MWBE Program Rigged?

MWBE Program Rigged?

MWBE Program rigged?

By Joe B. Kent

Addressing economic growth starts with black small business and workforce development in Memphis. Memphis has an abundance of governmental and nonprofit programming to address local challenges but if its rigged; it won’t work. So, is the City of Memphis’ MWBE program rigged? One anonymous local MBE contractor thinks so.

The African American contractor points to 3 primary reasons they feel the City of Memphis MWBE program is rigged against African American, smaller non-establishment players:

1. The combining of MBE and WBE contracting to satisfy local MWBE requirements. The contractor says that WBEs often serve as façade for local establishment players to exploit the MWBE provision resulting in the same establishment players getting MWBE business. The contractor advocates for separating MBE and WBE goals.

2. Bonding provision for anything over $150K on the $175M Cook Convention Center project. The contractor states that the bonding requirement is exclusionary for smaller less established African American business. The contractor provides a solution in the form of an insurance policy that acts as a bond which smaller contractors will more likely qualify. The insurance approach is used in other cities on large projects.

3. Excessively large contracting packages on the Cook Convention Center project that smaller contractors can’t handle. The contractor advocates for breaking contracting opportunities down into smaller packages so that more MBEs can participate.

The contractor also shared concerns of getting “the back and forth” between City Officials and those involved in managing the Convention Center bid process regarding contracting issues as well as the same MBE establishment players getting excessive amounts of minority business. The contractor fears other contractors may be masquerading as WBEs for continued participation in MWBE programming.

Having done work across the country, the highly qualified contractor feels embraced in other communities. Other communities need this contractor and this contractor needs them. But that feeling does not exist for this contractor in their home of Memphis which is discouraging for this contractor. The contractor knows that if current rigged trends continue, it will further decimate African American business in Memphis.

If the MWBE requirements for the largest City of Memphis project in over a decade are any indication of a desire to grow, then the local establishment probably doesn’t want to grow. Given the already concerning data trends, this won’t be good for Memphis.

 

Does Memphis Want To Grow?

Does Memphis want to grow ? It’s a question that does not need to be asked in most cities. But it’s a legitimate question given the data, the self-inflicted wounds by the establishment, the lack of course correction, the rigged state and the over-abundance of ineffective governmental and nonprofit programming to address local challenges.

In order to address Memphis economic development challenges, the city will need to be derigged. By definition, system rigging guts system vitality required for growth. Signs of a rigged system are evident in Memphis trend line declining small business vitality data and can be directly linked to the Memphis Tomorrow CEO organization largely taxpayer funded Fast Forward project.

Since the Memphis Tomorrow birthed Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) started their retention payment-in-lieu of taxes PILOT program that prioritizes incentives for corporate interests, small business vitality has declined to last in the country. In fact, according to data from the American City Business Journal, the Memphis MSA lost 923 small business establishments between 2012-17 which can be shown to cost 13,588 jobs, $680M in lost wages and $20M in lost Memphis / Shelby tax revenue. The price of a rigged system is high!


Economic development in Memphis starts with black small business growth and workforce development. No rigged system in the world is going to fix that. These trend lines signal a need for culture change which points to system derigging while prioritizing the needs of customer taxpayers.

 

Conclusion

A rigged system doesn’t work in a competitive global economy. Current trends indicate a Crump like culture of times gone by that leverage large sums of government funds for the small few in social elites and developers. System derigging and cultural transformation, starting at the top, appear to be the only path forward for Memphis. A closed rigged system just won’t work.

