New Ballgame


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The Greater Memphis Chamber researched Forbes' statistical data and came up with some interesting - and not so miserable - conclusions.

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New Ballgame

  1. 1. An effective economic development plan. A transparent government. And an increasingly safer city. That’s Memphis in 2010. A whole new ballgame An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  2. 2. A whole new ballgame We’d like you to know Memphis like we know Memphis. As residents and business owners here, we know our city shines best under a close look, not in abstract generalizations. Memphis is on the move these days, and sometimes, statistics have yet to catch up to our progress. We’ve put this document together especially for you to provide an accurate, up-to-the-week update on key areas of concern. We feel that, after you look closely at Memphis, it’s a whole new ballgame. Memphis can sometimes take it on the chin when it comes to various unwieldy national rankings and lists. It’s been the case throughout our city’s storied history, and it remains true today. Even some of our most celebrated strengths don’t fit neatly into our list- and ranking- obsessed society. Are we really the No. 1 barbecue city? America’s No. 1 music city? We certainly like to think so, but can anyone truly be? In other words, rankings and lists are only as good as the statistics behind them — and the logic behind them, too. This document is our attempt to show you the Memphis we know as reality — a place of opportunity, and a city that’s ready to help make your company proud to call home. Let us be direct: We flat-out dispute the flimsy methodology we’ve been able to discern powering the recent Forbes magazine article that smeared us. Unfortunately, Forbes declined to share their methodology with us. In Memphis, we’re about getting down to business, and we’re about facts. In 2010, our city is a place where a multifaceted economic development plan is showing results. Where a new, highly respected mayor is responsive to concerns. Where public safety has been dramatically improved due to cutting-edge technology. We are a cleaner, safer and more transparent city than ever. Memphis is a proud city with nothing to hide, and we’re going to keep getting better. Sincerely,
  3. 3. An open letter Dear Mr. Forbes, Last Tuesday, I had the privilege of welcoming home a team of physicians, surgeons, and specialists from Memphis’ Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center who traveled to Haiti to attend to the youngest victims of the devastating earthquake. These are exceptionally brilliant and compassionate live-savers and caregivers, some of the finest in the world. They selflessly gave up weeks of their own lives, careers, and time with their families to minister to the needs of impoverished strangers on the other side of the planet. When I stepped out of Le Bonheur, I looked up at their new hospital, currently under construction and slated to open this summer. This $340-million, 610,000-square-foot facility will double their current space for care, research, and teaching. Across the street, FedEx is sponsoring the constructing of a home to provide housing for families of long-term patients. FedEx House will sit at the corner of a larger mixed-income, mixed-housing development called Legends Park. It’s one of several Hope VI developments that have flourished in Memphis over the past couple of decades. This past summer, HUD Deputy Secretary Ronald Sims called Memphis “one of the bright shining examples in the United States today,” of inner- city revitalization and blight removal. Down the street from Le Bonheur and Legends Park I could see St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital, which provides lifesaving care to children from around the world, regardless of their ability to pay. Around the corner, the new UT Baptist Research Park is under construction, which will make Memphis a global leader in bioscience. Methodist University Hospital, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs came to get a new liver last summer, is a short distance away. The following night, the Memphis Grizzlies defeated Toronto in a thrilling overtime battle. The Grizz are doing better now than they have in years, and might even secure a post-season berth. Two nights later at FedEx Forum, near historic Beale Street, our beloved University of Memphis Tigers utterly dominated the visiting Southern Methodist University Mustangs. The coach of the Tigers is a young man named Josh Pastner, who may be the least miserable person alive. This past Saturday, I saw a ballet at the Jeniam Center, our new, $15 million performing arts complex in the heart of our midtown arts district. This facility, modeled after Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre, was financed completely by private gifts and contributions. In a few weeks, we’re going to break ground on the Salvation Army Kroc Center, a 100,000 square foot worship, arts, education, and recreation center a few blocks away. We’re one of only 25 cities in the United States that will build a Kroc Center, which required our community to raise $25 million in private funds. Memphis is routinely cited as one of the most charitable cities in the United States.
