Monday, February 02, 2009

Small Improvements Can Pay Big Dividends For Memphis

With real estate values in the tank, retail sales plummeting, new construction halted and lay-offs mounting, the budgets of our local governments in the Memphis region are under severe pressure.

It's clear that there won't be money for anything that is not absolutely essential this year. (And even spending on essentials will be questionable.) The federal stimulus package could help in some key areas, but extra money is unlikely to be available to plug the operating budget.

Is there anything we can do to save ourselves? Surprisingly, there is.

There are three actions that collectively we can take that have the potential to pump significantly more money into the local economy. CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders, has calculated that by making small improvements in performance in three key areas, cities can realize big annual financial gains.

According to the latest data, we have 189,645 college graduates over the age of 25 in the Memphis metro area, or 23.7 percent of 800,189 (the total number of 25-year-old and over population). If we could increase that number by just one percentage point to 24.7 percent, or 8,002 additional graduates, it would mean an additional $1 billion annually to our economy.

Call it the Memphis Talent Dividend.

The people in this metro area currently drive an average of 26.6 miles per day. If we could reduce that by just one mile -- from 26.6 to 25.6 -- it would mean another $232 million that circulates in our local economy rather than leaving our region to pay for foreign oil and cars built in other cities.

That is the Memphis Green Dividend.

The Memphis metropolitan statistical area has more than its fair share of poverty. Today, the portion of our population living below the poverty line is 17.8 percent. Once again, if we can reduce that number by just one percentage point to 16.8 percent, we realize a cost savings of $109 million.

That is the Memphis Opportunity Dividend. And that only counts the savings on family assistance, Medicaid and food stamps.

Add it up.

If we could make these relatively modest adjustments in performance, it is worth an additional $1.3 billion every single year. That is twice the total general operating budget for the city of Memphis for 2009. Plus, it is money that can be spent right here at home.

And as performance improves, that dividend grows.

These gains are not only significant to Memphis. They are also significant to the nation. If each of the top 51 metro areas could make the same gains -- a one percentage point increase in college attainment, one less vehicle mile traveled per day per person, and a one percentage point decrease in poverty -- the nation would realize a $166 billion annual dividend, thanks to its cities.

By making these very small changes in performance, the Memphis MSA and the nation can pump "found" money -- money we very much need right now -- into local economies.

The good news is there are already a number of local initiatives that address these very issues.

Sustainable Shelby is working to execute a comprehensive list of recommendations that will contribute to a reduction in vehicle miles traveled, helping the region to realize its Green Dividend.

There is also an obvious opportunity to capture the Talent Dividend: 22.7 percent of Shelby Countians age 25 and older enter college but don't graduate. If we can graduate simply those who began college but didn't finish, we could nearly double the college attainment rate of the region. One percent, then, seems well within reach.

Given the billion-dollar gains that are just within reach for the region, capturing Memphis' City Dividends seems like an effort definitely worth making.

This was published in The Commercial Appeal as an op-ed column by Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders dedicated to building and sustaining the next generation of great American cities. She is also host and producer of Smart City, a nationally syndicated public radio talk show.


antisocialist said...

How did you determine that an additional $232 million would circulate in our local economy if the average miles driven was lowered by one mile?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much we could save by using alternative energy sources for city bldgs.
I wonder how much we could save if we weren't recycling criminals as criminals again.
I wonder how much we WILL save when we aren't making new criminals by "un-educating" our children.

You know, there is absolutely NO SUBSTITUTE for concentrating on MAKING MONEY more effectively. That's the elephant we have to deal with, let it step on the ants of cost cutting.
You can NEVER save enough money to float an economy. Not even yourself. At some point, you have to make money and it better be "the right way" instead of sucking up a bunch of "programs" that don't do anything right and perpetuate problems and subverting their funds.
The only way to get rid of that mentality is to take the profit out of it by bankrupting the entire system. That's happening now.
Then you have to ruin the economy so that any stockpiled wealth of the criminal government is gone, that's happening too.
Then you keep it up for a protracted period of time so that there is NO PROFIT in government service and no money for entitlement programs with no accountability, and there is no money for their cohorts in crime to make money off their appointees and money laundering ops.
When money is worthless, money does nothing. Then what do you have left?
Better invest in community capital.

Aaron said...

Think about how different Memphis would be if we could convert all that negative thinking into positive practical solutions. Starting with Zippy.

Anonymous said...

GEE, Aaron, how'd ya know it was me. Really, My login doesn't work.

Re: negativity:

Don't get reality confused with negativity, that should be job #1 for this blog.
Most efforts do not consider how our common situation has occurred, most solutions will fail. That's a hard fact, as is that 73% of change efforts fail and 70% of new strategies do NOT live up to expectations, so reduce that money to 70% of the total to gain some reality, how does it fit now?

Here's the deal, we have a future that is going to happen without any intervention, it's a "default" version and it won't be pleasant because it means that the citizens are not going to take anymore of this. You can bet money on it.
This very same default version of the future is going to happen with good intentions, and with serious efforts and with new styles of management.
Because none of those is sufficient to stop it from happening.
Now, you should be asking yourselves why that is.
How long has it been going on?
Is this a recurring theme?
Don't you feel stuck after all this time?
You know it's coming or you wouldn't be searching for solutions to a problem hat doesn't exist.
It's coming fast, what are you going to do, it's on the way, lookout! LOOKOUT!

