Economy of Memphis, Tennessee

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FedEx MD-11 (2005)

Located on the Mississippi River, Memphis is intersected by two Interstate highways, seven major U.S. highways, and numerous freight railroads. The city's location and transportation infrastructure have made it a focal point for manufacturing and distribution operations in the central United States, and resulted in much of Memphis' business development. For example, Memphis International Airport, which serves as the primary hub for FedEx shipping, is the world's busiest in terms of cargo tonnage. Memphis is also the home of nine Fortune 1000 companies.[1]

Although its transportation assets facilitate manufacturing, the Memphis economy has become less manufacturing-oriented in recent years, as older automobile assembly, farm equipment, hardwood lumber, rubber tire and other manufacturing industries have declined or left the area since the 1950s.[2][3] As a result the Memphis economy has become more diversified and services have become its largest component, accounting for 27% of total wages and earnings.[4] Industries that have continued to flourish include financial services, food processing, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.[5]

Memphis is home to a growing number of nationally and internationally known corporations, including approximately 150 businesses from 22 countries. Memphis has three firms in the Fortune 500.[6]

Memphis Light, Gas and Water ("MLG&W") is one of the largest municipal utilities in the United States. MLG&W is a major recipient of low-cost power from the Tennessee Valley Authority.[7]

Model for economic development[edit]

The city appeared in the top eight of the 50 best major metro areas in the U.S. for starting and growing a business in 2000, according to Inc. magazine. Southern Business and Development magazine ranked Memphis as one of the most successful models for economic development in the south, also recognized the city as one of the top ten markets over the past decade.

In October 2002, Ebony Magazine has cited Memphis as a city for its outstanding African-American leadership. Memphis also had the highest rate of high technology start-up operations over the last three years among the nation's 60 largest metro areas, according to Brandow Company research.


Publicly traded firms headquartered in Memphis[edit]

Private firms headquartered in Memphis[edit]

Major divisions or operations[edit]


Government entities[edit]

Entertainment industry[edit]

The entertainment and film industry has also developed in recent years in the city. Major motion pictures filmed in Memphis include Making the Grade (1984), U2: Rattle & Hum, (1988) Mystery Train (1989), Great Balls of Fire! (1989), Trespass (1991), The Firm (1993), A Family Thing (1996), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), The Rainmaker (1997), Cast Away (2000), The Queens of Comedy (2001), 21 Grams (2003), Hustle & Flow (2005), Walk the Line (2005), Forty Shades of Blue (2005), and Black Snake Moan (2007), Nothing But the Truth (2008), and The Blind Side, (2009).

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Fortune 500 2009: States: Tennessee Companies - FORTUNE on
  2. ^ Bartik, Timothy J. Tennessee, In: The New Economic Role of American States: Strategies in a Competitive World Economy. R. Scott Fosler, Committee for Economic Development, Ed. Oxford University Press US, 1991, pp. 139-200.
  3. ^ Pohlmann, Marcus D. Opportunity Lost: Race and Poverty in the Memphis City Schools. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2009, pp. 29-30.
  4. ^ Memphis Region: Economic Development.
  5. ^ Memphis: Economy, Major Industries and Commercial Activity
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Fitch Affirms Memphis Light, Gas & Water's Electric System Sr. & Sub Revs 'AA'; Outlook Stable. Business Wire, January 23, 2007.
  8. ^ Koch’s Georgia-Pacific to Purchase Buckeye for $1.45 Billion Apr 24, 2013
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  12. ^ Ozark History
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  16. ^ Einat Paz-Frankel Hilton investing $14 million in Web Memphis Business Journal, November 23, 2007(Accessed November 6, 2009)
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  19. ^ Schering-Plough third quarter net income falls Memphis Business Journal, October 22, 2009(Accessed November 6, 2009).
  20. ^ Memphis Merck Site Spared From Closure. Memphis Daily News.
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