Metro Industrial Development Board approves Oracle development deal

Oracle rendering
Posted at 4:24 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 19:49:12-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Metro Nashville Industrial Development Board voted 7-2 and approved a deal with tech company Oracle, making it the largest jobs deal in Tennessee history. The decision now heads to Metro Council for approval.

If approved, the company would create 8,500 new jobs in the area by 2031 with an average yearly salary of $110,000. Additionally, they look to create more than 11,500 ancillary jobs and 10,000 temporary jobs through building, operating and maintaining the proposed campus.

But the deal has come with its share of backlash. Tuesday’s Industrial Development Board meeting was the first opportunity for a public hearing on the Oracle deal.

For nearly three hours, people called in, asked questions and voiced their concerns. While some were excited, others said the development would be too much too soon.

Commissioner Bob Rolf of the TN Department of Economic & Community Development says this a deal two years in the making, but most of the public only heard about Oracle’s interest two weeks ago.

One woman called in to say, "I think regular citizens like me deserve just as much time to process and to see what's happening." Other callers shared the same concerns saying, "we’re working on an uphill battle trying to say what we would like to see and try to revise what’s going on."

As for the 8,500 jobs, people say they want answers as to who gets them and what the city plans to do about the shortage of affordable housing. Ultimately, people say they wanted accountability to make sure Oracle stayed true to their word on all the promises they've made.

Mayor John Cooper was on hand to answer many of the fiscal concerns regarding the tax incentives with the Oracle deal.

He says it’s important to know, Oracle is paying for what it takes to build their new $1.2 billion facility on the East Bank. That means roads, sidewalks, a pedestrian bridge and park space if needed.

“All of this will be Oracle’s responsibility,” said Cooper.

Once those infrastructure changes are made, it becomes Metro property.
Oracle believes this will cost roughly $175 million.

In return, the city will reimburse Oracle half of the property tax revenue they generate for the next 25 years or until their investment is paid off, without interest.

Cooper says the other half is used by the city to address affordable housing, fund STEM programs in Metro schools and historically Black colleges.

"We have an opportunity to create 8,500 jobs here. Not just jobs, but STEM careers. The type of careers that can change families," Cooper said.

Cooper did not elaborate on the plan for affordable housing other than to say council member Zulfat Suara came up with the plan to use the generated tax revenue for affordable housing initiatives.

One caller said we should make it clear if by affordable we mean low-income housing and who these homes would benefit. Would these homes be built for the people living in Nashville already or the people moving into the city?

Cooper noted that he has been speaking with Oracle to ensure they make a reasonable effort to hire from Davidson County. An Oracle spokesperson said they do much of their recruitment from college campuses and they intend to do the same in Nashville. They say the same opportunity will extend to the HBCU's as a way of promoting diversity among their workforce.

"Oracle shares Metro’s commitment to HBCU’s. They are already ranked as a top supporter of HBCU’s nationwide and they want to bring their Oracle Academy to Metro Schools and inspire and help prepare young people from K-12 in careers as engineers," Cooper said.

Oracle says they've also committed to a goal of spending a minimum of 20 percent of it's project costs across small minority-owned businesses.