A more progressive group of public officials are making progress on a range of economic development issues but are obstructed by an “elephant in the room” being Memphis Corporate Community Leadership (MCCL). MCCL consists of Memphis Tomorrow, Greater Memphis Chamber and EDGE.
Local activist movements in Memphis Raise Your Expectations (MRYE) and this blog MCCL Measured have, through measurement, successfully and overtly confronted MCCL while more subtle but vital activist organizations in Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope (MICAH) are adding critical mass to the transformational movement. The transformational movement confronts Memphis inequality for the benefit of all.
Commissioners Willie Brooks, Reginald Milton, Edmund Ford, Tami Sawyer, Brandon Morrison and Michael Whaley are all engaged in one or more of the following economic development reform issues of Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE), workforce and/or public transit reform. Recognized by Commissioner Milton, a curious Boss Crump represented the intransient MCCL at the County EDGE Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday.
County EDGE Ad Hoc
On Wednesday, with a concerned Boss Crump watching, Mayor Jim Strickland offered refreshing testimony on a framework for economic development in the County EDGE Ad Hoc committee that consisted of the following four points: 1) its not all about tax incentives 2) workforce development is the top priority 3) support for local business including small business which is responsible for 70% of local economic growth and 4) research based target sector corporate recruiting strategy to guide responsible incentive development. Boss Crump departed the meeting without comment.
Ron Belz shared concerns for road improvements in Southeast Memphis to support site availability and Mayor Strickland stated that work is proceeding to improve roads in the Southeast. Carolyn Hardy championed local business investment by the local business community and asked the Mayor for the “Gold Standard” for economic development. Immersed in offline negotiations, The Mayor was not yet prepared to unveil a “Gold Standard”. But given the priority of local workforce and contingent on a yet to be revealed definition for local economic development, a “Gold Standard” might be the following:
Memphis will lead the nation in career ready workforce development while achieving above peer percentage average total wage growth.
Eric Roberston of Community Lift raised questions regarding the effective evaluation of the 9 other organizations besides EDGE that have tax abating authority. An article was recently published by Smart City Memphis on this topic. This committee only deals with EDGE but Robertson’s concerns are on target while in pursuit of taxpayer justice.
The MCCL elephant in the room, has challenged local economic development work with a hyper-focus on tax incentives for existing businesses that without question have restrained road improvements, site availability and small business growth. For example, it was implied in the City EDGE committee that local real estate developers have obstructed needed site development work. This thought process is concerning given a current shortage of ready to go sites to support economic development efforts.
County Ad Hoc Public Transit
Ford and Sawyer have successfully assembled a diverse and invested public transit ad hoc committee consisting of themselves, subject matter experts from Memphis Area Transit Authority, researchers from Innovate Memphis and public transit users in the Bus Riders Union.
Funding has been the central issue for adequate public transit for almost 2 years following the release of Transit Funding study. Given the overt confrontation of the activist community, local leaders seem more comfortable confronting, on the record, the MCCL elephant in the room as an obstacle to addressing transit funding.
Ford said “that we as a community must sell a funding solution for transit”. Following the meeting, the activist group MICAH, could be seen scurrying the room asking for a list of groups concerned with public transit to begin the grassroots campaign in support of public transit funding. Ford has also remarked that workforce challenges revolve around public transit availability, worker public record and skill development.
County Ad Hoc Workforce
Ford, Sawyer, Morrison and Whaley while being challenged with attendance at meetings from workforce development parties, have assembled a diverse group to support local reform efforts. This work, while desperately needed, seems to be a rerun of past City Council committee work that somehow ended without material results more than a year ago. The same unresolved issues are sure to surface in the County Workforce Ad Hoc around the need for a cohesive connected marketing plan to support workforce readiness and development supported by a user friendly and reputable centralized job board.
The need for soft skill development was discussed in the meeting but there is no authoritative and quantifiable data to define what is meant by soft skills. The Greater Memphis Chamber clamors for “alignment, alignment, alignment”. Alignment to what ? The Chamber has yet to articulate an alignment protocol.
In committee Mr. Mike Lewis, County Human Resource Administrator, smartly stated that “there is a lack of connectivity between a local workforce readiness programs.” The similar was stated by Roland Raynor of Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) more than a year ago in City Council Committee.
Connectivity is not going to happen until there is data that defines in-demand skills (soft skills), a centralized and reputable job board is established and the Chamber articulates a generalized alignment protocol. Once the former is accomplished a cohesive marketing plan to define and support workforce development efforts can be assembled. A plan will be published through blog Monday, November 5, 2018.
As far as the elephant in the room, again it’s the MCCL in the Chamber and EDGE run Greater Memphis Alignment for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW). Both have ignored and stifled locally offered connected workforce development solutions while under-serving 60,000 students and a community in need. The costs to taxpayers and a community in need are huge.
Ford starts all of his meetings with this CA article. The article involves a millennial and part of the more mobile population that has left the city and not because they wanted to but because they felt they had no choice. Most that leave the city are invisible to leaders and don’t get picked up by the CA but instead, off the radar, leave after trying to navigate a seemingly closed system. People, their ideas, energy and creativity and just arrogantly dismissed and they go elsewhere.
The MCCL elephant in the room has won thus far while enjoying excessive tax incentives and arrogantly disregarding the taxpayer at the Board level through a lack of effective workforce development, declining small business vitality, challenged public transit and a lack of site availability.
Here is the problem, as stated by Paul Volker, former Federal Reserve Chairman for conservative Ronald Reagan, “We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive. And they don’t like government, and they don’t like to pay taxes.” And in Memphis, those same people for one reason or another don’t want to effectively deliver taxpayer funded services either. In Memphis, social justice starts with taxpayer justice.
But the good news is that, things are changing. A more active and confrontational activist community is overtly challenging the MCCL along with public leaders on the record. Memphis transformation will require participation from the taxpayer with significant philanthropic participation by Memphis Corporate Community Leadership coupled with informed legislative oversight and external measurement for the benefit of all.
About Memphis Corporate Community Leadership (MCCL) Measured
With a special focus on Memphis Tomorrow, MCCL Measured is the first ever and exclusive tool to attempt to measure the effectiveness of Memphis Corporate Community Leadership efforts that use taxpayer money. Additional videos and resources can be found by browsing the entire site or at http://mcclmeasured.net/resources .