Our region's mission: to create jobs.
As we look into our regional mirror as Memphians (and by Memphians, I mean all of us who live in the greater Memphis area) and focus on what we want to achieve for our region this year and, more importantly, for the next five to ten years, where should we be focusing our return on investment? Do we have a plan that is aligned among all our elected officials and the broader regional community both public and private? Is our plan clear so that every citizen knows if it is working and how they can help? Is our regional leadership working collectively to deliver new economy jobs that will attract bright talent to our city?
We appear to have many excellent "initiatives" funded in our city, county, and region. Who makes sure each "initiative" is aligned and will complement the other initiatives? Who is accountable? Who wakes up every morning to think about what infrastructure our region needs to compete for new businesses and jobs? Who is the Mei-Ann Chen of our region who will deliver symphonic business results? We have exceptionally qualified mayors in our county--in fact, we have eight mayors. If we asked each mayor what his or her goals were to grow our region's businesses and which of our region's assets he or she valued and was willing to invest in to deliver such growth, would there be alignment among their goals? Would there be alignment of their processes and timing? Which of these mayors is accountable for achieving goals for the broader region? Which of the legislative bodies are aligned in a goal? Which of our business leaders is accountable for achieving goals for the broader region? All? None?
At a recent meeting, one of our great city leaders quoted Fred Smith as saying, "Alignment is the essence of leadership." To this point, the following five questions could guide our eight governments as they invest our public dollars and our public/private initiatives as a checklist to find complimentary regional goals and objectives. Without greater regional alignment and accountability, efforts are being wasted and opportunity is being lost for the greater Memphis region today, and more importantly for the next decade and next generation. The new American dream is that of a good job for us and for our children. To be a city and region of choice, we have to deliver on the new paradigm of the American dream: new economy jobs. Let's ask the following questions:
1. Is the initiative INNOVATIVE?
2. Does it involve COLLABORATION with other organizations, avoiding duplication and inefficiency?
3. Does it LEVERAGE assets, creating greater impacts?
4. Can it be SCALED UP (is it a prototype for creating more widespread change)?
5. Is it SUSTAINABLE by itself or will it require continued outside funding?
And after we ask the questions, let's make sure there is a regional process that measures achievements and reports on results. Let's put in place a plan and accountability for its delivery.
Ten years ago, in 2001, a strategic plan and a mission for our region were adopted in the report of the Governor's Alliance for Regional Excellence. The mission was, "To firmly establish the Memphis Region as a dynamic, growing, energetic metropolitan region strongly connected to the global economy.
The 2001 report addressed our strategic global future and the 21st century opportunity. It fully defined the Memphis region, the Memphis metro, the regional core and identified the regional systems, the environment, the history, the infrastructure, transportation and logistics, economic development, culture and the arts, sports, convention and tourism, education and research, medical and research, urbanization and demographics, and governance and public management. In the report, ten critical issues were identified requiring expeditious management based upon cooperation, communication, and collaboration within the region:
1. Ensure the quality of the environment.
2. Strengthen the region's infrastructure.
3. Enhance the region's transportation/logistics by building on the core of the Memphis International Airport.
4. Build economic strength and diversity.
5. Elevate education and research to support economic development and quality of life.
6. Coordinate and promote culture and the arts.
7. Protect the region's center cities (revitalization of the urban metro core).
8. Multijurisdictional strategy to address poverty.
9. Build and improve medical and research resources.
10. Use sports, convention, and tourism as economic development tools.
Did these issues receive expeditious management over the last ten years? We know we have let the Lamar Corridor--our critical Logistics Corridor--choke in congestion, moving businesses south, yet we have watched Mississippi build an interstate to our state line in the same time frame. We have let Elvis Presley Boulevard decay' and erode into a street that is unattractive and shocks visitors who come to the second most visited house in America. We have forgotten the southern part of our county. What has worked over the past ten years? What remains to be accomplished? To accomplish our next decade's goals, how do we ensure our efforts will be innovative, collaborative, leverage our substantial regional assets, initiate change that spurs a return on investment, and be sustainable? Is our regional leadership aligned, communicating, and collaborating today to achieve the number one goal for the Memphis region--job growth?
The critical business deliverable for 2012 has to be the alignment of our regional public and private decision makers to deliver expeditiously on jobs, jobs, jobs. We have assets other regions don't have, such as our airport, our location, our water, and our history. We have talented citizens eager to give of their time, talent, and treasure to ensure success for our region--citizens who are looking for strategic leadership from our collective elected leaders.
We must assume an attitude of can-do impatience. We must be willing to take responsibility for local performance regardless of the funding entity, and we must be transparent about how we go about delivering on our goals. But in the final analysis, to be truly successful, our region must embrace innovation, be willing to do things differently, and unite our regional leadership. No real job growth will occur without it!
by Julie H. Ellis, Senior Counsel, Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens, & Cannada, PLLC
Julie Ellis joined Butler Snow as Senior Counsel in January 2003. She is a member of the Government, Environment and Energy Practice Group where she focuses on government relations, aviation, and transportation law. Previously, Ms. Ellis was a partner in a Jacksonville, Florida, law firm following service as an Assistant General Counsel of the City of Jacksonville. Ms. Ellis moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1984 and joined the Federal Express Legal Department where she worked until August 2001. During her tenure at FedEx, she held several positions in the legal department, most recently as Managing Director, Industry Affairs, where she coordinated policy positions for the company within its many trade associations and represented the company before international organizations. Ms. Ellis is noted within the industry for her expertise in aviation noise and emissions issues, having participated in the Congressional passage of the National Noise Policy for aircraft in the United States which was then accepted by the International Civil Aviation Administration, ICAO, for all participating nations. Ms. Ellis also served as a lead author of Aviation and the Global Atmosphere for the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate. Since returning to private practice, Ms. Ellis has concentrated her practice in logistics, aviation, transportation, and related administrative law issues for regional clients. Ms. Ellis is a Fellow of the Memphis Bar Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors for the Greater Memphis Chamber. She previously chaired the Chamber's Aerotropolis Transportation and Access Task Force and now co-chairs the Aerotropolis Planning Task Force. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Leadership Academy, a member of the Advisory Board of Facing History and Ourselves, a sustaining member of The Junior League of Memphis, a member of the Board of Trustees of Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and she served as Chair of the Memphis and Shelby County Metropolitan Charter Commission, which was tasked to write a new charter merging the city of Memphis and Shelby County. Ms. Ellis holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Florida College of Law and is a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College, now Randolph College. Ms. Ellis is married to George B. Ellis and has three children.