Editorial: Memphis Must Provide Bedrock for Great Ideas

Saturday, January 11, 2014, Vol. 7, No. 3

For every Holiday Inn and Piggly Wiggly and FedEx, there are hundreds – maybe thousands – of ideas in Memphis that don't make the cut.

Sometimes it is the idea. Other times it is the timing. Often it’s money.

Ideas are delicate concepts. But the business of ideas is about durability as much as it is about innovation. The business also has several fronts that range from biotech and other medical startups seeking venture capital to the advertising and marketing companies featured in this week’s cover story.

As the story shows, it is also a business of templates. But the key is knowing when those templates don’t apply and moving them out of the way.

In Memphis we can do unconventional in our sleep.

This kind of adaptability can make Memphis a place where our young people will want to return after giving the rest of the world a try. Or it can make Memphis the world to be found by those who start their journey elsewhere.

There is much to be said for an environment that consistently shows the ability to move obstacles that front as process out of the way of an objective.

But let’s be clear, innovators and those with convictions that come from the pursuit of their unique ideas don’t walk across the city limits into our city and get a set of keys to the kingdom. Even in Memphis, innovation is challenging. It is a necessary part of the testing of ideas and new ways.

And it is important that in getting our homegrown talent to return to their hometown and in recruiting talent from elsewhere that we don't make the mistake of fudging about the realities.

Creativity is a tough business in which more ideas don’t survive than those that do survive and thrive.

We aren’t going to win the talent wars by portraying the environment here as a carefree walk in the park. We will win it by making Memphis an easier place for someone to adopt or reclaim as their hometown.

Part of that effort is resisting the urge to let the market price a growing Downtown out of the price range of those starting their first business or those taking their first career job.

Having other areas that are thriving and on the way back will help keep the market affordable in a city where a 45-minute commute is considered long.

There has to be recognition that the creative energy that fuels innovation is a necessary ingredient and catalyst in the sustainability of a Memphis that is built to endure.

Thinking that we have to be able to deliver a Garden of Eden and paper over the challenges of Memphis is just lying to ourselves. But finding a way to preserve a foothold for what could be next can help those who are behind what is next make the reality of Memphis their own.