We recently had a great conversation about Amazon's search for a 2nd headquarters and if Memphis would be a possible candidate. There were challenges and opportunities discussed as well as possible solutions to the very clear issues that pushed Memphis down the list of candidates for Amazons 2HQ. Let's see how Memphis stacks up against the requirements outlined by Amazon.
A metro area with more than 1 million people.
With an approximate 1.3 million people, the Bluff City easily meets this requirement.
A stable and business friendly environment.
FedEx, International Paper, Baptist Memorial Healthcare, and ServiceMaster are just a few of the corporations which have found Memphis to be the perfect place to set up Headquarters.
There is a talent deficit that will hinder Amazon and similar companies from being able to fill skilled positions.
"A possible solution would be for Memphis and surrounding cities to offer significant incentives that include tax breaks other perks for individuals that relocate to the area to fill these high skilled high, paying jobs." Greg Bernard, Data Maxim
"We should be concentrating on recruiting very knowledgeable and experienced tech personnel who are willing to mentor and teach our local potential talent pool. I came to the city in 2016 and saw an eager population looking for opportunities. There is a need for education in this city for every age group. There are a lot of schools here, producing graduates that are not qualified to work. We need programs that are producing valuable, employable and career minded workers." Antoinette Miller, I am IT Training
Urban or suburban settings that could help attract and retain top talent.
We have the ability to produce talent at the University of Memphis, Rhodes College, and Christian Brothers University, among many other institutions of higher learning. The cost of living is low, and the quality of life is _____, questionable to some. Not a bad place for top talent looking for a change from the overpriced locations traditionally touted as STEM hotspots. We made have some work to do here.
Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.
Memphis is constantly evolving, and the number of real estate opportunities located within the city are nothing short of staggering. Look at past projects like Bass Pro Shops moving into the Pyramid downtown or the new Crosstown Concourse in the former Sears warehouse. The Mid-South Coliseum and surrounding fairgrounds are currently taking bids for new tenants. Memphis thinks big. It's the only way to think.
Amazon is first and foremost a master of logistics, so it should come as no surprise that the company cares a lot about transportation. Amazon wants on-site access to mass transit—train, subway, or bus—and to be no more than one or two miles from major highways and connecting roads. It wants to be within 45 minutes of an international airport with daily direct flights to Seattle, New York, the San Francisco Bay area, and Washington DC. The company is also asking applicants to identify “all transit options, including bike lanes and pedestrian access” for the proposed site and to rank traffic congestion during peak commuting hours.
Memphis can get cargo just about anywhere without looking further than the MEM airport. Human transportation is a different story. Difficulty finding flights in and out of Memphis is a deterrent for companies to headquarter to Memphis.
"Memphis should work with cities in the surrounding area to come up with a solution that will help our airport to flourish again. Since Memphis International is the largest airport in this vicinity, all cities should have a vested interest in acting to improve its usefulness." Bernard, Data Maxim
Time to operations.
To begin construction as soon as possible, Amazon wants an outline of the permitting process and approximate timetable ahead of “Phase 1” of the building process—the first 500,000 to 1 million sq ft, for an investment of $300 million to $600 million.
Cultural community fit.
Like any tech company, Amazon cares about “culture fit.” It defines this as a diverse population, strong higher-education system, and local government that is “eager and willing to work with the company.” Memphis will have a difficult time proving local talent is readily available outside of poaching top talent from some of our larger operations and entrepreneurs. Amazon is asking cities to “demonstrate characteristics of this” in their responses. We have an uphill battle in the strong-higher education in regards to tech talent.
Community/quality of life.
The new headquarters should be in a place where people want to live. Amazon is interested in daily living and recreational opportunities for people in each proposed metro area. It is also requesting information about housing prices and availability, general cost of living, and crime statistics. Memphis takes the lead for cost of living. housing availability and recreational opportunities. We may come in last in regards to crime. This has been a challenge for decades and despite improvements, there is still much improvement needed.
What can Memphis do to improve its over posture to be more competitive when opportunities come along? There are two area that need attention and will make a world of difference. First we must concentrate on providing better educational opportunities - at every level. Our children have the right to better facilities and materials. Our adults need proven programs that ensure they are competitive when entering the work force. Our crime, from running red lights to domestic violence, burglaries and violent encounters needs attention. Memphis deserves to be a safe place to live. That includes all sections of the city, including North and South.
Memphis is a great place with endless potential. Until these two issues are addressed, head on, we may not be the best place for Amazon, or other companies looking to expand.