss out on those tax dollars. But we have to remember, if that
industry didn’t locate there in the first place we
wouldn’t have those tax dollars. In Mississippi, road and bridge
taxes are generally collected, at least bridge taxes, I
believe school taxes are. And also, if you can
bring in a good business, a good industry, then you’re
gonna be circled by tier one suppliers, small commercial
businesses that comes in there, and then further
enhances your tax price. Do you all, politically, do
you catch heat when some sort incentive package is put out
to bring a company in town? Do you get who call
you up or you know, see you in the
grocery store and say, “Hey, why are you giving tax
breaks to these companies?” Well, generally,
at the local level, we’ll give a personal property
tax exemption and maybe a real property tax exemption, but
we’re not exempting everything. Generally, where the bigger
incentives come from are from the Mississippi
Development Authority. (Eric)
Yeah. And what we’re
seeing, in Hernando, is as we try to build
a quality community, these businesses are coming
without the huge incentives from M-D-A. We just got Shultz Xtruded
Products M-D-A incentives. They’ll just get the
personal and property tax local incentives and do an $80 million
investment because we’ve got a quality community
they want to be in. Let’s talk about.. I’ll go back
to Bill here. But you mentioned the
Tanger Outlet involves some.. I don’t know if they were
statewide but certainly county, city, $15 million
worth of incentives. That’s a new.. We think about
incentives being industrial. We think
about a factory. We think maybe
about warehouses. But these kind of tax
incentives for retail, were you
comfortable with that? Have you gotten
criticism for that? Well, there was a little
bit of confusion about that. When the initial talks began
before I became the mayor, there was a proposed
TIF that was out there. That went away. So, the 15
million, that’s old news. Actually what that was replaced
by was a Mississippi M-D-A tourism rebate program. So, what that does is just
commit 30% of the total project back to the developer as the
sales tax revenues come in. So, the state of
Mississippi pledged that. So, it’s no money. And I’m glad you asked that
question because I hear from a lot of citizens that say
we don’t need the debt. Why are we spending
money over there? We haven’t
spent money. This is money that
we don’t have yet. So, as the development is
completed and the sales tax revenue starts coming in,
that revenue will go back to the developer up to 30%
of the development. So, it was a great
incentive for them to come here. Do you worry you’ll
get existing businesses, existing retail,
existing malls who say hey, I want that, too. I mean, is there sort of an
opening of the floodgates that people start,
businesses start saying hey, I want those kind
of incentives also. That’s a
great question. Tourism rebate program was
actually a rare situation. It’s been used a few
times throughout the state. And actually, I understand
that it’s been that the state legislature has
removed that. So, I don’t think that’s
available for the future. It was just a special
opportunity that we had that we took advantage of. Bill. Mayor Johnson, it sounds
like we’ve got kind of the same things that are called different
things on each side of the state line when it comes
to these incentives. And a few differences, like the
Tennessee Constitution doesn’t allow you to
waive property taxes. So, thereby whoever issues a
PILOT has to take ownership technically of
the land there. But it sounds like basically
we’re talking about the same concepts in terms of incentives
and the same decisions that you all have to make and your
legislative bodies have to make. I think
you’re right. And I think where communities
can separate themselves and rise to the top. When we started looking at
what these businesses want, the number one thing on
their list is not incentives. It’s a qualified work
force, an educated work force. So, that’s what we’re really
working on in DeSoto County. What a lot of people don’t
know is you can go to Northwest Community College and the
University of Mississippi in the city of Southaven and get a
master’s degree without ever leaving DeSoto County. And those are the kind of
qualified workers we want. We’re building two public
Vo-Tech centers or career tech centers with the DeSoto
County School System, one on the west side
and one on the east side, to train workers that may not
go to college and just be good, skilled workers. How has Olive Branch
changed in all of this? Because new jobs, new homeowners
also represent a shift in the community, as well,
on another level. Olive Branch has changed in
every way imaginable right now. The city’s center has
shifted geographically. We are no longer what you would
call a city of solely commuters. It’s a self-supporting city. Many of the people that
live in Olive Branch work in Olive Branch, as well. We’ve actually got a lot of
people that live in Tennessee that work in
Olive Branch. What we’re seeing, to kind of go
back to some earlier comments, is something that
is purely regional. You’ve got people in Olive
Branch that identify with Memphis and vice-versa. One of the major job shifts
though has been the fact that we’ve got more technical
jobs, more engineering, accounting,
attorneys, banking positions, things like that. Occupations that if you