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National Stand Beside Her Week 2018

National Stand Beside Her Week 2018

stand beside her week

By Elizabeth Roper and Molly Delaney

October 28th-November 3rd 2018 marked the fifth annual National Stand Beside Her Week, the annual nationwide celebration of this captivating movement celebrating girls and women everywhere. Created in 2014 by Girl Scouts Heart of the South, the National Stand Beside Her Movement encourages girls and women to connect and support each other; to value themselves and have the confidence to celebrate their own unique gifts and applaud the successes of others. This Memphis-born and now national movement is a call to action for women and girls to unite their voices in a divisive world and end the comparison, competition and criticism that undermines female relationships. The National Stand Beside Her Movement culminates each year during the last week in October to encourage people to commit to supporting all girls and women from the classroom to the board room!

Throughout the week, a myriad of events took place! The third annual FedEx Stand Beside Her Celebration kicked off on Sunday, October 28 at The Grove at Red Oak Lake. Over 130 girls attended the fun and free event that featured STEM and leadership activities for Girl Scouts in grades 2-8. Girl Scouts were welcomed by Melanie Schild, CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of the South and Leslie James, a marketing specialist advisor with FedEx. The girls had a big dance party before parting into groups for the day’s activities.

irls practiced their engineering skills by building small cars, testing different building structures, and creating miniature water filtration systems. The celebration also included physical activities such as 9 square, and a new favorite, Gopher Ball. Gopher Ball is a lot like basketball, lacrosse, or soccer, but the girls had to do all the work from their individual hole cut into floor. The limited range of motion meant girls had to rely on their communication and teamwork skills to succeed. The game was a great team building experience that showed girls the importance of trusting your teammates.

The day ended with a pizza party and prize giveaway. Girls won prizes such as a coding kit and a geology kit. At the end of the event, nearly all the girls said they tried something new and made a new friend at the celebration. Thank you, FedEx, for hosting this awesome event!

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On October 29th, kid advocate, Girl Scout, and author, Jordan Ashley Greene led a workshop on confidence. At only fifteen years of age, Jordan held an inspiring discussion about confidence with local Girl Scouts ranging in age from six to sixteen. This discussion went hand in hand with her second book, “The Confidence Club,” a narrative about relatable girls and their journey finding confidence. “The Confidence Club” follows Jordan’s first book, “My Gift of Difference, 7 Steps to Embracing Your Learning Difference,” an inspiring book that aims to help kids overcome discouraging feelings of having a learning difference. Each girl that attended Jordan’s workshop walked away with their very own signed copy of “The Confidence Club.” To get your very own copy, you can purchase both of Jordan’s books either on Amazon or at the Girl Scouts Heart of the South council office. To see about joining Girl Scouts please visit www.girlscoutshs.org.

The next event that occurred during Stand Beside Her week was the Stand Beside Her Memphis partner showcase. On a local level, this event allowed partners of Stand Beside Her Memphis to showcase their organizations and speak to attendees on way in which to get involved! Partners in attendance included Dress for Success, Hutchison School, NAWBO Memphis, The Orpheum, The Junior League, The Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, Junior Auxiliary, and author CN Nash. This event took place at the Girl Scouts Heart of the South office in their brand new Imagine Center. Open to all women, this event was a wonderful opportunity to hear from several girl and women-serving organizations in the Memphis area!

National stand beside her week recap!

The following evening, Girl Scouts Heart of the South hosted an event at Hutchison school for Girl Scout Alumnae and volunteers. This event featured Girl Scouts Heart of the South board member, Jil Jordan Greene. Jil has partnered with the Girl Scouts Heart of the South to provide personal development workshops for volunteers. Entitled “Women Winning at Life,” this presentation kicked off Jil Greene’s “Women Winning at Life” video series, a personal and professional development series created for Girl Scout alumnae, parents, and volunteers.

This series will cover topic such as communication, teamwork, diversity and inclusion, and conflict resolution. It is designed to help women elevate their performance at work, engage in their community, and empower those they mentor and lead. This kickoff event had volunteers excited to see what else comes from Jil’s series! If you are interested in learning about ways in which you can volunteer with Girl Scouts and have access to these wonderful opportunities, please visit www.girlscoutshs.org.