  4. 4. My point is not about a hospital or a housing complex. It’s not about a basketball team or a ballet. It’s about our people. As their Mayor, I simply cannot allow to pass without comment some of the things you have published about our city. Your magazine mentioned “unemployment, taxes (both sales and income), commute times, violent crime and how its pro sports teams have fared… weather and Superfund pollution sites… [and] corruption based on convictions of public officials,” as the factors for inclusion on your recent list of America’s most miserable cities. By your own criteria, there are far more cities on your list that have far higher unemployment and far longer commute times than Memphis. Most of them lack professional sports altogether. Violent crime in Memphis is declining steadily. There is a new era of transparency and ethical behavior in City Hall, due to a couple of executive orders that I drafted and signed when I took office last October. The sun shines here 230 days a year. Memphis is not a miserable city, not by any definition, not by any metric Memphis is a city of joy. You can hear it coming up from our high school gymnasiums and football fields every Friday evening. You can hear it rocking on Beale Street late every Saturday night. You can hear it in our churches every Sunday morning. Memphis is a city of innovation. The accomplishments of our past are outshone only by the brilliance of what’s happening right now in our arts and business sectors. I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve enjoyed the music of Otis Redding or Al Green or B.B. King or Johnny Cash. Those artists and countless other achieved lasting, worldwide fame after getting started in Memphis. Brands like FedEx and AutoZone were born here and keep their world headquarters here; companies like International Paper and ServiceMaster have both relocated here in the past five years. Memphis is a city of resilience. Floods, fire, pestilence, and poverty may have tested us, but they have never broken us. We are a city built on a bluff, positioned to withstand storms that other cities cannot. If the rates of unemployment, high school drop outs, and crime are to be our new battlegrounds, then we will join those fights, and we will prevail. For all of the problems you might show me, I can point to a legion of government agencies, non-profit organizations, churches, volunteer groups, and grassroots activists working together as one Memphis to find the solutions. Maybe it’s something in our water. Maybe it’s something in our soil. I think it’s something in our souls that makes us Memphians. We know who we are – and miserable is not part of the definition. We know too that our city’s song is not complete. It is being written every day, and it is sung by a chorus of hopeful, energetic voices that will resonate for generations. Memphis is actually not my hometown. I was born and raised in a small town, about 240 miles east of Memphis. My wife and I made a deliberate choice to put our roots down here, make our careers here, and raise our children here about 40 years ago. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Memphis, but please accept this letter as my formal invitation to come visit us at your earliest convenience. You’ll have the time of your life, I promise you. Best wishes A C Wharton,Jr. Mayor, City of Memphis
  5. 5. 1 broad brush Memphis was seen as having the second highest rate of violent crimes. safety reality Our method of crime tracking is more comprehensive than used in many other cities. Even the FBI cautions not to use its own unevenly reported data in a comparative fashion. Meanwhile, our multifaceted community effort to bring down crime is working: Violent crime in Memphis is down drastically. A sAfer ciTy every yeAr M emphis is safer — a lot safer — than any list might lead you to believe. The FBI itself calls comparing one city to the other “simplistic,” and leads to “incomplete analsyses that often create misleading perceptions.” The American Association of Criminologists calls city-against-city comparisons “invalid, damaging and irresponsible” due to a simple reason: Different cities use different methods to compile their data. For instance, when a crime occurs in Memphis, police tally its every aspect — not just the most grevious offense. Many other cities only count a crime in its statistics once. And that’s just one example. Memphis’ Real Time Crime Center Moreover, the results of a broad, community-wide public safety strategy begun in 2007 are starting to show results — and they’re dramatic. Violent crime has dropped 41.8 percent since 2006, and 26.2 percent since January 2009 alone. Our plan, “Operation Safe Community,” is holistic, data-driven, and has received wide praise by international police experts. It’s not only about fighting crime when it occurs, but coordinating resources on issues from drug treatment courts to domestic violence to nuisance abatement. The city’s newly opened Real Time Crime Center provides state-of-the-art monitoring and response, allowing businesses to get a better geographic understanding of crime in Memphis and work directly with police officials to prevent crime or respond to concerns. Memphis understands the correlation between making our city safe and watching it grow. Accurate statistics are beginning to show that our approach to public safety is working. From January 2006 to the end of January 2010, overall crime was down 37.7%. Violent crime was down by 41.8% and property crime was down by 36.8% across the City of Memphis when compared to the same time period in 2006. A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  6. 