went back 25 years ago, if you were a person that was
born and raised in Olive Branch, went off to college, you would
probably have to go to Memphis, Dallas, Atlanta, somewhere
to find a job matching up with your
skill set. But now there’s a lot more
opportunity in Olive Branch, a lot of opportunity for people
that go off to college or choose to go to Southaven to
college, to stay at home. And Mayor, with Tanger
coming to Southaven, obviously you have retail
but this is a different level of retail. So, how does that impact
economic growth and development in Southaven? And how specifically
in terms of shopping, in terms of people being
able to remain in Southaven, how does
it affect that? The first thing, the first key
thing that is different about this retail center to what
has been in the Mid-South area before is this is a
regional concept. And I’ve had a hard time
explaining the difference in that because when a lot of
times when people hear mall, they have their
preconceived ideas about a mall. Well, this is a
totally different animal. This is a
regional concept. We’re expecting to, you know,
bring tourists in from as far as a 250 mile radius. So, you look at the malls
that are in the Mid-South now, they would be
considered local malls. I mean, they’re going
to draw, you know from cities, you know,
surrounding Memphis. But you’re
not going to get.. You know, you’re not going to
get the person from Kentucky or Missouri or Louisiana that’s
coming to the Memphis malls. This is a totally
different animal. We expect to have tourists
coming in here from six.. We’re a three hour
drive from six states. So, we expect, you know,
up to 250 mile radius to bring
shoppers in. And we talked at
the groundbreaking. Your priority even before
the groundbreaking was that interchange at 55
and Church road. So, you’re going to be talking
a lot to the state about that. You already are
talking a lot to the state. There’s no doubt. That’s the number one
concern right there. And, you know, it’s
sad that you have. You get excited about
a good development. But then with that is,
as you two guys know, comes, you know,
problems with that, you know,
with traffic. And traffic is a
good problem to have. But none the
less, it’s a problem. So, I will be in
direct contact with M-DOT, just, you know,
basically, you know, just trying to
explain the severity of it. You know, when it’s already a
problem there and then when you bring, you know, that many more
travelers there for the Tanger development, it’s going
to complicate the problem. Mayor Johnson, in terms of
your traffic problems there.. I don’t want to
call them problems. But the price of
success let’s call it. We have our main exit
there, Commerce street. And it is a mess. The bridge is too small
going under the interstate. And when you look at it, it
suddenly makes sense because when that exit was built,
the population of Hernando was about 1,500. Now we’re
about 16,000. And so, as we grow, I think the
state is going to have to look at our reign and decide that
we’re growing so much more rapidly, we need a
little more attention. If you look at the
census between 2000 – 2010, DeSoto County
made up full half of the state of
Mississippi’s growth. So, we need to be putting almost
half of the road dollars up there, you would think. Just to keep up
with that growth. (Eric)
Are you all.. In the Tennessee dynamic
with the state legislature, Memphis is kind of
an outlier, you know, to the frustration. Has that been the case
in North Mississippi? Has it historically been that
that legislature is more focused on Central or
South Mississippi? Has it changed? I’m just curious. I think you would find that
DeSoto County and the coast both sometimes feel like outliers
in the state of Mississippi. But it’s because our
growth has been so fast, our representation
hasn’t been able to keep up. So now, this new election you’re
seeing coming up in November, DeSoto County is getting two new
state representative seats and one new
state senate seat. So, our representation
is going to catch up. And I think you’re going to
start seeing more people from the northwestern part of the
state start taking regional and state offices, as well. And you had talked
before the show. We were talking
about Marshall County, which you serve part of Marshall
County in the huge explosive growth that really, I mean,
just another level of industrial growth up there that I think
you characterize as probably the hottest area in
all of Mississippi. Is that correct? Right, that’s correct. Right now Marshall County, as
far as industrial prospects that are looking in our area,
dotting the radar screen, Marshall County’s probably
the hottest area easily in Mississippi and probably in
the southeast United States. A lot of that is its proximity
to road infrastructure but also the proximity
to Memphis. And in Marshall
County particularly, we’re getting a lot of interest
from international companies. Some companies in
Asia, Western Europe. This is their first
footprint in the United States. So, they really enjoy
the proximity to Memphis. A lot of it has to
do with 269, 72, the roads in that area. Their ability to still locate
their facility in Marshall County where there is a good,
well-trained work force but still have some of the amenities
of Memphis and Shelby County. Back to Bill. And the road construction is
right at the edge of where the Roxul plant
