Wed. Sep 27th, 2023

Memphis attractive to new businesses despite high crime, say chamber leaders

By Joyce Peterson and Lydian Kennin

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – Memphis is an easy sell.

Despite serious crime problems, local chamber of commerce leaders told Action News 5 they’re having no problem attracting new businesses to the Bluff City.

Memphis has a strong infrastructure with lots of land and buildings available. The workforce is the largest in the state and there are robust training programs in place or in development. And the location is ideal.

America’s Distribution Center, as the city is often called, offers companies many options to get their products shipped coast to coast or worldwide.

At the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce Mid-Year Chairman’s Forum on Thursday at the University of Memphis, Chief Economic Development Officer Gwyn Fisher said the chamber has more projects in the pipeline in the first half of 2023 than in all of 2022.

”It’s been an incredibly exciting year so far,” said Fisher. “Memphis is actually a pretty easy sell. Companies do very well. We’re considered a business-friendly city and a business-friendly state. They look at our utility rates and they want to be here.”

Chamber President and CEO Ted Townsend said they’re managing 55 projects right now, representing 18,000 new jobs and $15 billion in capital investment.

According to him, 96% of those projects are in advanced manufacturing. Townsend added that those companies like Memphis because of the distribution network for their products: the river, rails, roads, and runways.

Memphis would be even more attractive to existing and prospective companies if it got an Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) upgrade, he says.

”They’re producing power and needing power,” said Townsend, “We’re looking at how we can have the most sophisticated electric grid in the nation so that we can embrace all this growth that is coming our way.”

Chamber leaders touted the $5.6 billion Ford Blue Oval City electric truck manufacturing plant in Haywood County that will bring 6,000 jobs to the automotive and EV battery industries.

They also mentioned Richardson International’s decision to spend $220 million to modernize the Wesson Oil plant in South Memphis, saving 100 jobs.

There is something else that works in the Bluff City’s favor right now.

“Memphis has the highest concentration of Black tech talent of any of our peer cities across the country,” said Fisher. “That’s our superpower. That’s our secret sauce.”

It’s an attractive feature for companies, Fisher said, because they can more easily meet their DEI – diversity, equity and inclusion goals – by setting up shop in Memphis.

“We have the highest concentration of Black manufacturing talent,” she said, “and we have more females in manufacturing than any community our size across the country. I’m a lifelong Memphian, and I have never been more excited about where I see our city going.”

Chamber leaders declined to discuss specific companies coming to Memphis, citing privacy issues during the negotiation process.

But they did tell Action News 5 that many foreign companies are choosing to invest in the Bluff City.

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