Shelby County's economic development team makes a persuasive case for less restrictive rules for industries that seek tax breaks.
And it has an effective advocate for a more liberal approach when Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton speaks out on the issue.
Wharton says a "retooling" is sorely needed in the local PILOT (payments-in-lieu-of-taxes) program, which permits property taxes to be frozen for a specific period of time to help the company develop or renovate property and expand its work force.
The fact is, however, that there are more effective arrows in Shelby County's quiver when it tries to bag new employers, to borrow the metaphor adopted by Wharton to describe this important and worthwhile endeavor.
There's no question that the residency rule -- 75 percent of a property tax freeze recipient's employers must live in Shelby County for the duration of the PILOT term -- is baffling to employers, unmanageable and without merit.
Requiring companies to deed their property to a government agency in order to qualify for a PILOT also seems like an unnecessary bureaucratic hassle.
And from a variety of reports, it appears that a change in the culture at agencies like the Industrial Development Board, where companies apply for tax incentives, would be useful.
A less adversarial, more professional atmosphere would probably make some of the requirements seem less onerous.
From all accounts, company officials who want to move to Greater Memphis or expand their operations here find less paperwork and a more accommodating atmosphere in DeSoto or Crittenden County. But a significant downturn in the number of PILOTs issued in Shelby County began long before many of the new, more restrictive rules were put into place.
The trend could more credibly be attributed to bigger problems, such as the growing fear of crime in Memphis and an undereducated work force.
A review of the rules governing PILOTs would be timely and productive, though. The growing list of the unemployed has made the stakes higher among communities competing for a diminishing number of companies that are in a position to move or expand.
Shelby County should do whatever is reasonable, without creating sweatshops or sacrificing its commitment to education, public safety and other essential services, to become the competitor that it once was in the economic development game.