After about a year in the private sector, a prominent Memphian has jumped back into economic development.
Mark Herbison was hired recently by Haywood, Tipton, and Lauderdale counties to lead their joint industrial development efforts. He was the Greater Memphis Chamber's senior vice president of economic development for 13 years before taking a job with Chicago-based construction firm Clayco Inc. last July.
Herbison said he had a "wonderful" experience with Clayco but that job required nearly constant travel, which hindered his ability to take care of his aging mother. He said he also missed the regular community interaction that economic development work includes.
"It's good to be back doing this," Herbison said. "The community side of it is really where my heart is."
As the Memphis Chamber's lead salesman, Herbison worked with Haywood County to try and land multiple different tenants to the Memphis Regional Megasite. Now, Herbison said he's hopeful he'll be able to help finish the job.
"I think they're making significant progress," Herbison said. "Hopefully, it can create thousands of new jobs … like we've seen with all the other automotive facilities that have landed in the South."
In 2016 and 2017, the site narrowly missed out on a $500 million facility for Chinese tire maker Sentury Tire Americas and a $1.6 billion Toyota plant.
In February, the Memphis Regional Megasite Authority approved the use of eminent domain so that the State of Tennessee can build a wastewater pipeline to the Mississippi River. And, in June, the Memphis-area director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), Gwyn Fisher, told local officials there has been "a significant uptick in interest in the megasite" in 2019.
Herbison said he sees "so much opportunity" in the three counties, with both Tipton and Lauderdale also having industrial parks near railroads.
"If you look at the metro area and its growth pattern, I think there's a lot of opportunity for industrial growth ... and residential growth," Herbison said. "We're three counties right next to a county with [almost] 1 million people."
The major challenges for the counties, Herbison said, will be creating more access to highways, railroads, and the Memphis International Airport.
Along with the county mayors, Herbison said he'll report to the mayors of Ripley, Brownsville, and Covington.