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VOL. 125 | NO. 24 | Friday, February 5, 2010

Allen Takes Helm Of Memphis World Trade Club

By Eric Smith

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“What I’m trying to do is help strengthen that particular industry because I think it’s so important to the city of Memphis.”

– Cannon Allen

Cannon Allen isn’t a truck driver or freight forwarder. He doesn’t sort cargo or manage a warehouse. But Allen, a partner at the law firm Adams and Reese LLP, is familiar with the inner workings of the transportation and logistics industries.

A commercial litigator whose specialties include providing legal counsel for companies in those sectors, Allen this year will get to incorporate his knowledge of all things freight while serving as 2010 president of the Memphis World Trade Club.

Allen said he is delighted to take the reins of the club, whose roots date back to 1947 and whose presidents include some of Memphis’ most prominent businesspeople.

When the club began more than 60 years ago, Memphis was renowned for shipping cotton and lumber down the Mississippi River. Today, the city is a major player in global trade, boasting the world’s busiest cargo airport, major interstates, five Class I railroads and the fourth-busiest inland port.

Allen said the group is charged with telling the story of the city’s past successes and current advantages when it comes to moving goods from one place to another.

“I have been particularly interested in this organization and transportation and logistics because this industry is one of the crown jewels of Memphis,”

Allen said. “What I’m trying to do is help strengthen that particular industry because I think it’s so important to the city of Memphis.”

Meeting industry needs

The World Trade Club’s mission is to promote international trade for companies that operate in Memphis. In other words, Allen said, if a local business wants to sell its product or service in Guangzhou, China, then the organization should be able to help through networking, education and other avenues.

“As the industry changes and becomes more international in scope, and the transportation and logistics industry in Memphis grows, our desire has been to try to pour more energy into the World Trade Club so that it’s positioned to meet the need,” Allen said.

The World Trade Club has two signature events: the Memphis Multi Modal Conference each spring and Port Night each fall.

Allen said one of the club’s goals will be to increase attendance at those functions, each of which are designed to help companies grow their businesses.

“We think it makes the transportation and logistics sector in Memphis stronger and ultimately more profitable, and that’s what we’re all about trying to do,” Allen said.

Not only that, but the club is going to focus on broadening its membership. In a city where the airport alone pumps an estimated $28.6 billion into the region’s economy and provides, directly or indirectly, 34.3 percent – or one in three – local jobs, it’s clear many Memphians are impacted by companies that ship, transport or even receive cargo.

“We’ve got lots of members who are in the transportation/logistics industry,” Allen said. “We want the consumers

of those industries to be more engaged with the club. That’s another significant initiative this year, is to reach out to that community and be more intentional about communicating with them.”

Staying on task

Allen knows telling the Memphis story – a chief goal of the World Trade Club – is easy, but getting that message to the right people is sometimes difficult.

“I think everybody realizes that we’re a transportation and logistics town, and those who haven’t thought of us like that, they see it instantly when you tell them,” he said. “Everyone realizes that it’s an important industry.”

Allen said more than a few changes are coming to the World Trade Club. For example, the organization plans to hire a part-time executive director within the next month or two.

“We think the club needs that level of continuity and, in some instances, day-to-day minding,” he said. “Between January and May is an extraordinary time for us, and we think we need an executive director who’s able to keep us on task and coordinate the officers and board members and other volunteers so that we stay focused.”

Although he understands the challenges that lie ahead, including hosting a massive conference in four months, Allen is thankful for such predecessors as Bob Goodson, Gray Carter and Carey Treadwell, plus a host of others, for their service and continued dedication to the club.

Allen said his primary objective is to leave the club even stronger than it was when he found it. He was quick to point out that the club was by no means weak when he started, but he hopes to continue the momentum of the World Trade Club that others had established.

“I view myself as standing on the shoulders of giants who have done the club great service in the past,” Allen said.

“I’m trying, in my year, to move the club another step forward in terms of becoming increasingly vital and financially sound and innovative and forward thinking for the transportation and logistics community and the shippers here in Memphis.”

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