There is a very doable solution but, you'd have to be willing to do some things that even this blog evidences you are desperately not willing to do.
One of them is admit that even you, the solution providers have missed the very first step in conflict resolution and successful negotiation to a win/win situation.
Do you know what that is?
It's called walking a mile in the other guy's shoes and there are quite a few different people in who's shoes must be walked in to understand all players POV and no discounting of anyone is ever allowed. If this step is sidestepped, your future is already written in stone by you. 100% of the time.
Your process has not improved.
I suppose a slogan brigade is next, to convince the "under foot" that hostilities have ended. Your reality is an illusion generated by your point of view uninformed by any other. Memphis has demonstrated that it can be defensive, resistant, defiant, belligerent, and homicidal. That's the history you're trying to avoid, but, it's coming back around anyway like it or not.
From what I'm reading, all these band aid solutions are just more evidence leadership is as we the people think, soulless farragin bastages that think we are animals.
How will you convince me that you even get that I'm human? The more that isn't adresed succesfully the more convinced te people will be that YOU aren't human. In the end or he beginning of resolution, that's what has to happen or your future awaits to return, which won't bother me, because I, as the people, have had the problem all along, you'll just be getting your share. That's what's happening right now on a global scale.
So, get to work on step one and I'll give you step two of three steps. At step three, what you will be thoroughly clear about is this:
Anything is possible, Memphis has a bigger and brighter future than you could have imagined before you took this very short walk, and that ultimate reality is a much better friend than fooling yourself into believing that your perception is reality and that knowing that is very very good news and very very empowering.
You haven't done step one yet, so, get to work, step two awaits.

antisocialist said...

"The people in this metro area currently drive an average of 26.6 miles per day. If we could reduce that by just one mile. . . ."

A lot of Shelby County government offices have moved out east or at least provide access to services at sites out east - closer to the population center of the County. The Register, the Property Assessor, the County Clerk all have offices out east to serve the community.

Increased efforts should be directed towards providing even more satellite sites or new offices out east to be closer to the population center.

If real estate taxes could be paid out east, court business could be conducted out east, etc., this would certainly reduce travel distances for the majority of people living towards the population center of the county.

Anonymous said...

OK, what you're really not getting after all these years.
All the little solutions will come about, none of them took much thinking. None of them will perform. 30% perform out of the 27% that are workable. That's less than 1 out of 1000 that would work AT ALL. THAT is reality, not negativity, it's basd in stats, not promises or feelings.

1. You're trying to make real solutions and you don't have total transparency from the other side.
Applaudable but half hearted.

2. There is no mutual respect, neither from the other side of your arguments nor for blog commenters.

3. None of the solutions actually create a new story of success for Memphis because you have no cooperation from the other side. No matter how good your story is, the only way to make that work is to remove the other side with a coup.

4. The solutions are not engaging with both sides of any solutions with any integrity. You hear about them and they fall short or get yanked at the least sign of ANY results an usually contain no plan.

All this = ineffectiveness.
Ineffectiveness = default future coming fast.

People act react and do what they do totally based on their perceptions of "what is" about you, or, whatever there is to make a difference in, 100% of the time. If citizens don't participate, it isn't because they are lazy, it's because they "know" that you don't listen to them and you don't get "it", their experience of "you", as the other side. This doesn't mean you can change perception with media, you can't, these people don't listen that way (media = truth) it's not so in their reality.
I get that you can't listen to the hard and ugly stuff, but, that's what's there, I know, because when I moved here I moved right into the heart of it and I GOT their experience, for no other reason than to enlighten YOU, people who can do something about it. It put my life at risk, but, THAT is what integrity with my cause looked like. My words are in alignment with my actions= integrity on a profound level. I manifest that daily, on purpose, because without it, no cause is true, enlightened, or just, and all solutions without this knowledge is ultimately unworkable and not informed, and it contains no partnership effort with the "people you want to help" but will end up imposing a nonworkable solution on.
That = more hate.
You don't want that ALMOST as much as the other side doesn't want to bring that.

How do you do something about that?
Mike Kirby almost had that down in Hollywood Springdale, he went into the neighborhood with what should have been power players but what ended up being representatives and not well picked ones at that. They had excuses, but, not much leverage. In fact they had no compunction to do anything but posture for the locals. Close, but, no cigar. You have to manage ALL the interactions, and that includes making sure the members of your team aren't working against everyone's best interests on both sides. Things change temporarily, but, soon they are back to business as usual.
No transparency. That shows a lack of respect, they get it. No new story of success. Those meetings create no new story of success for that neighborhood, only "new enforcement efforts" of the old story.
So far, that's what I'm seeing for the most part on this blog, enforcing the past on the future, cost cutting, no cooperation, nothing new. A meeting with the other side, the people, in these areas for a few hours is NOT going to do it. It's going to take ALL DAY FOR DAYS for you to get them and them to get you. Then you can get to step two.


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