6. 2 broad brush Our sales tax rate was defined by Forbes as falling within the top 10 nationally. tax reality Our overall tax burden ranks about in the middle nationally, and doing business in Memphis has multiple tax advantages. Large companies are moving here because of our offerings. incenTives ThAT work T he Tax Foundation, a Washington-based nonpartisan educational organization — ranks Tennessee 22nd among states for its overall corporate tax burden (which includes corporate, individual, sales, property and unemployment insurance taxes). We hope that speaks loudly to companies looking to start a new chapter here. Even a middle-of-the-list overall ranking can’t tout what Tennessee and Memphis offer in financial incentives for companies that create new jobs and invest here. They include: • electricity credits that nearly cut costs in half for up to four years; • reduction of city (90%) and county (75%) property Former banker Mathis Young recently started a thriving small business. taxes; • sales tax exemptions for industrial machinery and supplies; • state franchise and excise credits that allow a 50 percent reduction for up to 15 years; • state job tax credit of at least $4,500 per new job; and • training and infrastructure assistance. Since 2006, two Fortune 500 companies — International Paper and Servicemaster — have relocated to Memphis, joining FedEx and AutoZone as other top city-based firms. Nearly 140 other companies have relocated or expanded here during that time. All told, 12,477 new jobs have been created here as a result. The overall approach to taxation in both Memphis and Tennessee at large makes a move to Memphis something quite less than “taxing.” The March 2010 issue of Site Selector magazine ranks Memphis #9 for relocations and expansions in large communities. Tennessee lacks several duties other states apply – a personal state wage tax, for instance. A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  7. 7. 3 broad brush Memphis must defend itself against the generalized accusation that its public officials are convicted at an public officials alarming rate. reality Federal officials call the data “outdated,” and say it stems from a mid-2005 investigation that “cleaned house” of corrupt officials. Meanwhile, our new mayor has set a high standard of transparency. A coMMiTMenT To TrAnspArency U nlike doctors, federal prosecutors can’t exactly give you a clean bill of health. But thoughts shared this week from U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi come close. “I am pleased to report that there have been no indictments of elected officials in Shelby County from 2008 through the present,” he confirmed to the Chamber. Indeed, as Laurenzi notes, there is a bubble of indictments, guilty pleas and sentencings that surface in a government report that Forbes reportedly used, “Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses, 7th Edition, May 2007.” That’s right — 2007. A C Wharton takes the oath of office for mayor in a recent ceremony. It’s worse, as the federal prosecutor correctly points out, when you consider the report was based on data from 2006, which drew from “a highly successful undercover operation which was brought down in 2005.” (See appendix.) In other words, Memphis’s current government finds itself reacting to statistics based on a year in a year when “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith” was on movie screens. Ethical, transparent city government stands to be the hallmark of newly installed administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, a highly respected lawyer who served for years as Shelby County mayor without a blemish on his record. The mayor, who is highly engaged at the Washington-based Brookings Institution and whose passions include the nexus between poverty and other societal ills, won with a commanding majority in last year’s special election — largely on a platform of unity, transparency and straight talk. Ethical, transparent city government stands to be the hallmark of Memphis. A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  8. 8. 