Workforce and Economy

red-iconA Productive Workforce and Economy


Objective 1 – Enhance access and connectivity to employment, education, and training centers
Objective 2 – Empower individuals to improve economic outcomes at home
Objective 3 – Promote and support neighborhood-level economic development
Objective 4 – Increase and enhance regional employment and economic development opportunities
Objective 5 – Expand green technology workforce development


Regional Context
The Memphis urbanized area has a diverse and dynamic economy that developed out of a strategic location along the Mississippi River. The region built on its historic role as a logistics and distribution hub to become an intermodal hub with river, rail, road and air access. FedEx’s use ofthe Memphis International Airport (MEM) as its primary hub has made MEM the highest volume cargo airport in the U.S. The airport and area immediately surrounding the airport, branded as the Aerotropolis, is the largest economic driver in the State of Tennessee, responsible for nearly $30 billion in economic impact annually.

Residents of the region work in a diverse array of industries. The largest share is employed in educational services, healthcare, and social assistance jobs (22%), followed by transportation, warehousing, and utilities (12%) and retail trade (11%). Three other industries each account for 9% or more of employed residents – arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services; professional, scientific, management, administrative and waste management services; and manufacturing.

The unemployment rate in the four-county area was 8.6% as of December 2013, with an estimated 45,909 persons looking for work. The regional unemployment rate doubled from 5.0% in 2006 to 10.1% in 2009 as a result of the economic recession, but has edged downward since. County unemployment rates follow similar trends, with the lowest unemployment rate in DeSoto County and the highest in Crittenden. While DeSoto’s December 2013 rate of 4.5% was below the national rate of 6.5%, the remaining counties of the region were above the national mark.

A major challenge facing the Mid-South is how to ensure regional employment growth is accessible to the broadest portion of the population possible. Decentralization has dispersed people and jobs over a large area. The lack of density has real implications for public infrastructure,including transportation since lower density automobile oriented communities are very difficult to access without a vehicle. It is difficult for transit to serve these areas because there are not enough jobs or population located along key corridors for transit service to operate with sufficiently frequent service to be considered convenient, or in some cases, a realistic option. At the same time, the cost of travel to and from these locations is significant and in many cases, can be prohibitively expensive for people with lower incomes.

With many of the region’s more desirable jobs only accessible by automobile, it can sometimes be difficult for people without cars to make the transition to higher paying, higher skilled employment. The lack of transportation also challenges employers who have difficulty finding and retaining employees.


Proposed Outcomes
The achievement of the objectives outlined in this section is expected to result in the following outcomes:

• Improved quality of life capable of attracting and retaining business and qualified workers
• Improved connections to economic and employment opportunities near green
• Education and training for residents to hold quality jobs
• Connections allowing residents well-functioning access to job centers
• More redevelopment of vacant and underutilized sites in urbanized areas

Based on regional context and greatest needs identified for A Productive Workforce and Economy, the objectives and actions of this Strategic Direction focus on building economic development opportunities throughout the region, attracting and retaining more businesses and jobs, and improving education and training for job skills by creating better access to education and employment, expanding green technology training, and improving economies at home, in neighborhoods, and across the region.




Objective 1 – Enhance access and connectivity to employment, education, and training centers

7.1.1 Develop a multimodal transportation network that emphasizes connectivity to employment and education centers
7.1.2 Encourage MATA and other transportation providers to develop and implement ideal transit services to support employment and education centers
7.1.3 Engage key employers and educational institutions to develop and provide innovative solutions to transit services and non-transit options (such as flex schedules and employee incentives)
7.1.4 Include transit-served locations and transit access plans in decision-making about business and development incentives
7.1.5 Ensure continued development and connection of green infrastructure, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and transit systems across all areas of the region

The mobility needs in the Mid-South Region are well beyond expanded bus transit. Employment in the Mid-South area is diverse, with some key employment nodes in industrial or suburban areas, removed from easy transit access. This geographic distribution of employment demands a more targeted and far-reaching set of solutions to meet the transportation needs of the greater Memphis region. A series of potential transportation solutions must be created to help guide access to work improvements, which may be employed at an employer, local or regional level.

The Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Toolkit, developed as a part of the Greenprint, is designed to help diversify regional travel options by introducing a series of strategies to the region known as transportation demand management. Across the United States, communities, regions and employers have used TDM as part of other strategies to help manage growth, alleviate congestion, and encourage economic development. In the Mid-South Region, the main objective is to increase the accessibility of employment, much of which is located in suburban areas and is inaccessible due to a lack of regional transit service. Providing greater access helps both potential employees by opening up economic opportunities and employers by enlarging their potential labor pool and minimizing costs. In many cases, there are direct tax benefits or available funding for the implementation of these access-to-work strategies.

An example of a TDM strategy recommended across five case studies on improving access to work in the Mid-South, conducted for this plan, is the creation of Transportation Management Associations (TMA). A TMA is typically a non-profit organization that serves to provide transportation coordination and implementation within a geographically defined area. TMAs are membercontrolled and consist primarily of area businesses and institutions. Often, TMAs include public-private partnerships and have established coordination and funding relationships with local, regional and state governments.

In addition to TMAs, connecting to education and training centers in the region can be improved through developing U-Pass programs throughout the region. University and college transit passes, often referred to as U-Passes, are created through partnerships between public transit authorities and universities or large institutions. These programs are a mutually beneficial way to increase transit ridership and offer greater mobility to students, faculty, and staff.

For example, the University of Memphis operates an on-campus shuttle called the Blue Line to move people around campus and between major destinations. This new service operates from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. A U-Pass program could complement this program by providing access from off-campus areas to campus, allowing students, faculty, and staff to get where they need to go without traveling by car.


Objective 2 – Empower individuals to improve economic outcomes at home

7.2.1 Inform individuals about everyday choices that can save households income, such as housing and transportation costs, renewable energy, food growing, and incentivized waste and recycling
7.2.2 Create and sustain policies and programs to promote household energy efficiency and weatherization
7.2.3 Identify and share information about household weatherization resources and incentives
7.2.4 Promote policies and programs for generation of household clean energy and renewable energy resources to reduce consumption of fossil fuels

Throughout the region, median household income is estimated at $48,282, which is a 20% increase since 2000, according to the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey. Highest median incomes are in DeSoto and Fayette Counties at $58,851 and $56,297, respectively. Fayette saw the largest increase over the period, growing by 40%. Medians in Shelby and Crittenden Counties fall below the national median of $53,046, while medians in DeSoto and Fayette Counties are above the national mark.

Of the total number of owner-occupied housing units in the Mid-South region, the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) reported that 34.7% of households with a mortgage and 16.6% of households without a mortgage were cost burdened. Conversely, 57.1% of renters in the region spent more than 30% of their income on rent. Cost burden occurs when a household has gross housing costs that range from 30% to 49.9% of gross household income; while severe cost burden occurs when gross housing costs represent 50% or more of gross household income. When transportation costs are considered with housing costs, the combined cost burden on regional households grows significantly.

These statistics support the need for empowerment of individuals with the ability to apply sustainable
practices in order to improve their economic conditions. Household economic factors have a large impact on the regional economy, in aggregate. It is important that residents understand the financial benefits associated with incorporating both energy savings and energy generation into their homes and businesses, as well as the benefits of recycling and alternative transportation options. These projects translate to financial savings for renters and homeowners, create demand for green jobs in the region, and have a positive, long-term impact on the regional environment.


Objective 3 – Promote and support neighborhood-level economic development

7.3.1 Reuse underutilized properties in employment centers, neighborhood centers, and along Greenprint corridors for new business development
7.3.2 Create entities to aid in revitalizing neighborhood centers and corridors, such as Main Street and My Street programs
7.3.3 Assess best practices and promote spending in the local economy (Buy Local campaigns)
7.3.4 Create and sustain programs promoting energy efficiency in small businesses

There are significant opportunities to revitalize abandoned and distressed properties for neighborhood economic development throughout the Mid-South region. The sprawling growth trend over several decades has resulted in abandoned or underutilized properties and infrastructure in neighborhoods across the four-county area. Demand for walkable neighborhoods connected to housing, employment, and other daily needs is increasing, and new industry and markets focused on neighborhood economic development are emerging. Areas such as Crosstown in Memphis are seeing community-wide revitalization through investment in underutilized properties. Connecting those properties to green infrastructure can further boost investment and redevelopment of neighborhoods.

Municipalities throughout the region should seek to incentivize mixed land use and higher densities through economic development tools and corresponding changes to policy. This includes allowances of higher density development, or density bonuses, for developers who choose to build near intersections of alternative transportation modes. Other incentives may involve commitments to help expand or maintain trails near development, creation of location or design-based tax incentives, and targeted recruitment of businesses that support use of alternative transportation. Neighborhood residents in these areas would benefit from this type of development being close to their homes and municipalities benefit from increased tax revenue. These strategies could be piloted in the commercial revitalization focus areas associated with the Greenprint Concept Map.


Objective 4 – Increase and enhance regional employment and economic development opportunities

7.4.1 Support and invest in green industries and green jobs with an emphasis on sustainable tourism, agriculture, and clean energy
7.4.2 Encourage and adopt green practices in industry
7.4.3 Market green infrastructure assets to attract investment and support growth of a sustainable economy
7.4.4 Promote employer investment in green business practices as a way to improve local and regional economic competitiveness and community livability

As cities and regions continue to vie for businesses, jobs and talent, quality of life is emerging as a critical
competitive advantage in economic development. Of course, a strong labor pool and tax incentive programs are key drivers for attracting and retaining businesses. But increasingly, companies and their employees are focused on what a community offers outside of the workplace before committing to relocate. Along with sports, arts, music, restaurants and entertainment, wellmaintained parks and greenways are increasingly cited as important amenities. As a part of a regional economic development strategy, a concerted effort should be made to recruit and retain companies and industries that embody the spirit of the Greenprint in order to expand growth of a sustainable, regional economy.

The Greenprint plan should be used as a tool to promote existing tourism efforts and bring more dollars into the region. The strategic location of the region along the Mississippi River can be a significant benefit to the region to market geotourism opportunities. Leveraging a connected system of green space, existing spaces like Shelby Farms Park and Greenline, and proposed connections like the Harahan Bridge bicycle and pedestrian trail give the region a competitive advantage for geotourism, as well as attracting new residents and businesses.

Cities and regions across the country have been able to attract jobs and investment by marketing green
infrastructure. Prior to the 1980s, Chattanooga, Tennessee treated their riverfront strictly as a commercial resource. As the city began to deindustrialize, it began to re-envision the river and other natural resources. This work culminated in the Tennessee Riverpark Master Plan in 1985, a multi-million dollar project that reinvented Chattanooga and the city’s quality of life. Investments in parks and greenways led to significant increases in property values for residents and tax revenues for the city. As a result, Chattanooga was able to attract a manufacturing plant of Volkswagen in 2010, bringing 2,000 new jobs and $1 billion of investment in the region.

Similarly, the St. Louis, Missouri region has experienced $20 million of economic activity and job growth of nearly 90 jobs per year over 10 years as a result of the development of the Great Rivers Greenway.


Objective 5 – Expand green technology workforce development

7.5.1 Create new opportunities for green technology and workforce development
7.5.2 Build stronger connections between education and training and entrepreneurial and small business development
7.5.3 Incorporate sustainability into all levels of education and increase awareness of training, education, and career options in sustainability
7.5.4 Include green technology and job training in Workforce Investment Boards (WIB) training programs
7.5.5 Create a group of technical education and training providers and workforce development agencies to advance green technology and training

One of the core elements for business recruitment and retention is the availability of a skilled workforce. The region must support the education and training of residents to prepare them for the next generation of jobs and industries in this country. This means there must be post-secondary alternatives available in the form of training programs, certifications, associate and bachelor degrees, and other programs that equip Mid-South residents with the skills necessary to secure jobs in these growing sectors.

There are a wide range of green technology jobs that could see growth in the region, including those associated with energy efficiency, renewable energy, pollution reduction, and recycling. A report from Recycle Works titled More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S. finds recycling alone could create 1.5 million jobs across the United States. In addition, research of national trends indicates that an estimated 2,500 new jobs could be added to the regional economy as a result of building out the Greenprint network. Implementing energy efficiency policies and launching green enterprises has the potential to generate new jobs across the region. In Tennessee alone, it is estimated green manufacturing industries could generate 15,100 new jobs by the year 2020 and create 20,700 new jobs by the year 2030.


recycling center