Editorial for the people
by pete edwards
The Bradley County Commission has delayed a request by the Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce to form an Industrial Development Board (IDB) under a private corporation. Commissioner Matt Brown, made a motion for the delay because he said there wasn't enough votes at that time for it's passing. He suggested that commissioners talk privately with the chamber to ask questions to alleviate their concerns. What seemed to worry some commissioners was that the development board be made up exclusively of chamber members. Commissioner Michael Plumley said that there are many local businesses that are not members of the Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce and they would be excluded from having a voice if the chamber formed the Industrial Development Board. Gary Farlow, Vice President for Economic Development for the chamber, said that it wasn't a chamber decision but it was required by state law for their members to be the primary participants.
Farlow was referring to Tennessee Code Annotated 7-53-101 thru 311 that indeed mentions a chamber of commerce as it relates to a civic group as being the place to look for prospective members of an industrial development board, but Farlow implied that the legislation was designed as a vehicle for the chamber to be the sole authority for future development. TCA 7-53-201. titled: (All quotes from TCA are in italics)
Application for incorporation - Qualifications of applicants
"Whenever any number of natural persons, not less than three (3), each of whom shall be a duly qualified elector of and taxpayer in the municipality (county), shall file with the governing body thereof an application in writing seeking permission to apply for the incorporation of an industrial development board or corporation of such municipality, the governing body shall proceed to consider such application."
Under part 3 of the legislation (starting 7-53-301) says:
"The corporation shall have a board of directors in which all powers of the corporation shall be vested and which shall consist of any number of directors, not less than seven (7), all of whom shall be duly qualified electors of and taxpayers in the municipality."(county).
It also states that:
"if at the time of the election of any directors there shall be in existence in the municipality (county) a chamber of commerce, board of trade, or other similar civic organization, the directors elected shall be chosen by the governing body from the membership of any one (1) or more of such organizations unless, in the judgment of the governing body, there are no members of such organizations who are both suitable and available to serve as directors of the corporation;"
This is the only reference to a chamber of commerce in the entire act.
Although the act intends for a local IDB to work to; "maintain and increase employment opportunities, increase the production of agricultural commodities, and increase the quantity of housing available in affected municipalities (counties)" by allowing citizens to set up a corporation to work for the general good of the public at large, in Bradley county the business promotion infrastructure has largely become centered around the Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce which have proved completely ineffective at promoting and serving small business or the majority of the workforce. Their energetic promotion of certain projects like a new airport and the revitalization of property downtown are covertly designed to benefit a few elite members. When the small business owner owned downtown properties, the chamber was nowhere to bee seen. The need for small business in their organization is primarily to provide a source of funding and to give them credibility, but that's about it.
The power the county commission is about to delegate will allow the chamber of commerce to raise money to fund projects like an airport and not just promote industrial park development. The "certificate of incorporation can be changed from time to time" by the board once they have been appointed. The code also says, "except that this proviso shall not affect the development or financing of any project which is located in a center city area or in a central business improvement district" (7-53-302)
After the IDB Corporation has been sanctioned by the governing body it assumes the status of an independent entity with enormous powers. They can under 7-53-302:
"Acquire, whether by purchase, exchange, gift, lease, or otherwise, and improve, maintain, equip and furnish one (1) or more projects, including all real and personal properties which the board of directors of the corporation may deem necessary in connection therewith"
"(6) Sell to others one (1) or more projects for such payments and upon such terms and conditions as the board of directors of the corporation may deem advisable,"
"(8) Sell, exchange, donate and convey any or all of its properties, including, without limitation, all or any part of the rents, revenues and receipts of the corporation from its projects, whenever its board of directors shall find any such action to be in furtherance of the purposes for which the corporation was organized;"
"(10) Borrow money from a municipality (county) through a loan agreement executed with a municipality for the purpose of carrying out any of its powers;"
The IDB can grant and receive tax breaks if it deems necessary. 7-53-305 titled Exemption from taxation - Payments in lieu of ad valorem taxes - Securities. The IDB can also petition the county commission to stand as a guarantee for the money it borrows, making the taxpayer liable for it's debts with no accountability.
None of the provisions of the Industrial Development Board Act would be a disadvantage to the community if the board of directors were committed to the needs and requirements of the average citizen, but to put the people that are presently running the Chamber of Commerce in charge, would be a ghastly and eventually costly mistake because the act doesn't provide for the legislative body to disband it.
For commissioners to believe that if they delegate this authority, the chamber will be able to independently finance industrial development in Bradley county without help from the taxpayer is being unrealistic. Before making this commitment, commissioners should ask themselves why the chamber is so keen to take this authority away from citizen elected representatives? The vast majority of businesses operate here because of what God and the whole community has done, not because of the people at the Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
http://188.8.131.52/tennessee/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=fs-main.htm&2.0 (This address will take you to LexisNexis, then follow directions to 7-53-101 thru 311).