VOL. 133 | NO. 29 | Thursday, February 8, 2018
Luttrell Calls For ‘High-Wage Job Growth’ in Final State of the County
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said at his last State of the County address this week that what Shelby County struggles with is “economic diversification and high-wage job growth.”
“As a transportation, warehousing and logistics hub, this comes with a mix of advantages and disadvantages,” Luttrell told a group of 120 at the Memphis Rotary Club Tuesday, Feb. 6. “Economic recessions hit us softer, but recoveries lift us slower. Building a more diverse economy, with higher-wage jobs, will require more emphasis on a science, technology, engineering and math focused education and workforce.”
Luttrell, now in his second and final term of office that ends in September, said there are no quick fixes to such a shift.
“For all the work and planning we put towards appealing to smart young folks to choose 901, we have to keep in mind that our generation must create the opportunities,” he said. “When the younger generation knocks it is our responsibility to answer by ensuring that jobs are available for the educated and trained workforce that we have provided.”
Greater Memphis Chamber president Phil Trenary has made the same point about the dominance of logistics and distribution jobs in the Memphis economy. He has said as that dominance continues, local workforce and economic development efforts should focus incentives on growing manufacturing and advanced manufacturing jobs in that same economy.
A historic reformation in public education in Shelby County began soon after Luttrell took office in September 2010. Two months later the Memphis City Schools board voted to surrender its charter, leading to a citywide referendum in 2011 that started the move to a merged single public school system in Shelby County. The next school year was another change in the opposite direction – the demerger of the combined city-county school system into seven school districts including six new suburban school systems.
Shelby County government funds all seven and is the only local government funder of Shelby County Schools, which takes in Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County.
Luttrell said Tuesday some schools still struggle despite per-pupil funding of more than $11,000 that is the highest in Tennessee.
“Many of the key indicators associated with learning and comprehension remain among the lowest,” he said. “Even with an increase of local funding, we have yet to experience the improved outcomes that we so desperately desire. … To be clear, this is not an indictment or the sole responsibility of the Shelby County Schools system. We all bear responsibility – parents, teachers, elected officials, taxpayers, and the faith-based community.”
Luttrell called on other parts of the community to work with the school system on fixing the “underlying problems of poverty and violence.”
From the pulpit at Clayborn Temple, Luttrell had a bird’s-eye view of the political past and its future.
Luttrell recalled Jim Rout’s decision to call off his bid for a third term as county mayor in 2001.
“I came to your office and I said, ‘Well, what about me? What am I going to do for the rest of my life?’” Luttrell remembered as Rout sat nearby in the audience. “At the end of that conversation we made the decision to try for the sheriff’s job.”
Luttrell served two terms as Shelby County sheriff before he was elected county mayor in 2010.
At the table next to Rout sat Trustee David Lenoir and at the table next to Lenoir sat County Commissioner Terry Roland. Lenoir and Roland, along with Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos, are running in the May Republican primary to succeed Luttrell.