Good News

Positive national attention and local chamber efforts cap 2012

By Andy Meek

There’s something newly electric in the air. That’s how the editors of National Geographic Traveler describe Memphis, putting the city in the category of 20 must-see places in 2013.

Duncan Williams speaks during the annual Greater Memphis Chamber Chairman’s Luncheon at The Peabody hotel. More than 1,000 Memphis business and community leaders attended the event, where they heard about an exciting future for the city.

(Photos: Lance Murphey)

It’s a description that came at the end of November in the form of something Memphians aren’t altogether used to – the editors of national publications nodding approvingly from afar at a city long relegated to one arbitrary ranking after another.

Memphians, according to a few loathed prior lists, have supposedly alternated among unhappy and obese, part of a city with streets extraordinarily crime-ridden and poverty that’s sky-high.

Greater Memphis Chamber officials have in the past noted that a Forbes ranking of Memphis on one of Forbes’ “most miserable cities” lists nearly cost Memphis its chance to land the new Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. plant.

Recent weeks, though, have seen the opposite of all that. For 2013, for example, National Geographic Traveler has put Memphis in the company of cities like St. Augustine, Fla.; Kyoto, Japan; and Marseille, France, as places to visit.

“It’s easy to forget about Memphis,” the magazine notes, “a mid-size American city wedged into the southwest corner of Tennessee. Our collective memory of Memphis seems frozen in the mid-20th century: Elvis and Graceland, B. B. King and Beale Street, Martin Luther King, Jr., and his ‘Mountaintop’ speech.”

The piece goes on to cite Memphis landmarks and initiatives like the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Shelby Farms Park and Project Green Fork as proof of Memphis’ vitality and spirit.

Gary Shorb, with a lineup of past chairmen of the Greater Memphis Chamber, addresses the audience during the annual Greater Memphis Chamber Chairman’s Luncheon at The Peabody hotel.

The chamber celebrated all that and more – from the city’s unique assets to its future-in-the-making – at the group’s annual luncheon last week.

Duncan Williams, president of Duncan-Williams Inc. and a member of the chamber’s board of directors, told the audience the group wants to help catapult Memphis into being one of the world’s premier cities.

There was so much good news to celebrate, chamber CEO John Moore came onstage literally dancing. Afterward, he shared more details with The Daily News about a new initiative the chamber has undertaken, one partly inspired by the book “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton.

The book describes an all-out effort that’s needed among communities to compete in a global war for talent and jobs. Moore said the book underscores the notion that for the U.S. to retain its competitive edge, local community engagement is paramount – something Memphis has been moving into position to achieve.

“I was told there are no other communities that have attracted as many advanced manufacturing wins as Memphis has in recent years,” Moore told The Daily News. “And when you think about it, four of them involve foreign capital investment dollars coming in.”

“We believe what we need are more leaders and more voices around the table.”

–John Moore
CEO, Greater Memphis Chamber

To keep that momentum going, the chamber is assembling a group of up to 100 business leaders who will help set a direction for the chamber’s future and help elevate Memphis’ successes.

“We decided to go out and recruit at least 100 leaders to help us set the course on growing this economy,” Moore said. “We asked ourselves, what is our vision for the future, and what is it going to take to get us there? We believe what we need are more leaders and more voices around the table. And, really, this is just another facet of what the chamber has been doing over the last five years.”

The good news will help. News like TripAdvisor putting Memphis on its list of “10 destinations on the rise,” calling the city a must-visit for any die-hard music fan.

That TripAdvisor list, in fact, was just the latest indication that, while it noted that Memphis has more sunny days each year than Miami, Memphis also has more sunny days ahead.