The Amarillo Pioneer

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AEDC-Coke Deal was Motivated by Downtown Projects Over Economic Development

Officials from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation used funds earmarked for economic development to assist the City of Amarillo in obtaining land for the downtown baseball stadium, records show.

According to records obtained by the Amarillo Pioneer, a 2013 deal between the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation and the Coca-Cola Refreshments Company was pursued by officials to benefit downtown projects. In a memo, dated November 30, 2011, Buzz David, then-president and chief executive officer of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, told Matt Fanoe, Coca-Cola's vice president of real estate, that the AEDC hoped to secure a deal with Coca-Cola that would move the company out of downtown and would allow the AEDC to secure the property held by Coca-Cola to assist in downtown development projects.

"Phase One of the revitalization effort includes three major projects: a Convention Hotel, a Parking Garage and a Multi-Purpose Event Venue (MPEV)," David wrote to Fanoe in the November 2011 memo. "The City of Amarillo currently owns the property where the convention hotel and garage are to be sited. To complete the trifecta, the MPEV will need to set on the existing Coca-Cola facility located at 701 South Lincoln Street."

In the memo, David also told Coca-Cola that the AEDC planned to use sales tax revenue earmarked for economic development to build a new facility for Coca-Cola's Amarillo location. Job creation and retention was not the top matter, according to David, rather the "downtown revitalization" efforts were the top priority in the AEDC's motive to secure a deal.

"In order to pursue the downtown revitalization effort, the Amarillo EDC may provide to Coca-Cola a new, state-of-the-art facility within CenterPort in exchange for the Company's existing downtown property," David wrote.

However, in a memo from November 2015, city attorney William McKamie told Amarillo City Councilmembers that the deal was secured to ensure that the Coca-Cola Refreshments facility would not be moved to Lubbock.

"AEDC is a Type-A Economic Development Corporation so its projects must be designed to create or retain primary jobs," McKamie wrote in the memo. "With regard to this project, AEDC wanted to assure that Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc. did not relocate its Amarillo distribution system and those jobs to their new Lubbock facility. The AEDC was motivated by retention of primary jobs of CCR. There was also some discussion that Elk City, Oklahoma could serve as a site to replace the Amarillo facility."

No information from David's 2011 memo indicates that a desire by Coca-Cola to seek relocation of the facility was a factor in the AEDC's decision to seek a deal with the company.

David also wrote a memo in 2013 to members of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, which stated that the City of Amarillo served as a party to the deal, as the City would not have been able to use the land for the stadium deal if the AEDC has been the sole party in the agreement.

"Because the Amarillo EDC is precluded by statute from deeding property to the City of Amarillo, the City is a party to the Real Estate Exchange Agreement," David told board members in 2013. "The property exchange must go through a qualified intermediary. The Real Estate Exchange Agreement also prescribes dates by which all parties to the Agreement must adhere to in order to close the deal. Items within the Agreement that must be satisfied in order to close the deal include the timing of the design of the new facility, an environmental and inspection feasibility period and a title commitment period. Notices To Proceed shall be given by each party at certain dates prescribed in the Agreement."

Funds used for the project by the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation were meant to be used to retain and attract primary jobs to the Amarillo area. By law, AEDC officials are supposed to use funds collected from sales taxes on economic development projects.

The move was eventually approved in 2013, paving way for Coca-Cola to take up operations in a new facility in Northeast Amarillo. The deal was estimated to cost about $8.5 million in total.

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