Project Sparrow

Last time it was Project Tango. This time it's Project Sparrow. I'm beginning to think Economic Development President, Pat Phillips, always wanted to be a secret agent or an undercover spy or something. He just keeps coming up with all this mystery.

Phillips has told Loudon City and Loudon County officials he has another big fish on the hook. But just like Phillips last mirage, Project Tango, Phillips says he has to keep the details super secret.

What's not a secret is the proposal. Tax incentives. Local governments are again being asked to belly up to the bar once again and unload the tax payers pockets on a maybe, an unknown and hope things turn out well. If they do, it would be a first for Phillips.

Let's take a short look backwards. Have there ever been any other big deals that didn't pan out? How bout,

Center 75, millions spent by both Loudon and Loudon County. Most expensive pasture land in the county.
John Deere, big investment, lots of jobs, then they pull up stakes and leave.
Tennessee National, no telling how much tax money was donated to this one. Now all but defunct.
Christensen Yachts, millions in tax dollars spent, never opened.
Mike Ross, Rarity Landings, never even got underway.
Mike Ross, Rarity Pointe, a huge mess for everybody.
Tax breaks for Tate-Lyle, Loudon now raising taxes to cover loss.
Tax breaks for Kimberly-Clark, same as above.
The Ed Loy six million dollar Adesa extension, six million dollar road for private developer. Not a single retail business.
Dr. Bob's Overholt's big TIF tax break.
Project Tango/Amazon

Loudon City and County officials will be meeting tonight to discuss the issue. Loudon City officials have already proven over and over they will fall for anything. County officials have shown a little more restraint in the past before handing out the goodies. You might remember, it was county officials that said no to Dr. Bob Overholt and ultimately proved to be the saving grace for Lenoir City officials who had already fallen all over each other to give Overholt the keys to the city treasury.

Project Sparrow comes with a promises of maybe 175 jobs and that's great if it actually happens. But even if new jobs come, it's not responsible to throw the current tax payers under the bus to foot the bills for a maybe. Again, officials should take a close look at Phillips' past record.

Maybe as local officials negotiate some kind of a deal with the mysterious business, they might put a clause in any agreement that the new business couldn't dispute their property tax assessment any time during the duration of any incentive agreements with local governments. Remember, as soon as Staley and Kimberly Clark got their big tax breaks, they decided they didn't want to pay their property taxes.

Every time local officials make another one of these insensitive offers, they set the bar a little higher for the next time.