For past few weeks, John Lawrence, manager of economic development planning for EDGE, has been writing a series about the Memphis and Shelby County Regional Economic Development Plan.  We are deeply grateful to him for taking the time to author nine posts that illuminate the ambitions and attitudes of the planning process.  Here’s his final post, but links to all the previous ones can be found at the bottom of this column.


By John Lawrence

The last few months have been spent analyzing market conditions, exploring guiding strategies and building broad teams to inform the process.  It is now time to start developing and prioritizing specific initiatives that will become our first-phase implementation plans.

A Long Way to Go

Despite historic business success and recent economic developments, the trajectory of the Memphis metro area is far from safe.  Top-line performance measures indicate that it will take a much more calculated and focused effort to ensure prosperity for area citizens, confidence for area businesses and sustainability for area governments.

Road Map to Get There

We want to be the preeminent region for movement of goods.  We want to be the hub for innovation and production of globally valuable exports.  We want to be the home for broad based opportunity, improved skills and access to jobs.  And we want to model of region-wide collaboration, market analysis, planning and implementation.

The six economic-market-lever workgroups and the Steering Committee have defined guiding strategies to provide direction.

* Secure the Global Logistics Brand

* Diversify the Economy Beyond Logistics

* Leverage Assets for International Trade

* Build a New Manufacturing Economy Workforce

* Organize for Innovative Entrepreneurial Growth

* Connect Jobs, Workers, Institutions and Activity Centers

* Track the Market to Understand Emerging Opportunities

Possible Starting Points

Over the next few months, concepts will be developed and business plans will be created for a limited number of targeted lead initiatives.  The Steering Committee has been weighing possibilities based on need and opportunity, existing and possible partnerships, status of development and likelihood of success, alignment with strategy and workgroup recommendations, and mountains of market research.

Possible first step initiatives being discussed include:

Industry Driven Workforce Development to link target industries to trainers, increase career readiness and basic skills for candidates, improve technical skills, and reduce frustration for both employees and employers.

Biologistics to create a well-recognized, time-sensitive hub for medical products and diagnostic services.

Export Plan to develop a team comparable to peer regions and targeted, integrated services that help regional businesses connect to global customers.

Innovation Districts to cluster research institutions, public resources and private companies in a connected, mixed-use setting instead of isolated business parks.

Regional Industry Consortiums to organize regional business leaders, subject matter experts, economic development entities and research institutions to identify opportunities and plan for improvements.

Venture Development Structure to start transforming the region into an innovation ecosystem by attracting world-class entrepreneurs and supporting the growth of innovation-based companies.

Ag-Biosciences Value-Chain to combine agriculture and manufacturing taking advantage of global demand growth for food, consumer goods and petroleum substitutes.

Economic Development Information Clearinghouse to continuously research, analyze and plan across all market drivers.

Coming Soon

Soon the Memphis & Shelby County Regional Economic Development Plan team will narrow the list of starting initiatives and develop a true Metropolitan Business Plan for priority programs.

This will include actionable steps forward, specific services, products, policies and interventions.  It will include target customers and beneficiaries.  Peer models will be researched and costs estimated.

We will also identify leadership and key partners.  We will establish initial milestones, long-range benefits and ongoing metrics.  Funding sources will be developed, as will an accountability system.

These lead initiatives should provide movement toward building the greater Memphis region into a global leader in innovation, production and distribution of high-value goods and services, and a model of broad-based, inclusive growth.


The Series:

Part One: Creating a Process on Economic Development

Part Two: Securing the Global Logistics Brand

Part Three: Diversifying the Economy Beyond Logistics

Part Four: Leveraging Assets for International Trade 

Part Five: Building A New Manufacturing Workforce

Part Six: Organizing for Innovative Entrepreneurial Growth

Part Seven: Connecting Jobs, Workers, Institutions & Activity Centers

Part Eight: Tracking the Market to Understand Emerging Opportunities