Memphis International Airport Notes

February 2007

What is an Aerotropolis and what does it mean to Memphis?

An aerotropolis is a city which has centered its economy around and is greatly dependent upon its airport. John Kasarda, a business professor at the University of North Carolina, coined the phrase, and believes Memphis is the closest thing America has to an aerotropolis.

Here in Memphis, one in four jobs in the community is directly or indirectly dependent on Memphis International Airport. At the Memphis Regional Chamber's annual luncheon on December 14, Kasarda explained the most pressing issue now is how to encourage smart growth around the airport, instead of growth in a spontaneous, haphazard way.

Memphis Aerotropolis Logistics and Distribution Clusters
Memphis Aerotropolis Logistics and Distribution Clusters

One of the reasons Memphis is the closest city in the nation to an aerotropolis is because it is the world cargo leader. The majority of just-in-time manufactured goods such as medical devices and pharmaceuticals travel to their destinations via plane. Kasarda argues that as air transportation grows, so too will the number of cities strategically developed around this hub of activity.

According to Kasarda, in order for Memphis to grow as an intelligent aerotropolis, the region needs to consolidate its business, airport and urban planning. He believes the roads leading to and from the Airport need to be improved, well maintained and visually appealing because these roads are the first experience many people will have of Memphis.

While the strategic development to become a true aerotropolis is still in the planning stages, one thing is clear; the term aerotropolis is here to stay in Memphis.
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