The newly formed Memphis & Shelby County Regional Economic Alliance held its first public meeting on March 28, signaling the start of a new collaborative approach to growing jobs and investment in the Greater Memphis region.
“It is a tremendous asset for Memphis,” Beverly Robertson, President and CEO Greater Memphis Chamber, told reporters at the meeting. “What this says is that we’ve entered a new era of unity, collaboration, working together to drive economic success in Memphis.”
The alliance advisory board reviewed recommended target industries for recruitment and attraction efforts and discussed priorities related to economic development.
The advisory board includes Robertson, Mayor Jim Strickland, Mayor Lee Harris, Downtown Memphis Commission President Jennifer Oswalt, County Commissioner Willie Brooks and City Councilman Kemp Conrad. EDGE was represented by Board Chair Al Bright.
Teresa Lynch of Mass Economics, a consultant jointly hired in 2018 by the Greater Memphis Chamber, the City of Memphis, Memphis Tomorrow, EDGE and Epicenter to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the opportunities for equitable job growth over the next decade in Memphis, presented an industry cluster-based strategy that will drive the region’s economic development attraction and retention efforts.
Six areas were identified as opportunities through the research. The industry clusters of focus are:
- Medical Device
- Food & Agriculture Technology (AgTech)
- Transportation, Distribution & Logistics (TDL)
- Business-to-Business Services (B2B)
- Emerging Technologies
Build on traded clusters, bolster local clusters
The plan recommendations balance the focus of economic development work between traded and local clusters, providing opportunities for growth from both large corporation expansions and relocations and growth of locally-owned businesses.
To strengthen the region’s traded clusters, the plan calls for recruitment and attraction efforts to focus primarily on Food and Agricultural Technology, Medical Devices and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics. These three traded clusters exhibit opportunity for strong growth over the next decade and represent significant existing infrastructure and commerce in the region. The plan also suggests strategies for accelerating organic growth from existing firms in these industries.
Read more about existing efforts to support growth in these clusters here.
In addition to focusing on recruitment and attraction of new businesses, Lynch also provided complementary recommendations for strengthening job growth in several existing local clusters. The plan also prioritizes job growth from the existing local businesses by leveraging the region’s current strengths in the Music and Emerging Technology sectors as well as refocusing efforts to increase the number of B2B companies in the region that support larger industries.
To see the preliminary presentation, click here.
Leslie Lynn Smith of Epicenter, who introduced Lynch at the alliance meeting, outlined the next phase of work associated with the plan that is currently underway. As point on the next phase of engagement with Mass Economics, Smith is convening groups within each target sector to map out growth plans and strategies to support organic growth in each of the six industries locally.
Chamber SVP of Economic Development Eric Miller answered questions regarding the implementation of the work during the meeting and outlined some of the ways the Chamber has already begun to market to the industry targets outlined in the study.
About the study
In 2018, the Chamber, along with the City of Memphis, Memphis Tomorrow, EDGE and Epicenter, jointly hired Mass Economics to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the opportunities for equitable job growth over the next decade in Memphis. The goal of the research was to establish a framework for job growth in Memphis over the next decade that was both achievable and equitable – meaning it would produce growth in the kinds of jobs that would best help citizens and the region prosper.
The work, now in its fourth phase, included extensive quantitative research as well as interviews with more than 100 local leaders and business owners across a spectrum of industries and sectors.
“We want to see job growth that meets our community’s priorities. Good paying jobs that will create wealth for our community and its citizens – that’s the top priority here.”
- Beverly Robertson, President & CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber
Evaluation criteria for chosen sectors included:
- Significant in size in terms of job growth
- Regional growth trends and
- Potential for long-term economic transformation
- Size of the regional cluster, growth trends of the regional cluster
- Expected US growth for the cluster and significance of the gap between cluster-related assets
- Utilization of existing assets
The resulting recommendations provide a roadmap for a collaborative and comprehensive approach to building prosperity for the region that is focused on creating equitable, sustainable job growth to help propel the region forward.
“We want to see job growth that meets our community’s priorities,” said Robertson of the research and resulting plans. “Good paying jobs that will create wealth for our community and its citizens – that’s the top priority here.”
About Mass Economics
Mass Economics is a research and consulting firm that specializes in urban economic growth and equity. Mass Economics is a technical firm with expertise in data, analytics, surveying, modeling, and strategy, as well as a mission-driven organization committed to inclusive and equitable economic growth. The firm works with public, private, and philanthropic institutions and is nationally known for its work on economic cluster strategies, inclusive and equitable growth, urban land issues, and the creation of models that link economic and physical assets.
About the Memphis & Shelby County Regional Economic Alliance
Intended to serve as an advisory council, the alliance will review public reporting for each agency responsible for aspects of economic development. It will also review and approve plans and ensure that the plans and output of respective agencies responsible for various economic development activities work in coordination with one another.
Alliance advisory council representatives are Mayor Jim Strickland, Mayor Lee Harris, Greater Memphis Chamber President & CEO Beverly Robertson, Downtown Memphis Commission President Jennifer Oswalt, EDGE CEO Reid Dulburger, County Commissioner Willie Brooks and City Councilman Kemp Conrad.
The Greater Memphis Chamber is the lead sales and marketing agency for economic development for Memphis and Shelby County. Our work centers in three key areas of economic development: Public Policy, Business Attraction & Retention and Workforce & Talent Development. We represent thousands of members of the business community as the voice of business in West Tennessee.
Interested in learning more about the Chamber's work?