Strickland plans to hire new economic development officer

Memphis Business Journal
May 15, 2018, 2:57pm CDT Updated: May 15, 2018, 3:01pm CDT

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is the latest elected official to get
behind Richard Smith’s plan to proactively and aggressively recruit
Strickland is currently trying to build up the city’s recruiting efforts,
taking trips to New York and Chicago in the past two months to market
Memphis to site selectors and businesses. While he won’t know the
fruits of those efforts for a while, Strickland said he gained insight
after being on the ground with site selectors.
“I’ve learned how important it is to cut the red tape with government,”
Strickland said during an updated State of the City address before the
Memphis Rotary Club Tuesday, May 15. “I’ve learned how important it
is for potential businesses to get answers from government quickly.”
Companies looking at moving to Memphis want to know very quickly if the city will be able to put curbs and
gutters on streets or if sewer or utility lines can be moved.
“If we say, ‘Well, we’ll study it and get back with you in a month,’ that’s too long,” Strickland said.
For the past two years, city COO Doug McGowen has been playing this role within Strickland’s
administration. For example, Amazon’s new fulfillment center on Lamar would not be in Memphis, Strickland
said, were it not for McGowen.
“We are exploring how to stand up another officer or an office to do this full-time,” Strickland said. “Not only
to respond to questions but to be proactive in doing this. Because just as much as a potential new business
does not have time to wait, neither does Memphis.”
Strickland said there’s no timeline for filling the position.
“We’ve come to the realization, to really be proactive, there needs to be someone reporting to Doug rather
than just Doug himself,” Strickland said.
As the chief operating officer, McGowen’s responsibilities include running much of city government.
“McGowen has been an invaluable tool. He will always be involved in economic development, but we
probably need to supplement his staff to do an even better job,” Strickland said.
The position would either be a new role in city government or Strickland would “repurpose” a position in the
executive division.
The idea of Memphis needing a “salesman or marketer” was first introduced at a joint meeting between the
Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission in March.
“I think they fit hand-in-glove,” Strickland said of his efforts and how they align with those of FedEx Trade
Network’s Smith, the council and the commission to recruit industry with a carrot rather than a stick.
“We’re all trying to figure out how can we do it better,” Strickland said.
He also said he is in regular discussions with Smith as the chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber.
“We’ve got to get the city and county governments on the same page, the Chamber, which is our leading
sales voice, and EDGE all together,” Strickland said.


Michelle Corbet
Memphis Business Journal