Finally, the series of events ended with the Stand Beside Her Women’s networking hour held at Railgarten on November 7th. This networking event brought together women of all ages, backgrounds, and professions to spread the word about Stand Beside Her. During this networking event women enjoyed Girl Scout cookie-themed cocktails, played networking bingo, and learned about ways they can volunteer for Girl Scouts through Troop 901.

Hosted by Girl Scouts Heart of the South, Troop 901 is a young professionals’ group for women who want to work together to build a stronger Memphis. Whether you were a Girl Scout growing up or would like to get involved with the premier leadership organization for girls now, Troop 901 is a fun way to show your support and make the future brighter for Memphis-area girls. This group engages and empowers young professional women to connect with each other and support Girl Scouts Heart of the South. Focused on fun, social outings and events, Troop 901 is the perfect place to make it all happen. For more info, email: Elizabeth.roper@girlscoutshs.org or molly.delaney@girlscoutshs.org

For more information on how you can get involved in Stand Beside Her, please visit www.standbesideher.org, www.standbesidehermemphis.org, “Like” our Facebook pages, follow Stand Beside Her on Instagram, and feel free to reach out to either Molly Delaney, Leadership Manager with Girl Scouts Heart of the South at molly.delaney@girlscoutshs.org, or Elizabeth Roper, Events Specialist with Girl Scouts Heart of the South at Elizabeth.roper@girlscoutshs.org. For more information on joining Girl Scouts, please visit girlscoutshs.org.

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Workforce: The Elephant in the Room!

Workforce: The Elephant in the Room!

Workforce: The elephant in the room
By Joe B. Kent

PROBLEM: WORKfORCE READINESS DISCONNECT

Following years of Memphis Corporate Community Leadership (MCCL) led fledgling and disconnected workforce development efforts, The County Workforce Ad Hoc Committee is intervening to address the local need and the MCCL elephant in the room. Disconnected MCCL efforts have helped to stifle local business and economic growth for a community in need. MCCL consists of Memphis Tomorrow, Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) and The Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce. This disconnect occurs as workforce is the #1 priority in local economic development reform efforts.

MCCL has for example, strangely chose to work with a provider that lacks a track record of domestic United States experience in addressing workforce development. As these efforts fail to get results, MCCL has chosen not to course correct disconnected efforts. City Council legislative efforts over a year ago, seem to have been oddly stonewalled as well, while mysteriously ending without results. In the above video link, in the last agenda item, local educators, saddled with deficient and disconnected MCCL efforts, can be seen professionally begging for a centralized connected approach to workforce development. The lack of response to educators raising their hands for help with 2year college tuition paid for by the state is beyond baffling. 

Disconnected workforce development efforts seem to be preferred  by MCCL with the EDGE / Greater Memphis Alliance for Competitive Workforce (GMACW) Board choosing not to hold regular GMACW Board meetings. This occurs while the EDGE/GMACW Board, through inaction, leave 60,000 learners underserved while stifling workforce local solution availability and business growth needs dependent on a career ready workforce. In short, the EDGE/GMACW Board had 1 board meeting all last year, packed up and went straight to the house. 

Meanwhile, the Greater Memphis Chamber clamors for “alignment, alignment, alignment” to support workforce development efforts without articulating an alignment protocol.  And in County EDGE Ad Hoc committee, again continuing from previous City Council Committee unfinished work, calls for “soft skills” development and a connected approach to workforce readiness programming ring out.  

A connected workforce development approach to support economic development is not going to happen without – a Chamber articulated alignment protocol – projected employer demand data to define “soft skills” and knowledge requirements – and a common communication platform, at a minimum, to connect local workforce development efforts.  

