A diverse economy powered by high growth industries, good jobs for all skill levels, and career pathways providing upward mobility are keys to advancing economic opportunity for all Memphians. Those attributes are best fueled by a business-friendly climate, vigorous support for innovation, entrepreneurship and existing business growth, business marketing and recruitment, inclusive business practices, and industry-driven workforce training and education.
Below is a sampling of the economic development work we’ve supported through collaboration and collective action.
Target Industry Strategy. Memphis Tomorrow is one of 5 partners – including also City of Memphis, EDGE, EPIcenter, Memphis Chamber of Commerce – currently participating in a research and planning project to identify job and industry growth opportunities for the Memphis area. The project involves analyzing regional, national and global industry growth data, documenting key competitive advantages for the Memphis area, and discerning which industries present the best opportunities for growth over the next decade.
Competitive Analysis. Memphis Tomorrow recently funded a study commissioned by the Greater Memphis Chamber analyzing Memphis’ competitiveness for business recruitment and expansion compared to peer cities. The focus of the study was on the costs to business, factoring in taxes and incentives as well as the government processes and ease of doing business with the city, county and state governments. The Memphis Chamber is bringing those findings to discussions with government leaders about how to strengthen the community’s prospects for growing jobs and the economy.
Memphis Shelby County Regional Economic Development Plan. Memphis Tomorrow President served in an advisory role to an economic development planning initiative led by EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine), a Memphis and Shelby County Government agency that provides and coordinates public resources to expand the economy, and co-chaired by the two mayors and a FedEx executive that launched in 2014. Memphis and Shelby County governments had been selected by the Brookings Institution to participate in their Metropolitan Business Planning initiative. The planning effort provided a strategic framework for economic development in the region. One of the primary initiatives to emerge from this work was the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW). Memphis Tomorrow worked alongside the Chamber and the two Mayors to raise start-up funds and support the launch of the initiative. The effort was established to address the skills gap between workforce skills and employer needs and the communications gap between business and education in workforce preparation. GMACW was initially launched as a private nonprofit but is currently under the administration of EDGE.
Memphis Economic Development Plan. As part of the Memphis Fast Forward initiative, Memphis Tomorrow, together with City and County mayors and a diverse roundtable of 20+ economic development organizations, created and implemented the Memphis Economic Development Plan. Launching just as the worst recession in generations began to grip the global economy, it was both the worst time and the best time to embark on an economic development plan of action. While on the one hand the recession was a strong dampener, it was fortuitous that our community had a definitive agenda to pursue while other cities were left to scramble to address the global economic meltdown. MT raised $35 Million to provide seed funding to support the Plan and its implementation partners over a 5-year implementation period. Overall results included more than 15,000 new jobs created with average annual wage of $39,900; new capital investment of $4.2 billion; new minority business receipts of $576 million, among other results. Below are some of the programs and initiatives funded through the plan.
Innova. Memphis Tomorrow companies invested and supported Bioworks Foundation in the launch of a new venture capital firm, Innova, dedicated to finding and growing promising local start-up companies in the biosciences, technology and bioagriculture sectors. Since its founding in 2008, Innova has raised over $71 million in capital for investment in early stage companies, and attracted over $75 million in co-investment capital. Innova portfolio companies generate approximately $50 million annually and employ more than 250 people, while serving as a lynchpin of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem in all sectors.
ZeroTo510 – Memphis Tomorrow companies also supported Bioworks in the founding and operation of the ZeroTo510 Medical Device Accelerator, which has subsequently been named as one of the top 25 business accelerators in the United States by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. ZeroTo510 leverages the significant commercial capabilities in the region in medical device to grow and attract companies to Memphis. With 29 companies in its portfolio, and over $10M of follow-on investments, ZeroTo510 has become a national asset, well recognized for converting medical device concepts to commercial entities.
AgLaunch – Memphis Tomorrow supported early planning and implementation work for Memphis Bioworks Foundation’s bioagriculture efforts. Bioworks led a five-state effort focused on the development of new uses for and biobased products made from new and existing agriculture crops. This work led to the development of a model farmer network who experimented with alternative crops, a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and other Ag stakeholders, and later to the creation of AgLaunch in 2015. AgLaunch was spun out as a separate organization in 2018.
Minority business incubator, loan fund and supplier diversity initiative. Memphis Tomorrow companies invested approximately $3 million in a minority business incubator, a revolving loan fund and participated in a supplier diversity initiative operated by Mid-South Minority Business Council. From 2007-2011, aggregate revenue of the incubator firms grew from $4.3 million to $11.5 million; the loan fund issued loans to 14 businesses which helped to create/retain nearly 80 jobs in those companies; and the supplier diversity initiative generated nearly $500 million in new contract awards for minority owned firms and assisted 78 of those firms to each secure $1 million+ in contract awards.
Memphis Music Development Center. Memphis Tomorrow companies invested approximately $2.5 million with The Memphis Music Foundation to establish the Memphis Music Resource Center, the first-of-its-kind small business development center and workspace offering expert staff, tools, and resources to help local musicians, technicians, managers, agents, and others in the music industry manage their careers and succeed in business. Following a successful five years of operation with 2300 members from the music industry, the Memphis Music Resource Center joined forces with the legendary David Porter as part of his Talent Development Complex. And just last year, Porter opened his own recording studio: Made In Memphis Entertainment, with investment from some Memphis Tomorrow companies.
Memphis Chamber of Commerce Business Recruitment and Expansion. Memphis Tomorrow was the primary investor in a $17.4 million grant to the Greater Memphis Chamber over five years, with a portion also coming from City and County governments. The funds went to support business recruitment and expansion operations which resulted in approximately 14,000 new jobs and 22,000 retained jobs, and nearly $3.2 billion in new capital investment.