Honing our EDGE

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell told a gathering of area business leaders Tuesday night at the office of Glankler Brown PLLC that he hopes the new joint city-county economic development program gets rolling by this summer.

If government leaders keep to that schedule in building the new entity they’re calling the EDGE (which stands for Economic Development Growth Engine, but this thing is also supposed to give us an “edge” in business recruitment and retention, get it?) it would be a major step forward for the city and county.

Both of which have borne much criticism in recent years that they’re not business-friendly enough. That taxes are too high. There are too many government entities to appear before if I as a business owner want to pursue a vision. And on. And on.

A former Memphis chamber official said at Tuesday night’s event that a lot of the corporate relocations Memphis has recently landed took some hard work that sometimes went down to the wire, but that something like the EDGE would make us more competitive.

The presence of the new economic development entity – with a staff and president that can run point between companies and all the myriad government agencies and officials in the city and county – would presumably do the heavy lifting in the future on projects like the Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. (MEPPI) development of a new electric power transformer factory in the city.

As detailed in this article from the March issue of Site Selection Magazine, Memphis had to overcome a big hurdle to MEPPI completing its plant in Memphis – specifically, it was the bad taste in MEPPI’s mouth left by an early 2010 Forbes article slamming Memphis.

I wrote an article for The Daily News last month detailing the great lengths to which the Greater Memphis Chamber went to push back against the Forbes article – at MEPPI’s request.

Chamber senior vice president Mark Herbison told me the project consultant called the chamber and said unless the chamber could refute the article in a specific and detailed way, it was probably the end of the line.

So the chamber prepared a splashy booklet refuting the Forbes article point by point.

“In five days, they provided a document that I consider one of the best-focused project impact pieces of information that I’ve gotten from an economic development agency,” Mark Sweeney, principal at site selection consulting firm McCallum Sweeney, told Site Selection Magazine.

Just imagine what kind of strides the city could make if there was another group of people enlisted in this effort who do nothing else but that full time.

Airport Cities Conference – Day Two

Day two of the Airport Cities World Conference & Exhibition.

Tuesday is the main event with the two most powerful corporate leaders in the city’s air economy sharing the same stage this morning – FedEx founder Fred Smith and Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson. And tonight, a gala at Graceland.

Our story on the comments by Smith and Anderson is already on the web site. Look for a more definitive version in Wednesday’s daily which goes on line at four this afternoon.

Some other notes from the gathering:

This is the 10th such gathering and the Memphis conference has the largest group of any of the gatherings.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. joked that his initials stood for Airport Cities. “If you start the day off lying, you might as well start big,” he quipped.

Wharton spoke after an incendiary talk by Greg Principato, the president of the Airport Council International, in which Principato nearly stole the show from Smith and Anderson. The details of that are in the story that goes on line at four.

There were quite a few murmurs in the audience of around 700 in the Continental ballroom when he finished the speech targeting air lines for not doing more to support the financing of airport infrastructure.

Wharton broke the ice by beginning, “Well, Greg got up and scared the daylights out of you.”

He then ran through a familiar list of Memphis songs, reciting a few lines from Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” telling the delegates that they are in “Marie’s living room.”

Cong. Steve Cohen came up with another tune from the pantheon of Memphis hits – this one with an air travel theme – “The Letter” by The Box Tops. One small quibble. Cohen said Box Tops lead singer Alex Chilton wrote the song that begins “Give me a ticket for an aeroplane” – not airplane but aeroplane.

The tune was written by Wayne Carson Thompson and recorded at American studios at the corner of Danny Thomas Boulevard and Chelsea in North Memphis.

Cohen was eloquent on the aerotropolis topic, noting the saying that the road to economic development begins with a road. “Today, it’s a runway,” he added as he likened the aerotropolis concept to “the interstate system of the 21st century.”

Kudos to Indie Memphis Film Festival

The Indie Memphis film festival is in stellar movie-making company.

MovieMake Magazine ranks the city’s festival in the current edition of the magazine as one of the 25 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee. It’s a list that identifies for filmmakers the festivals that are most worth their time, money and effort.

And the list puts Memphis’ festival in the same category as South by Southwest and the Seattle International Film Festival.

“We are thrilled to once again be recognized on a national level for the work we’re doing here in Memphis and to be included on a list that includes so many amazing film festivals,” said Indie Memphis executive director Erik Jambor.

Indie Memphis will hold its 14th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival this year from November 3 to November 6 at the Playhouse on the Square, Malco Theatre’s Studio on the Square, and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Airport Cities – Opening Night

The ban on live cover band versions of “Mustang Sally” has been lifted in most of Downtown if not elsewhere in town for the duration of the Airport Cities World Conference & Exhibition.

The cover band at the Monday night opening reception at The Peabody hotel played an “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” length version as airport executives from around the world networked and a few mouthed the words “All you want to do is ride.”

Perhaps it would be proper to say the “Mustang Sally” light is on Downtown through Wednesday evening.

In one corner of the grand ballroom at The Peabody was a miniature blimp advertising “5-D airport simulation.”

ACE, as it is called by those who have been to these before in other cities and even the organizers, is part trade show as well as policy discussion on the various forms of the aerotropolis vision. So, the 5-D blimp isn’t the only reminder of all of the industries that circle the business of running airports.

And those reminders come with a form of wonkishness.

Dozens of those attending the convention lined up to get John Kasarda, the originator of the aerotropolis term and concept, to autograph copies of his new book. Some had been in the three hour master class Kasarda taught earlier in the day. Some even got Kasarda’s autograph before he got to the table.

Behold a dart board for CTSI of Memphis, a global supply chain business. Hit the blue part of the circle with the magnetic darts and you have transportation optimization. Orange is for information management. And green, of course, is payment solutions.

With offices in Atlanta, Chennai, India, Limerick, Ireland and Singapore, as well as Memphis, CTSI is an example of the global reach of many of the entities represented at the conference.

The Peabody didn’t have to supply as many seats as usual at the reception. That was thanks to the presence of several companies who specialize in airport seating who offered their wares as seating for the evening. The rows of durable multi colored bench seating with and without armrests establishing the airport aura.

White Stripes, Southaven, and One Final Recording

Though the band is now defunct, the White Stripes are reportedly going to release their final concert from 2007 – when the band played in Southaven, Miss., on July 31 – as a live album titled Live in Mississippi, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

“Presented in crystalline audio quality and spread across 2 LP’s pressed on 180-gram vinyl, this recording is (arguably) the band at the top of their game,” reads a news item on the Website of Jack White’s Third Man Records. “With the local geography looming large on their minds, the set list is decidedly heavy on the blues and features covers of songs by Robert Johnson, Son House and Leadbelly. The rest of the set includes songs from all six of the White Stripes’ studio albums and the show is offered in its entirety.”

Dansette

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