Riviana Foods Receives PILOT by EDGE Advisory for Memphis Expansion
- Riviana Foods received a payment in lieu of taxes of $80.6 million over 11 years to expand operations in Memphis.
- Riviana Foods is one of Shelby County’s largest water users.
- Protect Our Aquifer wanted to see information about Riviana Foods’ water conservation efforts.
Protect our aquiferSarah Houston’s Executive Director has asked the Economic Development Growth Engine’s Board of Directors to consider Riviana’ Foods conservation efforts Tuesday afternoon before awarding the company an $80.6 million payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) over 11 years.
Riviana Foods is one of the largest users of water in the county.
The EDGE Board of Directors at its meeting in East Memphis unanimously approved the PILOT for Riviana Foods after a 20-minute discussion that stemmed from Houston’s public comments on the matter.
Houston wanted the EDGE board to consider two things on Tuesday. The first was for the council to request more information about Riviana’s water conservation practices as part of this expansion. The second request was that if the PILOT were to be granted, a condition of measuring accountability for Riviana on these water conservation efforts would be added.
“It wasn’t necessarily specific to Riviana, it was just an opportunity to show that they are a very big user of water, they have access to an incredible resource for their product and for their installation” , Houston said after the meeting. “Not really wanting to take on Riviana, but really bringing up on the EDGE board that companies are drawn to Memphis for a variety of reasons and the water is one of those big reasons.”
According to data from Memphis Light, Gas and Water, Riviana was the ninth largest user of water in Shelby County in 2020. As of 2016, the company has been one of the top 12 entities consuming water each year in the county, according to MLGW.
Riviana corresponds to a model of large local water users who receive pilots. Valero, Nucor Steel and Cargill also have EDGE PILOTS and are among the county’s top 20 water users.
Environmental concerns are not commonly raised regarding DRIVERS at EDGE meetings.
Protect our aquifer is a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect, conserve and preserve the Memphis Sand Aquifer. In response to questions from Houston, Riviana officials at the meeting said they didn’t have the answers on hand Tuesday and would require a “full engineering” study to get them.
“Of course, everything would be done with proper permissions and compliance with city, county, state and federal requirements,” said Leslyn Greenier, vice president of operations and engineering at Riviana. . “Ebro Foods (subsidiary of Riviana) and Riviana are very focused on sustainability and improving, increasing and raising awareness of efforts as much as possible in these areas.”
While the EDGE board approved PILOT without those conditions, board member Gerre Currie was initially willing to delay a vote on the matter upon hearing from Riviana. Currie finally voted in favor of PILOT on Tuesday. The EDGE council also said it would take a closer look at the candidates’ water conservation efforts in the future.
The Texas company received an 11-year pay-in-lieu incentive to expand operations in Memphis at 2314 S. Lauderdale St. Riviana is proposing an $80.6 million capital investment and the creation of 80 new jobs with a salary average annual base of about $44,000.
The company said the expansion and renovation of its South Memphis site would improve its ability to produce ready-to-serve rice products. Riviana and its subsidiary Ebro Foods process, market and distribute rice and pasta products.
Riviana said it is also considering locating a facility to produce ready-to-serve products in California.
“Support from Memphis and Shelby County through PILOT incentives will help the applicant with the expenses of expanding their (ready-to-use) production plant into an industrial and ‘severely distressed’ area of the Mid -South”, depending on the application.
Riviana will now have two years to fulfill its commitments set out in the PILOT agreement.
Commercial Appeal reporter Sam Hardiman contributed to this report.