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Job growth: a strategic plan for Greater Memphis.

A Visioning

It isn't a stretch to say that the world is still in the midst of an unprecedented economic recession. While there are trends signaling the nexus of a post recession economy on the horizon, recessional realities need to be faced and confronted now.

Tennessee has not waited on the sidelines to assess what measures need to be taken. In fact, many counterbalance strategies are well in play to repair and repel from a mountain of economic uncertainty.

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam ran on a platform of job creation for Tennesseans and was elected by the largest margin of any non-incumbent in the state's history. This mandate result shows what critical importance jobs have for the citizens of Tennessee. Governor Haslam has launched multiple strategic initiatives to combat economic challenges and unemployment with value-creating opportunities. His top priority? Making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.

Strategic Planning

In April 2011, Governor Haslam released his Jobs4TN plan, which laid out four key strategies for achieving his ambitious goal. The Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (ECD) has been tasked with implementing and executing the Governor's blueprint for job growth. The four strategies are 1) prioritizing business development efforts in six key clusters in which the state has a competitive advantage; (2) mitigating business regulation; (3) investing in innovation; and (4) establishing economic regionalism in each of nine "jobs base camps" regions across the state. One of those nine is the Greater Memphis Region (GMR).

Home to the world's busiest cargo airport, the second largest inland port on the Mississippi River, and the nation's third busiest trucking corridor and third largest rail center, the Greater Memphis Region is truly America's Crossroads to Commerce. Comprised of four rapidly-growing counties, Fayette, Lauderdale, Shelby, and Tipton, respectively, the region offers a wide array of economic development assets. With a population of 1.3 million, the region includes four of the largest 25 cities in Tennessee and boasts numerous world-class research institutions, cultural and creative events, and recreational activities. As a result, the Greater Memphis Region has become a highly sought after recreational and commercial destination.

Between June and August 2011, ECD's regional staff embarked on an extensive outreach effort to the region's key economic development stakeholders that included a variety of one-on-one and group meetings. In addition to this economic driving tour, ECD's regional staff collected every available strategic plan in the region and began assessing the composition and goals of each. Areas of overlap were identified in order to develop a thematic matrix of economic development strategies in the region. Commonalities and variances from every municipality stakeholder provided an inventory of actionable priorities that aligned well with the Jobs4TN framework.

Regional Strategies


All of the region's economic development partners are working together to identify and recruit new businesses to the region. ECD's regional staff will work with its local partners to identify potential sites and develop incentive packages for prospective companies. Regional partners will also work together to develop the TNPremier sites recruitment database to provide companies with easy-to-access demographic data, as well as to develop targeted marketing materials for site selection consultants and potential prospects. The region will focus its recruitment efforts on several key sectors, including logistics, healthcare and biosciences, advanced manufacturing, renewable energy technologies, and tourism. Segmentation within these sectors will occur based on whether a specific operation is a manufacturer, warehouse and distribution center, call or data center, research and development facility, or corporate headquarters.

The Greater Memphis Region possesses inherent attributes that have historically been attractive to businesses conducting site due diligence. With Memphis as the region's natural anchor, the region is known world-wide as America's Distribution Center due to its extensive transportation and logistics infrastructure. Located on the Mississippi River, Memphis is home to five major U.S. interstates, the fourth largest inland port in the United States, and the nation's third busiest trucking corridor and third largest rail center. Memphis International Airport, home to one of FedEx's Super Hubs, has been the world's busiest cargo airport for the past 19 years. FedEx's presence at the airport ensures that any company located in the region can ship its goods to any point on the globe overnight.

In order to ensure that the region maintains its preeminent position as a leading distribution hub, there has been considerable capital investment in the region's infrastructure. For example, Memphis International Airport has recently undergone over $1.0 billion in modernization improvements, and the five Class I railroads in the region have invested over $500.0 million in new or expanded rail systems. With the anticipated expansion of the Panama Canal, more river traffic will be accommodated by the Port of Memphis. The eventual completion of the Canada to Mexico Superhighway, I-69, will make Memphis the centermost point of road shipping in North America. Also, the construction of I-22 from Memphis to Birmingham is nearly complete, providing yet another direct connection to major East Coast markets. Meanwhile, plans call for the city to gain a third bridge across the Mississippi that will accommodate both road and rail traffic.

ECD's regional staff and its partners will leverage this robust transportation, logistics, and distribution infrastructure as well as the region's many other competitive advantages, using several specific strategies to incur job creation.

Existing Business Outreach

One of the primary strategies of the Jobs4TN plan is to focus on existing industries, which represent nearly 86.0 percent of all new jobs created in the state of Tennessee since 2008. The Greater Memphis Region is home to some of the most recognizable brands and companies in the world. Partnering with local economic development organizations, ECD's regional staff will systematically reach out to the region's largest employers to see if there are opportunities to help them expand and remain competitive in today's global economy. By meeting with over 60 companies a month, ECD's regional team will be able to provide meaningful support to the region's existing industries.

