VOL. 133 | NO. 4 | Thursday, January 4, 2018
A New View
By Doug Carpenter
People tend to rely on the new year mark as a time to make resolutions and look ahead. But it also provides a chance to reflect upon and recognize how much we and our environment have changed in just a short year.
Looking back, it’s easy to point to the tangible changes – perhaps in this case, though, the intangible shifts are more relevant.
Interest in Memphis from a civic perspective has always existed. I believe it’s reflective of our humbling title as the most philanthropic city in America.
On the other hand, we’re more frequently seeing interest from the outside, from those who want to capitalize on our unique narrative and blend history with currency.
Others are beginning to recognize how our story as a river town distribution center, a crossroads for cotton and culture and music and flavor, is all part of what now makes Memphis so unique.
People are interested in tapping into the soul of our city.
Attributed in all forms – from record-breaking tourist statistics to national claims of Memphis as the top city to “start your career” according to Business Insider and “for millennials” by Time – Memphis is proving itself two-fold through outside investment.
In particular, I’ve been impressed with the retail and consumer-focused investment that is permeating Downtown, whether Chicago investors with bold new plans for the Madison Hotel, or New York and Miami investors who see invaluable potential in the Gibson building real estate in the center of Downtown’s entertainment district.
These examples wouldn’t have been recognized without the investments in infrastructure by Memphis’ own innovators and entrepreneurs who have created a base for others to tap into and build upon. Innovative incentives that come to mind include the Downtown Memphis Commission’s strategic development plan for the Murray Building, previously relatively inactivated and now seeking an RFP for creative, smart activation.
We also shouldn’t ignore Memphis’ higher profile on the national landscape that comes with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April and Memphis’ 2019 bicentennial.
We also shouldn’t ignore that Memphis is experiencing an all-time high employment rate, and that our city government understands and is executing dutifully on the basics.
All these players and the countless others are collectively providing a landscape for potential from outside, inside, all sides – even the Arkansas floodplains side, which is not technically in our city limits but limitlessly engaged in our Downtown investment conversations via Big River Crossing and the Big River Trail.
Who has led the other is impossible to know. The chicken or the egg, as they ask?
It’s an irrelevant conversation. I believe the most productive type of creative process is when the initial source is indistinct – and such is the case here with a collaborative investment approach to Downtown Memphis.
What’s important is not the source, but that we, together, keep the momentum going.
Doug Carpenter is owner of DCA, a creative communications consulting firm based in Downtown Memphis.