Industry Leaders Gather at Aerotropolis Conference

By Bill Dries

A year ago this month, Memphis hosted the annual World Airport Cities Conference and Exhibition.

One of two screens at Memphis International Airport welcomes visitors. 

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

But Tuesday, April 10, on the University of Memphis campus, airport, economic development and logistics leaders from the area will meet to talk about the same concept that has dominated the recent World Airport Cities Conferences that were held in Beijing in 2010 and will be held this year in Denver.

Dr. John Kasarda will be in the city again this year to talk about the “aerotropolis” concept at the start of the daylong conference.

He will speak at 8:40 a.m.

Kasarda’s idea is a simple one of clustering economic development that uses airports around them. The clusters aren’t built around physical distances but travel times. Kasarda’s idea is a 25-mile radius around an airport, which in the case of Memphis International goes south almost to the Tunica casinos and north to near the Covington city limits.

The Greater Memphis Chamber and the university’s Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute are hosts of the gathering. FedEx Corp. and Elvis Presley Enterprises are sponsors.

An afternoon panel discussion at the University of Memphis University Center will specifically examine the status of the Memphis aerotropolis drive in a year in which passenger service to Memphis International Airport has been cut dramatically. The 2:15 p.m. panel discussion will be followed by a 3:30 p.m. panel discussion of Memphis logistics models.

The keynote speakers at the noon luncheon will be Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., with remarks by FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.