Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton wants more women and other minority businesspeople to learn the fundamentals about one of the most competitive corners of the city's economy: real estate development.
That's why he's unveiling a new initiative this afternoon to do exactly that, the details of which will be made public at a City Hall press conference in the Hall of Mayors. The city is launching a new program called the Diversity Developer Incubator, though the word "incubator" in the title is not an indication the program will look like similar business incubators such as EmergeMemphis or the Mid-South Minority Business Council.
The idea behind the effort is that a series of classes will be offered to serve as a crash course for women and minorities who aspire to be developers. Carlee McCullough, contract compliance officer for the city of Memphis, recalled a recent conversation along those lines she had with Robert Lipscomb, the city's housing and community development director.
They talked about ways to get women and minority developers more involved in making deals happen. And that discussion played a part in getting the ball rolling on the new program, which will operate within the city's Office of Contract Compliance.
"The thrust behind the program is to encourage more minorities and women in real estate development. That's the first prong," McCullough said. "The second prong is to kind of help with the view of blight - to have developers look at it as a potential opportunity instead of looking at it as blight.
"For the most part, blight has been a major issue in our city, so much so that the mayor has created a new division for the purpose of fighting it. Part of the reason we came up with the incubator is to show participants (in the classes) how to get a house back on the tax rolls through real estate development."
'A good thing'
An early preview of the program indicated it would pool several related offerings from agencies such as the Center City Commission - which has hosted development seminars in the past with the same purpose in mind - and bring them together under one banner.
Classes will be held at locations around the city, and tours will be part of the study as well. Subjects will cover everything from real estate finance to tax incentives to appraisals and more.
An information session will be held in March at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, and classes will begin some time after that. More details of the program
will come at today's presentation by the mayor.
"To be able to expand on the idea for creating more involvement in the development business for women and minorities, this is a good thing for the mayor and the city to do," said Jerome Rubin, manager of diversity outreach for the CCC.