Were you a conservative outraged by the government giveaways offered to Amazon to get them to set up their second headquarters in environs located outside the Pacific Northwest?
Did you take issue not just with New York’s now-defunct Amazon giveaway but also Virginia’s?
If so, it’s time to check in with the city of Memphis, which is offering Graceland a bailout fit for a king. Or indeed, The King.
The Memphis City Council will vote this month to complete new tax breaks for Graceland to fund a $100 million expansion, a peace offering in a nearly two-year war that included threats of Elvis’s estate leaving his adopted hometown.
“We’ve had substantial offers to take every piece of wood and panel and move it,” said Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc.’s managing partner, Joel Weinshanker, listing Nashville, Asia and the Middle East as possibilities.
The proposal to increase a four-year-old $79 million incentive package would go a long way to ensure that the late musician’s home will stay on Elvis Presley Boulevard, Mr. Weinshanker said. He said he is confident the deal will be approved.
Got that? Memphis has already given Graceland $79 million to stick around. Now it’s proposing an extra $21 million. Graceland must employ thousands of workers, given that sum, right?
Wrong. According to Graceland’s official website, the Elvis Presley Estate employs a maximum of 450 people. That’s right: 450.
Of course, Memphis’ tourism industry employs far more than this. But so do industries that will be supported by the location of thousands of Amazon jobs in Northern Virginia. Yet the cost per employee of these two government giveaways differs sharply.
Arlington County, Virginia offered Amazon $23 million to get 25,000 jobs. The Commonwealth of Virginia appears to have offered Amazon $573 million to get 25,000 jobs.
That means Arlington is paying Amazon off to the tune of $920 per job, and Virginia is paying Amazon off to the tune of $22,920 per job.
Contrast that with Memphis, which is paying off Graceland to the tune of $46,666 per job.
Again, those figures are based on direct employment numbers and not indirect job creation, where the numbers likely are much higher than 25,000 and 450, respectively.
The point here is this: There’s lots of scope for jumping on Amazon, and government officials who cut deals with the company.
But there’s also ample need to keep tabs on what states and localities are doing with regard to other, less high-profile, Trump- and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-hated, obvious targets for criticism over possible sweetheart deals.
Unless you’re someone who just loves Elvis so much you want government funding his continued imprint on Tennessee and frankly America to the hilt, this deal looks even more objectionable than the Amazon Virginia deal, at a minimum, which generated tons of noise while apparently being less flawed than this Graceland bailout as assessed on a simple numerical basis.