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Memphis Among Top Cities for Best Places to Launch a Start-up

Locals have known it for a while, but now the national press is catching on – there’s more to Memphis, Tennessee than Elvis and barbeque.  In fact, there’s a lot more, especially if you’re thinking of starting a business.

In the CNN countdown of the top locations in the country to launch a start-up, Memphis came in at #10. The authors listed various city initiatives, incubators and accelerators that are available to entrepreneurs as the primary reason.  Added to that, the cost of living is considerably lower than the national average, which allows for easy relocation and low operating costs.

Memphis is already named “North America’s Logistics Center.”  It’s central location and transportation infrastructure make it unsurpassed for prime location when logistics are important.  Packages can be delivered anywhere in the US from Memphis within a day, making it the perfect spot for medical device manufacturers who need to make sure hospitals get their product quickly.

Beyond the benefits available for start-ups, Memphis has become headquarters to several Fortune 500 companies, such as FedEx, International Paper, ServiceMaster and Autozone.  If you’re curious why, consider these incentives.

The PILOT program

This PILOT Program was the reason Fortune 500 company Servicemaster moved its company headquarters from Downers Grove, Illinois to Memphis in 2006, and has been reported to have saved the company anywhere between $8 million and $18 million. This Payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) program was created by the Industrial Development Board of the City of Memphis and County of Shelby, Tennessee to stimulate economic development in the region.  While not all businesses and start-ups are guaranteed PILOT benefits, the board looks at multiple factors such as the number of jobs that will be created, the wages and benefits that will be provided, the company’s diversity plan, and the benefit/cost ratio of public revenue versus public costs. If accepted into the PILOT program, a business can receive tax cuts of up to 85% on personal and property taxes.


Incubators and tech accelerators

In addition to abundant local resources for start-ups and entrepreneurs, there are multiple financial incentives for tech companies relocating or launching a business in Memphis. A large job applicant pool combined with low labor and living costs provides Memphis with multiple opportunities, spaces, and talent for start-up growth. Local organizations like StartCo and EPIcenter, nonprofits offering mentorship, incubators and accelerators for tech start-ups, are also helping make this trend even more popular.


The weather and location

In its central location connected by air, rail, barge, and major highways, Memphis allows companies to get their products out to their customers quickly and at maximum cost effectiveness.  Without blizzards, hurricanes or long periods of snow and ice, Memphis is a prime hub location for companies that need a dependable transportation infrastructure and the weather that allows that infrastructure to operate year round. Noted for its mild winters and infrequent frozen precipitation, Memphis fares better than other major ports on the coasts that face more extreme weather conditions that halt business operations.


The Grizzlies

The City of Memphis and its people always carry a sense of unity whenever basketball season starts for the Grizzlies. There’s an excitement and buzz that’s felt around town even in the fall for preseason.  It’s as if the Memphis Grizzles embody the spirit of the city with their “grit and grind” style of playing and the city, in turn, shows an immense amount of support, no matter the circumstances.  Worthy of the ‘Grit and Grind’ tagline through disruptive defense and  big man offense, they are a symbol for the city showing that if you work hard and come together as a team, you can make progress and drive results.  The people of Memphis need the Grizzlies as much as The Grizzlies need them.  It’s a way for everyone to rally around one common goal, joining together for a long season with the hope and belief that the city can achieve something great.


The crossroads of art and community

Even with the Grizzlies, the resources, and the appetite for growth, do you want to know the real draw of Memphis? This website is a great clue.  For years, organizations like City Leadership (Choose901) and the Downtown Memphis Commission have focused on some of the things that make Memphis, Tennessee unique, including its legendary role in music, history, revitalization, and art.  This citywide buzz is infectious and evident in the many arts and music festivals (many that are family friendly) that take place here every year – from the RiverArts Fest to Beale Street Music Fest. For a real treat, there’s also the The Levitt Shell, an outdoor concert venue located in midtown, where families can spread a blanket and hear music for free from some of the most talented artists in the country and around the world. Simply put – Memphis has always been, and continues to be, inspiring to artists and musicians.  As a plus, many of them want to come here and perform in the place that put American music on the worldwide map.

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