Airport boosts logistics, distribution image as America's 'Aerotropolis'

February 17, 2009

By Wayne Risher

An airport-centered effort to supercharge Memphis' longtime strength in distribution and logistics is gaining traction, organizers say.

Early successes include the merger of Northwest and Delta, which kept Memphis as a passenger hub, and a land swap that provided FedEx with precious expansion room, Airport Authority chairman Arnold Perl said.

Perl spoke at an Engineer's Week kickoff luncheon Monday as the Greater Memphis Chamber released a progress report on America's Aerotropolis, part of the Memphis Fast Forward economic development initiative.

Tom Schmitt, chamber board chairman, said a committee had been busy building relationships among partners, branding the effort and cleaning up downtrodden areas near the airport. The group registered the trademark "Memphis: America's Aerotropolis; Where Runway, Road, Rail & River Merge." The brand is finding its way into promotional literature and reports for Memphis International Airport, and the airport landed the Airport Cities World Conference and Exhibition in 2011.

"I'm very thrilled with it," said Schmitt, president and CEO, FedEx Global Supply Chain Services. "I'm a realist with a high level of constructive impatience. I always want to get more done, faster. I do see that this is a marathon."

As big an impact as the airport already has -- $20.7 billion a year, one in four jobs, by 5-year-old figures -- Perl said it will only get bigger. "Aerotropolis is going to be central to the economy of this community."

"For years now, well over 30 years, Memphis has been regarded as America's Distribution Center. Going forward, it's going to be something much more than that."

In addition to calling for new infrastructure and connections among transportation assets, the report stressed the importance of expanding the airport's current anchors.

Perl said last year's relocation of the Air National Guard, which freed up 103 acres surrounded by the FedEx superhub, had monumental significance. "Now FedEx will continue to grow in Memphis."
Naysayers were wrong when they predicted a Delta-Northwest merger would doom the passenger hub, Perl said, and Delta is talking about routing more flights through Memphis.

"We have gone from pundits saying we're going to lose our hub to today's belief that Memphis International is going to be Terminal M, if you would, of Atlanta-Hartsfield-Jackson" International Airport, Perl said.

Memphis: America's Aerotropolis
Aerotropolis is an urban grouping of aviation-intensive businesses and related enterprises, extending 15-20 miles from an airport.

The reach of the Memphis aerotropolis covers Shelby County, northern DeSoto County and eastern Crittenden County.

Closest rivals globally include Dallas, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Frankfurt

-- Wayne Risher: 529-2874