by David S. Waddell
In 1995, the top 100 publicly traded US companies generated 53 percent of all public company income. Twenty years later, the top 100 generated 84 percent of all public company income. For direction on what has led to this inflating concentration, look no further than roster rotation among the top 10. In 1995, the 10 largest US companies, worth a combined $813 billion, were GE, AT&T, Exxon, Coke, Merck, Shell, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, J&J, and Microsoft. Microsoft made the list for the first time that year, vaunting a technology name into a “blue chip” leadership class long dominated by oil, consumer goods, and manufacturing names. Today, technology companies dominate the top 10 list with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, well ahead of J&J, Exxon, Berkshire, JP Morgan, and GE. These technology behemoths themselves combine for a market value of $3 trillion, $1 trillion more than the bottom five.
Unregulated economies develop natural monopolies. In 1900, Standard Oil (now Exxon) controlled 90 percent of the US oil market, making John D. Rockefeller the richest American who ever lived. A few years later, the newly formed US Steel controlled 70 percent of the nation’s steel production, lifting Andrew Carnegie’s net worth to over $310 billion. Unsurprisingly, Americans tired of these “robber barons,” resulting in major anti-trust legislation being passed and Presidents Roosevelt and Taft suing 120 US companies. Today, 1,160 federal employees work for the Federal Trade Commission, safeguarding market competition.
How Kevin Kane is taking Memphis to the world
by Jon W. Sparks
Kevin Kane will gladly run the numbers for you.
As President and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, he is all about the digits: dollar figures, rankings, crowd flow, ticket buyers, economic impact and all.
One interesting number is 26 – the number of years he’s been at the helm of the CVB. That’s a long time to stick around in that kind of job, but the Memphis-born, Memphis-raised smooth booster is all Memphis all the time.
Kane uses the word “great” a lot and takes a back seat to no one when it comes to touting the city. He’s also realistic.
“We take negative happenings in our city as personally as if it was happening to our own family,” he says. “We bleed for Memphis. We bleed the Memphis product. And what Memphis represents. Yeah, we’ve got some room for improvement but we’ve got a lot more things going right for us than going wrong.”
The CVB works on several levels to put Memphis in the best light. “We have really been able to fine-tune, hone, mature, and really promote the brand and the brand appeal and target the potential visitor bases for this area,” Kane says. “The Convention & Visitors Bureau is about driving revenue. We don’t just hand out brochures with pretty pictures and say come visit our attractions. We’re very strategic in what we do.”
Old electronics are repurposed with a conscious
by Jane Schneider
As technology advances, the electronic gadgets we rely on, from computers and video game consoles to Kindles and iPads, become obsolete — and fast. Which means most of us have probably two or more pieces of electronic equipment that need to be disposed of safely. In fact, electronic waste is the fastest growing category of trash in the United States where half the states require e-waste recycling (although Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas have no such legislation).
But the demand, whether mandated by law or not, is growing. That’s where companies like ER2 come in. This fully certified recycling company — ER2 stands for Electronic Responsible Recyclers — does more than ensure e-waste doesn’t wind up in local landfills. In addition to recycling everything from computers and cell phones to modems and servers, the company safely disposes of personal and company data, refurbishes used computing equipment, and makes rehabbed electronics available for online resale at an affordable price.
Established in Mesa, Arizona, in 2010, ER2 opened its second location near Downtown Memphis in October 2015. Inside this stylishly refurbished warehouse at Georgia and Fourth Street, young employees whiz by on small scooters, moving deftly around the airy, 69,000-square-foot building where, amid huge cartons of used office equipment being sorted, you’ll also spy less conventional elements, like a cornhole game and basketball goal. While these entrepreneurs take their business venture seriously, they also encourage the staff of 20 to have fun and contribute ideas of their own, a practice that has helped move the company forward.
ER2 was launched by managing partners Chris Ko and Rick Krug. Krug is a 53-year-old entrepreneur who learned the recycling business from Jim Greenberg, considered one of the pioneers of electronic recycling. Growing the business in Memphis made sense logistically, Krug says, with FedEx’s hub here and the ability to more readily serve clients in the eastern United States. Since becoming established in the Bluff City, they’ve added to their client list, servicing institutions such as Vanderbilt, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Regional One, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Shelby County Schools.
But the fact that ER2 opened this $2 million facility in one of the city’s poorest zip codes also speaks to the ethos of the company, which strives to be responsible not only to its clients, but to team members, the community, and the environment. “We look to revitalize places, to make an impact on the local community with jobs,” says Ko.
Krug’s community involvement (he lives in his downtown condo when tending to business in Memphis) led him to Steve Nash, who heads Advance Memphis. The faith-based nonprofit works to improve the lives of people living in South Memphis, and because of the connection, ER2 hired several employees from the neighborhood.
Its industry certifications, by e-Stewards, NAID, R2:2013, and others, also hold the company to a higher standard. Such certification means zero percent of the materials it processes winds up in landfills across the country. “We’re also not sending products to banned countries like China,” adds Krug.
Jeff Whitney, a former executive with FedEx who now oversees quality, environment, health, and safety for ER2, says much of the $1.6 million renovation of the building was done by Krug and Ko themselves. The public spaces have a distinctive feel, with locally produced artwork giving it a hip, contemporary vibe.
Walk into the warehouse and you’ll see huge cardboard cartons filled with batteries, processors, calculators, old phones, cords and cables, servers, computers, printers, and other electronic parts. Desktop computers, stacked in columns that resemble Jenga towers, are wrapped in cellophane and await buyers.