So, what is the solution? A connected, data driven talent pipeline development system is consistently attempting to answer these questions: 1) What are employers demanding ? (Demand) 2) How ready is the workforce to meet employer demand ? (Supply) and 3) What are the career pathways to build workforce readiness to meet employer demand ? (Curriculum)

solution: connectivity

The solution for workforce readiness connectivity consists of fundamental non-negotiables while consistently addressing customer employer demand. Those non-negotiables include measured data  driven requirements, career pathways curriculum, professional development and marketing. These fundamental components support common language development for connecting communication across the professional community landscape which helps to facilitate implementation of countywide career readiness programming. A reputable common technology platform is desirable to increase efficiency, improve connected communication and to aggregate employment opportunities

But although a common technology platform is desirable having been locally requested in committee work by educators, presumably to decrease costs and improve communication, minimally, only a common “communication” platform is required for connecting workforce development efforts through career pathways. Effective communication is the critical element in connecting workforce development efforts. Technology increases the efficiency of mission critical communication while reducing implementation costs. 

While there are many ways to address the abovementioned non-negotiables, one way to accomplish this work is shown in the subsections below:

Data and Alignment Protocol   The Greater Memphis Chamber is the best organization to advocate on behalf of employers, specific workforce readiness requirements. Employers in a career pathways talent pipeline development system are the chief customers of the workforce development system. Employers buy the product of the system in the form of skilled labor through the payment of wages which support tax revenue and tuition to fund public and private education and workforce development initiatives.  

Given the former, a data informed return on investment (ROI) approach is needed to serve employers, learners and taxpayers based on the skills and knowledge purchased through the payment of wages by employers. While leveraging the adoption by the Strickland administration of the ACT Work Ready program, a Chamber advocated articulation of a connecting alignment protocol to the education and workforce development system could look something like the below: 

We at the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, offer employers a connected, aligned, data driven and nation leading career readiness platform. On behalf of employers, the Chamber requests the local education and workforce development system to consider employer demand and provide the following: 

The above is just one of several examples of what a Greater Memphis Chamber authored workforce development alignment protocol might look like. Such a protocol, fundamentally helps the education and workforce development system align its efforts to the needs of customer employers while considering the individual futures of learners. 

Curriculum A career pathways curriculum, which can be delivered across the K-Adult spectrum, consists of a sequence of connected learning experiences to achieve career readiness for a desired vocation(s). A career destination for this audience may include work after high school, an apprenticeship, internship, postsecondary vocational credential, associates, bachelors, masters or doctorate degree. This article considers career development strategies mostly for grades 8-Adult.

Given this and to achieve implementation, data informed career content must be infused into the standards aligned academic curriculum for all learners to serve talent pipeline development and retention needs. In this way, instructors are not asked to facilitate career readiness instruction in addition to the heavy academic curriculum delivery requirement. Career readiness programming is just part of the academic experience while helping to address the career counselor caseload.   

Career/ post-secondary exploration and planning along with in-demand skill development are seamlessly integrated into the standards based academic curriculum with connections to employment opportunities. Career content is informed by defined in-demand skills and knowledge data along with a variety of interest, observational, formative, summative and standardized assessments to evaluate the career readiness of learners.  

Equipped with the data, classroom instructors deliver daily classroom instruction through the lens of projected employer skill and knowledge demand. For example, through data use and based on its importance, “customer service” is thematically integrated throughout the career pathways curriculum for all learners which fills a gap in the Common Core standards aligned academic curriculum.  

In concert with the above proposed Chamber alignment protocol, a summative assessment could result in progress against or completion of a career planning portfolio. A career portfolio consists of standards aligned academic work to include but not limited to a career plan, resume, cover letter, selected career aligned budget summary, career exploration journaling, post-secondary exploration journaling, earned certificates, presentations and assessment inventories for learner interests and workplace preferences with aligned occupations.  

