Weekly Update: How the Lamar Avenue grant came to be


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For Memphis to truly realize the potential we all know exists, it takes everyone working together — us, the City Council, the business community, the non-profit sector, and Memphians from all walks of life.

We saw the value of teamwork again this week — twice, in fact.

Working together, Part 1: On Tuesday, we learned that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $71 million grant that will completely transform Lamar Avenue. With 1,300 companies employing roughly 70,000 people along that corridor, this is a game-changing improvement that will lead to more jobs and more economic growth in our city.

How did it happen? Teamwork. Just to get a sense of the effort, I wanted to share with you the stars who made it happen.

At the City, Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen and City Engineer Manny Belen were instrumental. At Shelby County, we couldn’t have done this without Mayor Mark Luttrell and County Engineer Darren Sanders. The suburban mayors, particularly Bartlett’s Keith McDonald, were incredibly supportive. Pragati Srivastava, administrator of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, helped lead the effort — and was instrumental in bringing me up to speed when I took office and before I traveled to Washington to lobby for the grant.

Our federal delegation all went to bat. That includes Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Bob Corker, Rep. Steve Cohen, and Rep. David Kustoff. Knowing just how important the Lamar project is for transportation region-wide, our friends in the Mississippi and Arkansas delegations gave their support, too.

Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer were champions of this project. The same goes for TDOT Deputy Commissioner Lyndsay Botts, Long Range Planning Director Tanisha Hall, and Region 4 General Manager Steve Chipman.

The Greater Memphis Chamber has been pushing for this for a while. The Chamber knows just how important this is for business and jobs in Memphis. Phil Trenary, Kelly Rayne, Amy Daniels, Dexter Muller, Julie Ellis, and John Dudas put in the long hours on this project. (Julie, in particular, has long led the charge on this.)

At FedEx, Dave Bronczek and Richard Smith were instrumental. Same with Michael Garriga and Michael Smythers at BNSF Railway and Scott Brockman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.

To everyone listed above, and to so many others who pitched in, thank you. This work will help transform Memphis.

Sen. Alexander reports that 235 communities requested more than $12 billion in this grant process. Only 26 grants were made, and ours was the only one in Tennessee. This is a very, very big deal.

Working together, Part 2: Then came Tuesday’s passage of the 2018-19 City budget. It took all of four minutes to pass the operating budget. We worked with the Council, not against it; we compromised and communicated; we sought consensus, not contention.

The result? A budget that increases our spending on public safety, does more in our parks and libraries, and paves more streets — all while keeping taxes level. Learn more about it here.

Memphis has momentum, and it’s because we’re working together.

Thanks, 311: Whether you reach it by telephone, website, or mobile app, our 311 service is the backbone of our response to service requests. That makes our hard-working group of 311 call-takers important front-line links to you, our citizens.

So I dropped by their office Tuesday for lunch — and to simply say thank you.

I hope you’ll join me in thanking them, too.

311 staff lunch

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