Memphis Appears Inclined to Pursue Corporate Welfare for Graceland

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Memphis City Council members appear inclined to go forward with a corporate welfare deal for Elvis Presley’s Graceland.

According to The Associated Press this week, they have approved part of a plan for a $75 million expansion project at the Memphis tourist hotspot.

“The deal doesn’t include soundstages that could act as concert venues. City officials were concerned that the stages would put Graceland in competition with Memphis’ main concert venue, the FedExForum,” according to The AP.

As The Tennessee Star reported, Graceland seeks government incentives to help build retail space and a recreational vehicle park, and to expand Graceland’s hotel.

Graceland also had been seeking to add soundstages that could act as concert venues.

As The Star reported in April, the people who oversee Graceland threatened to disassemble the mansion and relocate it to Nashville or even Asia if they didn’t get their way on corporate welfare.

“So why, you might ask, is a city that regularly ranks among the nation’s poorest giving several hundred million dollars in tax breaks to a long-dead rock star’s house museum where the cheapest ticket costs $41?” asked Henry Grabar, writing for Slate.com.

“The company and the city came to a preliminary agreement in February that approves those plans and dedicates even more tax revenue to the Graceland master plan, which the company claims will involve $100 million in investment, and includes an agreement to grant $150,000 a year in local community groups for five years.”

The current package, Grabar went on to say, would add between $194 million and $269 million in reduced taxes for Graceland.

“This is the typical logic backing America’s $45 billion-or-so in annual local tax breaks for corporations. It rests on the believability of the corporation’s threats to relocate or not invest at all. In reality, growth often happens one way or another, and corporate welfare does not have a track record of producing great results. But it’s also true that cities have weakened their hands by making subsidies the norm,” Grabar wrote.

According to Graceland’s own website, the venue has hosted more than 20 million visitors from every state and every country in the world since it opened in the early 1980s and hosts 500,000 visitors a year.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]

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One Thought to “Memphis Appears Inclined to Pursue Corporate Welfare for Graceland”

  1. Jon Clayton

    First, how can stages at Graceland be competition for the Forum when the Grizzlies have the say on what happens in all event spaces in Memphis. Secondly, there are two campgrounds, one old and one fairly new, across from Graceland basically already. Thirdly, Graceland is a registered National Historic Landmark as of 2006 and can not be removed. And now you see why Memphis is ranked almost at the bottom of 150 of the United States largest cities in regards to worst management.

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