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In Focus with J. W. Gibson

J. W. Gibson of the Methodist Foundation boardThe long and the short: Born James Wesley Gibson, II, he’s commonly known as J.W.

The business owner and the board member: He’s CEO of the Gibson Companies, consisting of: The Premier Group, a wholesale distributor of medical and laboratory supplies; Southeast Regional Development Corp., focusing on property development and affordable housing; and Tec-Print, a commercial printing firm. He was invited to join the Methodist Foundation board in 2013 by Foundation president Paula Jacobson, one of his Leadership Memphis classmates.

The early years: Born and raised in Memphis, he spent his childhood in the former Dixie Homes housing development (now Legends Park) and attended Memphis City Schools. He served in the Navy after graduation from Fairley High School and then studied business administration at Christian Brothers University.

The family ties: He and his wife, Kathy Buckman Gibson, are the parents of twin girls, Alicia and Savannah.

The hometown ties: His dedication to the Memphis community developed early. “I’m what I like to call ‘homegrown.’ I’ve done something of everything in this city.” He’s been involved with more than a dozen Memphis organizations and boards, including: Memphis in May, the Orpheum, Shelby Farms Parks Conservancy, the Workforce Investment Network (WIN), Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and the New Ballet Ensemble. He also served four years on the Shelby County Commission. He calls the wall in his office displaying his service honors his “Wall of Action.”

The Aha! moment: After college, he spent time working for MLGW but soon became dissatisfied with the corporate world. When he discovered that healthcare was the top revenue-producing industry in Memphis and that his hometown had no local medical or lab equipment supplier, the idea for his first company was born. “I started the business in 1991 out of my mother’s house with her kitchen as the office and her garage as the warehouse. We’ve been experiencing growth ever since.”

The magic of multiplication: He ties his success in part to a commitment to keeping business local to ensure mutual success—his take on the “multiplier effect.” “It’s just spending the dollars locally, before they leave town. Everybody wins. It’s important to us to use local companies whenever we can.”

Multiplying with Methodist: Methodist has been a customer from the start. And the multiplier concept, he says, is at work in what he sees as some of Methodist Healthcare’s most important work—the effort to define and lessen healthcare disparities in the 38109 zip code. “One thing that really drew me to Methodist was the outreach to improve healthcare for the underserved, especially in Whitehaven.”

The big fan: He’s skilled at articulating Methodist’s system-wide excellence. “They’re leaders in everything from transplants to sickle cell research and treatment. They’ve taken a grassroots approach, and they’re willing to step outside the box.”

The believer: He attributes Methodist’s consistent success to the system’s focus on community and commitment to serving all people. And he’s confident the 38109 project will ultimately reap benefits for its target population and for the entire community. “If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t be involved. Methodist has developed relationships with churches and community centers and with small businesses. They are leaders in how healthcare can be delivered.”