is being built. Near Byhalia is where we’re
talking about specifically here. And that industrial park has
been there for quite a while. So, it’s certainly not an
overnight success story even though it seems that
way so many times. The property has been
there for some time. And then we had
slow limited growth. We had some
warehousing companies come over. Asics is an
example there. But when Roxul decided several
year ago they wanted to put a large footprint in that
area, that was really the staple industry that started
bringing the other. And then that’s what brought
in the attention from Western Tennessee to see us
getting more infrastructure to the state line. Because the
development will stack up there. It’s part of North Mississippi
in that 72 corridor part in Tennessee. It’s also helped
us track Volvo. And like I said,
anybody that comes to us, a site selector, if they’re
asking for the hottest property right now, it’s going to
be in Marshall County. So, what does that specific
impact mean for your communities and the
impact on them? Well, speaking for
Southaven, the way I look at it, I mean, obviously
they’re a neighbor of ours. But again, you know,
the more quality of life, the more
attraction you bring here. And we got
to think about it. We’re not.. We’re looking a
lot of times for, as Mayor Johnson said, you know,
if we’re wanting to develop a corporate headquarters here,
then these are people that, you know, may be in
Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans. When they come here, they’re
looking at the whole area. You know and when they
see things like that, it’s a quality
of life thing. You’ve got to remember
when a company relocates, it’s not just
about the employee. The upper level management. It’s about
their families, too. I mean, their families are
going to be moving with them. They’re looking for a
place where they want to live. And so, you know, if they
come here and they say, well hey, you know,
there’s not really much here. This is not like, you know
Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans. We don’t
really like it. But if they come here and they
see developments like what’s going on in Marshall County,
they see all that we have to offer in
Southaven. You’re close
to Memphis. You know, you got a
super nice city in Hernando. All of it
goes together. I think it’s key for bringing
a corporate headquarters to this area. And in terms of Hernando,
in terms of what’s happening near Byhalia. I’ll go back to
what I said earlier. Anything that happens in the
region is good for all of us. But I think
specifically for Hernando, we are really
positioned well. How often do you get a small
town of 16,000 people with two major interstates
that intersect? So, we got 69 and 55 that
intersect right in our city limits with 70 acres
already zoned ready for corporate
headquarters. So, the doors are
open, you know, As I say, Hernando
is open for business. Just two
minutes left here. I’ll start with you. Your concerns? What keeps you up at night when
you think about this growth? Like we said
about traffic. It’s good problems to have
but there are problems that come
with this. With the growth, a city
has cash flow problems. The way our property
tax structure works in DeSoto County. If you buy a house in February,
it goes on the tax rolls next January. And then we collect those
taxes a year in a rears. So on average, a person in a
new house lives there for a year-and-a-half before we
collect property tax from them. That’s a cash flow issue as
we’re trying to hire more policemen and firemen to
service these new houses. So, when that crazy
growth was going on, there was a time in
Hernando where every day, 14% of my citizens weren’t
paying property tax yet. (Eric)
No wonder it grew! So, it was kind of
crazy for a little while. (Eric)
Subtle sales pitch. (Johnson)
So as it slows
down a little bit, that cash flow is a
little easier to manage. But we do worry
about that every day. Trying to keep up with our low
tax rate and trying to keep up with our services. Your concerns
as you grow? It looks like the economy
has improved and is booming again potentially. I mean, you’ve got to be worried
about some parts of this. Well, we’ve been very blessed
in Southaven financially. But with growth does
come crime and traffic. And as we talked about,
the traffic is one of my biggest concerns. We’re blessed to have an
outstanding police department. We’ve sent a good
message about crime. You know, we’re not
going to tolerate that. But we’re not going
to look the other way. If you come to Southaven
wanting to cause trouble, we’re ready for that. And I give credit
to our police chief, Tom Long, and police department
who is one of the most respected in the
southeast. And so, we’ve done a
great job with that. But obviously crime and traffic
are your biggest concerns. The other thing is not
neglecting the older part as you grow and get bigger,
especially residentially. Just not neglecting your
original parts of your city. Because a lot of times, people
focus on the new growth and they forget to look back and take
care of the original part. So, that’s big for me. Alright, we’ll leave it there. Thank you all
for being here. Thank you,
thank you. Thank you all. And thank you
for joining us. Join us again
next week. Goodnight. [theme music] (male announcer)
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