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Sharpening Memphis

Photo by Troy Glasgow
Mark Herbison and T.C. Jones at Sharp Manufacturing which recently produced and shipped its 3 millionth solar panel.

Since 2009, the Sharp Manufacturing Company near Mendenhall and Raines in the Hickory Hill section of Memphis has added around 200 jobs, including 70 in the last year. Most recently, the facility added another 20 employees to service its re-opened toner facility.

“The Chamber serves as a conduit and gives direction and guidance on which way to go.”

In a rare act, Sharp shuttered its existing toner plant in Japan and reopened their Memphis plant, dormant for the last three years. The toner products created in the 50K square-foot space will be shipped primarily to China.

The growth of the toner facility has been complemented by the even larger growth of the facility’s solar panel manufacturing that, since 2003, has produced and shipped an astounding three million solar panels, making it one of the largest solar paneling manufacturing sites in the region.

The expansion of the facilities and workforce comes at a time of historic growth in the solar panel industry with a larger (and ferociously competitive) number of companies creating panels.

According to Mark Herbison, the senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Memphis Chamber, the Chamber has seen Sharp’s growth as a key target for services. “We serve as advocates to make sure Sharp gets the incentives they need to do what they are doing,” he says. “We also serve as their consultants to provide information for them and their corporate officers and headquarters.”

"We go out and identify opportunities and obstacles for growth."

Herbison also cites the Chamber’s proactive work for all its industries. “We go out and identify opportunities and obstacles for growth,” he says, including actively monitoring and participating in the creation of public policy that might affect growth.

T.C. Jones, vice president of human resources and general affairs for Sharp, has been at the center of much of Sharp’s growth in Memphis. “The Chamber has helped tremendously, providing information, contacts, support, and coordinating with the state for economic and community development,” he says.

Giving specific examples, Jones says that the Chamber has been instrumental in helping Sharp gain Tennessee funding for workforce development. “We have received training assistance from [Tennessee], when we have new employees that must be trained in a specific area. We’ve also received travel assistance from the state when we have brought some engineers from Japan.”

Jones notes that the Chamber’s involvement is not limited to Tennessee. This year, for example, delegates from the Chamber will visit Japan to meet with top Sharp leadership to learn more how the Chamber can help Sharp in Memphis. “They are on top of the situation in terms of anything going from an international level,” says Jones.

To continue its growth, Sharp has announced the launch of new LED manufacturing facilities for home and industry lighting. According to a Sharp press release from May 2012, “This product offering is the first of what will become a steady stream of future luminaire and lamp solutions for lighting applications from Sharp.” The new products will begin shipping in summer 2012, and will include a wide variety of sizes, colors, and other options.

Herbison comments that one of the reasons manufacturing companies like Sharp are so important to Memphis is that they tend to stay where there is a proven workforce, whatever the product. “Everything we are doing is about jobs,” he says. “Sharp provides a lot of very good jobs for everyone in the community. When they find a community and a workforce they value, companies stick with it.”

And with that growth is the continued partnership between Sharp and the Chamber, says Jones. “The Chamber serves as a conduit and gives direction and guidance on which way to go,” he says.

This story is also featured in the Summer 2012 issue of Memphis Crossroads Magazine.  Read any issue, anytime, online at
Posted: 7/25/2012 10:32:43 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: business, development, economy, industry, manufacturing, memphis, production, sharp

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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 (


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