NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Advocacy groups say growth does not necessarily mean progress and they want discussions about Oracle coming to Nashville to slow down.
The tech giant proposed a facility on the city’s east bank with a $1.2 billion investment and 8,500 jobs. It would be the biggest investment the state has ever seen.
Advocates with the Equity Alliance and Stand Up Nashville held a press conference Monday. They say the city and state support of these big businesses can price native Nashvillians out of their neighborhoods.
“How is Metro Nashville holding Oracle’s feet to the fire to make sure they invest in the real public needs of Nashville?” asked The Equity Alliance Co-Executive Director Charlene Oliver.
“Who’s gonna get these jobs, is that gonna be you? Or is it gonna be someone else that they’re gonna bring in?” asked Stand Up Nashville Executive Director Odessa Kelly.
The groups have come up with dozens of questions they want Oracle to answer before the city moves forward with any votes.
District 5 Councilman Sean Parker was also at the press conference.
“I’ve been doing outreach in my community talking with a lot of people about this proposal, and the biggest concern is the affordability crisis in the urban core, and especially in East Nashville where a lot of property values have doubled or more in the last decade,” Parker told the crowd.
He added, “The state of Tennessee has chosen to severely limit the ability of Nashville, which is the economic engine of our state, to address wages, affordability, and displacement, but I believe we cannot just throw up our hands. Nashville must begin to take the current crisis of affordability and displacement seriously.”
The groups suggested that Oracle could help contribute to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund to help with affordable housing.
The advocates mentioned concern for public education, the homeless population, as well as including native Nashvillians of all races.
“Black residents more than any other demographic in this city have felt the negative impacts of what deals like Oracle can bring to our rapidly changing neighborhoods out north and out east,” Oliver exclaimed. “We need more Black-owned business, homeownership, and pathways out of poverty.”
“Oracle is one of the richest companies in the world and they have the means to help us solve our affordable housing crisis, for us to build workforce development, not just for those who have a college degree, but for those who [are] going to be working in the cafeteria, those that [are] going to be working the gates, those who will not have a degree and also need a job,” added Kelly.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper says that Oracle has every intention of partnering with the community and schools to create educational pathways into their high-paying tech jobs.
On Monday, Andrea Fanta, a spokesperson for Cooper, told News 2 in a statement that the millions in tax revenue dollars potentially brought in from Oracle can go to affordable housing. They also welcome any public input in the process.
“Oracle has a history of partnering with HBCUs in other locations and has been acknowledged as a Top Supporter of HBCUs. With Mayor Cooper’s engagement, company executives have already begun to engage with leaders at Nashville’s HBCUs about similar opportunities,” Fanta said.
The Industrial Development Board is holding a virtual public hearing on the proposal Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. The phone number to attend is 629-255-1989.
While the board’s chair said she had not heard these concerns, one member said she’ll be asking to defer a vote.
“For two primary reasons,” said Tequila Johnson, also a founder of the Equity Alliance. “One, to give Oracle enough time to answer these questions, because I believe that Oracle is a good company and I believe that Oracle wants what’s best for Nashville, but as Ronald Regan said, trust but verify, we need that in writing.”
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Oracle declined to comment Monday.
The following is a full statement from the Mayor’s Office:
“This proposal will bring 8,500 jobs to our city and millions in new tax revenue that can be spent on affordable housing.
Councilwoman Suara has a proposal to declare Metro’s intent to spend a significant portion of property tax revenues from Oracle’s investment – an estimated $9 million a year – on affordable housing. Mayor Cooper fully backs the Councilwoman’s proposal. In his first statement about Oracle, Mayor Cooper expressed a desire to fund affordable housing with a portion of the new revenue.
Oracle plans to bring their Oracle Academy computing curriculum to Metro Schools to prepare our students for STEM careers.
As the proposal makes its way through a transparent process — including a public hearing before the Industrial Development Board, a meeting of the Budget & Finance Committee, and deliberation before the full Metro Council — we welcome and encourage all residents to learn more about the biggest jobs announcement in Nashville and Tennessee history.
As for the broader questions of investments in education and affordable housing, the Mayor looks forward to sharing details of his FY2022 budget proposal at the State of Metro on Thursday morning.”