Greater Memphis Chamber unveils plan to attract 50,000 new jobs to area

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The Greater Memphis Chamber has a plan to attract tens of thousands of new jobs to the metro area by the end of the decade, and the plan focuses on inclusion, cutting-edge industries, and increasing graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Ted Townsend, director of economic development for the Grand Memphis Bedroom, said there could be “no more resignation than nothing less than spectacular for our region. Why? Because the competition is fierce.

The chamber unveiled its strategic growth plan on Monday at the mid-year president’s forum in The Guest House at Graceland.

Ted Townsend, Director of Economic Development for the Greater Memphis Chamber, poses for a portrait, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, in Memphis, TN.

The plan outlines how the region could gain 50,000 new high-quality jobs by 2030, with half of those jobs going to minorities, a goal the chamber called “ambitious but achievable.” The chamber’s new Diversity and Community Development Division will assist in this effort.

The vast majority of current economic growth is in advanced industries such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, aerospace engineering and other similar industries, Townsend said.

Townsend focused on developing Memphis workers, attracting a diverse mix of new businesses and industries to Memphis, and preparing Memphis’ next generation for a new job market. The chamber wants to see 20,000 local STEM graduates across all schools per year, with 45% of those degrees going to black students.

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The all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning is one of the vehicles on display at the upcoming Memphis International Auto Show.  This will be the vehicle produced at Blue Oval City in Haywood County.

Dozens of Memphis business leaders attended, including several Ford officials. Last year, the company announced plans to set up a new electric vehicle and electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in West Tennessee that will employ about 5,800 people. Work has already begun at the West Tennessee Megasite.

“There’s no doubt that Memphis will feel the impact,” Townsend said of Ford’s decision to locate a new plant in West Tennessee. “It’s a generational impact. This ensures future resilience in our economy.

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Townsend also touted the chamber’s growing membership, including newly launched small businesses.

In a part of the afternoon with audience participation, people were asked to text words about what a prosperous Memphis would mean to them, which were then projected onto a screen. The most frequently cited words were jobs, soul, growth and equity.

Land preparation began this week at Ford Motor Co. and SK On's $5.6 billion Blue Oval City project in Stanton.  Construction of Blue Oval City is expected to begin later this year, Ford officials say.

Townsend said achieving these goals would take “a coalition of the willing until greatness is felt by us all.”

He asked community members and business leaders to give the chamber their ideas, advocacy, leadership, board involvement, and to participate in Memphis boosterism. Townsend said the city needs to support economic development the same way people support the Grizzlies.

“Our city is also in the economic development playoffs,” he said. “But we want championships.”

Corinne S Kennedy covers economic development and healthcare for The Commercial Appeal. She can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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