Home
Get the SourceBook!
Announcing...
A Strategic Global Future
Understanding the Region
Metro Memphis Area:
   The Regional Core
Components of the Metro
Metro Regional Systems
Environment
History
Infrastructure
Transportation & Logistics
Economic Development
Culture & Arts
Sports, Convention & Tourism
Education & Research
Medical & Research
Urbanization & Demographics
Governance &
Public Management
21st Century Opportunity
The Memphis Region
A Strategic Global Future
Understanding the Region
Metro Memphis Area:
   The Regional Core
Components of the Metro
Metro Regional 
Systems/environment
History/Infrastructure
The Memphis Region
Transportation & Logistics
Economic Development
Culture & Arts
Sports, Convention & Tourism
Education & Research
Medical & Research
Urbanization & Demographics
Governance &
Public Management
21st Century Opportunity
Assets

The region has a large and diversified economy.
There are three Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the region (Memphis, Jonesboro and Jackson), with a combined Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP) of $39.022 billion. The Memphis MSA is the 58th largest economy in the U.S. and produced a gross domestic product of $33.7 billion in 1998 of which $3.6 billion represented exports. The largest component of the metro economy is services, accounting for 27% of total wages and earnings. The government, manufacturing and transportation sectors each represented just over 13% of total earnings and wages. Wholesale and retail followed at around 10% respectively. In 1996, the Memphis MSA had a per capita income of $24,945, higher than the national average of $24,164. Per capita income growth in Memphis, 36.63%, significantly exceeded the national average of 26.14% from 1990-1996.

The region is a diverse headquarters center.
The Memphis region has a variety of headquartered companies primarily located in the metro area. In addition to FedEx and AutoZone, two Fortune 500 headquarters, are Dunavant Enterprises and International Paper, two recognized Forbes private 500 companies. Additionally, Sparks is the largest commodity trader in the world, Morgan Keegan is one of the largest investment bankers, Belz Enterprises is one of the nation's leading development companies, The Kemmons Wilson Companies (founder of Holiday Inn) is also a major privately held company located in Memphis.

The region has strong connections to the global marketplace.
The region's role in the national and global economy has depended on Memphis' ability to provide the connections vital to maintaining trade flows and passenger traffic across the Mississippi River. The Memphis region's strong transportation, logistics and communications infrastructure provides the access and doorway to the global economy. Within the super region, Memphis has the largest concentration of transportation facilities of any region in the super region.

The region is becoming a communications hub.
Memphis' regional economy has evolved through several important stages and grown to occupy its current position as a leader among the world's distribution, logistics and transportation centers. Today, coordinating transportation and distribution activities in a world economy increasingly depends on high-capacity communications. Developing the necessary communications network requires investment in the physical infrastructure and the workforce to operate the system.

The region has the framework of institutional resources for building a "New Economy."
The Memphis region benefits from having three major state universities to provide the foundation for higher education and research. The three largest universities are: Arkansas State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Memphis. In addition, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the region's medical centers provide the necessary research and training to build and support "new" economic activity in the bio-med health sciences field. Together these institutions enable business incubation and startups to be facilitated. An example is the TriStar incubator, a private research facility created by UTHSC. These institutions working collaboratively along with community college workforce training programs help prepare the region for new economic activity.

The regional economy is distributed across three distinct zones: the "metro" area, the "regional" area and the ring of 10 regional perimeter urban centers.
The first economic zone is the metro area. This zone contains the largest and densest concentration of economic activity and forms the economic center of the region. The second zone encompasses a large regional area surrounding the metro core and contains 10 smaller centers. The third zone, defined by a ring of 10 regional centers, forms the regional perimeter, or edge of the Memphis market area. Each of the 20 regional centers has its own set of economic activity that collectively contributes to the total regional economy.

The metro economy is distributed across a series of centers and corridors.
The Poplar Avenue/Bill Morris Parkway corridor, anchored by three major concentrations (the downtown-midtown, the I-240 Beltway intersection, and the emerging Collierville center) provides major support for the metro economic structure. A large distribution/industrial corridor anchored by the airport (MIA) extends along the southern segment of the I-240 beltway into DeSoto County, which has become a rapidly growing area. Several distinct older industrial and newer retail clusters are located along the I-40 corridor from Fayette County to St. Francis County. The I-55 corridor, running from Blytheville to Hernando, forms the backbone for several important industrial and trucking distribution concentrations. In the metro area, important economic activities are located in Millington and West Memphis, and along the US-78 corridor, Germantown Parkway and Stage Road (Hwy 64) is also becoming a location for companies seeking industrial sites.

