New Identity

Leadership Academy forges ahead as New Memphis Institute

By Andy Meek

Every great person, every great organization and every great city is trying to be better today than they were yesterday.

Ian Turner and Natalie Cole take a session on conflict management taught by John Daniel of First Horizon National Corp. The session was part of a summer program at Leadership Academy.  

(Daily News File Photos: Lance Murphey)

That’s how Nancy Coffee puts it in describing the motivation behind the new name that’s been chosen for the nonprofit group she’s the president and CEO of – the New Memphis Institute, which used to be known as the Leadership Academy.

It was a big branding leap for the organization, which has been thinking about a new name for some two years now. The change was about better telling its story and reflecting its purpose.

Included in the New Memphis Institute’s aspirations is the goal of shining a light on positive aspects of the city. And along those lines, the group’s first major public event since the name change will come Wednesday, Nov. 7, when the group presents another in its series of “Celebrate What’s Right” luncheons.

The group is billing the luncheon’s focus as “Memphis’ next golden age of entrepreneurship.” It will include a conversation moderated by J.R. “Pitt” Hyde, the founder of AutoZone Inc. and an active philanthropist in Memphis, and a panel that takes a look at three startup companies launching groundbreaking ideas in Memphis. Also part of the mix will be a look at the implications for job creation and talent retention.

So, the group now has a new name, but as the luncheon demonstrates, it’s in service of more of the same.

As it did when it was known as the Leadership Academy, the New Memphis Institute will continue to focus on forging a prosperous and vital new Memphis, Coffee said, by recruiting, developing, activating and retaining talent.

“We believe our community grows based on what we pay attention to,” Coffee said. “So we lift up the elements of our city that make us proud to live and work here. And certainly our legacy of entrepreneurship is a major component of that, as is our very bright future in turning ideas into growth businesses.”

Participants listen to James Armfield deliver the story behind the story of Memphis during Memphis 101 at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The luncheon is being sponsored by CBRE Memphis. Panelists include Ben Tempel, a graduate of the New Memphis Institute’s Fellows program and CEO of Nanophthalmics, a company that’s creating microscopic tools for ocular surgery; Charleson Bell, co-founder of BioNanovations; Mike Hoffmeyer, CEO of Paytopia, a new ecommerce payment platform; Joann Massey, business development consultant for the state of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; and Brad Smith, interim executive director of Launch Tennessee.

Hyde also will give remarks. Among other philanthropic and civic causes he continues to be involved in around the city, he is one of the limited partners comprising the new ownership group of the Memphis Grizzlies. And he was present at a press conference Monday, Nov. 5, at which the team’s new owners were introduced to the city.

Meanwhile, the luncheon is but one example of the fact the New Memphis Institute would like to continue being a talent engine for the city of Memphis.

It was born out of the 1979 Memphis Jobs Conference and has been working to advance the city in various ways for several decades. It counts more than 700 established executives in the city as alumni of its training.

Among other facts about the organization, 10 of its “Fellows” were appointed to government roles in 2011.

“We remain as dedicated as ever to our path of improving Memphis and helping our city reach its full potential,” Coffee said. “Our verve and passion for that work, we think, is really reflected in the new name. It embodies that restless desire we have to see our community live up to what it is and what it can be.”