New Greater Memphis Chamber Chairman Lays Out Bold Agenda For Growing Memphis Business

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - On his first day on the job, the new Greater Memphis Chamber Chairman laid out a bold agenda to grow new jobs and challenge the status quo.

Richard Smith, the son of FedEx founder Fred Smith, began his two-year term Wednesday, and unveiled his ideas at the annual chamber luncheon.

Smith showed enthusiasm on stage at the Peabody Hotel, telling hundreds that while Memphis plays great defense in keeping its jobs, he said the city needs to play better ‘offense’ in 2018, and bring new companies into the fold.

“We play great defense in the city of Grit and Grind, but it's time to play better offense,” said Smith. “Let's challenge the norms and invite the new. I want to make certain that when businesses come to Memphis or consider growing within Memphis, that we are known as the most business friendly city in the world!"

During Wednesday’s annual chamber luncheon, the FedEx Trade Networks President urged his new chamber team to dream big, and challenged those in this room to think and act differently to expand the area economy.

“As a community, we must look at what is working and what is not working when it comes to recruiting and growing business, and how our elected body is working with us towards that goal,” said Smith. "We must reform our economic development model to be even more aggressive and that is why it will my key platform issue coming into this role, so consider this a call to arms."

Smith also defended Memphis-area tax incentives known as PILOTS, used to lure companies, and argued such incentives prevent Memphis from losing companies and jobs to north Mississippi or Nashville.

"It makes it sound like corporate welfare. It is not, in fact. It is our only economic development weapon,” said Smith.

Another common theme during the chamber luncheon was Memphis bidding for Amazon’s second headquarters, and the promise of tens of thousands of new jobs. Chamber leaders said the entire region put its support in the application. Amazon will announce the winning city sometime next year.

Smith and other Chamber members feel good about 2018 prospects by pointing to Memphis’ momentum in 2017. Recent studies listed the bluff city among the least expensive cities to live, among the best cities for millennials, and where to launch a startup business.

"The response was not ‘why Memphis,’ the response was ‘why not Memphis.’ This is a 180 degree turn when I arrived 20 years ago,” says Phil Trenary, the Greater Memphis Chamber CEO.

 


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