Ever heard of an aerotropolis? Well, if you live in Memphis you may want to get used to the term because we have one, and it could be getting a makeover.

City planners and developers from all over the United States convened yesterday in Memphis to discuss possible uses for the 50 mile area surrounding Memphis International Airport.

The area is already deemed an aerotropolis – meaning an urban space centered around a major airport within an associated city. It’s a city within a city, in a way, because the land surrounding the airport also includes manufacturing, telecommunications/logistics offices, hotels, business parks, and distribution centers, among other things.

Further development on the Memphis International aerotropolis might involve adding entertainment centers, restaurants, and other services catering to businesspeople who travel often or who work long hours in and around the airport.

Memphis has received a $7 million grant to start the project, which will mean creating a master plan for development in the area. The revitalization efforts have been compared to recent work on Downtown Memphis – a project that took roughly three decades to complete.

Advocates of the project say it’s crucial to Memphis’ long-term economic success. As a national leader in the transportation industry, Memphis relies heavily on the airport and surrounding businesses. According to Arnold Perl, chairman of the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority, transportation provides or significantly affects around 50% of Memphis jobs. The Memphis Chamber of Commerce estimates 70% of Memphis’ gross metropolitan product comes from business done within the aerotropolis.

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