VOL. 7 | NO. 13 | Saturday, March 22, 2014
EMPHASIS: Economic Development
Fisher Finds Reward Sharing Local Economic Story
By Amos Maki
When Conduit Global announced during a January event at FedExForum it would create 1,000 new jobs in Memphis over the next three to five years, Gwyn Fisher was finally able to exhale and show some emotion.
Fisher, greater Memphis regional director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, had been so busy fine-tuning the deal to bring the company to Memphis and preparing for the announcement that she did not have a lot of time to think about the impact it could have on people’s lives.
“When you’re working a deal like that you want to get every contract provision right, and then you’re working on the logistics of the announcement and keeping the confidentiality in place,” Fisher said. “Then the governor is standing on stage announcing 1,000 jobs and it hit me – that’s 1,000 neighbors who will be getting high-quality jobs, 1,000 members of our community who will get meaningful work. It was a really awesome moment and I don’t take it lightly.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam picked Fisher, a lifelong Memphian, in May to spearhead his local economic development efforts.
In April 2011, Haslam announced the Jobs4TN initiative, which directed ECD to form nine regional “Jobs Base Camps” that would serve as points of contact for companies seeking state services. The regional offices also work with economic development officials in rural Tennessee counties to encourage participation in broader regional economic development strategies.
Fisher is overseeing efforts to attract new businesses, help existing businesses expand and support other economic development in Shelby, Tipton, Fayette and Lauderdale counties, a diverse region featuring an urban center like Memphis and many small, rural communities.
“We have a great mix of some of the state’s largest urban markets and then it moves into our rural areas,” Fisher said. “Very few regions have that type of diversity. I was familiar with Gov. Haslam’s new approach to economic development and I was so impressed with what the Greater Memphis team was doing. When the opportunity came up I jumped on it.”
Fisher, who joined ECD from FedEx Express, where she worked in Express Business Solutions, brings a long background of involvement in economic and community development efforts.
An attorney as well as founder and CEO of Revolution Strategy – a firm dedicated to providing economic and community development guidance to organizations – Fisher is the former executive director of MPACT Memphis, the organization that was dedicated to engaging and supporting Memphis’ growing ranks of young professionals.
“Being a lifelong Memphian and in economic and community development I know this is a relationship-driven business,” Fisher said. “I trust and respect the community partners I work with and I think they feel the same way.”
Fisher’s goals are to help businesses locate or expand in the area, prepare communities and workers to meet the needs of those businesses and to act as a “convener,” bringing groups and individuals together to promote economic and community development.
“Our mission and our charge from the governor is to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs,” Fisher said. “We can’t do that by ourselves. We have to have our local partners at the table.”
Fisher said she has enjoyed learning about the wide array of products manufactured in the Memphis area, which includes everything from toilet paper to high-end kitchen appliances. And people are taking note of the state’s economic development push.
“There’s no state I’d rather sell,” Fisher said. “I feel so lucky. I get to spend all day telling people how great it is to locate in Tennessee and the greater Memphis region.”