Medical District Collaborative looks to bolster neighborhood through small business competition

Selection is underway for winners of the Memphis Medical District Collaborative’s Operation Opportunity Challenge.

The competition, which ends on Nov. 23, seeks small businesses and entrepreneurs to respond to the needs of the medical and educational institutions in the Medical District.

The MMDC, in partnership with EPIcenter, U3 Advisors, and the participating institutions, will announce the finalists on Dec. 2 to whom they will award up to $100,000 in capital and in-kind services.
The MMDC and their partners created a buy local council composed of the heads of procurement at the anchor institutions, which include St Jude Children’s Research Hospital/ALSAC, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, Regional One Health, University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, Baptist College of Health Sciences, Southern College of Optometry, and Bioworks Foundation.

The idea for the Operation Opportunity Challenge came out of this council and, early on, they identified their desire to specifically encourage the participation of women and minority-owned businesses.
“EPIcenter has a large network of partners and entrepreneurs, and we’re working through that network to identify business owners and innovators who may have the right solution for these institutions,” says EPIcenter president, Leslie Lynn Smith.

“Inclusion is woven into everything we do, so we’re particularly focused on identifying potential applicants through our partners who serve minority- and women-owned businesses.”
The primary goal of the project is to encourage the anchor institutions in the neighborhood to spend more money locally by finding small businesses to meet their existing needs.

These institutions have identified four specific categories of needs, which the participants were charged with addressing: Efficiency in end-to-end transportation management for patients and their families, modular/mobile on-site maintenance for fleet and industrial equipment, on-demand burst staffing platform for quick turnaround projects, and software solution for managing contract relationships.
MMDC President, Tommy Pacello, calls the competition a “win-win” for entrepreneurs and the Medical District. “Our hope is that the challenge bolsters the small business community in Memphis by leveraging the purchasing power of the (Medical District) institutions while also addressing very real needs that have been identified by the institutional leadership.”

The medical and educational institutions in the medical district represent thousands of employees and about $1.2 billion in goods and services spending every year. Apart from an economic boost, the MMDC and their partners hope this challenge will encourage small businesses to open up in the area, which will ultimately lead to a more livable and walkable medical district.

"If you can attract more employees to live in the neighborhood and encourage the institutions to buy more from local vendors, that helps to create a more vibrant neighborhood and a neighborhood that people want to spend time in," said U3 Advisors vice president Alex Feldman.

“Taken together, the work of Memphis Medical District Collaborative and its partner anchor Institutions will enhance the medical district, which is a great thing for the entire city.”
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Read more articles by J. Dylan Sandifer.

J. Dylan Sandifer is a freelance writer living in Memphis since 2008. They have also contributed writing and research for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, VICE News, and Choose901.