An example of a standardized assessment would be the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) which includes measured assessment in reading workplace documents, graphic literacy (charts/graphs/diagram interpretation) and applied math. With certificate award levels of bronze, silver, gold and platinum, the NCRC can be used to determine career readiness and foundational skill proficiency for a range of occupations based on award level. This process helps to connect workforce development efforts using common language between educators, workforce development practitioners and employers. The NCRC consists of 3 of the 8 available assessments from the ACT WorkKeys  battery 

The other five assessments which can also be used to determine career readiness for various occupations include applied technology, business writing, workplace observation, fit and talent. For example, in addition to the NCRC, often used for manufacturing occupations, “workplace observation” measures observing, following, understanding and evaluating processes. Of course, all earned assessment certificates, to include the NCRC, would be a component in a learner’s career portfolio 

To learn more about the ACT NCRC / WorkKeys and common language development, please see the following Gwen Ifill video 

Marketing Plan and Professional Development  –  The previously discussed sections would inform the development of a connected workforce development marketing plan. A plan would then inform roll out and professional development which could occur in the form of “Career Content Academies” as well as other promotional activities. 

Career Content Academies are a minimum 3-day session that involves connecting participants with the student / career seeker work of career development in self-exploration, career exploration and career pathways planning. Executives/administrators participate in a ½ kickoff that precedes the in-depth career content academy. During the ½ day session participants are acquainted with regional labor market information (LMI). Regional LMI supports the common language backbone for connecting communication across professionally diverse stakeholder audiences involving academia, business and government while informing the local career pathways curriculum. Regional LMI gets everyone in the community on the same page while using a common workforce development language.  

Addressing common language development is important because language gaps naturally develop across the professional spectrum. Most educator career paths result in going to school, going to college and going to school to work. This path prevents educators from acquiring the language of careers and the traditional workplace as they develop the language of academia.  Career content academies help educators fill the workplace language and knowledge gap by helping them connect the language of careers with classroom implementation strategies. Participants outside of education develop an understanding of the education workplace while making connections with academic language.  

This collaborative approach strengthens connections, communication, common language and partnership development. Typically, career content academy participants include human resource professionals, workforce and education career counselors and instructors. The former helps to support a deep implementation of career pathways into daily instructional practice while connecting community partnerships in support of regional career pathways and economic growth.  

Measurement

Measurement would ideally occur using a common technology platform to reduce implementation costs while improving connected communication using web-based dashboard technology. A common technology platform would result in a wealth of informative centralized data to include but not limited to 1) centralized job board 2) projected occupational, skill and knowledge demand 3) career portfolio progress 4) ACT NCRCs awarded 5) employer partnerships, 6) occupations and career pathways explored 7) aggregated population interest inventory 8) individual school usage data and etc.  

This measurement along with a formal Chamber alignment protocol and marketing plan can be used as a sales tool in economic recruitment efforts to insure corporate prospects of a coherent, measured and quantifiable approach to meeting their workforce needs. In this way, during a sales presentation  to a corporate prospect, the Chamber might say:  

We in Memphis are the National leaders in career education with more education/business partnerships of record of any County in the Country. Aligned to employers  needs, our workforce development system is annually awarding 10,000 career pathways credentials and 2,000 Bronze 5,000 Silver, 2500 Gold and 500 Platinum ACT NCRC’s. And finally, customer service”  is integrated into the curriculum for all learners.  

Nationally accessible, external measurement for standardized assessment could be accomplished using the  ACT WorkKeys dashboard. While there are other reputable career readiness assessments, the ACT NCRC WorkKeys system has been locally adopted and is the most widely used career readiness system in the country while providing a portable credential to ACT NCRC holders.

conclusion

Inaction on the workforce front by Memphis Corporate Community Leadership has been scary confusing. But with a youthful population as an economic advantage –  connected workforce development solutions available and  both Memphis and Shelby County Mayors trumpeting workforce development in support of economic development – hopefully, needed change is finally on the horizon for the benefit of taxpayer justice and all concerned.  

