My Response to the Chamber of Commerce/USEC Claims

In an apparent last ditch effort to save their inflated annual taxpayer subsidy of $269K, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Stephen Whitson and President, Parker Hardy, responded here to my column in which I challenged the value that the chamber provides to the city.

Ironically, rather than refute any of my specific points, they chose to continue taking credit for successes that they cannot truly claim. Rather than drag the debate out, my initial thought was to let the matter go and simply allow my vote to speak for itself.

But then I tripped over some inconsistencies in some reports and was compelled to dig a little deeper. You can read the email string below for yourself, but the bottom line is that their two major selling points (taking credit for bringing in $486 million of capital investment and 5,000 jobs) are based on projections, not actualized dollars or jobs.

In their presentation to council a few months back, discussed briefly here, they equated these figures to 16 Kroger Marketplaces. At the time, I asked where the other 15 (or their equivalents) were. Why didn’t we have the revenue to back up their claims? Looks like I have my answer.

Now back to working on the 2014 budget….

NOTE: The company in question, USEC, is one that the city, through the IDB, gave two 50% tax abatements for 10 years with the justification that the company would bring in over 400 new jobs and millions of dollars worth of residual revenue from those employees. The Chamber of Commerce publicly encourages tax abatements and then claims their figures in their reports to the city.

From: Trina Baughn

Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2013 3:04 PM
To: David Wilson; Parker Hardy
Cc: Watson, Mark; Krushenski, Ken
Subject: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Gentlemen,

The IDB 2012 Annual report (covering Jan 1 – Dec 31), signed by Mr. Wilson on April 5, 2013, lists USEC “Total # of Jobs and Salaries” as 18.

A January 31, 2013 letter from the OREP, signed by Mr. Watson and Mr. Hardy reports “34 new jobs added” for USEC (on the final page) for July 1, 2012-Dec 31, 2012.

How many total employees did USEC have in 2012 and, of those, how many were hired new during that same year? What are your sources of this data?

Thanks,

Trina

From: Parker Hardy
Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2013 3:08 PM
To: Trina Baughn;David Wilson
Cc: Watson, Mark; Krushenski, Ken
Subject: RE: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Dear Trina:

Thanks for your question.  We are fact-checking back with USEC on this matter and will be back in touch soon.

Parker Hardy, CCE

President/CEO

Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce

From: Trina Baughn

Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2013 3:18 PM
To: Parker Hardy; David Wilson
Cc: ‘Watson, Mark’; ‘Krushenski, Ken’
Subject: RE: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Thanks, Parker. While you are at it, could you or David tell me how much (of the $105M they were obligated to invest) they have invested into capital expenditures since their initial agreement was put into place?

Trina

From: Parker Hardy
Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2013 4:18 PM
To: Trina Baughn; David Wilson
Cc: ‘Watson, Mark’; ‘Krushenski, Ken’
Subject: RE: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Dear Trina;

Since USEC ’s capital investment agreement was with the IDB, then I’m sure you’ll understand that it is inappropriate for me to comment on that board’s behalf.

Parker Hardy, CCE

President/CEO

Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce

 

From: Trina Baughn
Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2013 4:51 PM
To: Parker Hardy; David Wilson
Cc: ‘Watson, Mark’; ‘Krushenski, Ken’
Subject: RE: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Parker,

Should I take that to mean that USEC ’s investments are not included in the figures reported by the Chamber to the city?

Trina

From: Parker Hardy
Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2013 4:58 PM
To: Trina Baughn; David Wilson
Cc: ‘Watson, Mark’; ‘Krushenski, Ken’
Subject: RE: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Dear Trina:

Our metric is “announced” capital investment, so that’s what we report.  If USEC ’s actual agreement for PILOT is with the IDB, then IDB should have the actual confirmation from the company for the amount spent.

Parker Hardy, CCE

President/CEO

Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce

 

From: Trina Baughn
Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2013 5:21 PM
To: Parker Hardy; David Wilson
Cc: ‘Watson, Mark’; ‘Krushenski, Ken’
Subject: RE: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Understood. David has established that he’ll provide those figures.

Do I understand correctly, then, that the $486M of capital investment referenced in your report to council was “announced” as opposed to “actualized?”

Trina

From: Parker Hardy
Sent: Friday, May 03, 2013 1:57 PM
To: Trina Baughn; David Wilson
Cc: ‘Watson, Mark’; ‘Krushenski, Ken’
Subject: RE: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Dear Trina:

In preparing our reports, because we do not require companies to divulge planned capital investments in order to receive our assistance, there are a number of ways by which we determine appropriate “announced” capital investments figures.  Among them are:

  1.  Published reports in the news media
  2. Information provided to us by the investing company that the firm may have chosen not to announce publically or to the press
  3. Project Overview forms submitted to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development when a company asks for state assistance
  4. City building permit reports

To return to your original question regarding USEC jobs that we reported to the City Council and to the Chamber’s Board of Directors, we subtracted previous USEC -provided total employment figures from USEC  -provided 2012 total employment figures, resulting in 34 announced jobs.

Please enjoy your weekend.

Parker Hardy, CCE

President/CEO

Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce

From: Trina Baughn
Sent: Friday, May 03, 2013 2:26 PM
To: ‘Parker Hardy’; David Wilson
Cc: ‘Watson, Mark’; ‘Krushenski, Ken’
Subject: RE: USEC Employee Data Confusion

Thanks, Parker. Your process for data collection doesn’t address the question of how much of the $486M materialized. In your April 24th article, you state that your assistance “yielded a capital investment of some $486M and about 5,000 jobs.”  What it should have said was that your assistance yielded the promise of those investments and jobs but that you have no evidence that they materialized.

Should Mr. Wilson’s research show that USEC did, in fact, invest $105M in capital and if that $105M is part of your $486M, then at the very least you can claim at least 1/5 materialized.

Enjoy your weekend as well.

Trina

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9 thoughts on “My Response to the Chamber of Commerce/USEC Claims

  1. Trina: I happen to have read your full post and the (interminable) e-mail string while working at the Lakeway Public Library on the PowerPoint accompaniment to the pathophysiology course my wife teaches at AOMA, Austin’s acupuncture grad school. And they threatened to run me out of here because I’ve been laughing so loud. Talk about pathology!! Parker Hardy is to honest full disclosure what Al Gore is to self-effacing humility. He oughta be keel-hauled.

  2. Thanks for the update. Perhaps the rest of council will recognize the “bob and weave” moves by the C of C. They have ripped off the city for too long. It’s long past time for it to end.

    Sam Hopwood

  3. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you are doing. I feel a righteous indignation when I realize that our leaders could be using a twisted form of “honesty”, which is the most basic character requirement the citizens want to find in our leaders. I am part of an Oak Ridge prayer group praying for unrighteous leaders to be replaced with righteous people. Each leader chooses for themselves whether that prayer applies to them or not.

  4. Sounds a lot like Gloria Ray and her Knoxville groups: taking credit for things while overstating and getting big bucks from the taxpayers….think it’s time for City to reconsider funding the CofC and Visitors’ group.

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