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VOL. 133 | NO. 150 | Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Chamber Taps New Economic Development SVP

Will Bring ‘Data-Driven’ Approach to Job and Population Growth

By Patrick Lantrip

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Eric Miller has been selected as the Greater Memphis Chamber's new senior vice president of economic development. Miller will be tasked with helping to grow the city's stagnating population and job growth.   


With a new focus on proactive rather than reactive recruitment, the Greater Memphis Chamber has hired Eric Miller as its new senior vice president of economic development. 

With nearly two decades of local and regional economic development experience, Miller was chosen after an extensive national search conducted by the chamber. 

“When you are on a mission to grow, you have to recognize that you are in competition with other markets,” Richard Smith, president & CEO of FedEx Trade Networks and chairman of the board for the Greater Memphis Chamber, said. “In order to set Memphis up to win, we have to have the right players on the field. Eric is a competitive, driven salesman who knows how to win. He will be an incredibly valuable addition to our business ecosystem in Memphis.”

Previously, Miller worked for the South Carolina Department of Commerce where he helped recruit more than 50 new companies, bringing more than $800 million in investment and 8,000 new jobs to the state. Prior to that position, he served as director of industrial development for the Muskogee City-County Port Authority, in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Miller is excited for his new role and looks forward to helping Memphis achieve its full potential by bringing in new jobs and investments to improve the quality of life in the city.

“The area is laden with opportunity,” he said. “I think there is a desire and will to propel Memphis and Shelby County forward, and that excites me.”

Miller replaces Mark Herbison, who left the chamber this summer after a 13-year tenure to become director of economic development for the industrial division of Clayco Construction.

While working in South Carolina, Miller made the life sciences sector a particular focus, where he spearheaded passage of the South Carolina Life Sciences Act to improve South Carolina’s competitiveness in that sector.

In his new role, Miller expects to help stimulate the city’s stagnating job and population growth. 

“We have been very vocal about the urgent need to address the city’s slow job growth,” Greater Memphis Chamber CEO Phil Trenary said. “We’ve lagged well behind our peer cities on job growth, and that’s what it’s all about – growing jobs and ultimately defeating poverty.”

According to the chamber’s data, Memphis’ growth rate, at 0.1 percent, significantly lagged behind the national average of 0.8 percent in 2017.

This problem is especially compounded when compared to Nashville, our closest competing metro, which grew by 2 percent, or more than 36,000 people during 2017.  

For perspective, the 36,000 new residents entering Nashville more than doubled the amount of new residents in Memphis from 2011 to 2017.  

Meanwhile, job growth in Memphis and Shelby County from 2006 to 2016 was a negative 1.9 percent. For perspective, job growth in Austin, Texas, in that span rose nearly 36 percent and Charlotte, North Carolina’s increased by 22 percent. 

Because of this, Trenary said the chamber engaged in two studies over the past few months both looking at the economic development ecosystem. 

“One of the things that is already becoming clear is we have to have a far more aggressive recruitment attraction strategy,” he said. “We’ve done a very good job on responding, but it’s clear we need a much more strategic, proactive and data-driven approach to address this.” 

As a result, they engaged a national consultant to identify and recruit the top economic development official in the country. 

“It took them about five seconds to put a name out there and that name was Eric Miller,” Trenary said. “Eric brings us a tremendous amount of experience using a data-driven practical approach.” 

Miller thinks it’s very important for a community to understand their strengths and weakness so they can then target their resources to recruit industries that fit. 

“It’s an approach that takes the investor perspective as to how they analyze communities and whether or not they will be a fit for their companies,” Miller said. 

PROPERTY SALES 64 151 1,493
MORTGAGES 45 105 1,152
BUILDING PERMITS 201 410 3,466