Research based references can be provided upon request for the instructional design contained in this article.

joe b. kent
Guest Blogger
Mr. Joe B. Kent has worked throughout the country on workforce and economic development projects and is a reform activist in Memphis. Joe B. has a BBA in Finance, Masters in Instructional Technology and is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator with an emphasis on labor market information.

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Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

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Otis Rush, 1934 -2018

By Jim O’neal

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Perhaps the most driven, impassioned, and creatively gifted of the young singers and guitarists who became known for the West Side style of Chicago blues in the 1950s and ’60s was Otis Rush. The records he made while still in his early twenties for the Cobra label, such as I Can’t Quit You Baby, Double Trouble, and All Your Love (I Miss Loving), still stand the test of time as classics of the electric blues genre. His influence has been acknowledged by Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Carlos Santana, who have all performed onstage with him.

The Blues Foundation mourns the passing of Otis Rush who was inducted intothe Blues Hall of Fame in 1984

Rush grew up in such dire poverty in Mississippi that few listeners realized the depth of the lyrics to Double Trouble when he sang, “It’s hard to for me to find decent clothes to wear.” Born near the rural community of Neshoba on April 29, 1935 (or 1934 according to most biographies), Rush married young, sharecropped his own fields, and discovered a new path in life when his sister took him to a Muddy Waters performance in Chicago.

Rush, a self-taught guitarist who played left-handed with the guitar upside down, began performing in the Chicago clubs and soon caught the attention of Willie Dixon, who took him to Cobra and then to the Chess and Duke labels. I Can’t Quit You Baby, his first single, hit the national rhythm & blues Top Ten in 1956, but it was the only Rush record ever to do so. In light of Rush’s talent and the reputation his band held as the best in town at one time, his discography is disappointingly sparse. The frustrations of what he viewed as bad deals, suspicious offers, and mismanagement meant that studio sessions became few and far between, and many of the albums on the market now are live performances. Excellent though some of them are, they leave the listener wondering what more Rush had in him that he never let out. His last studio album, Any Place I’m Going, did, however, earn him his only Grammy.

Photo: Svein M. Agnalt

Sadly, Rush suffered a stroke in 2004 and has been unable to perform since, but was honored in 2016 by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel during the Chicago Blues Festival where June 12th was declared Otis Rush Day in Chicago.

We join the rest of the blues world in sending condolences to his family. May his spirit live on through his wonderful music.

Otis Rush and Eric Clapton

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Who’s That Girl: Meet Rebekah Hedges

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Meat Me in Memphis Gala

Meat Me in Memphis is our sole fundraising event for the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation. Our annual Meat Me in Memphis is held at one of Memphis’ iconic gala venues, The Columns at One Commerce Square.  The Columns offers 20,000 square feet of historic grandeur while providing all the modern attractions of a vibrant downtown. This year, Meat Me in Memphis will be held on Thursday, October 25 at 5:30 PM until 9:00 PM.

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Who’s that girl: meet rebekah hedges
By Rebekah Hedges
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” 
Although I hope elephant would never be featured on a menu, this phrase has been spoken to me throughout challenges in life. The elephants; tasks, challenges or obstacles I’d yet to overcome, have stampeded through life, yet led me to Bluff City, my new home.
Hi, my name is Rebekah Hedges and I’m an educator, writer, photographer and former crime and events reporter. Though I’m not Zooey Deschanel, I’m happy to be the New Girl with JustMyMemphis.

I’m from Allen, Texas and watched my hometown, once corn fields, develop into a booming suburb thirty minutes north of Dallas, Texas. Though I am a proud Texan, I’ve always been an adventurer and have traveled to more than 20 states, three countries and speak Spanish and elementary Mandarin.

