The Ride From Can't To Can

October 12th, 2017

A major Memphis employer ... absolutely, positvely major ... has guaranteed to have a good job waiting for anyone who goes through the IT track at the Juice Plus+ Technical Training Center in the inner city and passes the test … a job on a solid career track with benefits. Out of those who qualify, about a third don’t even apply because the job is in Collierville and they can’t get to Collierville. Another third take the job but don’t last because they can’t get there reliably over time. The remaining third are still there. For now.

That story and those percentages are true and sadly representative.

If you can’t get there, it doesn’t matter what the job is or how qualified you are, and after a while of getting nowhere nothing much matters anymore.

To get somewhere, you need a ride.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, October 13, 2017, and in The Memphis News, October 14-20, 2017

(photo: Jay Martin, on board)

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My friend Jay Martin, founder and chairman of Juice Plus+, is impatient with systems for systems sake, with bureaucracies based on bureaucracies, with the tried and true default of  “we’ve always done it that way.” If he sees a problem and sees no solution or a solution as problematic as the problem, he has a habit of building one himself and taking it out for a spin. And then he gets a few friends to climb on.

When too many boys and girls from the Boys and Girls Clubs were going out into the world with too few opportunities, Jay built the Juice Plus+ Technical Training Center and established programs in five tracks: culinary, logistics, automotive, welding and IT. Now the Center places 100% of their graduates. 

Then Jay saw another problem; they couldn’t get to those placements to begin with, or get there reliably enough to keep the job. 

He told me about a University of Georgia study about moving people from minimum wage to income that can sustain a family. “The number one problem is transportation,” he said, “and there is no number two.” In other words, the distance between transportation and whatever was next was miles and miles.

So he’s building a solution and taking it out for a spin. On scooters – not 50cc toys with lawnmower engines, but substantial, street-legal machines capable of 65 mph – made affordable including training, maintenance and insurance – and made possible through employer endorsement. It’s a new not-for-profit called My City Rides. He asked another friend, Andy Nix, to run it and … full disclosure … he asked me to brand it.

This is the mission: 

My City Rides makes reliable transportation affordable and ownership possible for those in the workforce with limited means but unlimited potential, increasing opportunity for everyone.”

This from the website:

“My city needs a chance.

“Across the country, transportation averages 17% of income. In Memphis, it’s 29%. Credit is hard to come by, and so are cars, so cars are shared, and old. Maintenance and insurance fight rent and food for a place in the budget. Bus routes and schedules can be complicated, transfers numerous, and stops are often far from the job. Being late is ordinary, if not missing whole shifts. Losing jobs through no fault of your own is ordinary, if not expected.

“My city needs a lift.

“My city needs the means to get to work, and the reliability and future that will bring. They need the independence of ownership, and the credit history that follows. They need insurance and training, and the license and tag that come with it. They need maintenance to assure their mobility, and a move in the right direction.

“And employers need the dependability of all of that, because of the productivity it increases. And all of it has to be affordable.

“Three bucks a day, all in.”

If you think solving problems can’t be fun, you haven’t asked Jay’s friends. 

I’m a Memphian. And now, My City Rides.


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