4 broad brush Forbes counts traffic congestion in its index, and we’re not sure how their methodology might contribute to our overall commute ranking. reality Memphis has easy commutes, especially compared to other similar metropolises. TrAvelers fAre well i n the leading national study on traffic in cities, Memphis fares extremely well. Compared to the averages of large urban centers and on communities of comparable size, travel in Memphis is easy, with significantly less delay than the average, and with significantly less fuel wasted per traveler than average. (See link to study for additional data.) The authoritative objective source on congestion and mitigation of the transportation bottlenecks in the United States is regularly released by Texas A&M University. The Texas Transportation Institute Urban Mobility Information, is the commonly known standard regular report on congestion in cities. It provides guidance on the impact of traffic on the traveling public. A Travel in and around Memphis is easy compared to several similarly-sized cities. summary of select communities (see graphic) demonstrates that Memphians experiences better traffic flow, resulting in relatively efficient transportation across the community. According to Forbes’ “Best And Worst Cities For Commuters” (February 16, 2010), the Memphis region ranks 23rd among the nation’s 65 largest metro areas for ease of commuting – including 11th best for travel delays and 15th best for overall travel time. A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  9. 9. 5 broad brush Memphis’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. employment reality It’s higher only by a nose. Memphis has fared better than most. And an independent analysis shows we’re going to come out of the recession stronger than most, too. A sTAble ciTy M emphis is an exciting place to be, but not for its fluctuation in labor statistics. While other regions tend to be affected drastically by market shifts, Memphis is a comparative bastion of stability. We mirror national trends, but rarely rise highly above them. Conversely, we never fall too far behind. Thus in December 2009 unemployment figures, as the national average hit 10 percent, Shelby County and the MSA were slightly higher — both at 10.3 percent. Last year, the Brookings Institution began to monitor the relative strength of 100 metropolitan areas as they attempted to emerge from the recession. Of five established tiers, scholars placed Readiness centers in Memphis are working to place job-seekers. Memphis in the “second strongest” group, citing the quarterly or annual percentage change in its rates of employment, unemployment, gross metropolitan product and price of housing. In part, Memphis owes its statistical insulation from a relatively diverse economy in which its anchors — logistics chief among them — never fall out of favor. In recent years, the city has also become a competitive player in the biosciences industry — some of which also ties to our city’s unique ability to ship almost anything, anywhere faster than anyone in North America. Scholars have dubbed Memphis America’s one true “aerotropolis,” a thriving airport-centered city which will play a key role in the increasingly global economy. Memphis has also embarked on an aggressive, five-year economic development plan called MemphisED to bolster the pillars of a strong community. This accountability-based effort includes everything from strengthening the city’s development efforts, workforce development, downtown / riverfront and open spaces. The initiative falls within Memphis Fast Forward, an even broader effort to place the community on an even stronger growth footing. Business leaders here are expressing confidence in Memphis, deciding to stay and grow. Last year, when shingle manufacturer Owens Corning decided to create an expanded product line, it weighed whether to expand in Memphis or build somewhere else. It stayed. Among executives’ deciding factors “were the quality, loyalty and productivity of our Memphis workforce,” Dave Moelter, the company’s plant leader, wrote to us last week. “Their performance over the years and productivity compared with our other options, coupled with Memphis’s other strengths, weighed heavily.” That’s not a story of a company, or a community, in retreat. A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  10. 10. 6 broad brush Memphis has undesirable “superfund” sites. environment reality There are only two, and they are nowhere near the Project 21 site. An iMporTAnT cleAn bill of heAlTh i n recent years, Memphis and Shelby County have had only three sites designated for the “Superfund” program by the Environmental Protection Agency. One of the sites has already undergone successful remediation, and the remaining two sites are located far away from the proposed Project 21 site. Further reducing the impact of environmental issues on new development projects, on January 4, 2010 the EPA published a Final Rule in the Ghost River Brewery owner Chuck Skypeck runs tours down the Ghost River near Memphis. Federal Register declaring that His company draws its exceptionally clean water from the Memphis Sands Aquifer. Memphis had achieved attainment status under the 1997 8-hour ozone national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). That’s important to us because it means the Memphis economy is able and ready to grow in new ways, right alongside other industry. MAp of AreA sUperfUnd siTes SupERFund SiTES pRoJECT 21 SiTE AREA A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  11. 11. 