Sanford: Halting population decline ‘doable’ with strong leadership, innovative ideas

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Population growth is not the only measuring stick of a community`s overall health, but it is a strong indicator of how outsiders feel about moving there. By that benchmark, Memphis and Shelby County are losing ground, not to mention people.

The latest census estimates show that the county lost residents for the fifth straight year and the overall population now stands at about 937,000. The nine county metro area had only modest growth – adding about 3,000 people for a total population of 1.3 million.

By contrast, metro Nashville added some 34,000 people last year and is now home to more than 1.9 million people.

No doubt some Memphians will say, who cares? And the answer is, all of us should. If not because our tax base keeps dwindling, then because our image as a place to live – and not just a place to visit – will continue to suffer.

Plenty of outsiders will be focused on Memphis over the next seven days as we observe the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination. They will see that poverty, stagnation and crime remain nagging issues, but they will also discover an affordable city where people are welcoming and the atmosphere is soulful.

Turning around our population decline won`t be easy, but it is doable with strong leadership, innovative ideas and above all – inclusiveness.

Commentary provided by Otis Sanford