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Sultry, soulful Memphis is an interesting and vivid place, located along the Mississippi River at the Arkansas border. The largest city in Tennessee, Memphis has a history of dramatic highs and lows: antebellum cotton-trading prosperity, Civil War destruction and reconstruction, yellow-fever epidemics, resurgence as a lumber and (again) cotton-trading center, and post–World War II decline. Today the city is on an upswing, thanks to recognition of its unique cultural assets and urban renewal.
As the hometown of the blues and Elvis Presley (who was actually born in Tupelo, Mississippi), the city left its mark on the history of music. A general resurgence in the popularity of blues has brought new life to Memphis as a tourist attraction. The historic Beale Street neighborhood provides music and entertainment opportunities for residents and tourists. The city is a patchwork of redevelopment, preservation and decay, but downtown is generally becoming a more habitable place. The area spreads in all directions including across the Mississippi into the gritty West Memphis, Arkansas and south into Mississippi. Bartlett to the north is a more upscale suburb, while Germantown and Collierville to the southeast are undergoing the strongest growth and are also more upscale. The NBA Memphis Grizzlies add a spark to the area and there are several minor-league and collegiate sports attractions.
The economic base is diverse and its status as a good business base is on the rise—the city is headquarters for retailer AutoZone and FedEx Corporation, and International Paper is relocating its headquarters from Connecticut. It is also known as a good base for smaller and especially minority owned businesses. FedEx operates mainly at the Memphis Airport, which is the largest air cargo hub in the world, south of town, but the company also has a large research facility in Collierville.
Healthcare resources are strong, in particular the well-known St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There are a few specialized small colleges, but Memphis is generally not a higher education destination. Status as hub for FedEx and Northwest Airlines says something of its central geographic location. Cost of living is low for a large city; the biggest downsides are a high crime rate and oppressive summers.
The city lies along the Mississippi River with a level landscape to the west in Arkansas and a level to slightly rolling landscape into Tennessee and northern Mississippi. The climate is a blend of continental and subtropical. Although not directly located on the Gulf and western Canada storm paths, it is still affected by both. Weather changes are frequent. Summers have periods of warm, steamy weather with thundershowers. Winters are cool with a few periods of freezing temperatures. At 50 inches per year, Memphis is comparatively wet with precipitation spread evenly throughout the year. Extreme temperatures are rare.