Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Snapshots of the Memphis Economy

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Electrolux site
  • Electrolux site
How many Memphians do you think could find the Frank Pidgeon Industrial Park? That's where the new Electrolux plant is under construction. I rode down there (it's in southwest Memphis near the river) this week with a friend who is one of the site-preparation contractors. The site was swarming with heavy equipment and (mostly) guys in hardhats, shades, and yellow vests. It reminded me of the mid-1990s when the casinos were going up in Tunica. The main building will be about one million square feet. That's a biggie, on the order of the car plants in Middle Tennessee and Mississippi.

The factory will make ovens. Right now it's hard to put a face on this project, but it's a big deal for Memphis and is good to see. To the south is the Nucor steel plant and to the north is the Mitsubishi Electric site, another big catch. If you want to see for yourself, go to Chucalissa, if that's any help, and then keep going west and you'll be there.

On a different note, another friend and I took a driving tour of the Memphis airport last week, starting at the Greyhound bus terminal on Airways. The bus terminal looks overdesigned to me, like the one near the train station downtown. It replaced the old terminal on Union that got former mayor Herenton in hot water. I felt sorry for the people sitting in the terminal waiting for over-the-road buses or MATA buses to take them to some other terminal closer to their final destination. I don't see much if any synergy between airplane passenger service and bus service, but we'll see.

By the way, I am thinking of taking the Megabus to Nashville. Depending on when you go, the one-way fare is $1, $4, or $9 and the return can be as low as $1 or as high as $25. Round trip could be less than it costs to park in downtown Nashville these days. And the Nashville bus terminal is within easy walking distance of the Country Music Hall of Fame, arena, and lower Broadway honky-tonks. I would be grateful for some comments from readers who have made this trip or other trips by Megabus.

Right across the street from the new Memphis bus terminal is an abandoned hotel with curtains flapping in the breeze and mirrors still hanging on the walls. It looks like something William Eggleston would have photographed. I do believe in aerotropolis, I do believe in aerotropolis, I do believe in aerotropolis . . . because if you look a little farther east you see all those FedEx jets parked in rows. But our little circumnavigation of the airport was depressing because of all the blight, vacant office buildings and warehouses, and poor neighborhoods. Three cheers for Smith and Nephew and Medtronic, holding down the fort on Brooks Road.

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