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New Export Strategy Plans to Create 1,600 Jobs

The Memphis export sector already yields some amazing stats — it’s America’s 28th largest export market with $11 billion in total annual revenues — but for many in Memphis (especially at the Greater Memphis Chamber), there’s a lot more to be done.
With that in mind, Memphis and Shelby County leaders organized the Metro Memphis Export Alliance last year with financial commitments from the state of Tennessee and FedEx Corp. The Alliance has the focused goals of increasing local capacity for exports and creating a company-friendly trade ecosystem.
The local leaders selected the Greater Memphis Chamber to lead the Alliance. That team is filled with heavy hitters from government, business and academics and is co-chaired by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Christine Richards, executive vice president at FedEx Corp. 
Over the next five years, that team wants a 5 percent increase in Memphis exports. If they hit their mark, Memphis export revenue will grow by $290 million and create 1,624 jobs. Even if they make smaller goals of expanding exports here by 1 percent or 3 percent, the growth is still between $58 million-$174 million and total job creation of between 307-975.
“Being America’s Distribution Center, creating and launching this export initiative will definitely give our companies a competitive advantage by being able to ship their goods from Memphis with all the strengths of the city’s roads, rails, runways, and the river,” said Ernest Strickland, the Chamber’s Vice President, International & Business Partnerships.
The Alliance will help companies find foreign markets and jump through all the legal hoops with the assistance of experts dedicated to exporting, groups like the West Tennessee District Export Council, the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, and the U.S. Commercial Service, which has its Memphis office located inside the Greater Memphis Chamber.

“As a logistics hub with its prime location on the Mississippi River and the completion of the Panama Canal Expansion, Memphis is well position to significantly increase exports throughout Latin America and the globe,” said Dylan Daniels, leader of the Memphis Export Assistance Center. “The Metro Memphis Export Alliance will be able to be a resource of knowledge and experience to assist Memphis businesses to effectively take advantage of the increased opportunities for trade.”
Memphis companies will also get export education from the Alliance. Strickland said it will offer two classes, “Export 101” and “Export 201.”
The first class is for “newbies” as Strickland calls them, “companies that have a great product but don’t know that what they have is highly desired in a foreign market.” The Alliance classes will help those companies go from scratch to finding ventures in foreign markets.
The second class will help companies already exporting to increase those existing exports.
Strickland said the education effort will be a break from the past. Organizations in the Memphis export space haven’t always worked together seamlessly, he said, for lack of awareness more than anything else. Classes and seminars would sometimes be duplicated from different agencies. This time, though, Strickland said the silos are coming down.


“We’re going to have a more comprehensive approach to educating our companies,” he said, “versus a fragmented approach with a program here or a seminar there.”
The export strategy (and the creation of the Metro Memphis Export alliance) is a plank in an overall platform set out in the 2013 Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Plan, devised in part by the Brookings Institution. Exports were one of six market levers the plan defined as opportunities for the Memphis market, with the area’s advantages of transportation infrastructure. 
Right now more than 1,500 Memphis businesses ship machinery, chemicals, medical equipment, sporting goods, paper, and more, mainly to Canada, Mexico, Japan, The United Kingdom, China and Germany, according to data from the International Trade Administration. 
Story by: Toby Sells
Photos by: Troy Glasgow


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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 (