Lawrence’s background a fit for work at EDGE

Feature profile for The Memphis Daily News

Feb. 11, 2013

Emphasis: Economic Development

It might be said that John Lawrence has a background made to order for looking at the big picture – one of real estate, urban planning, marketing and organization management. Through the course of various career moves, he’s developed the tools necessary for the use in his position as manager of strategic economic development planning for Memphis and Shelby County’s Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE).

But he comes from a family of entrepreneurs as well, his parents were the first TCBY franchisees outside of Arkansas, and his mother and friends began their own decorative dish manufacturing business. Lawrence grew up seeing economic forces work in real time.

EDGE was created when Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell began looking at how economic development was being handled in the community, and decided there needed to be a coordinated effort among several entities operating on their own – the Memphis and Shelby County Industrial Development Board, the Port Commission, Foreign Trade Zone and Defense Depot Redevelopment Agency. These were combined under the umbrella of EDGE to be a unified economic development agency for Memphis and Shelby County.

When the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization conducting independent research and providing innovative recommendations, approached the city and county to work on a metropolitan business planning project as part of a national effort, EDGE was the logical place to coordinate such a thing and Lawrence was brought on to manage the process.

“We really are in the early stages of this, so for the last month or two the mayors have been forming their steering committee to oversee this project,” Lawrence said … (read more)