Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Milken Report: Another Wake-Up Call

Memphis needs some “leap frog” strategies to get more competitive in the knowledge-based economy.

Just how badly we need the strategies was underscored in the past few days with the release of the highly-regarded annual report by the Milken Institute: “Best-Performing Cities 2008: Where America’s Job Are Created and Sustained.”

The Memphis metro wasn’t in the top 100. Worse, we weren’t even in the top 5 in Tennessee.

In fact, Memphis moved down three spots from an already bleak position – from #141 to #144.

Down The List

Meanwhile, in our state, the metro areas of Nashville (#22), Clarksville (#51), Knoxville (#60), Chattanooga (#110) and Kingsport/Bristol (#128) finished ahead of Memphis in the large cities category.

Memphis has been languishing in about the same position for years, while other cities prove that you can come up with game changers to improve your performance. For example, the most-improved metro was El Paso, which moved up 85 positions, and in Tennessee, Nashville moved 39 positions to get into the Top 25.

“The Best-Performing Cities index was designed to measure which U.S. metropolitan areas are most successful in terms of job creation and retention, the quality of jobs being produced, and overall economic performance,” the report introduction said. “Specifically, it pinpoints where jobs are being created and maintained, where wages and salaries are increasing, and where economies and businesses are growing and thriving.”

Lagging Indicators

The report is often used by the private sector to evaluate locations for new businesses and expansions, and on the public sector side, officials use the rankings to identify strategies that are needed for economic development. The rankings were comprised of jobs growth, wage and salary growth, short-term job growth, relative high tech GDP growth, high-tech GDP location quotient, and number of high-tech GDP LQ>1.

Memphis did not finish in the top 100 in even a single category, and in the number of high-tech GDP, Memphis was #181, which seems to be the highest hurdle that we need to clear.

It shouldn’t have been this way. Memphis was the first city to apply the research of Richard Florida (before he’d even published his now-famous book on the creative class) in an effort to develop a city that attracts and retains creative workers. Then, Memphis Manifesto Summit (now printed in Dr. Florida’s book) convened 135 “creatives” in our city to write their manifesto for cities seeking them as citizens and workers. Finally, the first research about 25-34 year-olds and recommendations for cities seeking them began here (in collaboration with Portland economist Joe Cortright).

Losing Ground

Unfortunately, none of these gained traction in Memphis at the same time that some of its competitors were using them for new programs aimed at creating the kind of vibrant, tolerant city that attracts these workers.

Today, the stakes are even higher. The maps for the National LambdaRail and Internet2 indicate that Memphis is being bypassed by these future-altering optic networks that will serve the interests of research through cutting edge technology. When these maps are coupled with the maps for the megapolitans that will become the economic engines for the U.S., it is clear that Memphis runs a disturbing risk of being in the backwater of the knowledge economy.

In other words, some of the cities on the path of these technology networks already rank above us and the gap is likely to get even larger. It’s a potential future that should shake us out of any vestiges of civic lethargy and develop an actionable plan to get on the emerging network grid.


While being part of these networks is important for business, they are also important to our community, because as John Seely Brown said in his presentation to Leadership Memphis a couple of years ago, success comes to the city that can harness the collective intelligence of the community and enable every one to be involved and contribute.

In this way, the priority for Memphis isn’t just to attract new talent, but to move more Memphis City Schools students to graduation and college and into the workforce with the skills to compete in the New Economy. It’s not a pipe dream, but it is a dream that requires public and private sectors to concentrate on strategies that result in a creative culture that sparks innovation and entrepreneurship.

In his research, our colleague Joe Cortright has spotlighted three characteristics that play key roles in knowledge-based economic advancement - entrepreneurship and risk-taking, tolerance for new ideas, and differences in tastes and behavior.

Premium On Ideas

In an economy that will be driven by ideas, cities that can shed the status quo and embrace change are the cities that will succeed. There’s no reason that Memphis can’t be one of them, especially considering our long tradition of entrepreneurship and the way that outsiders created the musical heritage we now tout to the world.

Eight years ago, CEOs for Cities identified the factors that should be the beginning point for cities like ours who are looking to succeed in the New Economy.

They remain as relevant to Memphis today as they did then, because they are still priorities demanding our immediate attention.

11 To Remember

These then are our 11 Commandments:

* Know Your Region

* Stop Trying to Get Bigger: Try to Get More Prosperous

* Stop Trying to Get Cheaper; Try to Get Better

* Develop a Vibrant Technology Infrastructure

* Create a Skilled Workforce

* Create a Great Quality of Life

* Foster a Culture of Innovation

* Reinvent and Digitize Government

* Recruiting and Retaining Talent is a Critical Factor to a Region’s Economic Success

* Quality of Life Matters

* Knowledge Workers Cluster Together

In Memphis, we’ve talked about some of these for a decade. Hopefully, in the next decade, we’ll work more on converting the rhetoric into results.