I’ve always been a storyteller, to anyone willing to listen due to my social butterfly tendencies. More importantly I enjoy hearing and learning from people with different backgrounds and cultures. Over time I developed a love for writing, reporting and journalism. 
There’s been a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember.
( photo by Klara Johannsen )
My childhood didn’t include an iPhone, but instead the izone polaroid camera. You remember the oblong rectangular polaroid that printed one inch by two inch photos that could even be stored in a locket? (I had the Bugs Bunny one.)
I look forward to using my Canon and photography skills as the “New Girl” of the #FunCrew for JustMyMemphis. My work experiences have taken me from small “tourist towns” such as Hot Springs, Ark., to metropolises such as Tianjin, China.

Who’s That Girl?

Throughout my work and life experiences, elephants have nudged their way in. I believe in the power of perseverance, as a woman, I believe learning and sharing your voice is the best weapon to overcoming these obstacles.
In my final year of earning my degree in the small town of Siloam Springs, Ark., at John Brown University, I became inspired by the local stories Siloam had to offer. A team of three fellow students and I told the stories of two student-owned businesses and two family-owned businesses.
We told the story of a local seamstress, her shop named Threads, and learned that she had spent several years in foreign countries as a missionary and found her calling by helping people look their best in clothing. 
Through video, photography and writing we shared the story of how a local pupuseria and restaurant, Las Delicias, shared the rich flavors of El Salvador and impacted the Siloam Springs community.
It was then I realized the power of giving a person a voice through media and writing. As a former writer and photographer for HER Magazine, a women’s magazine in Hot Springs, Ark., I had the opportunity to tell the stories of diverse women making waves in their careers through their talents and skills.
It was then I realized the power of giving a person a voice through media and writing

From a 12 year-old angler overcoming bullying as the only girl on the fishing team, to a Romanian immigrant woman becoming the prison investigator for the Garland County Criminal Investigations Division, I’ve been inspired by how these women did not allow stereotypes or criticism to hold them back from their true potential. 
One of the biggest elephants that’s a returning visitor, is self doubt. I know many can relate to the criticism you take from the relentless voice of doubt.
It whispers: Is that good enough? You’re not making a difference. No one will listen, no one will care. What if every time you try you will just fail? You’re just the new girl, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re not smart enough, attractive enough, skilled enough…etc. etc.
I know that having cheerleaders in life are crucial to overcoming these whispers. I’ve learned that trusting your skills and having an open mind to critique is the best way to chasing what you’re meant to become. 
I’m excited to listen and tell the stories that the communities of Memphis have to offer. 
And I encourage you, when those whispers tell you the elephants that stand in your way are too big, grab that fork, because it’s time to tackle that beast one bite at a time!

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Edge Task Force: Getting Real

Edge Task Force: Getting Real

County Edge Task Force:

getting real

By Joe Kent

This article is being brought to you by HomeTown Home Services, Is it time for a Home Improvement?

The County EDGE Task Force continued their local reform work with a productive open discussion of challenging and locally self-inflicted economic development conditions in Shelby County. At the same time, task force member Carolyn Hardy continued the simplistic and sloganistc “good not great” rhetoric to describe the work of the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE).

Such rhetoric is disconnected from any sort of data supported reality and seems designed to support the status quo. This disconnect marked the low point of the meeting which was otherwise marked by frank, open and productive discussion of issues that challenge the local economic development ecosystem.

Eric Robertson of Community Lift was added as a task force member by County Commission Chairman Van Turner. Commissioner and Task Force Chair Willie Brooks, Commissioner Reginald Milton, Carolyn Hardy, Eric Robertson, Al Bright, Cary Vaughn and Les Binkley were task force members present with Jack Sammons, Calvin Anderson and Ron Belz absent. New Commissioner Amber Mills was present as an interested observer. And based on an email from the County Commission, the pubic audio record will not be available due to technical difficulties.

Meeting Recap

Dexter Muller a local economic development expert led in testimony with a presentation that stressed a strategic plan framework that consisted of a focus on 1) available sites, 2) target industry sectors, 3) workforce development and 4) marketing. Muller stated that Shelby County is not getting State of Tennessee referrals for manufacturing based on a lack of available sites while also citing concerns over Holmes Road transportation infrastructure that has been delayed since 2001.

