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Working the Memphis Plan

The following is a feature from our previous issue of Memphis Crossroads Magazine. Click here to view this issue of Memphis Crossroads in its entirety.

Douglas Scarboro is a man of strategy. He plotted his education and got the career on his radar. He devised a move to Memphis and found a place to make his mark. Now as the new head of the local branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, he employs strategic policies to help keep a complex economy working.

The 41-year-old’s favorite part of the job, acquired last March, is the exchange of economic information. It’s also the biggest part of his job. To strategize, he must first acquire the facts. He talks to heads of businesses, banks, nonprofits and universities to determine trends that impact the economy. He finds out what is going on in housing, healthcare, hiring, logistics, education, capital expenditures and information security.

The wealth of information is combined with facts from other regions for “the Beige Book,” so named for the color of its cover, and reviewed by the Federal Open Market Committee, the public face of “The Fed.” It is best known for setting of monetary policy, especially the interest rate charged to banks.

Scarboro was attracted to economic issues for the positive change he might be able to affect. As a boy, he lived in Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg, and loved seeing the airplanes, so he wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. But he was studying political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta during the Olympics when his career plans took a turn.

After the games, Atlanta “became this huge boom city,” Scarboro said. “People’s thoughts about what Atlanta could be changed.” That intrigued him. He began piecing together a plan. He got an MBA at Campbell University in his home state. About that time, Scarboro and his wife, a Memphis native whom he’d met in college, began planning where to live. They discussed cost of living and accessibility to education. They wanted “a place we could get involved and engage at a really young age,” Scarboro said. In their late 20s, they moved to Memphis and integrated themselves into the community. “We’re planners,” Scarboro said. “We believe in planning the work and working the plan.”

Scarboro enrolled at the University of Memphis and got a doctor of education degree. Thinking of a college campus as a microcosm of a city, he saw himself eventually becoming a vice chancellor, but as he worked at The Leadership Academy and got involved with the Greater Memphis Chamber, he believed he could extend his reach working at the municipal level.

Cato Johnson, now senior vice president at Methodist Healthcare, met Scarboro when they served on Mayor A C Wharton’s transition team in 2010. “He has a tremendous work ethic,” said Johnson, a state Board of Education member. “He has such a great thirst for knowledge. He’s never bashful about asking for your opinion.”

Scarboro served in the Office of Talent and Human Capital for several years in Wharton’s administration and focused on employee recruiting and training. He was plucked from the city for the Federal Reserve Bank job - regional executive of the Memphis branch. The branch is among 25 across the nation, and it serves parts of Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. Besides being a local focal point for collection and distribution of economic information, the bank is a depository for other banks in the region, thus the high security at its offices at 200 N. Main.

Part of the Fed’s mission is supporting financial stability. Scarboro believes education is key to that goal. He’s observed that the post-secondary education attainment rates rise in cities before their economies grow. Cities must focus on strategic growth, he said. For instance if Memphis needs more people skilled in science fields to work at a company like Medtronic, leadership should promote attainment of those kinds of skills within its population.

As the newest member of the Board of Directors at the Chamber, Scarboro feels he’s joined a group with similar vision. “He’s a strategic thinker,” said Carolyn Hardy, chairman of the Chamber Board and president and CEO of Chism Hardy Investments LLC. “If you move education, you move poverty.”

Named to “Top 40 Under 40” by the Memphis Business Journal in 2008, Scarboro serves leadership roles with several organizations including the Better Business Bureau, Economic Club of Memphis, Start Co., New Leaders Memphis, PeopleFirst Partnership and Teach For America Memphis.

Charles Burkett, a retired banking professional who now is an advisor to the University of Memphis president, said Scarboro is equipped to tackle the complexity of the economy. “Understanding the markets … and understanding different segments, you can’t just pick up a book and gain all that. He’s got an ability to think through and to dig deeper. He asks a lot of the right questions and he follows through. He’s a strategic thinker.”

Story by: Toni Lepeska
Photo by: Troy Glasgow
Posted: 4/26/2016 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Bank, Board, Chamber, Corner, Crossroads, Director, Douglas, Federal, Greater, Louis, Memphis, of, Office, Reserve, Scarboro, St.

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The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (