B.E.G.-2015 is a not-so tongue-in-cheek plan to:

a)      Spend $5 million to attract smart people or BRAINS to Memphis.

b)      Inspire commitment or ENERGY from existing Memphians to finish something big.  The Power of 10 was discussed in the last post.

c)       Exploit profit motivations or GREED to keep the process rolling along.

We have created demand for geographic expansion.  Racism isn’t solely responsible and neither is crime.  Cheap dirt and subsidized maintenance of infrastructure is responsible!  When we have subsidized land, how do we make Revitalization profitable?  How do we make Smart Growth or Sustainability or Downtown Development profitable?

Because until we do, all we have is a hobby.  Everyone grinning, half with admiration and half with disbelief, at those whacky city-people trying to change the world one project at a time.  All while we city-people grow more and more frustrated with our endless plight.  Greed could be the best motivator to move people from hobbies and ideals to progress and a cycle continual improvement.

Without revenue (price) or expense (cost) benefits, why would someone choose to invest in something risky, time consuming and difficult?  That one was rhetorical.

Why is our current development pattern our pattern of choice?  Because everything in our system is set up to make it profitable.  Land farther away is inexpensive, as is gas, so people will drive farther to save a few bucks on dirt.  Low density new construction is less expensive than the alternative or even revitalization, so people can get more space for their money.  For sixty years the federal government has been funding highway expansion and securing mortgages that both encourage people to buy new and farther from town.  For about as long, Memphis and Shelby County have been redistributing tax revenues from inner city residents and businesses to suburban infrastructure in turn fostering decay around the very tax-payers who made this development pattern possible, thus making movement toward the new more appealing.  The farther from Downtown you travel the lower taxes are.  There are financial and development incentives available to assist new projects without much criticism of location or service needs.

If anyone thinks a rational cost-benefit analysis to the taxpayer has ever been considered, would you please let us know?  However, it is clear that people able to drive until they qualify and who really only want more house for their money have based their decisions largely on greed made possible by the system.  That is okay.  It is clear that businesses have followed the employees and customers and are now perpetuating the pattern further.  That is okay too.

It is okay because everything in our existing system is set up to cause this very thing to happen.  But now, as taxes go higher and higher, services seem to be worse and worse, and our community grows more and more disjointed, we have to realize the time is right to reverse this unsustainable pattern.


The great thing about the Center City Commission’s affiliate boards like the CCDC and CCRFC is that they help investors build profitable projects while doing what is right for the city.  Their incentive packages are not gifts but tools that simply level the playing field by barely overcoming all of the built-in policies making construction elsewhere better investments.

We need more carrots to attract investment, reduce risk and create predictability in the inner city.  Things like Location Efficient Mortgages, Utility Offsets, Tax Abatements, Grants and Tax Credits.


More importantly, though, we need sticks to prevent unsustainable construction in areas that are unprepared to offer schools, police, water, sewer and electricity until areas that are presently served have been maximized.  Things like Growth Boundaries, Impact Fees, Rural Low Density Zoning, Urban High Density Zoning and a flat out moratorium on new infrastructure construction without dramatic population growth.

B.E.G. – 2015 Developer Greed Strategy

I think this is easy.  Essentially we help people move into our area and we stop paying people to move out of it.  Here are the top three things that could help today.

  • MLGW service stops here and now!  No new substations, lines or transformers will be installed until development has occurred around locations with excess capacity.
  • All vacant land outside of the 1960 Boundary of Memphis and inside unincorporated Shelby will be rezoned as some form of agriculture.  It will be treated with appropriate services.
  • A palette of financial incentives will be created to assist reinvestment inside the 1960 Boundaries.  The most incentives will be available for the 1900 City Limits regressing through zones of annexation that happened in the 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

I know this is simplistic civics and/or economics.  But why does everything always need to be so hard?

The argument, as it always is, will be “You can’t tell private land owners what they can do with THEIR property!”

I agree 100%.  But I don’t have to build and maintain your roads and schools, hook you up to a sewer system, install a power plant for you and pick up your trash twice a week.

If we encourage (through incentives, restraints and deterrents) reinvestment into areas already served by municipal amenities then quality of life in these areas will improve making them more attractive.  Why?  For one reason and one reason only: it will become profitable for a lot of people to invest there.

If you build a townhouse on Monroe, the system should reward you because you are surrounded by every city service imagined and no new funds have to be found to support your presence.  In addition, other factors will come into play.  Your homeowner’s insurance will be lower because there is superb fire protection.  Monthly fuel costs will be lower because trips to work or the store are shorter.  And, intangibles like a sense of community will grow.

On the other hand, the system should discourage people from building on a half-acre lot 30-minutes into the country where few services exist.  If you want well-water, a septic tank and solar panels on the roof, then perhaps your property rights should be respected and you should be allowed to build away.  Your homeowner’s insurance should reflect that there is no fire station within 15-minutes of your house.  Your fuel costs will, no doubt, reflect that you are far from civilization.  A sense of community is not for everyone but you absolutely don’t get to share one if you aren’t paying your full ride of what it costs to maintain your piece of the pie.

Maybe we don’t need to have any more charrettes or put together any big plans or wring our hands over the plight of our future.  Maybe we can just have some fun, use some common sense and reinstitute some tough-minded fairness in our community.

So Let’s Do It!

Why are things so dull, ugly and hard?

Why not just pay a few Brainiacs to bring their business ideas to our town?

Why not focus our energies on ten focal points within ten existing communities?

Why not stop paying people to move out of our area?

Brains, Energy and Greed could all be within our grasp.  B.E.G.-2015!  Who’s on board?