Leaders propose joint venture for Chamber, EDGE

By Updated: November 08, 2018 1:29 PM CT | Published: November 08, 2018 9:27 AM CT

Local government and business leaders have joined together to propose new changes to the economic development process, which includes a new joint venture to oversee how the Greater Memphis Chamber and the EDGE board recruit new jobs.

In addition to creating a joint venture between EDGE and the Chamber, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland also advocated for the creation of a new position at EDGE: vice president of workforce development, who will work to connect local employers' needs with training and educational platforms.

 “We have momentum in Memphis, and we’re at a time in our history that calls for accelerating that growth,” Strickland said in a release announcing the proposal. “We’ve worked closely to build consensus with government and business partners around this new joint venture, which is in line with my priorities of making data-driven decisions and holding institutions accountable.”

Strickland’s proposals were jointly presented with Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Chamber chairman Richard Smith, who is also chief executive of FedEx Trade Networks, interim Chamber president/chief executive Beverly Robertson, and EDGE board chairman Al Bright.

Earlier this year, Smith criticized EDGE and called for its restructuring, saying the organization made it too cumbersome for companies to come to or expand in Memphis, but expressed his support for the new proposals.

“This formal partnership will allow us to put more resources behind recruitment and retention of jobs,” Smith said in the joint release. “It will focus us on being more targeted in our approach, more responsive to existing employers looking to expand here, and will ensure seamless support across the entire business development ecosystem.”

EDGE is a joint agency of the city and county governments. The proposed joint venture between EDGE and the Chamber would be overseen by an advisory board that includes representatives of the city, county, Chamber and EDGE. 

The joint venture board will set goals annually based on targeted sectors and researched opportunities, and be evaluated on success at the end of each year. The joint venture will report progress quarterly.    

Additional staffing will be supported in the joint venture for research and deal execution.

“We see it as a significant improvement,” said Reid Dulberger, president and CEO of EDGE.

In 2014, the late Phil Trenary, then-president and CEO of the Chamber, and Dulberger signed an agreement outlining the Chamber and EDGE’s respective roles and responsibilities.

“Our goal was simple; it was to ensure each organization knew what their roles were to avoid stepping on each other’s toes and to make sure we were all utilizing available resources and not duplicating efforts,” Dulberger said. “What we’ve found in the intervening years and discussed over the last few months, while that process worked, it wasn’t enough. Everyone realized we could do more. The new joint venture improves both our process and commitment to improve programs.”

The board will be the “public face” of the new joint venture, Dulberger said, whose members will ensure the entity is not only doing its job, but being effective. “If we’re not being as effective as we all want to be,” changes can be made, he said. 

The advisory board creates a management and feedback process that does not exist today, he said.


EDGE Greater Memphis Chamber Jim Strickland Lee Harris Reid Dulberger Richard Smith Economic Development Economic Development Growth Engine

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