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State has questions about advance for Memphis Bioworks Foundation

State officials wanted more questions answered Monday before approving an advance of $6.3 million in state grants to the Memphis Bioworks Foundation toward a new $22 million laboratory building near the University of Tennessee Health Science Center campus.

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The Bioworks Foundation asked the State Building Commission to transfer the money into an escrow account to help the foundation qualify for a federal New Markets Tax Credit, which requires the foundation to have the money up frontThe $6.3 million is the balance remaining out of $17 million in state taxpayer grants to the foundation dating back to 2004. The Bioworks Foundation is developing a biosciences research park on the old Baptist Memorial Hospital site just east of UTHSC. Brandon Wellford, Bioworks chief financial officer, told the commission's executive subcommittee that the advance of state funds by Oct14 would help the foundation meet technical requirements to leverage an additional $2 million in tax credits. But the state grant program is set up to reimburse the foundation for eligible spending it makes, and officials said an advance of the money is unusualFinance officials asked foundation executives last week for additional information and received a detailed response late Friday that must be reviewed by the state attorney general's office and other officials. State Comptroller Justin Wilson, State Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes and State Treasurer David Lillard -- who comprise the Building Commission's executive subcommittee -- told Wellford they still have questions that need clarification before they can approve an the advanceLillard said the questions include controls over the escrow account. But committee members said they do not want to hold up the project and agreed to call a special meeting to approve the advance as quickly as the questions are answered. The New Markets Tax Credits program was created by Congress in 2000 to encourage increased investment in business and real estate projects located in low-income communitiesIndividual and corporate investors receive a credit against their federal income taxes. Wellford said Memphis Bioworks Foundation is building a $22 million lab building in the research park, financed with $7 million in state money and $15 million from banks, the tax credits and other grants. -- Richard Locker: (615) 255-4923 Print this article Back to Top A Share A A A Share Article

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