Project 21 was the code name for the big business announcement in Memphis Monday – that Mitsubishi Electric Power Products is building a 350,000-square-foot plant here to manufacture electric transformers – but it could also serve as a fitting metaphor for the city itself.
Mitsubishi chose Project 21 as the name for its $200 million investment in Memphis for a simple reason. The products that will come off the line here represent new technology for the 21st century.
The burst of major economic development news of late in Memphis – the Mitsubishi announcement, the announcement that Swedish appliance maker Electrolux is building a 700,000-square-foot plant here, among other corporate developments soon to be announced – also is pointing toward a bright start to the 21st century for Memphis.
Memphis is landing repeatedly on the radar of large multinational employers that are comfortable enough with what the city offers to invest millions of dollars putting down roots here in the form of plants and other physical infrastructure staffed with employees either hired here or brought here.
Much of that is due to the city’s intrinsic assets. But you can’t win when you fail to compete, and Memphis’ economic development team is competing mightily. It includes a strong partnership between city and county leaders, state government and the Greater Memphis Chamber.
Memphis Mayor AC Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell are one piece of that partnership, and they’re a big one. That city-county mayoral duo is one the city has had to do without in the recent past, in a time of different political leadership. Today, though, Wharton and Luttrell have no problem keeping their bags packed, keeping their schedules fluid enought to fly off to meet with corporate prospects and adding salesman-in-chief to their already long list of duties.
Fittingly, when they were called to the stage at the Peabody hotel for the Mitsubishi announcement Monday, both men rose together and walked in almost perfect unison.