7 broad brush Memphis can be a region of extremes, with extremely warm periods of summer and storms that sometimes make weather the national news. reality Weather hardly ever stops business from being conducted in Memphis. The airport is virtually always open, school is rarely canceled and conditions here are often comparatively mild. rAin or shine, bUsiness Goes on U nlike in many cities, weather hardly ever gets in the way of business in Memphis. Since logistics is a key part of our economy, it’s not just a matter of conjecture or bragging – but scientific study that others have relied on to base their businesses here. In a December 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis that compared FedEx’s Memphis hub with that of United Parcel Service’s operations in Louisville, researchers noted that “the most important factor for designating an airport as a cargo hub is weather. Cargo hubs are extremely averse to closures or to reduced capacity situations Both air and graound traffic thrive under Memphis’ clear skies. resulting from low visibility, fog, snow or strong winds.” Memphis International Airport is therefore a bellwether of the region’s climate. The airport experiences few delays due to weather, which federal transportation statistics support. Ever since data has been kept on the subject, Memphis has experienced 21% fewer weather delays than the national average. On average, only 5.7 inches of snow fall per year in Memphis, which keeps both air and ground traffic humming. Perhaps surprisingly, the percentage of clear days in Memphis is significantly more than such traditionally regarded clear and sunny communities like Key West, Orlando, Honolulu or Miami. Over 43 years of data up to 2008, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce has tracked meteorological data on number of clear days in Memphis. Memphis is reported to enjoy clear days 32.33 percent of the time, placing it 70th in the national rank, behind 67 reported defined territories west of the Mississippi River, yet third among communities east of the Mississippi River behind only Apalachicola, Florida and Greenville- Spartanburg, S.C. Memphis international Airport is a decent bellwether of the region’s climate. A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  12. 12. 8 broad brush Memphis has a “lone major franchise,” the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, is “one of the worst in the NBA.” Pro sports sports is a “mess.” reality The Grizzlies, while struggling at times, are having their best year in a good while. Memphis has a beautiful downtown minor league baseball park, a nearby hockey team and a college basketball scene that engages the entire city. A ciTy of fAns who cAre firsT AboUT MeMphis T he sports scene in Memphis is filled with pride. And it’s not simply tied to whether a team here wins or loses. At its heart, Memphis is a college basketball town, and has been for years. Many date it back to the Memphis State Tigers’ 1957 run to the finals of the National Invitation Tournament. The team made it to the NCAA Championship in 2008. (We still aren’t very fond of the Kansas Jayhawks due to that game’s result.) Now the Tigers are led by one of the league’s youngest coaches, Josh Pastner. His principled style has embodied the true spirit of the city, and Memphis has embraced Pastner and his young recruits in tandem. And the team continues to win. The more-established Tigers and the NBA’s youngest team, the Memphis Grizzlies, often do good-natured battle to capture the city’s attention. In the team’s ninth year in Memphis, the Grizzlies have endeared themselves to Memphians as much or more than any previous season. Leading the way for the Grizzlies has been Zach Randolph, a player whose grit and relentlessness on the floor represents the toughness of the city itself. Win or lose, the Grizzlies’ fate continues to engage Memphians. That’s because Memphis o.J. Mayo takes flight at FedExForum. has a relationship with its teams that spans far deeper than wins and losses. And when we lose, the attitude tracks more toward “get ‘em next time” -- not “give up.” Each year, Memphis also becomes more of a baseball town. Brick-walled AutoZone Park in the heart of downtown, has been voted “the nation’s top minor league park” by Baseball America. The park is home to the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Memphis Redbirds are the first and only professional sports franchise to be recognized as a charity (501c3) with a mission to improve the lives of the children in our community. The status also anchors them firmly in the city. In 2009, the Redbirds won the Pacific Coast League Championship. At the nearby Desoto Civic Center, the Mississippi River Kings – an affiliate of the Central Hockey League – bring hockey to the Mid-South each season from October to March. in the team’s ninth year in Memphis, the Grizzlies have endeared themselves to Memphians as much or more than any previous season. A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis
  13. 13. 9 A Whole New Ballgame | An accurate picture of life and business in Memphis