Building a prosperous and inclusive economy for Memphis that is globally competitive is not possible without investing in the people who power it, by ensuring everyone has the foundations and supports to attain high quality jobs to support their families. A strong economy also requires a business sector that is growing and diversifying into emerging industries, as well as a robust ecosystem to support entrepreneurs, especially Black-owned businesses.
There have been recent significant economic development milestones achieved in the Memphis region, including record-setting job growth and the recruitment of the Blue Oval plant and ancillary businesses to West Tennessee. But by many measures, including industry diversity, educational attainment, and household income, Memphis ranks below many of its peer cities and there is more work to be done toward building economic inclusion and specifically, connecting workers to economic opportunities.
JW Gibson is a lifelong entrepreneur. Beginning in 1991, he began building the Gibson Companies, with a goal of supporting community growth by strengthening major industries. Today, Gibson Companies now includes multiple entities and is a leader in the healthcare, real estate, and digital printing industries. This unique experience as a job creator and business owner – as well as his involvement in local economic development organizations – has given him direct knowledge of and experience in the local economic development ecosystem.
JW believes that local economic efforts require active involvement from City Hall, greater collaboration between Memphis and Shelby County, and increased emphasis on minority economic empowerment through high quality jobs and entrepreneurship. Policy change and advocacy at the state and regional levels will also be essential to ensure that our government and economic development partners understand our plans and are working to support them.
“Reliable, safe, and consistent access to jobs, schools, and broadband internet should be the standard of living for our citizens."
- JW Gibson
Here is a partial list of JW Gibson’s economic development priorities:
Grow the local economy by building on our new and legacy assets
Aggressively support the diversification of the local economy by recruiting business in industries such as advanced manufacturing and medical devices, which offer higher-wage jobs.
Work with partners to recruit companies who can use Memphis’ high concentration of Black tech talent to meet their corporate diversity goals.
Leverage Memphis’ unique transportation assets - road, rail, river, and runway - to continue growth in the logistics sector.
Support the implementation of the Memphis Chamber’s Prosper 2030 plan, which aims to build “prosperity for all” by creating inclusive jobs, attracting diverse industries, and building pathways for future-ready talent.
Work with Shelby County government and other stakeholders to examine if the local economic development infrastructure (Chamber, EDGE, Port Authority, etc.) could be better aligned, coordinated, and efficient.
Engage stakeholders around a regional economic development strategy that would market the tri-state area, pursue joint projects, and collaborate on issues of shared interest such as infrastructure, and air and water quality – building on existing and past efforts.
Provide greater opportunities for African American workers and business owners.
Support the growing Black technology sector, by attracting and growing talent, and investing in Black tech startups and innovators.
Increase minority business’s share of the local government spending by restructuring procurement policies and certification requirements, and increasing access to RFPs and other opportunities
Build capacity of minority businesses by streamlining the government and nonprofit systems that support them, including increased collaboration between Memphis and Shelby County.
Support the Buy Memphis Initiative, which encourages corporations to increase their spending in Memphis, especially with minority-owned businesses.
Build a workforce to meet the needs of the 21st century
Engage City government more directly in the workforce development infrastructure – where it historically has not been well-represented – through investment, leadership, and alignment of services to support workforce goals.
Provide City support to a pilot accelerated certification training center, which will prepare adult learners for STEM careers much faster than through traditional routes (e.g. community colleges) – supported with evening and weekend classes, day care, transportation assistance and career services. If successful, build a network of centers to increase access to training at the neighborhood level.
Support programs that give high schools students direct pathways into technical careers through training and certifications.
Work with partners to expand programs serving “opportunity youth” (16-24 and neither employed or in school) and job readiness/career planning to younger ages.
Promote City investment in innovative workforce development programs that will prepare workers for the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution, in fields such as artificial intelligence and robotics.