Zippy the giver said...

Well, I don't believe the goldfish in the little bowl in the bathroom ever jumped into the toilet no matter how much more water it had.
I'm sure it could se what else was going on there.
Someone here in memphis is banking on keeping OUT outsiders.
You should do an expose on where the prison rehab money is going, I think it's another $500 million with zero results and lots of excuses.

I had a dream where good music and people of all colors could live in Memphis, but, that isn't the reality. It's a pit game where most people lose yet some buy more and more property in a dying economy while in office. I bet there is a federal law against it.
The racial attitude of the poor here is cultivated by the atmosphere around them, commandments # 3, 5, 6, 7, and 10 addres the core reasons in a cursory manner, yet no solution.
Memphis is no longer dying, it is dead on September 16 2008 at 9:35 p.m. CST. Those twitches are like a cockroach without a head. Letting all this go for a decade is the cause of death and yes, it is too late, there is now nothing we can do but wait for everyone to leave the area.
After the mayor makes his last big land grab maybe he will sell it to the people who make all those nasty diseases in clandestine locations, like Plum Island.

Aaron said...

Often where there is the least amount of hope lays the greatest potential for opportunity.

We have a lot of people in Memphis that want to see this city get better so Zip, use that big brain of yours and come up with solutions rather then continuing to succomb to the reality around us. Change that reality instead of reacting to it. No one said it was going to be easy but your past failures to change MCS dont' have dictate the outcome of your current and future efforts.

"entrepreneurship and risk-taking, tolerance for new ideas, and differences in tastes and behavior"

We need that type of environment to organically grow our local economy which will in turn grow a local workforce that would justify a big company considering moving to Memphis. Then again, do we want big companies moving to Memphis given the current stewardship practices of many companies toward their employees? We need to grow our own businesses, businesses that empower employees, so that our local talent stops moving on to truly greener pastures.

We're not the only ones...

The global corporate environment is very fluid and unstable right now so it's a bit scary for anyone or city not just Memphis. We just happen to be "few" steps behind many cities.

Zippy the giver said...
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Zippy the giver said...
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Zippy the giver said...

Making it all sound nicer than the brutal stark reality does not serve anyone or anything one darn bit. That is a symptom of denial.
All those ideas I had are written down and documented. Use them if you want, I never needed any credit for them. They just made sense. That's why there are no takers.

BTW, MCS is NOT over by a long long shot! MCS is the biggest part of Memphis' failure to compete and will be into the not too distant future if it is not made right. If it can't get that right soon this city has no right to continue as a city. It has no future. It has destroyed it, willingly. That is some patently inhuman behavior.

Memphis has done the following systematically and institutionally:

Destroyed any possibility of creativity from it's youth by destroying quality public education, need stats? See dropout and graduation rate.
Reduced youth to abject poverty and desperation. Need stats, see crime rate.
Pimped out it's workforce for the lowest dollar amount next to Mexico, that being the patent southern strategy for industrial growth, Need stats? Take a helicopter ride over Memphis and see exactly how much is "the ghetto".
Created an economic trap for the poor that can not be escaped from without extraordinary measures which is about to become exponentially worse in about 3 months, Need stats? Correlate crime and section 8 by name.

That's some pretty inhuman behavior.

I'd love to have a dream here, I'd love to have a successful biz here, If I could get the wind generator manufacturing and installation plant coupled with the Shelby County Corrections Rehab program and a third party program that addresses their core economic and familial education issues I could be happy. It isn't going to happen because of a core issue with the other side of this equation. The side that has the money, the power, and the ability to block or let pass.
They do not have one key component and they can not develope it.
It's called willingness.

More less than human behavior.

They will get willingness when a lynch mob shows up at their door when the rest of the financial shoe drops and the real impetus of their wealth gathering is exposed to the poor.
It happened in Hungary, it can happen here.

Yeah, there's tons of potential and almost nothing else here, all that may as well be rotting flesh as long as it is unrealized.

As long a Memphis is satisfied that you can qualify and micromanage how your future growth is going to happen in Memphis, not only will leadership continue to be totally blind to any emerging possibilities that may emerge and then die of malnutrition, you won't be able to tell the hucksters and jokes from reality.

