MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Downtown Memphis might soon get another kick in its economic gut, and the boot belongs to Governor Bill Haslam.
The governor wants to shut down the Donnelley J. Hill State Office Building. It would mean moving 900 employees out of the area. While the governor says he wants to keep those workers downtown, there are no guarantees.
Folks downtown are worried, and they have every reason to be. Downtown jobs are leaving, lots of them, leaving businesses with empty dreams and empty cash registers.
The food choices are pretty decent around the downtown government office buildings. One place has been around for awhile, a place called Sam's.
"We depend on the lunch crowd from the city, federal and state, and Morgan Keegan and all the people, you know," said the restaurant's owner, Mustapha Mustapha. "Lunch time is very important for us, definitely."
Lunch time is an easy time to find a table these days. That's not good.
There have already been layoffs at Morgan Keegan. Pinnacle Airlines is moving out of downtown, five hundred are gone.
The latest development comes from Governor Bill Haslam who says the Donnelley J. Hill State Office Building is a brick and mortar has been, as functional as a black and white television set. The state should close it down, according to the governor.
"It's our intention these folks will stay downtown. I just don't think that building is economical for the state and its taxpayers," Haslam stated.
It's a nice intention, but in Tennessee, just because the governor wants something doesn't mean he's going to get it. The way it works is the governor recommends and the legislature approves.
What they sometimes forget is their decisions affect real people. In this case, if the building closes, if the 900 employees aren't kept downtown, Sam's Hamburgers, and other businesses that depend on a thriving downtown workforce, might not make it.
"I don't know what the city's going to have to do. It's going to have to do something to bring some more people downtown," said Mustapha. "We've been here 12 years. We had Morgan Keegan people you know, they laid so many people off. We're going to stick it out."
The governor says state officials will connect with Memphis folks to see if they can find a future use for the building before it becomes yet another vacant office tower in downtown.