On May 19th, The Memphis Flyer posted an open letter from me that challenged ServiceMaster to consider moving downtown. In that letter, I asked the company to explore more deliberate engagement in Memphis, to consider contributing to the "winning culture" that they desire instead of waiting for it to emerge or seeking it elsewhere. I suggested that by occupying or building a presence downtown, ServiceMaster could attract other businesses and assets who would be moved by their actions to reconsider downtown. In essence, I argued that the company had the power within themselves to participate in a winning culture, not by asking but by leading by example.
I urged them to think about getting involved. To be bold. To be an example. To invest in Memphis in order to get its full return.
Well, indeed they have. With the announcement last week that ServiceMaster will move approximately 1,200 company employees into the long-dormant Peabody Place, ServiceMaster has aggressively bid to put its name alongside the other great founders of and contributors to our modern downtown. Along with FexExForum, Henry Turley, Raymond James, Bass Pro, St. Jude, and countless others who have started businesses, built culture, and activated downtown, ServiceMaster will now be regarded as a significant momentum booster, a downtown patron and leader.
The decision, I assume, was not an easy one. But I applaud ServiceMaster's vision to recognize that in order to institute change, one must initiate change. I applaud all who played a role in providing financial incentives, civic incentives, and motivational incentives. It is a testament to the drive, resources, and will of our city leaders; not just government leaders, but city leaders. Memphis is a much greater force when our resources are coalesced toward common goals.
Memphis' Mayor Jim Strickland is concentrating on being "brilliant at the basics," a philosophy that is, at this point, indeed right and appropriate for our city's future. But the city government is not working in a silo; our other civic, business, and social leaders realize that we are better together and have rallied their energies toward major initiatives that require more vision, energy, and risk than any government is able to manufacture on its own. This is the energy that is necessary to fully realize the continued potential of Memphis. We are no longer a city that is satisfied with the status quo, but rather a city that has begun tasting the fruits of our successes. Now we're hungry for more.
There will be challenges, of course, but I believe that those challenges and ServiceMaster's response to them will yield a dynamic workforce, an enriched culture, and will provide a great return on its investment. I also believe that ServiceMaster will find its way to join the same group that helped share the Memphis vision with them and they too will communicate that vision to those in their realm of influence. With the announcement of their downtown relocation, they have effectively joined the team.
So, thank you, ServiceMaster. Thank you from all downtown and Memphis enthusiasts. Thank you from merchants and residents. We're all grateful. And while our thanks is loud and enthusiastic, I believe the biggest thanks you will get will be in the future — from your current employees, future employees, shareholders, and all of those who have a vested interest in your success.
So to ServiceMaster, we thank you and welcome you to downtown as it is today as well as to the downtown of tomorrow.
Doug Carpenter is the founder of DCA, a creative communications consulting firm located in downtown Memphis.