"entrepreneurship and risk-taking, tolerance for new ideas, and differences in tastes and behavior"

These are things that do not and will not exist here as long as it's "All Memphis, All the Time".
Sorry, but, no one gets to have corruption to the point of extinction and success on the same platter, it just doesn't work.

So, once again, here's my solution, make the generators here as I specified and using the labor force I specified. We can make them cheaper than anywhere else and pay our labor more while solving the prisoner rehab, economic, education, job training, retirement and medical, and even give a window to those who "won't work" right now. We can save all those initiative and welfare dollars for the disabled to have better quality of life (a much smaller number) and, heck, they can work in the offices.

Here's my add:


Succumb to the reality around us?
We haven't succumbed, Aaron, the city has. We can be harried and unsuccessful or only marginally successful in that atmosphere. One must decide whether he will remain in such an unfriendly and criminally insane place.

Aaron said...

"If I could get the wind generator manufacturing and installation plant coupled with the Shelby County Corrections Rehab program and a third party program that addresses their core economic and familial education issues I could be happy. "

Great idea!!!! I like it.

Indeed, we should be using inmates time in prison to train them and then provide them the same job in the same company once they get outside the prison but with pay and transitional housing. Inmates should be required to demonstrate the capacity to effectively work in prison and then also have a job and transitional housing in place before they are released. Holding down a job in prison and being a productive employee in a very structured setting should be a prerequisite for release right? If they can't do their job in prison why would you release them into an environment with even less structure and with no job? These men need structure and that's what prison gives them. They need this continued structure outside to allow them to flourish. I think they are trying to do some of this but it should nonetheless be required for all parolees.

Hang onto your idea, it's a good one! Keep shopping it around. It's needed, very needed!

Zippy the giver said...
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Zippy the giver said...

It's more than that too, it's rehabilitation and an end to the poverty class in Memphis, it's no reason to commit crime in Memphis, it's a sustainable neighborhood of people who can afford to get their kids educated, retire without being a burden, and get healthy without sucking off city, state, or, federal resources. It's people who make a living doing something they can believe in making a tangible, quantifiable difference for the better in the world.
They are the builder's rejected stones becoming cornerstones.

Wanna put Memphis first? Require all city and state bldgs to have these generators, and sell them cheaply to all residents starting with the company that makes them. Savings instead of utility robbery.

But you can't depend on convicts to stay straight no matter what,,,, unless you train them properly in how to live and how to successfully navigate the disfunctions that used to confound them. That will be included. Stats will be kept and the whole thing is predicated on it's inclusion.
Just to be clear, they would earn a full wage while in prison held in escrow till release or sent to families after a waiting period, no slavery from inmates either.
There can be no more economy off slaves class here.

Yes, they are doing something like this but it is wrongheaded and will bear no fruit. It is another design to strip the fed of another $500 million going nowhere.

I do not speak for myself, THIS was once a low whisper.
I will not hang on to this idea since it was not mine.
I will not shop it around as I have no other partner.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, when Zippy first showed up on this blog comment space he was berating everyone for ta,lking and not acting. He did this while not knowing what anyone else was actually doing. Well now Zippy, Aaron has called your bluff; are you going to DO something?

Ex-Pat Northerner said...

Don't count out the large number of refugees from other cities moving here, especially from the north and west. They are the unknown catalyst for change.


Zippy the giver said...

Zippy HAS been doing something, Zippy is tired. Zippy has other concerns that are now more important than anything else.
Ex pat, I'm not counting out anyone, but, as much as there are catalysts for change moving that will make positive changes, I'd be surprised if they choose to stay here longer than it takes to find out what is really going on here.
There are also people moving here that have a different intent. They have been moving here longer and they are not only willing to do some pretty awful stuff, they are already partnered up with the local thugs.
The good news is: they are stupid and easy to get rid of, if you bother to do it.
I think Larry Godwin is happy with his progress if not surprised that he's exceeded his goal in the first year with stats and diligence. Still, there is a reputation you have to deal with that will take some time to get rid of.
The mayor's press conference tonight he said that he hasn't been able to get Neiman Marcus to go to Collierville and thinks they are stupid because he can't fathom why.
Sorry YOU were feeling berated, mr. or mrs. anonymous, it wasn't personal unless YOU are responsible for creating ALL the problems in Memphis, or, YOU do nothing about them. So, is that YOU? Are you that person who never gets off his butt to make Memphis better until he is embarrassed in the media nationally?

Zippy the giver said...
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Zippy the giver said...

OK, Aaron and Anonymous, Zippy will talk to some people.
I'm willing to take some steps if you are.
What do we need to get this thing started, I've come up with the idea, what can you do to move it forward?