By Bill Short
Consultants on a proposed new 20-year Master Plan for Millington presented preliminary data for the city last week to a recently appointed Advisory Committee.
Dexter Muller, owner of Pinnacle Planning Advisers in Bartlett, and Charles Goforth, planning consultant for Millington, discussed the statistical information during the committee’s July 24 “kickoff” meeting in the Baker Community Center.
Muller said Millington is a town more “akin to” Brownsville, Covington or Somerville than one of the suburban municipalities in the eastern part of Shelby County.
While noting that the original Naval Air Technical Training Center was established in the early 20th century, he said Millington was a town “long before” Arlington, Collierville and Germantown were “anything.”
Because many sailors were stationed at the Navy base during the Vietnam War, Muller said Millington had a larger population in 1960 and 1970 than all the other suburban municipalities combined. But he acknowledged that the population was “drastically cut” in 1995, when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decided to transfer the Technical Training Center to Pensacola, Fla.
Although the interstate highway system and the extension of major sewer lines “really drove” the population changes in Memphis, Muller said the overall population of the county has been “relatively flat.” He noted that the growth in some of the other suburbs is the result of individuals moving out of Memphis.
Muller said Millington is slightly more “ethnically diverse” than some of the county’s other municipalities, but it is still “a little bit below” them on residents with bachelor’s degrees.
He recalled that, before the Technical Training Center was relocated, many individuals were able to go to work in “technical fields” for Memphis companies after they were discharged from the Navy.
Muller said that, sometimes, there is a “parallel” between high school or college graduation rates and income.
“If you look at Shelby County today, we have about 40,000 people who are unemployed,” he noted. “At the same time, we have 16,000 vacant jobs. But the problem is the people who don’t have the jobs aren’t prepared to go into the jobs that are open.”
Muller said that, during the next four to seven years, there will probably be about 1,000 manufacturing jobs waiting to be filled and 2,000 logistics jobs.
He recalled that, when he was in school, two “tracks” were available: (1) college and (2) vocational. But now they are kind of “blended” together.
“You can take course work that might be in logistics or manufacturing,” he noted. “All of that will count toward an Associates degree, and then all of those credits count toward a four-year degree. So, a logistics worker can get an Associates degree and keep moving up.”
Goforth said he and Muller obtained information from Millington Finance Director John Trusty regarding the city’s sales tax collections from 2010 to the present.
Although they show an increase during 2016 and the first half of this year, he said they do not reflect the “impact” of the new businesses that have opened in The Shoppes of Millington Farms.
Goforth noted that Millington’s sales tax revenue will “skyrocket” with the end of this year and will be “huge” next year, when all the new businesses are open. He called that “a great source” of revenue that the city can “control.”
Muller acknowledged that the rate of home ownership in Millington is “a little bit lower” than in some of the other communities, but there is more rental housing.
“I think some of that goes back to the time when you had a number of folks on the base who were living off-base,” he said. “But I think that points to the need to have some additional middle-income housing, which today is in the $200,000 range and up.”
Muller said Goforth and City Engineer Jason Dixon prepared a document and presented it to the Memphis Area Home Builders Association that shows where the vacant land is in Millington and the reasons why members of the Association should be building here.
“If you have more of that housing, that’s not only stimulating your property taxes,” he noted. “Those are also people who are going to be shopping and buying groceries in the community. So, I think that needs to be a part of our strategy.”
Because Millington has been a community for a long time, Muller said it already has “a lot of assets” to recruit housing as well as jobs.
He noted that for a community of 10,000 to have three quality golf courses “stands out in and of itself.” Calling Mirimichi a “great” course, he said a lot of money was spent to develop it.
“At one point,” he said, “Orgill was the most played other course in the whole state of Tennessee. And then, there’s the golf course on the base that is accessible to people from the community as well.”
Muller also said the Memphis Air Show and the Millington airport are “well-known” around the community. He recalled that, when the Technical Training Center was relocated, he thought the city would never be able to keep the airport open.
“Now, as I understand, it’s at least breaking even, if not making a little,” he said. “And when people fly corporate jets in here and go to Memphis, that’s a huge asset.”
Muller also cited USA Stadium.
“I know it’s not like it was when Babe Howard first built it, in terms of the play that’s out there,” he acknowledged. “But it’s a great asset, and hopefully, that can be built upon as well.”
Muller noted that, on April 22, The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service led the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen, City Manager Ed Haley and city staff in a Planning Retreat. Several “priorities” that were listed in order of their importance are:
(1) New homes
(3) Recruiting industry and retail
(5) Continued review and enhancement of city services
Muller said there is not “one silver bullet,” because all these things “fit together.”
“If you want new homes, you have to work on schools,” he concluded. “If you want to recruit industry, you have to work on branding and building your infrastructure. And with your assistance, what we will come up with is developing those where you want to go and then the strategies to help you get there.”