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The future of mobility is on the horizon in Memphis 


By Paula Anderson


Local transportation has been an issue for some who need to commute for employment opportunities in areas such as the Memphis Medical District and in Southeast Memphis.  Public transportation can be challenging for individuals who are trying to meet a ‘9 to 5’ work schedule.  Organizations and nonprofit organizations are working to address the issues that impact mobility in urban communities.


According to Andre Fowlkes, president of Start Co., a venture architect firm. He and his team are working with a total of 14 partners such as the Greater Memphis Chamber, Christian Brothers University, Memphis Area Transit Authority, Memphis Medical District and the University of Memphis.


The organization collaborates with community partners to solve business, civic and economic challenges, according to its website.  Ford Urbanite Mobility is the latest initiative focused on improving transportation options for Memphians. 


Artwork: Pixabay.com

“The conversation began with Ford Motor Company, and they introduced us to their Ford Urbanite team,” said Fowlkes. 


“Initially, $350,000 was raised kicking off the Explore Phase which was a resident focused market analysis identifying several opportunity areas where the Challenge is seeking entrepreneurs and new innovations to solve them,” he said. 


According to Fowlkes, a data analysis was conducted to understand household transportation, bus transportation and public transportation.  


“We went into several neighborhoods where residents are struggling with transportation, to better understand their journey and experiences, and this uncovered so many things beyond modes of transportation; for example, safety concerns, high costs of vehicles and mobility options, childcare challenges, and needed destinations being so far away,” said Fowlkes. 


This discovery uncovered issues with childcare challenges for individuals who had to work a distance and could not access adequate transportation solutions stated Fowlkes.  This initiative involves bringing in ideas from existing businesses and entrepreneurs to assist with long-term solutions. 


Applications were opened for participants who wanted to submit a ‘request for proposal.’ Over 100 people have shown interest, according to Fowlkes. 


“Technical and business assistance is being offered through programs and events; however, the 10 finalists will receive dedicated support through the summer to better enhance their pilot proposal,” said Fowlkes. 


“Memphis is the 10th Challenge we've launched since 2018 and it is unique in the fact that it is intertwined (with) so many other mobility, sustainability, and community-based initiatives across Memphis and West Tennessee.   If entrepreneurs are looking to design, test and deploy their solutions in an environment where local public, private and nonprofit stakeholders are eager to provide support, Memphis is it,” said Jack Gray, Urbanite co-founder and program lead. 


"In Memphis, entrepreneurs can plan a seed of innovation, watch it grow, and witness its immediate impact on the lives of our citizens," said Ted Townsend, president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber. "I invite mobility innovators to join Memphis' rich entrepreneurial ecosystem through Ford Urbanite an contribute to the city's efforts in providing sustainable solutions for mobility challenges."


The Ford Urbanite Challenge will culminate in August. The ideas and solutions will be presented, and someone will be selected. 


Formal applications will close on May 10 and the next meeting will be April 22nd from 9am - 2pm. 


To learn more about challenge, visit Ford Urbanite (memphismobilitychallenge.com)

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