When office equipment arrives at ER2, the materials are assessed for value. Some products, like computers, can be rebuilt. Others get completely de-manufactured, taken apart and sorted by components. Materials like plastic, steel, aluminum, and copper go to certified scrap buyers. At those mills, items are shredded or ground down to chips and melted into pellets that can be reused to manufacture new goods.
What makes electronic waste unique, however, is that “everything has data on it that is proprietary,” says Ko. “Companies need to be aware that if it’s not disposed of properly, they’re at risk. A certified company knows how to destroy that data.”
Computers with newer operating systems and processors are often refurbished by ER2, an important segment of their business. Workers make sure SD cards are removed and hard drives are either wiped clean for reuse or removed and shredded. This ensures that secure data is destroyed, says Whitney. Once a computer is upgraded, it is tested by technicians at ER2’s in-house lab, then sold online at outlets like eBay, Amazon, New Egg, and Walmart.com. Even the ads that display the refurbished products are made here, with one corner of the warehouse dedicated to shooting photographs of equipment before information is uploaded to the web.
Ko says he finds charter schools and small businesses are a solid and growing market for the firm’s refurbished products. It also sells to customers in Europe, Asia, and Australia. The computer systems can be customized for clients. ER2 warranties its work and makes tech support available. Most importantly, the sea of e-waste that’s floating out there is less overwhelming thanks to this company.
What would happen in Shelby County if the Trump budget were enacted?
by Jon W. Sparks
There’s been no end of discussion about significant changes in federal spending lately, but the whirlwind of words and figures have not yielded a clear sense of the consequences the 2018 budget proposed by the Trump Administration would have at the local level. How would Shelby County fare if and when funding is cut for widely used public programs?
An analysis by Dr. John Gnuschke, director of the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Memphis, and Dr. Jeff Wallace, associate research professor, provides an estimate of the economic impact our community would feel if the Trump administration’s budget proposals were to be enacted.
The blueprint for federal spending, which Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget has called the “America First” budget, was made public in May. It proposes to balance the budget in 10 years with $3.6 trillion in cuts in social safety net programs, many of which are administered by the departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education.
Those programs, Mulvaney says, discourage work and hinder economic growth. Opponents say the proposed tax cuts for wealthier Americans effectively take away from the poor, particularly the most vulnerable in the lowest quintile (20 percent of households in terms of household income), which in Tennessee is $18,440, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Memphis, it’s about $15,000.
Ring Container Technologies and the Wolf River Conservancy collaborate
by Emily Adams Keplinger
In 2015, the Wolf River Conservancy entered into a partnership with Ring Container Technologies, with the announcement of a $500,000 Ring Challenge Grant that was formally announced at WRC’s fundraiser, the Greenway Soirée. Proceeds during the evening’s “Fund A Need” portion of the live auction were matched dollar-for-dollar by Ring Container.
“Thanks to the Ring Challenge Grant, WRC has protected hundreds of additional wetlands in the Wolf River corridor, bringing our total number of protected wetlands to over 16,000 acres,” says Keith Cole, executive director of the Wolf River Conservancy. “No other company in the state of Tennessee has made this level of investment into land conservation and preservation.”
Ring Container is a plastic bottle supplier with 17 automated manufacturing facilities across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The company works with international food processors and suppliers including Stratas Foods, Cargill, Hormel, Con-Agra, and others to develop packaging for products such as dressings, sauces and oils, peanut butter, mayonnaise, snacks, and pet foods. In addition to its manufacturing facilities, it also has three distribution centers and a corporate headquarters and research facility in Oakland, Tennessee. Companywide, it employs about 700 workers with 2017 projected sales of more than $400 million.
by Andrea Wiley
I recently attended an 8th-grade graduation ceremony and was impressed by the speaking ability demonstrated by the 14-year-old girls who delivered the valedictorian and salutatorian address to their fellow classmates, family members, friends, and teachers. They were poised, rehearsed, and confident and were able to clearly communicate their message to the audience. It occurred to me that those girls were well on their way to mastering a skill that many professionals lack.
The reality is that there are several elements that contribute to a solid presentation and it does not end at the caliber of one’s public speaking ability. That is just the beginning. Though so often, that is where all the emphasis is placed when planning and preparing a presentation.
We live in a world where we think we are too busy to slow down and take the time necessary to thoughtfully prepare for a presentation, even though, growing up we were taught, “Practice makes perfect.” While perfection may not be a realistic expectation, we should still “practice, practice, practice,” in an effort to do our best. The more practice you put in ahead of time, the more comfortable you will be presenting, and the more you present, the more confident you will be in your ability to do so.
by Jon W. Sparks
Our cover package is a keeper for anyone who has to put together an event, whether a meet-and-greet in a private room in a restaurant or a big shindig in an auditorium with food and music and presentations.
There’s an interview with Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, who offers insight into the present state of Memphis tourism and the future of conventions. You’ll also find a terrifically useful list of venues in and around town where you can stage your event.
Meanwhile, Jody Callahan interviewed event planners to see how the industry has changed and Aisling Maki has a feature on the growing number of taprooms, breweries and distilleries that will host events. And if you’re planning a presentation, check out Andrea Wiley’s column for tips on making it effective.
Elsewhere in the issue, see Frank Murtaugh’s interview with Latino Memphis leader Mauricio Calvo, Jane Schneider’s profile of the forward-thinking ER2 recycling operation, and Samuel X. Cicci’s Q&A with outgoing Rhodes College president William E. Troutt.
And don’t miss David S. Waddell’s fascinating look at “E-conomics,” where the rapidly changing global information marketplace is wildly different from the one-time dominant manufacturing and oil sector — but they still have some resemblance to the “bully monopolies” of yore.
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