Muller also promoted tapping local water resource assets to spur local economic development while referencing Dupont Solae that saves $1M per year by operating and leveraging high quality water resources in Memphis. Dupont Solae will be discussed later.

Mark Halperin of Boyle followed Muller with testimony that emphasized community assets in quality of life and low cost of living while citing concerns regarding efficient air travel, neglected transportation Holmes Road infrastructure and workforce. Halperin also touted the teamwork involved in the highly successful ServiceMaster save.

In questioning, Cary Vaughn representing the County on the EDGE Board, persisted in advocating for a connected strategy throughout Shelby County which has been a concern for areas outside of Memphis. Harold Byrd, representing the County Chambers will appear at the next County EDGE Task Force meeting.

Carolyn Hardy, Al Bright and Eric Robertson rightly focused on local small business support which is where most local economic growth comes from across the country. Calls to work together with local small business were made while known local small business proposals to address workforce development remain stifled by the rigged-up Memphis Tomorrow complex at the expense of 60,000 learners and a business community in need of workers.

Calls for a new EDGE Board were not addressed by the task force after 7 of the 9 board members have served for 7 years. This was made possible by a Memphis Tomorrow supported City/County resolution that did not protect the public interest with term limits for board members or approval of economic modeling to justify excessive tax abatements.

 

Analysis – Self Inflicted

The economic development “crisis” as described by Council Chairman Berlin Boyd is a Memphis Tomorrow / Memphis Corporate Community Leadership (MCCL) self-inflicted crisis. Memphis Tomorrow is a local CEO organization that has historically guided economic policy development. But based on the data, Memphis Tomorrow appears to be a meddler of sorts rigging up the system for a small few at the expense of a community in need. This conclusion is supported by local work that has not been prioritized to include operating without a measurable commonly understood definition for economic development and a plan that adequately addresses site readiness, workforce, public transit and small business.

Based on EDGE Task Force questioning and testimony, it’s clear that a measurable definition for economic development along with a strategic plan remain outstanding. The lack of a definition for economic development occurs after the new economic development thought leader in the social media group Memphis Raise Your Expectations (the people) proposed a definition using the only known available public survey on the matter to the County Commission. But the problem is that the people are not considered in a rigged-up Memphis Tomorrow social construct

The above has gone neglected over the last 7 years as excessive EDGE corporate / real estate tax abatements for local companies have been prioritized using incomplete bogus accounting at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $250M+ . The former occurs while EDGE reports a $600M gain on the local practice of transferring wealth to corporate / real estate interests at the expense of many. This results in a system out of balance.

One such example of an excessive local PILOT can be referenced from Mr. Muller’s testimony involving Dupont Solae that saves $1M per year while leveraging geographically unique local water resources. In addition to that savings, the EDGE Board of which Mr. Muller is not a part, went on to award Dupont Solae an additional total $5M tax abatement over 11 years against existing jobs while justifying it with its very own incomplete bogus accounting methodology.

Erasing the above excesses in tax abatements will go a long way in addressing deficient economic growth by investing locally. Using a connected county wide approach, local investments would target career education, public transit, small business development and site development. It can be shown that the majority of local deficient $1.57B total wage growth can be addressed through a focus on career education and small business.

Conclusion

Getting economic development right will require frank data centric discussions that are diametrically opposed to the rigged-up Memphis Tomorrow social construct. Such discussions should result in a measurable economic development definition and the implementation of a connected Shelby County wide economic development plan that lifts the quality of life for all.
 

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joe b. kent

Guest Blogger

Mr. Joe B. Kent has worked throughout the country on workforce and economic development projects and is a reform activist in Memphis. Joe B. has a BBA in Finance, Masters in Instructional Technology and is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator with an emphasis on labor market information.

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