Thursday, March 19, 2009

Progress on MMPI negotiations

The Med Mart announcement today wasn't as groundbreaking as I thought it'd be: the county commissioners approved an "agreement in principle" toward a "definitive agreement" with MMPI. No site decision or final agreement. But Fred Nance (the county's negotiator) and Tim Hagan said some interesting things about the project.

Nance's main points today sound a lot like the memo of understanding the two sides agreed on a year ago. "The county will have no responsibility for cost overruns," Nance said, and MMPI will take care of all capital improvements. The new agreement also includes a marketing plan and very specific design regulations, he says.

Nance did address the PD's story about economic benefits. Even if the project only attracts one-fourth of the benefit MMPI projects, it's well-warranted, Nance argued.

"Between the expenditure of the bond proceeds and the interest on them, the public investment is just under a billion dollars," Nance said. MMPI projects the convention center and medical mart will generate about a billion dollars a year in economic activity.

"Say it’s off by 75 percent, [though] I doubt it is," Nance said. "We get our money back in less than 5 years. None of this is science. But the order of magnitude -- this is a no-brainer, a tremendous benefit to the community."

Tim Hagan managed not to raise his voice when he addressed the latest press coverage this time. "We believe very strongly that our investment, our own stimulus package, will benefit [the whole community] in the long term."

Sounds like MMPI's strong letters defending the mall site are the biggest news today. I will post more about them later in the day. I hope to write more about the economic benefits debate -- the "why build it at all?" question -- in a few days.

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