Nashville has approved a $3 million incentive payment for investment firm AllianceBernstein, which is relocating its headquarters from New York City.
The grant easily passed the Metro Council on Tuesday night, but officials have tacked on an unusual idea about where the city might get the funds to pay it.
The dollar amount is standard for the city: $500 per job created over a seven-year timeframe. If AllianceBernstein hires its promised 1,000 employees, the company will accumulate about $3.7 million.
And council members heaped praise on the company, saying that it brings a new level of financial services to Nashville, as well as a civic-minded corporate culture that is already being felt as the company migrates its employees to town.
But there is a twist.
The council, for the first time, is asking if the city’s Convention Center Authority (CCA) is willing to pay the jobs grant. Council members, led by John Cooper, see the authority as having surplus funds.
His case is based in part on the fact that the AllianceBernstein office will be located within the “tourism development zone” that was created to funnel tax revenues to the CCA. The zone has proven lucrative, and provided the authority with its surplus.
Cooper told the council that the CCA is allowed to promote “business opportunities” within the zone, which could justify the handling of the incentive payment.
That said, there are deep questions as to whether such a payment would be legal or feasible, or if the members of the authority are willing to share.
But council members decided Tuesday to formally ask.
In a related vote, the council went on record with a nonbinding resolution that says Metro should give city employees raises before awarding future incentives. Council members noted that it could be several years before AllianceBernstein, or Amazon — which has not yet been voted on — would receive any Metro dollars, which likely gives officials sufficient time to fund employee raises.