In the carnival atmosphere that is large, expensive civic undertakings, the consultant's study is equivalent to the pitchman. The smooth talking guy in a top hat who ushers you behind the black curtain with the promise of future riches.
Last week Pith got a chance to talk to one former yardbarker. They didn't want their name, or the name of their former company, reported. Probably because most of what they said confirmed our suspicions.
According to this Mystery Consultant, their former company employed a lot of very smart number-crunchers whose job it was to manipulate their research so that it pleased their clients. In this case, that meant cooking the books in favor of new or expanded convention centers.
"In (blank) years of conducting appraisals," they say, "I never once saw an assignment where the value didn't hit the bank's target number to make the loan."
Consultants playing fast and loose with numbers isn't a recent phenomena. Forbes' 2005 article "The Answer is Always Yes" was one of the first to shine the light on their incestuous relationship with city leaders. Money quote: "You lose clients if you shoot down projects. They've already made up their minds by the time they come to us."
Nashville's very own sales pitch came courtesy of KPMG. In 2004, the global
accounting giant predicted a new billion dollar convention center would
bring 3,000 new jobs and $225 million in annual spending. Also promised: a freakish, in-no-way-fake, bearded lady.