As the New Year’s break began for many of us, Electrolux executives announced they have hired W.G. Yates as their general contractor for construction of the new Electrolux plant in southwest Memphis.
And as you’ve seen in our advancer here, Electrolux is on the Memphis City Council’s executive session agenda Tuesday where the specific topic will be who gets the construction jobs.
Electrolux’s announcement that it has hired a contractor with an East Memphis office but a corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, Ms. is certain to be part of the discussion about what “local” means.
To most on the council, it does not mean Philadelphia, Ms. It means residents who pay the city and county taxes that funded the $40 million city and county government put in the pot to pay for infrastructure needs on and around the Electrolux site.
Mayors Wharton and Luttrell will be meeting with Electrolux executives Jan. 12 to talk about the hiring issue as well.
“We haven’t seen any of the bids so we don’t know what the precise reasons were,” Wharton said this weekend of the Yates contract decision.
He also said the discussions about a piece of the $80 million construction budget for women and minority owned local businesses is complex.
Electrolux also announced last week that half of the construction spend will go to “Memphis-area” firms and at least 15 percent will go to minority and women owned “area businesses.”
That’s where this gets technical. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling referred to as the Richmond case outlawed specific requirements for minority and women-owned business contract percentages unless there is a disparity study showing past discrimination in the way such contracts were awarded.
And in our case, there was a disparity study.
Here’s where the phrase “Memphis-area” becomes critical, according to Wharton.
“That disparity study was not restricted to the city limits and Shelby County,” he said. “By dictates of the Supreme Court it reaches outside. It’s a very thin line that we have to walk there. But working together we’ll be able to stay within the Supreme Court mandates and at the same time insure basic fairness.”
Part of insuring basic fairness, Wharton says is taking into account the city and county government funding in the project.
“With all due respect to our neighbors, none of their dollars went into this enterprise,” Wharton said. “It is a justified expectation that folks should say that the lion’s share of the jobs and dollars spent on services ought to come from Memphis and Shelby County.”
We will be at Tuesday’s council discussion. Follow our council Tweets @tdnpols starting at around 2:15 p.m. and become a Disciple of Democracy.