October 23rd, 2014
clawback |ˈklôˌbak| noun
the recovery of money already disbursed: funds that are not subject to any clawback by the government.
If we’re going to give up all this scratch, we need some claws.
As published in The Daily News, Octiober 24, 1014, and in The Memphis News, October 25-31, 2014
LET’S MAKE SURE IT FITS.
A couple of guys I know have been renting tuxes around here for 50 years.
The first guy, Guy Miller, was a photographer with a studio on Cleveland where Saigon Le is today. He started renting tuxes there as a sideline in 1965 and then hung up his camera and went formal full-time. The second guy, the second Guy Miller, and I went to school together, hung out together, and when Mr. Miller opened the second Guy’s Formalwear on Highland he let us use the upstairs as the chapter room for our high school fraternity. We all got discounts on tuxes and Little Pigs Barbecue was across the street. Cool.
My friend Guy, owner of Guy’s Formalwear, is on edge about EDGE these days.
The Economic Development Growth Engine just fitted you and me for $1.1 million worth of tax abatement in a PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-tax) for a Scottish tuxedo rental company who plans to open their U.S. distribution center here, promising 125 jobs in two years, maybe 325 later. ACS Clothing Limited also promises to spend about $17 million dressing up a couple of empty warehouses. EDGE estimates that they will generate $2.8 million worth of new local taxes during the $1.1 million abatement period.
Since Guy knows every shawl collar and striped pant in a major U.S. tuxedo wholesaler coast-to-coast, and none of them employ 100, much less 125 – forget about 325 – he’s skeptical. As to the $2.8 million in local taxes, if ACS is wholesaling to retailers out-of-state, there’s no sales tax – or renting tuxes online, the sales tax goes to the states renting, so that seems oversized, too. Not cool.
Here’s the deal, those numbers came from the people who want the deal.
If the Scots are telling a wee fib, we’ll pay for it. If EDGE is off in their tax estimate, the tux rental is on us. And there doesn’t appear to be a way to get it back if we’ve been had. And this is a small deal.
Imagine the impact when we add several zeroes to those numbers.
I’m a fan of EDGE and the cooperative spirit between city and county it represents. I believe in the PILOT program. I also have nothing against Scotland. I have two Scotties. I drink scotch. I like bagpipes. Okay, that might be a wee fib.
Nevertheless, if they or anybody come to our town, take our money, and in any way compete with businesses that have been paying taxes here for 50 years, their numbers better hold up, their promises better be kept, or we have every right to go all Braveheart on their kilts.
I’m reminded of a mathematical principle I’ve always attributed to Archimedes, but I couldn’t find the reference. So let’s just call it Guy’s Law, translated from the original Greek:
“If the initial number is bullshit, every number derived from it is therefore bullshit.”
I’m a Memphian, and some guys you don’t know are trying to rent you a tux.
If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.