A proposed incentives package for grocery delivery company Shipt nearly stalled over procedural questions at Tuesday’s Birmingham City Council meeting. But after an impromptu presentation by Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office, the council voted unanimously to approve the measure.
The incentives package gives Shipt up to $1.762 million from the city to “expand and grow” its Birmingham headquarters, according to the resolution. This will come in the form of reimbursing the costs the company incurs in finding and developing new hires . The city will pay Shipt $2,000 for each new employee, for an expected total of 881 employees. The average salary of these new jobs would be $50,000 per year, Shipt representatives told the council.
The plan was presented to the council’s budget and finance committee Monday night. But during Tuesday’s meeting, District 9 Councilor John Hilliard expressed concern that the plan had not come before the economic development committee, which he heads.
“It didn’t come before my committee,” he said. “I don’t fully understand it … I have not had the chance to hear any details.” Hilliard suggested that, instead of considering the item on the daïs, the council send it back to the economic development committee for further review. Because of a law demanding a 24-hour notice for such meetings, that could have happened at earliest on Wednesday.
District 1 Councilor Lashunda Scales echoed Hilliard’s concerns, saying that the proposed incentives were appearing before the council “prematurely.” Scales is also a member of the economic development committee; its third member, Council President Pro Tem Jay Roberson, was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
Woodfin responded that he hadn’t intended to “slight” the economic development committee. He assembled a group of representatives from his office, including Director of Innovation and Economic Opportunity Josh Carpenter, to answer “in full detail right now every question you have.”
Carpenter said the proposal “is one of the biggest economic development projects to come before this council, at least to my memory … . It’s a great opportunity for the city to invest in the future of our workforce. This is going to help Birmingham keep the momentum for being a tech-oriented city.”
After a lengthy discussion of the proposed incentive package, during which Hilliard left the daïs before returning near the end, the council moved to a vote.
“This was an excellent economic development meeting,” Hilliard said before the vote. “I am more than excited to have a company of Shipt’s magnitude here in the city of Birmingham. I really am … I just want to know the details.”
District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt concurred. “When we avoid and circumvent committee processes, this is what happens,” he said.
The council voted unanimously to approve the incentives. Shipt, which was acquired by Target last year for $550 million, is also seeking up to $720,000 in incentives from the Jefferson County Commission.
Also approved was the sale of a parking deck located at 2001 Morris Avenue, adjacent to Shipt’s headquarters in the John Hand Building. Shipt bought the deck from the city for $1 million. That money, said Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Kelvin Datcher, would go into Woodfin’s recently established neighborhood revitalization fund.