The "regional area" surrounding the metro area is an important part of the Memphis economy.
The regional area, the area surrounding the metro inside the regional perimeter ring, is the second economic zone. One of its more significant economic activities is created by the casinos in Tunica. Tunica, only 36 miles from Memphis, has emerged as a major economic center spurred by the primary engine of tourism. BMW has recently announced a new distribution facility in Senatobia. Oxford, with the University of Mississippi and its associated medical school in Jackson, MS, provides significant diversity to the region's economy, while Bolivar is known for its logging industry and its mental health institution. Batesville is a leading national funeral service supply center and Holly Springs is an educational and tourism center. Osceola, with its river port, manufacturing and historic sites, and Forrest City with its manufacturing, are important centers in the Arkansas portion of the region.

Ten economic centers define the regional perimeter.
Every one of the 10 economic centers defining the regional perimeter has a role the in the regional economy. Two of the centers, Jackson and Jonesboro, are diversified metropolitan economies with a mix of educational, medical, and manufacturing activities and a GMP of $3.342 billion and $1.973 billion respectively. Blytheville is the second largest steel-producing center and the largest structural steel manufacturing area in the U.S. Tupelo is known for its economic revival strategies and has become an economic center and a model for the rest of the country. Tupelo (center of the hardwood furniture industry), Clarksdale (home of the Delta Blues Museum) and Corinth (with its Civil War history) are recognized heritage tourist centers. Dyersburg, Henderson and Brinkley are primarily regional service centers.

Recommendations

Continue to strengthen the transportation, logistics and communication infrastructure as the platform for global market access.
All aspects of the Memphis economy are connected to and benefit from world market access. The restructuring of the North American distribution pattern presents the greatest opportunity to strengthen the existing logistics-based business activities centered in Memphis. This will require significant new investments in transportation, logistics and communications. While the transportation infrastructure has already given rise to the distribution segment of the regional economy, it also forms the platform for building other economic functions within the region, such as bio-med, sub-assembly and specialty manufacturing. Information technology is also growing rapidly as a component of the economy due to the demands of the logistics industry. As Memphis emerges as a communications center, greater demands are being placed on the need for improved infrastructure and a trained workforce. The region's telecommunications providers and educational institutions will have to play an active role to fulfill new requirements.

Strengthen the institutional and research infrastructure to support the development of the "new economy" and bio-med.
Today's knowledge-based economy (i.e. information technology and bio-med) has recently begun to develop in the region and is evolving as a result of institutional and research capabilities. The region has university, medical and research talent necessary to develop a strong foundation for new economy businesses and jobs. However, these institutions will need to be significantly strengthened and connected to have a meaningful impact on the region's economy.

Generating new business activity is one way to build the region's economy and should be a key economic development initiative. The ability to generate new economy, knowledge-based businesses is largely dependent on the commercialization of technology, based on the amount and quality of research carried out in the region. A broader structure to support the new economy must include both new initiatives and better coordination of existing resources. For example, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital should forge a working relationship to maximize their investments and efforts to become leaders in the bio-med/health science industry. In addition, model efforts like Tri-Star for the commercialization of technologies need to be broadened.

Create one integrated workforce development program.
The competition for human resources is as critical as the competition for new business. The ability to both attract high quality labor and to increase the skill level of the local work force is necessary to ensure the region's economic future. Traditionally, the Memphis region's economy has been transportation and logistics based, and as a result a significant portion of its workforce is trained and skilled in those areas. Because it is in transition toward the new economy, Memphis is importing much of its high value technical labor, rather than developing highly trained employees within the region. If properly trained the regional workforce would become better qualified to enter higher paying "new economy" jobs. Education, workforce development, and economic development are a single issue in the 21st century.

Currently, there are several different workforce programs operating throughout the Memphis region. Some projects like "Academies in School'" and the "Smith & Nephew / City Schools Partnership" are national models. The various regional institutions that provide workforce training do not have full reciprocity across state lines. Residents living within the region generally must pay full out-of-state tuition to obtain training in another state. The Memphis region's roles as a transcontinental hub and a global logistics center will increasingly depend on the region's ability to meet the needs of the information technology sector. Initiatives to create and strengthen workforce development programs in information technology are needed at all levels of education if the region is to attract new economy companies now and in the future.

Create a new regional economic plan and development framework.
There is no regional master plan for coordinated economic growth. Because individual parts of the region contributes to the strength of the whole, involvement of the public, private and institutional sectors in the development of a coordinated regional master plan is crucial for quality and sustainable economic growth. Development of the master plan should focus on three basic ways of growing the economy: 1) strengthening the Memphis metro's current economic clusters; 2) attracting new businesses; and 3) the generation of new economy activities. The master plan should also evaluate the need to develop a new marketing identity and branding strategy to reflect and promote the diversity of the economic, institutional and quality of life assets found in the Memphis region. The master plan should also identify the means to encourage greater coordination of various economic strategies aimed at the growth of minority and women-owned, locally owned, and small businesses. The development framework should bring together leaders from across the region to work together to form a more comprehensive and integrated strategy for strengthening economic activity and building a multi-dimensional regional economy.

Click Here to view the respective section from the SourceBook in PDF Format
(requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader click here to download)