Deal to keep IP in Memphis idled, in neutral - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Deal to keep IP in Memphis idled, in neutral

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Shelby County Commissioner Mike Ritz is confident a deal can be reached to keep Fortune 500 company International Paper in town for years to come.

They've met with Memphis Councilwoman Wanda Halbert and Councilman Harold Collins, they've met with Commissioner Ritz and Mayors A C Wharton and Mark Luttrell.

With every indication a deal can be struck that'll keep International Paper in Memphis, it's time to get up a negotiating team to close a deal.

If only one would step up to the plate.

MORE: Mayors look for deal with International Paper
MORE: International Paper leaving Memphis?
MORE: International Paper deal too sweet?

When it comes to negotiating just about any business deal there comes a time when the "carrots and the sticks" hit the bargaining table. As discussions and a hoped for agreement to keep the Fortune 500 company's headquarters in Memphis are stuck in neutral, Commissioner Ritz insists there should be no need for the city and county to dip too far into it's incentives bag to pull out the jumbo carrot of a 30-year long term tax abatement.

"The IP people; this is the IP people, only ask for 15 years and a bunch of thanks, but only 15 years. They never asked for 30," he said.

But, riddle me this? If IP is flirting with any prospects of moving out of the Bluff City, why, according to Ritz who met with an IP executive last week, are they considering the having a fourth office tower built on available property east of their current headquarters at 6400 Poplar Ave.?

Signs of its availability tout 425,000 buildable square feet that could serve as much as a 150-foot tall building. The expansion plan would also include two skywalk connectors on the east side and then across Massey on the west side connecting with the Paragon Shopping Mall.

The price tag: $ million.

"It's a very expensive project," Ritz said. "But, they not asking us to pay for it. They're going to pay for it essentially by signing a lease for a long period of time. What they're asking us to do, us the community, is to help them with the carrying costs of the property taxes by  reducing them for a period of time."

Now that's what FOX13 News would mark down in the "carrot" column for all concerned. Oh, yeah and what about the "stick" analogy? Actually, as Ritz laments, the fact the news of IP's negotiations has become a "make a deal through the media" story.

"Once it became public everybody's got a right to talk about it," Ritz said. "But, this should have been handled different."

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