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Gov. Lee opens Memphis Regional Megasite study, vows to advance project
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Gov. Bill Lee

GOV. BILL LEE today released findings from a recent study of strengths, weaknesses and potential prospects for success on the 4,100 acres of the long-planned Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County, near Memphis and Brownsville.

In January, the Lee Administration had commissioned Gresham Smith with producing an "honest" assessment of the the MRM plan, industries most likely to be seeking added capacity, and reasons why the site had not found one or more tenants after more than a decade's work.

While the report recounts well-known impediments to the project's success to-date, it also cites potential advantages -- particularly acreage -- in the face of a surge of interest among prospective tenants.

In sum, the authors of the report provide very substantial analysis of the impediments to date and possible cures therefor, but they ultimately -- perhaps inevitably -- report that still further research is needed if there is to be hope of identifying and executing a winning strategy for the MRM.

Based on comments this afternoon during a press conference by Gov. Lee, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe, and Department of General Services Commissioner Christi Branscom, the Lee Administration is committed to taking further steps and making further expenditures to ensure the project achieves further momentum, at a time when they say that, despite regional competition from dozens of other sites, the Memphis Regional Megasite is drawing strong attention from potential tenants.

Industry sectors spotlighted today as targets in the Gresham Smith report include OEM; Battery/stored energy; Tires makers; Data centers; and, Appliance makers. At least one major prospect is deemed likely to consider the site further.

The site has previously been reviewed by such companies, but more often than not has fallen short in the shoppers' estimation of infrastructure uncertainty, workforce adequacy, and-or quality of life dimensions.

There was no explicit reference during today's press conference to how, if at all, federal infrastructure spending might play into MRM development and funding scenarios.

With further work toward pipeline development greenlighted, and contractor procurement set into motion, progress and prospects for the site could prove to be a significant focus of both the Administration and the General Assembly, when the legislature reconvenes in January. One volunteer group, the West Tennessee Economic Development Caucus, as well as numerous city and county officials in West Tennessee have been following the project since the idea surfaced during the Administration of then-Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Though the concept has long been considered, today's report also suggests that the Lee Administration is prepared to resume previously authorized spending for the project, resume wastewater pipeline development, develop one or more public-private partnerships to mitigate utility build-out costs, and more.

The existence of such partnerships could mitigate the state's direct development costs, thereby freeing more state funds to provided enhanced economic-development incentives to prospective tenants.

That said, the Lee Administration is expected to continue examining the site's strengths and weaknesses, developing recruitment strategy and more. The Administration, backed by the General Assembly, has also previously committed to expanding broadband, technology workforce training and other resources that would bolster the case for MRM residency by major employers.

Of immediate interest:

Study produced by contractor Gresham Smith. PDF here. Note: This very detailed situation assessment calls for both near-term action and further study.

Previous in-depth Venture Nashville reporting on the Memphis Regional Megasite.

Press release today from the Office of the Governor. Linked here.

Gresham Smith, which had previously worked on other MRM matters under contract, was formally tasked with executing the study that was released today, on January 6. It originally offered to complete the study within 90 days, but was ultimately allowed 100 days or more to complete the study.

This story will be updated as warranted. VNC

. last edited 1907 8 June 2021

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Tags: Bill Lee, Bob Rolfe, Christi Branscom, economic development, Gresham Smith, megasite, megasites, Memphis Regional Megasite, West Tennessee Megasite

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