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New economic development plan announced
Government and business leaders announce new plan for economic development
Posted on 11/08/2018
Government and business leaders in Memphis announced today a proposed set of changes to the local economic development ecosystem designed to accelerate recent economic growth in Memphis and Shelby County. 

Memphis Mayor ​Jim Strickland​, Shelby County Mayor ​Lee Harris​, Greater Memphis Chamber Chairman and FedEx Trade Networks President/CEO ​Richard Smith​ and Interim President/CEO ​Beverly Robertson​, Chief Economic Development Officer and CEO of the Economic Development Growth Engine ​Reid Dulberger​ and EDGE Board Chairman ​Al Bright​ jointly presented the recommendations. 

The proposals address economic development challenges by increasing connectivity in improving the region’s workforce, adding capacity to assistance of existing local businesses, and creating a joint venture between EDGE and the Chamber to establish a data-driven, accountable approach to recruiting  and attracting businesses from outside of the region.   

 “We have momentum in Memphis, and we’re at a time in our history that calls for accelerating that  growth,” Mayor Strickland said. “These improvements are only part of the equation to increase economic development — working hand-in-hand with our work to reduce crime, reduce poverty, and invest in our neighborhoods — but they are meaningful. We must address our No. 1 economic development challenge, which is workforce. And we must make sure that existing businesses, where most of our job growth has  taken place recently, are just as equipped to accelerate, too.   

“We’ve worked closely to build consensus with government and business partners around this new joint venture, which is in line with my priorities of making data-driven decisions and holding institutions accountable,” Mayor Strickland said. “This is a new day in the economic development structure in Memphis, and we’re all coming together to accelerate our job growth.”    

Said Mayor Harris: “I am supportive of Mayor Strickland’s efforts to bring jobs and investment to  Memphis. Shelby County Government is happy to play our part as a partner to the City and support this  great work to update the approach to economic development.”    

The new joint venture between EDGE (the joint economic development agency of City and County  governments) and the Chamber will be governed by a board that, at minimum, includes representatives of  the City, County, Chamber, and EDGE. The joint venture board will set goals based on targeted sectors and researched opportunities annually, and be evaluated on success at the end of each year. The joint venture  will report progress toward goals quarterly.    

Additional staffing will be supported in the joint venture in the areas of research and deal execution, with existing local businesses having the opportunity to take advantage of, as well.  

“This formal partnership will allow us to put more resources behind recruitment and retention of jobs,” Smith said. “It will focus us on being more targeted in our approach, more responsive to existing employers looking to expand here, and will ensure seamless support across the entire business development ecosystem. Furthermore, it creates greater alignment between both public and private  sectors and will allow for strategic oversight and goal setting based upon community priorities, with the built in accountability for driving outcomes that will ultimately create more jobs for Memphians.”   

“Coupling new research capabilities and targeted economic development opportunities with public goals  and accountability, this new joint venture will help us accelerate growth and create a more dynamic and  sustainable community,” Dulberger said.    

 “The vision we seek for Memphis and Shelby County is bigger than what EDGE can achieve alone. This new joint venture serves as a roadmap to help guide us towards a more diverse economy and stronger community,” Bright said. “I look forward to seeing this partnership in action.”    

Also today, Mayor Strickland proposed a new Vice President of Workforce Development for EDGE, a  position that will work to connect local employers’ needs with training and educational avenues.   

The Memphis economy has experienced recent momentum, with some 14,000 more Memphians working  today than three years ago; more than $13 billion in recent, ongoing, or planned development; and  significant points of progress such as the ServiceMaster corporate headquarters move Downtown, the $1  billion renovation of the FedEx hub, and the expansion of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
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