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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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Chamber sets ‘winning’ tone for EV futures, DEI and Memphis Music

Ted Townsend, Greater Memphis Chamber’s new president and CEO, announced Tuesday (Dec. 13) that Ford has selected Memphis and West Tennessee for its two-year mobility innovation challenge starting in 2023. 

Ford is partnering with the Chamber, StartCo and other agencies to review options for connecting urban and rural communities in West Tennessee through sustainable electric vehicles.

The challenge, called Digital Delta, allows entrepreneurs to submit proposals for pilot projects as Ford builds BlueOval City – the electric vehicle and battery plant slated to open in Stanton, Tennessee, in 2025.

In 2024, Ford will distribute grants from $50,000 to $150,000 for selected mobility projects to be tested in the region for possible launch. 

Digital Delta brings entrepreneurs into the innovative mobility process and could become a transportation blueprint for other regions around the globe.

The news came during the Chamber’s final major business and networking event for the year, where nearly 1,000 stakeholders gathered at the Peabody Hotel Grand Ballroom.

Other key announcements were made at the annual luncheon.

Moving Memphis music forward 

(Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

George Monger, founder and CEO of Connect Music Group, revealed his company’s acquisition of London’s MTX Music, expanding its global presence and efforts to help independent artists.

“Connect Music is the fasting growing business in our industry because of our team and because of some amazing people in this room,” he said.

Launched in 2020, Connect Music is a Black-owned startup company based in Memphis that has generated $3 million in sales since inception. 

The company is a music platform converting payments to profits while providing music publishing and distribution services and offers worldwide exposure to Memphis’ globally recognized hip-hop and R&B music artists. 

Connect Music reviews details of the music business with artists and creators, including how legal agreements and pay from streaming work.

The company empowers artists through ownership of recording copyrights and intellectual property rights.

Monger’s collaborators include former NBA Grizzlies player Zach Randolph, who joined Monger on stage during the announcement.

Black Business grant winners

Tuesday’s announcements included winners of five, $5,000 Black business grants sponsored by the Chamber and IKEA U.S. Community Foundation.

As part of IKEA’s $3 million National Black Business Initiative, Memphis winners receiving the grant money include Jamerson Strategic Consulting, LLC, Communiride, Muggin Coffee, Definition of Cutz and Total Package Health and Wellness.

Changing of the Chamber guard 

New Greater Memphis Chamber President/CEO Ted Townsend (center) and Beverly Robertson celebrate with Chamber officers and staff. Townsend said his personal vision for the Chamber is “to build a greater Memphis for all.” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Townsend thanked the Chamber’s former president and CEO Beverly Robertson, for leading the agency “from tragedy to triumph” during the pandemic when businesses were struggling to stay profitable and safe for clients and employees. 

Also, thanks to Robinson, the Chamber is now on sound financial footing with multiple revenue streams versus only membership fees when she began the role of president and CEO four years ago.

Pat Mitchell Worley, chief executive officer for the Soulsville Foundation; outgoing Greater Memphis Chamber President/CEO Beverly Robertson. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

“If she tells you it can be done, you believe her,” said veteran Memphis music executive Pat Mitchell Worley about Robertson during a filmed statement at the event. 

Townsend said his personal vision for the Chamber is “to build a greater Memphis for all.” 

As the city renews its passion for pro football with the return of the USFL’s Memphis Showboats, Townsend envisions a culture of “winning” not only in sports, but across the board in education, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the region’s industries, including logistics, healthcare, music recording, filming, and electric vehicle manufacturing. 

Townsend said he will complement the work Robertson produced by focusing on three components — economic development, public policy, and workforce development. 

He encouraged building “a greater Memphis where ‘winning’ is hard-wired in our DNA.

“That means we expect a greater Memphis for all, that we expect to win in the classroom at levels never before seen in the neighborhoods that define us and make us unique, and where public policy effecting business is not only being crafted here, but possibly impacts our ability to change the world.”

“A greater Memphis expects an entrepreneurial eco-system that elevates and accelerates our valued small businesses and expects to continue to lead and win in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and belonging, because when we expect more, when we expect greater … Memphis wins.”


Photos: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/

The New Tri-State Defender

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