How Memphis can Defy Expectations and Grow


by Andre Fowlkes, co-president of LaunchYourCity, Inc.
full editorial available here in the Commercial Appeal

For years, Memphis has been among the nation’s top 20 cities, ranked by population. But measured by total economic output — a gauge known as the Gross Metropolitan Product — metro Memphis (the city and its suburbs) ranks an anemic No. 44. There are only a few big cities — think El Paso, Texas, or Jacksonville, Fla. — where things are as out of kilter.

What’s worse, Memphis has been slipping steadily for years. And based on forecasts for the U.S. economy next year, things are unlikely to get much better. Jan Hatzius, chief economist for Global Investment Research at Goldman Sachs, sees 2 percent growth for the U.S. economy in 2013.

So the question becomes, how can Memphis defy expectations and outperform the nation?

The answer? Build new businesses in growing industries. If ever there was a time to pump up our GMP and break out of our rut, it would be now, while the rest of the nation is stagnant and not when things get moving again.

It starts with talent, and right now we have great human assets who are eager to build businesses. But we are lacking two areas: technical and CEO-level talent…. If we solve these two missing components, the investment capital will find its way here.

… I think the city should put together an incentive program to recruit this technical and CEO-level talent to Memphis, and then match them to local proven businesses. At the same time we can increase our efforts to provide training in these areas for locals who have the desire.

… Can the city of Memphis allocate $500,000 to top-notch ambassadors whose main job is to sell Memphis and recruit talent and capital from all over the country? Can we then give them incentive packages to dangle in front of select talent to move to Memphis?

… [With a] $1 million bet each year on Memphis that will contribute in a major way to outperforming the country’s 2 percent growth expectations for next year.

Edging Forward: How Memphis can defy expectations and grow by Andre Fowlkes, Commercial Appeal, December 24, 2012