The goal of these visits will be to form strategic relationships with companies so that continual communication can occur between local economic development organizations and the proper contact at each company. These existing business visits will become "one-stop-shops" where companies can simultaneously hear about all the federal, state, and local programs and incentives for which a company might be eligible. These existing business consults should also identify opportunities to assist existing companies with expansions, as well as identify companies that are at risk of closing or moving to another region. Additional deliverables have been created to provide existing industry with more access to the global economy. Recently, Governor Haslam rolled out TNTrade, an export enterprise system with two primary components that will assist Tennessee companies to expand their markets. The Market Access Program (MAP) will provide eligible businesses qualified reimbursement of export-related expenses, and the Medical Device Trade Mission will match Tennessee-originated technologies with Asian-based prospects. A full complement of resources will become available this winter with the launch of ECD's Rural Business Services Initiative, aiming to become a catalyst for growth in the region's rural communities.


The Greater Memphis Region has a robust innovation and entrepreneurial infrastructure. At present, there are more than 20 innovation and entrepreneurship organizations in the region's ecosystem that together have accounted for over 12,000 new jobs and $3.1 billion of new capital investment over the past four years. With the momentum created by Governor Haslam's INCITE (Innovation, Commercialization, Investment, Technology, Entrepreneurship) initiative, an infusion of efforts is underway to identify and leverage synergies between various organizations. Startup Tennessee was the first region established in the U.S. as part of the StartUp America Partnership. Through this architecture, nine regional accelerators were selected to provide critical access of formative resources to young startup companies. The Greater Memphis Regional Accelerator Consortium as well as the Memphis Research Consortium, a $10.0 million collaborative being funded by the state, will facilitate intensive efforts for entrepreneurs and researchers to properly structure and position their business and technology concepts for rapid growth. In addition, several "Outreach to Accelerate" sessions have been organized and conducted in order to bring programmatic content to the broader region, which should afford an opportunity for scalable entrepreneurship endeavors and result in tangible commercialization pathways to progress.

Workforce Development

The region also recognizes that workforce development is critical to remaining competitive in today's global economy. Based on findings from its existing industry visits, ECD's regional staff will work to identify opportunities for higher education institutions and workforce development agencies to meet the workforce needs of existing employers. It is believed that with more emphasis being placed by corporations on lean distribution and lean advanced manufacturing agendas, customized, industry-specific curriculum will see vertical development in order to meet workforce demands. Tethering higher education and trade schools to the point of impact and performance is vital to addressing the macroeconomic necessities for a highly-skilled legion of appropriately-trained professionals. In addition, ECD anticipates opportunities to help explore the establishment of digital factories and call centers within rural and urban geographic clusters of high unemployment.

Smart Action

ECD's regional staff has identified four thematic action items for the 2011-12 year:

Action Item #1: Develop a system for monitoring and ensuring the progress of key regional infrastructure projects.

Continuing to upgrade infrastructure is critical to maintaining the region's advantage as one of the world's best distribution hubs. ECD's regional staff will work with its local economic development partners to develop a system for tracking the region's key infrastructure projects on a monthly basis. ECD's regional staff will then convene private sector leaders as well as federal, state, and local elected officials to discuss progress on these key infrastructure projects on an as needed basis. The region's first monthly report will be completed by the end of Q4 2011.

Action Item #2: Match currently unemployed workers with currently available jobs.

The region's workforce investment board has recently developed, a database of available employees in the region. As part of its existing business out reach efforts, ECD's regional staff will meet with employers that have the highest number of unfilled positions to identify current job openings. ECD's regional staff will then work with the local workforce investment board, the Tennessee Department of Labor, and career transition groups to cross-reference the skills of individuals in the database against the skills needed for these vacant positions and then systematically help connect potential employees with potential employers.

Action Item #3: Partner with the region's ECD-funded accelerator and other innovation partners to ensure the region's entrepreneurial programs are available to entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors throughout the region.

Although most of the innovation activities in the region are currently occurring inside Shelby County, most partners believe there is an opportunity to expand these activities into the larger region. To assist with this effort, ECD's regional staff will help the ECD-funded accelerator and other innovation partners connect with key economic development partners in Fayette, Lauderdale, and Tipton counties. Specifically, ECD's regional staff will help recruit entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors from outside Shelby County to get them engaged with the regional accelerator and with innovation organizations in the region.

Action Item #4: Create a collaborative environment between the Greater Memphis Region's economic development partners.

Incredible progress towards greater collaboration has been made in recent years in Shelby County with the launch of EDGE and the Memphis Shelby Growth Alliance, two efforts focused on drastically reducing and unifying various economic development organizations within Shelby County. ECD's regional staff will participate in these collaborative efforts as well as work to connect these organizations with other economic development efforts in the larger region. This will in part be accomplished through ECD's regional staff holding monthly meetings with economic development partners from the entire region.

All of these ambitious endeavors will require purposeful and intentional actions from the greater collective of partners that are invested in job creation, both directly and indirectly. Incrementally, the plan to exact change in the Greater Memphis Region begins with a team dedicated to serving Tennesseans and being careful stewards of the state's resources. With many of the Jobs4TN methodologies being enacted in the market already, 2011 is positioned to produce higher job creation totals than those in previous years, and a robust pipeline of project-based activities could create the foundation for strong results in 2012.

America's Aetropolis

Runway: Memphis International Airport

* Busiest air cargo airport in North America since 1992

** Shipped 3.7 million metric tons in 2009 ** Eight all-cargo airlines ** Thirty-seventh busiest passenger airport ** Third largest UPS sorting facility in the U.S.

* Home to FedEx with major hubs for UPS and DHL

* Minimal Closure Airport: Memphis has more sunny days each year than Jacksonville, Florida

* More experienced logistics workers per capita than any other U.S. city

Road: Interstate Crossroads

* Nation's third busiest trucking corridor (I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis) connects the Atlantic and Pacific coasts

* Through Memphis, I-55 is America's primary north/south corridor for the Midwest

* Memphis is the mid-point of new superhighway connecting Canada to Mexico I-69

* Memphis is the starting point of new I-22 corridor, a straight shot to Birmingham and Atlanta

Rail: Greater Memphis Region Is Served by Five Class 1 Rail Systems

* Norfolk Southern, Burlington Northern/Santa Fe, Union Pacific/Southern Pacific, CSX, and Canadian National

* Third largest rail center in the U.S. behind Chicago and St. Louis

* Home to six fully operational rail yards with over two million annual lifts capacity

* From Greater Memphis Region by train, 45 states (including Canada and Mexico) can be reached within two days

* Single-system shipment to all 48 contiguous states, Alaska, Mexico, and Canada

River: On the Mississippi River, America's Primary River Artery

* U.S. Customs collects more import duties from the Port of Memphis than from most major U.S. seaports, including the Port of New Orleans

* Memphis is the second largest port on the Mississippi and the fourth largest inland port in the U.S.

* Memphis is the largest still-water harbor on the Mississippi

* Only refinery in the state of Tennessee calls Port of Memphis home, Valero petroleum refinery

Global Power

* International gateway for product export and import via four Foreign Trade Zones

* Ranked 23rd out of 100 U.S. metros in total value of products exported

by J. Edward (Ted) Townsend III, Regional Director, State of Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, Greater Memphis Region

J. Edward (Ted) Townsend III is the Regional Director of the State of Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (ECD) serving the Greater Memphis Region, which is comprised of Fayette, Lauderdale, Shelby, and Tipton counties. Prior to joining Tennessee ECD, Townsend was the co-founder and chief operating officer of arGentis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., of Memphis, a privately-held bio-pharmaceutical company involved in the licensing, development, and commercialization of therapies for auto-immune and ophthalmic diseases. During his tenure, the company successfully raised $2.0 million in capital from angel and institutional investors. A graduate of the University of Memphis, Townsend also served as executive vice president and managing partner of Agile Minds, LLC, a consulting firm in health care and life sciences, and currently sits on the board of directors of arGentis, Life Science Tennessee, Memphis Research Consortium, and the Memphis Shelby Growth Alliance. He is also a member of the Tennessee Economic Development Council, Brookings Institute Metropolitan Business Plan Leadership Team for Memphis, the West Tennessee Rural Planning Organization Technical Committee, and the Shelby County Joint Economic & Community Development Board.
Table 1. Greater Memphis at a Glance

                                            HS Graduate     Bachelor's
                                             Or Higher       Or Higher
                  Population   Median Age   % Population   % Population
                     2010      2005-2009      Aged 25+       Aged 25+

Greater Memphis   1,054,953       34.5         84.1%          25.9%

Fayette              38,413       39.9         80.3%          17.8%

Lauderdale           27,815       36.1         71.8%           8.7%

Shelby              927,644       34.1         84.7%          27.5%

Tipton               61,081       36.1         82.6%          14.1%

                                     Available       Unemployment
                   Labor Force         Labor             Rate
                  (October 2011)   (October 2011)   (October 2011)

Greater Memphis      502,320           57,780           10.3%

Fayette               19,120            2,950           14.1%

Lauderdale            10,020            1,480           13.3%

Shelby                44,480           50,120           10.1%

Tipton                28,700            3,230           10.1%

                     Average                 Nearest
                  Private Sector        Public Riverport
                  Annual Income    (In Miles from County Seat)

Greater Memphis      $45,565       Memphis and Caruthersville

Fayette              $37,539           Memphis (49 Miles)

Lauderdale           $31,157        Caruthersville (47 Miles)

Shelby               $47,315            Memphis (0 Miles)

Tipton               $30,601           Memphis (38 Miles)

                         Commercial Airport
                    (In Miles from County Seat)

Greater Memphis        Memphis International

Fayette           Memphis International (49 Miles)

Lauderdale        Memphis International (47 Miles)

Shelby            Memphis International (0 Miles)

Tipton            Memphis International (38 Miles)

                   (In Miles from County Seat)

Greater Memphis           I-40 and I-55

Fayette               Direct Access to I-40

Lauderdale           24 Miles to Access I-40,
                     26 Miles to Access I-155

Shelby            Direct Access to I-40 and I-55

Tipton               20 Miles to Access I-40

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
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Author:Townsend, J. Edward "Ted", III
Publication:Business Perspectives
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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