Memphis TN Jan 28 2017 Downtown’s visitor guides are hanging up their blue suede shoes.
The Downtown Memphis Commission is adding security duties to the 20-year-old Blue Suede Brigade’s concept and replacing longtime, mostly part-time employees with new hires.
The brigade was formed by the old Center City Commission in 1997, patterned after corps of uniformed ambassadors in cities around the country.
Members wore pith helmets, white shirts with blue sashes, khaki slacks and blue suede sneakers. They carried two-way radios, enabling them to communicate with security officers and others.
The Downtown Memphis Commission issued a press release Friday saying it would partner with the Workforce Investment Network to hold two job fairs in mid-February to hire for newly created, full-time positions paying living wages.
The DMC website listed nine brigadiers and a supervisor, many of them longtime employees. The departing employees were expected to leave by the end of January, but could apply for the new jobs.
The release said:
“The Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) has announced enhancements and an expansion of its existing on-street hospitality program, the Blue Suede Brigade, and will host two job fairs in February to help fill the newly created positions. The DMC plans to have the newly staffed Brigade on the streets this spring."
“Historically, the members of the Blue Suede Brigade have worked as ambassadors, offering assistance, tourism tips and guidance to visitors in Downtown Memphis. The planned enhancements will add security to the Brigade job description.”
“The adjusted program will also feature increased hours of service and days of coverage, including Sundays; increased mobility by adding bicycles; and the hiring of 10-15 full-time livable wage positions, compared with the current predominantly part-time staffing structure. “
DMC chief Terence Patterson earlier described the move as an effort to "refresh" the program.
He said it hadn't been decided yet whether the name will remain the same.
The DMC has long contracted with private security firms to provide security officers to patrol its territory, including bicycle patrols. It wasn't clear how the brigadier program changes would affect the private security arrangements.
"The intent is to increase security coverage, which may occur by using a combination of both contract and full-time staff," Patterson said.
In the release, Patterson said, "The Brigade is important to Downtown. We are building on this legacy program and adjusting the vision to add even more active on-street coverage. We feel the ability to offer both additional security and hospitality through an expansion of this program will have a great impact in Downtown Memphis. Plus, it just feels good to add livable wage full-time jobs in Downtown.”
Patterson said the new program will meet a need for additional security layers in the Downtown core.
Job fair details will be posted at downtownmemphiscommission.com.
Memphis Commercial Appeal