by Richard J. Alley
It’s a good time to be alive. A latte is to be had on nearly every corner and I just realized the other day that I can operate my Roku streaming device through an app I downloaded on my phone. Thanks to innovation, television remotes are things from the century past.
In The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War, author Robert J. Gordon contends that the breadth of innovations in the hundred years from 1870 to 1970 will never be duplicated. And he has a good case on his hands. He begins by stating that in the century following the Civil War, “daily life had changed beyond recognition. Manual outdoor jobs were replaced by work in air-conditioned environments, housework was increasingly performed by electric appliances, darkness was replaced by light, and isolation was replaced not just by travel, but also by color television images bringing the world into the living room. Most important, a newborn infant could expect to live not to age forty-five, but to age seventy-two.”
Is that to say that today, in 2016, we don’t suffer? Of course not. Spread of the Zika virus, staggering rates of crime and poverty locally, racial inequality, and international terrorism are proof that there is still trouble in our world despite the incredibly advanced states of science and industry.
But we keep working on those problems. I can’t speak to the rate of innovation nationwide today versus that of, say, the Jazz Age as Mr. Gordon does, but I will say that, after putting this issue of Inside Memphis Business together, innovation in Memphis is alive and well and bursting at the seams. The four winners of our fourth-annual Innovation Awards are combatting health and social troubles on various fronts. The winners are an ethnically, economically, and educationally diverse group working hand-in-hand to make our hometown and our world a better place.
Memphis is lucky to have these innovators and lucky to have the institutions backing what they do — institutions such as the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, epicenter Memphis, bridges, and Start Co. to name a few.
Innovation takes place in a myriad of ways and spaces, and the Memphis Medical District Collaborative is looking to reprogram space in and around some of the institutions named above. In this issue, I sit down with Tommy Pacello, president of the mmdc, and Paul Young, director of Housing and Community Development, to learn how revitalizing the places where these innovators might work, live, and play is good for the region as a whole.
We should all think so progressively. While our TV remotes may stay lost, it’s a good day to find that spark for the next great idea.
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