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VOL. 133 | NO. 48 | Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Smith Pens Email to Local Leaders to Clarify Position on EDGE

By Patrick Lantrip

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Greater Memphis Chamber chairman Richard Smith penned a lengthy email to Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission members Tuesday evening to clarify “misconceptions amongst the bodies when it comes to economic development in our community.”

Smith’s concerns arose from a Thursday, March 1, joint session of the City Council and County Commission organized by commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer and council chairman Berlin Boyd.

View/download
Richard Smith's letter
(PDF, 135 KB)

The misconceptions Smith was referring to in a copy of the email obtained by The Daily News mainly revolve around whether the chamber or the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County is responsible for selling Memphis as a possible destination to prospective companies.

Smith said that while both entities are responsible for the selling, they perform different “sales functions.”

“The Chamber acts as the marketing and lead-generating arm, bringing the prospects to Memphis, first and foremost, then helping them navigate the process and providing support in key areas specific to each individual project,” wrote Smith, who is also president and CEO of FedEx Trade Networks.

Smith went on the say the chamber has had to pick up the slack in the latter two areas.

“This is where I feel in full agreement with Councilman (Martavius) Jones, that we need a real deal-closer over at EDGE so that we don’t continue bringing prospects in who then choose to locate across the state line because our process is difficult to navigate, cumbersome, and EDGE is more bureaucratic than dynamic and deal making,” Smith wrote.

Smith also said in the email that now is the time to take a hard look at EDGE, its board and its leadership, and who it reports to.

“In addition, Councilman Martavius Jones adequately described what I believe are the characteristics needed for a successful president of EDGE. This individual must be ‘a dynamic salesperson’ who can leverage public resources to close the deals once we bring them to the table. I believe these are quick wins for the Commission and the Council which they should seriously consider moving on posthaste.”

Currently, Reid Dulberger is the president and CEO of EDGE.

Smith also wanted to address in his email the “glaring misconception” that the Chamber is not doing anything to promote Memphis or economic development.

“That could not be further from the truth. Not only are these individuals waking up every day thinking about bringing jobs to this community, they are also dedicated to creating an environment where all of our businesses can achieve success.”

He went on to say that the Chamber, which is privately funded by its members, invests the greatest percentage of its budget on economic development, job recruitment and retention, international business development, national advertising, public relations and promotion of Memphis, data sharing and collection, and project management.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 124 481 17,865
MORTGAGES 127 530 20,565
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 4 48 2,693
BUILDING PERMITS 195 891 36,836
BANKRUPTCIES 52 262 11,426
BUSINESS LICENSES 24 139 5,848
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 26 116 6,830
MARRIAGE LICENSES 26 133 4,049