by Kyle Swenson
In the three party arms race over which city will be the first to build a permanent medical mart facility, Cleveland has — on paper at least — an apparent upper hand. The project is scheduled to break ground a full year before competitors New York and Nashville, and thanks to the slick sales-work of soon-ousted County Commissioners and MMPI head Chris Kennedy, the taxpayers are fronting the ticket price.
But the real frosting on Cleveland’s cake is that MMPI brass claim they’ve already locked in business, brandishing 32 signed letters of intent from companies willing to set up shop in the mart and an additional 16 pledges from conferences and trade shows.
At first look, it’s a credible swat to project naysayers who believe the business plan has no legs — credible, that is, until you find out MMPI refuses to announce what companies sent letters. Johnson & Johnson is one thing; Joe’s Band-Aids, quite another. Kennedy, however, isn’t naming names.
The anonymous nature of the Cleveland pledges hasn’t slipped by the competition. Nashville backers in particular have upped their noise volume since early September, lobbing oblique shots at MMPI’s reticence on who will actually fill their $425 million facility.
Talking to NashvillePost.com, Market Center Management Company’s Bill Winsor politely slammed his Cleveland counterparts. Winsor — as the president and CEO of the Nashville mart’s developer — is the Khrushchev to Kennedy’s Kennedy in this space race. When asked about tentative letters of intent, Winsor dropped this: “We could have a lot of letters of intent at this time. Ours would probably have names on them.”
Other Nashvillians were less circumspect. Chatting with trade pub Med City News, Nashville project spokesman Cole Daugherty didn’t pull any punches when the topic turned to MMPI’s apparent headway.
“You build a successful trade center with long-term leases from recognized companies, not with the smoke and mirrors of anonymous letters,” he said.