Stretching across Shelby County, northern DeSoto County and eastern Crittenden County, the Memphis Aerotropolis extends an impressive 13 miles out from the fence line and features clusters of hotels, medical and bioscience distribution centres, recreation and entertainment, and above all, a major cargo complex.
Situated on approximately 121 hectares and with a perimeter of nearly five miles is the jewel in the crown of Memphis International’s Aerotropolis portfolio – the FedEx World Hub.
Established in 1973, the World Hub is FedEx’s chief national and international distribution centre and processes 94% of Memphis’ total airfreight and operates more than 400 daily national and international cargo flights a day.
Nearly four million tonnes of cargo passes through Memphis International each year and one of the defining elements of life in Memphis is the ever-present sight of FedEx and other cargo planes passing overhead.
In June 2007, FedEx signed a new 30-year lease with the Memphis-Shelby Country Airport Authority; effectively ensuring Memphis International will remain a world leader in global supply chains.
Major national and international distribution facilities for Flextronics, Hewlett-Packard, Nike, Sharp and many others have located in Memphis largely because of the FedEx hub.
No surprise then that Memphis has the highest share of logistics workers in the United States (18% including wholesale) with FedEx alone employing some 33,000 employees at its facilities.
The future of cargo is constantly evolving. Today, in laboratories across the city and in specifically designed cold storage facilities, Memphis is moving into a position of leadership in time-critical medical distribution, especially in the growing fields of bio-logistics and personalised medicine.
Future plans for the aerotropolis will see it expand beyond the fence line some 25 to 60 miles, a footprint that extends across three states. It will anchor Memphis’ quadra-modal assets of air, rail, port and highways. The city’s excellent transport links makes Memphis International Airport the perfect place to accomplish this.
A recent highly visible development is the new $61.5 million state-of-the-art control tower, currently under construction. The tower, which was topped off in early 2010, will be commissioned in early 2011 and once completed will be the third tallest control tower in the United States and allow for a continued safe and efficient traffic flow for decades to come.
Another major development in support of cargo growth was the relocation of the Tennessee Air National Guard facilities, completed in 2009. This relocation not only allowed for Guard expansion, it provided FedEx with precious expansion room in the middle of its existing footprint.
To ensure Memphis International’s continued success, the airport authority will complete a new master plan in 2010 to define the strategic steps needed over the next 20 years to accommodate the diverse needs of its airline tenants. The aerotropolis will loom large in these plans.
While cargo continues to go from strength to strength, Memphis is also a tourist city and the airport is a critical part of that tourism’s success and potential.
No description of Memphis would be complete without a mention of its rich musical past, first as the home of the Blues with the historic Beale Street still a centre for live entertainment, where famous musicians such as Louis Armstrong, BB King and Muddy Waters performed.
A dose of Gospel and Country also proved instrumental in launching another, defining musical birth of the 1950s in the city of Memphis – Rock and Roll.
Within the walls of Sun Studios, Elvis and a small band of musicians changed music forever. His home, Graceland, is the second most visited home in the United States, following the White House.
The specific effort to beautify and improve airport access corridors will promote the airport city as a tourist and visitor destination and will prove to be a catalyst for business centres and encourage diverse residential neighbourhoods with exemplary services.
Beyond the musical heritage, the city is also home to what is now recognised as the most popular zoo in the United States and one of the few homes of the Giant Panda. Memphis is the air service gateway to Tunica, Mississippi, one of the top five casino destinations in the country.
In support of its air passenger growth, construction began in March 2010 on a new Ground Transportation Center at Memphis International. The centre, a complete, full-service facility for ground transportation needs at the airport, will offer unsurpassed service and convenience to travellers and car rental companies. Levels one and two of the ground transportation centre will feature all rental car services.
Car rental companies will be able to house all of their customer service operations within the centre, including rental operations, return services and quick-turnaround vehicle service.
A total of 1,250 rental car spaces will be available. The complete auto rental capabilities will eliminate any need for shuttle buses for the rental car companies. Levels three through seven will feature 4,500 parking spaces for passengers.