Memphis has a diverse business history. Clarence Saunders founded Piggly Wiggly, America’s first true self-service grocery store, in Memphis in 1916. The late Kemmons Wilson founded the first Holiday Inn in Memphis in 1952, revolutionizing the lodging industry.
Memphis is headquarters of three Fortune 500 Companies: FedEx, AutoZone, and Union Planters. It is home to 30,000 FedEx employees, 5,000 airline pilots and 2,300 doctors.
Memphis is the agriculture business center of the South. It is the largest spot-cotton trading market in the world. Nearly one-half of the nation’s cotton crops is bought or sold each year by members of the Memphis Cotton Exchange. It is a trading center for farmers in Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and parts of Alabama and Kentucky.
The largest city in the state, Memphis is the hardwood lumber capital of the world, a major river port (fourth largest inland port in the U.S.), third largest rail center in the U.S. and a major market for livestock.
Transportation, low-cost utilities, abundant water, skilled labor and cultural, educational and recreational facilities attract business and industry to the city. There are more than 590,000 non-agriculture employees, and approximately 59,000 employed in manufacturing in Memphis. Many companies, deciding to take advantage of the low cost of living, temperate climate, and premium workforce, have made Memphis into a headquarters city. Some of the products made in the Memphis region are: jams and jellies, bubble gum, cereals, fishing lures, golf clubs, ceiling fans, candy, guitars, potato chips and snack products, elevators, home appliances, gift-wrap and other paper products, tires and medical implants.