Force for workers aiming for more skills, better training


By Cassandra Kimberly .  Special to The Commercial Appeal - January 9, 2009


Delories Williams is bringing her 29 years of economic development experience with MLGW to the Greater Memphis Chamber.


Where some see unsolved issues, Delories Williams sees a chance to make a difference.

"I never use the word 'problem,' " she said. "I always look at everything as a challenge, because with challenges come opportunities. With opportunities, you can grow. You just have to prepare yourself for the opportunities."

Williams is now helping prepare Memphis for future opportunities as the new director of work force development for the Greater Memphis Chamber.

In her new role, Williams will work with local employers, educational institutions and training providers to create and carry out new strategies to improve and prepare Memphis' work force base for technical, biomedical and industry positions

"Work force development is a critical link in our economic development strategy," said Dexter Muller, chamber senior vice president of community development. "With her experience in the community, Delories can hit the ground running to advance our work force development initiative."

Since MemphisED, the economic development portion of "Memphis Fast Forward," was launched in December 2007, more than 2,320 new jobs were created between January and September.

Average wages also increased to $37,354 per year as a direct result of the efforts, according to the latest data provided by the chamber.

Williams, who holds a bachelor's degree from Union University and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at University of Oklahoma and Georgia Institute of Technology, has more than 29 years of experience in economic development working for Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.

During her tenure at MLGW, Williams co-developed the internationally recognized Existing Business Partnership Program between MLGW and the chamber in efforts to expand and retain business in the region.

Having a trained and skilled labor pool is crucial in recruiting companies that bring jobs to the region, Williams said, especially during a time when job cuts and mass layoffs have hit the Memphis region.

In 2008, the chamber counted 4,100 layoffs announced by local companies.

"There is a real need for a trained and skilled labor work force in this area," she said. "We have to look at how can we utilize the resources that we have to train not just the people that are in the unemployment pool, but also train our youth in the schools."

And not just in the high schools, Williams said.

"We need to start in the grade schools, especially the middle schools, and start working to develop these young people and get them ready to meet the needs of the community and meet the needs of the businesses that are looking for people," she said.

As part of a personal goal, Williams hopes to increase the number of students in The Memphis Challenge, a leadership program for students of color, from 50 to 150 in her first year.

The nonprofit program, created by AutoZone founder J.R. "Pitt" Hyde III in 1989, was introduced to help ensure successful student/college matches and encourage students to return to Memphis after they graduate.

"When you work with companies, when you help people find jobs, when you recruit businesses, you're helping not just a community, but the people that live in the community," Williams said. "You're helping raise the per-capita income. You're helping people to have a better lifestyle."

-- Cassandra Kimberly:

Delories J. Williams

Position: Director of work force development for the Greater Memphis Chamber.

Responsibilities: Developing and executing work force development strategies through partnerships with local employers, educational institutions and training providers.

Education: Bachelor of science degree from Union University; graduate of the Economic Development Institute, University of Oklahoma and Georgia Institute of Technology; graduate of the MLGW three-year Managerial Development Program.

Background: Team manager and co-developer of Memphis' Existing Business Partnership Program and economic development representative for MLGW.

Delories Williams was in the Tech Class of 1969