Guest column: Memphis Needs to Invest in its Infrastructure

RICHARD MCDUFFIE | MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL

As “America’s Distribution Center” and Dunavant’s global headquarters, Memphis and its logistics industry require a renewed focus on infrastructure.

The city’s modes of transportation — runway, road, rail and river — consistently showcase our cost-effective reliability compared to other markets. These modes, however, rely on critical improvements that, if not proactively addressed, will sway both Memphis’ well-earned national distribution title and long-term economic success.

Memphis is home to more logistics workers per capita than any other metropolitan area in the country. Our city has the second-busiest airport in the world, is one of a handful of U.S. cities with five Class I rail systems and hosts a port that handles more than 19 million tons of cargo annually.

Almost 20 percent of the jobs in Memphis’ metropolitan statistical area are concentrated along the Lamar Avenue/U.S. 78 corridor, which supports more than 1,100 transportation and logistics companies that employ more than 42,000 people. Every day, 13,000 trucks move through that area alone, supporting shipments to more than 150 metro markets.

But today, the amount of time required to successfully deliver products to customers is delayed, in many cases, due to poor logistics infrastructure. If Lamar is choked up with congestion, the corridor is choking the local economy’s ability to grow.

On a national level, it is no secret that infrastructure projects have fallen by the wayside or are not getting done in time. The logistics and transportation industry sees a need for greater investment in domestic ocean and intermodal port locations as well as in highway road improvements. And, based on Memphis’ role as a transportation hub, we need to do our part to secure funds and properly improve our transportation paths, whether through the widening of roads or the repair of century-old bridges.

Specifically, current construction advances on I-269 in DeSoto and Marshall counties will allow for a more truck-friendly thoroughfare from the east side of Memphis down into Mississippi, and plans for the I-55 bridge will create new efficiencies for road transportation in the area. We applaud these projects and hope they serve as catalysts to revisit others, including the imperative need to widen U.S. 78/Lamar.

The mighty Mississippi River set us up beautifully, and while we have evolved through countless innovations and technologies over the past two centuries, we must reinvest in one of our inherent assets by maintaining and advancing our infrastructure.