Dunavant touts positives for Memphis business

March 22nd, 2013

As published in the Memphis Business Journal

William Dunavant III, CEO and president of Dunavant Enterprises Inc., had a wide-ranging but generally positive message for commercial real estate professionals at the local Certified Commercial Investment Member meeting earlier this week.

Dunavant, whose family has a long history in Memphis business, is familiar with the incessant negativity often associated with the Bluff City. This is, after all, the Home of the Blues.

“Your business is not going to get any better if you just moan and groan,” he said. “If you stop believing, you’re not going to do any real estate deals.”

Dunavant has been getting some inspiration recently from the unjaded: young people.

As past board chair of New Memphis Institute, an organization tasked with bringing talent to the city and training young talent, Dunavant has been working with the next generation of business leaders.

“Those people believe in the city much more than mature people of our generation do,” Dunavant said.

Dunavant also addressed a common challenge in the Mid-South: division among local communities. Some see something happening in Mississippi or Arkansas as growth at the expense of Memphis. However, Dunavant thinks a new warehouse in Olive Branch is a new warehouse in Memphis.

“We have got to all work together,” Dunavant said.

Memphis’ strength in distribution and logistics fuels Dunavant’s optimism for the region, from five Class I railroads to the completion of I-69 and I-269. Also, the abundance of warehouse space in Southeast Memphis and North Mississippi is a plus.

“That is the magnet which makes me so positive about what’s going on in Memphis,” Dunavant said.

Even transportation projects way out in the future are targeted for the Mid-South, such as the third bridge spanning the Mississippi River.

“They’re not talking about putting that in St. Louis or New Orleans, they’re talking about putting it in the greater Memphis area,” Dunavant said.

A more attainable wish is for work to be done on Lamar Avenue. That road has a large BNSF Railway Corp. intermodal facility, but it’s a chock point for traffic heading to Birmingham, Ala. and Atlanta.

Dunavant was high on Marshall County from a distribution perspective due to the low taxes and availability of land. He pointed out that Memphis has its tax issues while suburban cities in Shelby County will solve their school issues with taxes.

He also pointed to the Panama Canal opening in 2016 as a generational project which will positively impact the Memphis area. This is mainly due to the city’s access to the second largest river in the world, an ever-present amenity which has served the city and will continue to do so for years.

“I don’t think anyone is going to dam the Mississippi River up,” Dunavant said.

See the original article at the Memphis Business Journal

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