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VOL. 7 | NO. 42 | Saturday, October 11, 2014

Editorial: Jobs Growth Has Multilayered Solution

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The basic goal of bringing jobs to Memphis isn’t as simple as it sounds.

It’s about keeping jobs in Memphis and Memphians in those jobs.

We’ve known that since the recent days of the Electrolux plant announcement and Blues City Brewing starting up in the old Schlitz/Coors/Stroh’s brewery.

We nearly lost those economic development plums shortly after they were announced with great fanfare because the out-of-town companies had problems finding the right local workers for their operations.

It’s not that the workforce wasn’t there. It was that they weren’t applying for the jobs and the companies didn’t know where they were.

That’s when Carolyn Hardy, who sold the brewery to Blues City, decided to do more than take the money she earned in the sale. She took the lead in working with Southwest Tennessee Community College to develop the process that has put local workers in those local jobs and others that have come since then.

If there is a problem matching skills with jobs at that level, it’s reasonable to assume this is a disconnect that spans the diverse sectors of the Memphis economy.

One of the keys to solving the problems at Blues City and Electrolux was tapping into those who already have similar jobs and with no additional training or perhaps some minimum amount of training can have better paying jobs.

And this is where both the reality and the challenge of our economic recovery – Memphis style – are to be found.

At the core of our recovery is the question of which of these goals should be our top priority – reducing unemployment as rapidly as possible or improving the pay of those who are employed but because of low wages often work two, even three jobs to provide what one better paying job can provide.

At the outset, both of these goals should be pursued simultaneously. But one should be the longer-term priority. And to us, there is no contest.

Those who have jobs should be able to build some type of wealth, however modest, beyond a day-to-day existence.

Modest is a word that comes to mind for anyone who knows how hard it is for those creating and working in startups and other creative and innovative enterprises like those involved in the Undercurrent gatherings.

The need is just as great in these sectors to match them with opportunities and jobs.

It’s not heavy lifting. It’s basic communication that helps to build a core of businesses or at least some kind of approach that isn’t always a matter of talking someone someplace else into relocating to Memphis.

And it could be that in such organic growth we find more of our younger folks making their way back to the city of their childhood because it becomes something it is not for all too many of them – a familiar place where more is possible.

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