Economy & Jobs

Submitted by the Greater Memphis Chamber

Traditionally, Memphis has been recognized nationally as a center for logistics and distribution. With its central location, top-in-class transportation infrastructure and strong river, rail, road, and runway presence, it is no surprise that Memphis holds the title of America’s Distribution Center. With five Class I railroads, the intersection of two of the nation’s busiest highways and the FedEx World Hub, Memphis provides companies unparalleled access to the world.

In recent years, the majority of companies considering Memphis as their future home have come from the advanced manufacturing industry. These companies see the logistical advantage of being located here, but they also recognize several distinct benefits Memphis can offer – benefits on which the Greater Memphis Chamber plans to capitalize.

Water: Memphis sits on a 2,000-year-old aquifer that contains 99.8 trillion gallons of water. If you moved that above ground, it would cover the entire Shelby County and rise to the top of Clark Tower. Naturally pure, our water has been filtered through clay and sand before reaching the aquifer. This quality means Memphis refineries can reuse the water in their cooling towers up to 16 times versus only six times in a peer city like San Antonio. As a result, Memphis provides industry with opportunities for greater economics, less maintenance, reduced waste, improved products, and increased safety. The Chamber plans to extensively market Memphis’s water resources as a cost-saving attraction for doing business in Memphis.

Workforce: The Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW), a priority initiative of the Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle and the Memphis and Shelby County Regional Economic Development Plan, launched in late 2014 with the goal to provide employers access to the talent they need to compete, and people access to the skills they need to get good jobs. GMACW is changing the Greater Memphis workforce by building a pipeline of high-skilled workers to address the needs of businesses in the Mid-South area. Through the collaboration of its partner organizations, GMACW works every day to eliminate the skills gap in Memphis. The work the Alliance is doing is key in growing our middle class – by filling the available manufacturing and logistics jobs in our community and attracting new business with a highly skilled workforce.

Leadership: Possibly the greatest indicator of Memphis’s prosperous future is this community’s strong business leadership. The Chairman’s Circle – a group of over 100 CEOs dedicated to making Memphis great – has been called this city’s next generation of leadership. And under them is a quickly emerging group of young professionals ready to spark transformational change in this community. SoundCheck, the Chamber’s young professional group, with over 200 members and growing, is eager to play a part in the economic growth of Memphis. It is these leaders that are investing in the revitalization of the inner city, but it is also these leaders that are pushing forward important initiatives like the development of our workforce, green space, entrepreneurship, a clean Memphis and more. And when companies are looking at investing in Memphis, nothing speaks louder than an engaged group of business leaders who love their city.

Memphis still has its challenges. Local business owned by African Americans, Hispanics, and other national racial minorities account for one percent of all gross business revenues in the Memphis area, according to recent Census figures. Currently, the unemployment rate for African Americans in Shelby County sits at 15.6 percent. It jumped 5.2 percent in 2009 and has not seen a full recovery since the recession ended in 2011. However, it is through the assets listed above, strong collaboration within the community and aggressive action that we will see those percentages change in the near future.

Additional Resources

The Greater Memphis Chamber Data Center

The Greater Memphis Chamber Job Hunting Center

Market Analysis for Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan