Knowing that small advantages can become huge economic advantage, what should Memphis be keying on?
Several answers so far focus on creativity. In light of this, we found this post on on the CEOs For Cities blog to be especially interesting and a special challenge to the Memphis Arts Council, now rebranded as ArtsMemphis and apparently focused on creating a culture of creativity:
Charles Landry, the father of the Creative City concept, has a great new interview in Spiegel.
The cities Landry favors have, "contradictions, most of all, a balance between chaos and order." They need "neighborhoods vibrating with energy just as much as cozy little corners and parks; well-tended, middle-class sections as well as an alternative scene; technology centers for innovative youth and social facilities for older people.
While creativity cannot be regulated, it can be encouraged. "The redevelopment or revitalization of a city is an art," Charles told Spiegel. "It depends on the individual strengths of a place and the will of the leadership to bring about change. The goal is to establish a cultural infrastructure. Creativity is also needed in the administration. There is no magic formula, no 10-point plan where you can check off items and suddenly be successful."
Oh, but so many urban leaders demand a 10-point plan. That's one reason Landry continually confounds his audiences. They keep waiting for the items to check off, and he never delivers them. Good for him not to humor the lazy and unimaginative. With Charles, you have to catch the spirit of his work, not the specifics.
I recently re-read big chunks of his book "The Creative City" and found it once again to be quite remarkable. If you haven't read it or just skimmed it the first time, go spend some time with it. It is quite rewarding.