Economy of Memphis, Tennessee

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Located on the Mississippi River, Memphis is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Southeast, ranking 41st out of the top 75[1] according to a Department of Labor Release. Of the 40 metropolitan areas ahead of Memphis, only 12 are in the South, according to the Census definition[2] The city has historically been one of the largest shipping hubs in the Mid-South, dating back to the Civil War, when the port was one of the largest on the Mississippi River and served as a shipping hub for the Confederacy.[3]

As transportation methods developed, Memphis has continued to hold significance as a transportation hub. Now the city is home to the second largest cargo airport in the world, Memphis International Airport,[4] and the world’s busiest domestic airport with 3.9 million metric tonnes. Memphis International Airport and Memphis has had huge significance in the railroad industry. The city has the 3rd largest rail center in the U.S. behind Chicago and St. Louis.[5] It is also one of only four U.S. cities with five Class 1 railroads.

Because Memphis has been such an important city for transportation and shipping, it is attractive to businesses, especially those producing goods shipped nationwide. Three Fortune 500 companies, FedEx, AutoZone and International Paper Co. call Memphis home. These significant businesses have brought a large manufacturing industry. Of the 607,900 jobs in Memphis in July 2014, 209,900 are in the Manufacturing and Transportation industries, around 34.5 percent.[6]

Over the years, the city has become less dependent on its manufacturing and transportation. Since the 1950s, the manufacturing industry has declined as businesses have moved off-shore for cheaper labor and the economy has since diversified and become more reliant on services. The Gross Domestic Product of the private sector good-producing industries have grown from $8,309 million to $11,459 million from 2003 to 2013.[7] Over that same time period, the private sector service industries grew from $39,354 million to $48,641 million.[8]

Model for economic development and forecast[edit]

Memphis has been one of the slowest cities to recover from the Great Recession that lasted from December 2007 to June 2009[9][10] according to Brookings Metro Monitor, and as a result, the city is currently recovering from it slowly and surely. A high unemployment rate just under 9 percent ranking 339 out of 372,[11] in the city.

At the Memphis City Council meeting in June,( ) Mayor A.C. Wharton outlined a budget[12] for the upcoming 2014-2015 fiscal year that was aimed at reducing the cities’ huge pension deficit without raising taxes. The budget predicted several economic trends, including: little growth in population and jobs, the outward migration of people and jobs, low cost of living and housing, and low taxes and no earned income tax.

The city ranks fourth[13] in the country in unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability. This means the city had the fourth highest amount of future retiree benefits that the municipality is unable to pay. The city cannot pay the insurance premiums because there are so many retiring and not enough taxes to cover those benefits. Essentially, the city is paying off the Other Post Employment Benefits with money it does not have and has not raised through taxes. Because this plan significantly impacted the city workers’ insurance plans, it was received with criticism in the council meetings. The council has assured constituents that they will search to find the money to keep the former insurance plan in place.


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. ^ "Large Metro Areas 2010 Census" (PDF). 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2014-09-28. 
  2. ^ "Population Distribution and Change" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-09-29. 
  3. ^ "Museum of the City". Museum of the City. Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  4. ^ Ohayon and White, Martine and Ryan. "ACI releases World Airport Traffic Report" (9/17/2014). Retrieved 2014-09-30. 
  5. ^ "Memphis Bragging Rights". Greater Memphis Chamber. Retrieved 2014-09-28. 
  6. ^ "Economy at a Glance". Retrieved 2014-09-31.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. ^ "Regional Data GDP & Personal Income". Retrieved 2014-09-29. 
  8. ^ "Regional Data GDP & Personal Income". Retrieved 2014-09-29. 
  9. ^ "The Great Recession". Retrieved 10/1/2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  10. ^ "Metro Monitor". Retrieved 10/1/2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. ^ "Unemployment Rates for Metropolitan Areas". Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 2014-09-29. 
  12. ^ "Memphis Operating Budget" (PDF). Retrieved 10/2/2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  13. ^ "UNFUNDED OPEB PER CAPITA: CITIES" (PDF) (2/22/2013). Retrieved 2014-09-30. 
  14. ^ Koch’s Georgia-Pacific to Purchase Buckeye for $1.45 Billion Apr 24, 2013
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  23. ^ Einat Paz-Frankel Hilton investing $14 million in Web Memphis Business Journal, November 23, 2007(Accessed November 6, 2009)
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  26. ^ Schering-Plough third quarter net income falls Memphis Business Journal, October 22, 2009(Accessed November 6, 2009).
  27. ^ Memphis Merck Site Spared From Closure. Memphis Daily News.
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