Economic Development Fellowship
Memphis, TN
Peer Exchange Panel

Connecting Minority Businesses to Revitalized Real Estate in Memphis.

City of Memphis’ Equity Focus

The fellowship team in the City of Memphis is exploring a program based on the model of Detroit’s Motor City Match program, seeking to promote and advance emerging and existing small businesses while spurring a revitalization of neighborhood commercial and business districts. Called the “Bluff City Challenge,” the program would support the establishment of businesses that provide services and create jobs for underserved populations in the city. The two primary goals of the Bluff City Challenge are to expand and diversify the pipeline of successful start-ups and small businesses in the city, and to create economic opportunity in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Recommendations from Technical Advisory Visit

The visiting advisory team observed that the City of Memphis is well-positioned to capitalize on the momentum of the Memphis 3.0 strategic planning process as well as the city’s the desire to create a stronger business support ecosystem. However, the advisory team also raised important programmatic considerations for the Bluff City Challenge proposal such as leadership, implementation, and long-term funding prospects.

The major recommendations from the panel were to 1) more clearly define the project scope, in terms of the type(s) and/or stage(s) of businesses that are the best fit for the program and neighborhoods where there is sufficient demand for new retail, 2) be thoughtful and aware of what types of businesses really need real estate (e.g., retail, restaurants, manufacturing), and 3) develop a robust outreach and communications strategy to recruit program participants with input and support from stakeholders.

Specific strategies suggested by the advisory team include:

  • Compile data to develop a dashboard report of small businesses by type and needs to determine which business sectors best align with the Bluff City Challenge goals
  • Develop a neighborhood corridor typology (e.g., distressed, emerging, stable) when selecting neighborhoods for the Bluff City Challenge program
  • Establish a group of key stakeholders to facilitate collaboration and also to assess the community’s experience with similar programs
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