There’s No Place Like: Nashville

Nashville has one of the fastest-growing economies among large U.S. cities

The Music City has become much more than the capital of country music.

Tennessee’s biggest city is booming. Nashville ranks number one for economic growth among the country’s 51 largest metropolitan areas. The ranking by the data analytics firm Stessa was based on strong employment levels and a high volume of building permits and home sales.1 

According to PwC and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Nashville is also the number one U.S. city where institutional and individual real estate investors want to put their money right now.2 As the U.S. economy continues to benefit from a quick recovery after the downturn brought on by the pandemic, “Nashville is on the leading edge of that growth,” says Jody Y. Moody, the co-chair of ULI’s Capital Markets Action Council.

The lack of a state income tax coupled with tax incentives for businesses partly explain why so many people and companies have chosen to relocate to Tennessee. The Nashville-area has also benefited from a private/public partnership, currently called Partnership 2030, that has worked to expand the city’s economic base. The Partnership has been in place since 1990 and since that time it has helped bring 533,000 new jobs to the Nashville region. It convinced Amazon, Dell, Facebook, Nissan North America, Mitsubishi, BNY Mellon and numerous other firms to establish a presence in the area. Many companies that already had a presence or headquarters in the region — like UBS, HCA Healthcare, Gap Inc., and Warner Music — were encouraged to expand their operations. Companies like AllianceBernstein, which moved its headquarters from New York to Nashville in 2018, were drawn by the lower taxes offered to public companies, and they were mindful of the lower cost of living and shorter commute times they could offer employees.3

The presence of the Tennessee Titans may have contributed to Nashville’s appeal for some of those companies. As Janet Miller, the CEO of Colliers Nashville noted, “Having an NFL team is often a criterion for corporate headquarters relocations.”4 She also credits the Partnership for recognizing the need for an arena, and that helped the city gain its professional hockey team, the Nashville Predators.

Overall, the Partnership’s efforts in the past 30 years have helped per capita income in the Nashville area grow by 208%. The region’s population during that time span increased by 81%. Today, there are 2 million people in the Nashville metropolitan area and 700,000 in the city itself.5 

Attracting top tech talent

People aren’t just heading to Nashville with dreams of becoming country music stars. Many are coming to the city to pursue opportunities in tech. The Greater Nashville Technology Council has developed a campaign to persuade people with tech expertise in other major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston to come down south for the next stop in their careers.6 Brian Moyer, the CEO of the Technology Council, explained, “The tech sector in Nashville has been building steadily for many years, but not everyone outside of this area was aware of that.”

People began noticing the city as an up-and-coming center for tech in 2018 when Amazon announced it had chosen Nashville over 19 other cities for its new 5,000-job Center of Excellence. That impression of Nashville was only heightened in 2020 when Facebook broke ground for an $800-million data center just outside of Nashville and, then again, in 2021 when Oracle announced plans to open a major Nashville hub that will employ 8,500 people.

The city has also developed a good ecosystem to support startups, and two of them emerged in 2021 as unicorns (a startup with a valuation over $1 billion) – the solar power producer Silicon Ranch and Built Technologies, a provider of construction finance technology. 

These expanding opportunities in tech may explain why the real estate services and investment firm CBRE this year ranked Nashville number one for millennial population growth among small tech cities (defined as tech cities with a current tech labor pool of less than 50,000).7 Amazon’s move to the city was also among the reasons The Wall Street Journal in 2019 named Nashville as one of the two hottest job markets in the United States (along with Austin, Texas).8 

The home of country music and so much more

The Music City is like Mecca for country music fans. The first two stops on these visitors’ “must-see” list are usually The Grand Ole Opry, a legendary live-performance venue, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. From the Hall of Fame, visitors also have the option to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Studio B, where Elvis Presley and other stars, like Chet Atkins, recorded some of their biggest hits. 

The city’s cultural opportunities extend far beyond country music, though. The Frist Art Museum offers world-class art exhibits. The Grammy-Award-winning Nashville Symphony orchestra plays at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The recently opened National Museum of African American Music highlights the accomplishments of artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Louis Armstrong.

The city is also known for its amazing street art. It would be easy to spend a day checking out various murals. The WhatLiftsYou Wings mural in The Gulch neighborhood of the city is a famous spot for taking mural selfies.9

Athens of the South

Visitors to Centennial Park in the city’s West End Neighborhood can tour a full-scale replica of the Parthenon. As if that might not seem spectacular enough, inside there is a full-sized replica of the original Parthenon’s 42-foot statue of Athena. The recreated temple was built in 1897, as part of the celebration for the 100th-year anniversary of the state of Tennessee. The replicas honor Nashville’s reputation as the “Athens of the South.” The city earned that nickname because of its dedication to higher education. There are more than 20 colleges and universities in the city, including Vanderbilt University. The school and its medical center are one of the largest employers in Nashville. 

The city’s commitment to education and learning may also explain why the Nashville Public Library has been a past recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. It was also named the Library of the Year in 2017 by Library Journal and Gale, an educational publishing company.

A diverse community

The city attracts people from all over the world. That is evident from the fact that nearly a third of the children in the city’s public schools speak a language other than English at home.10 While restaurant diners will have plenty of options for traditional southern fare, anyone wanting to experience the international flavors of the city today can travel to the restaurants on Nolensville Road to sample Persian dishes, Mexican, Lebanese, Turkish or Indian food. 

With its thriving economy, diverse culture and multiple attractions, as well as its longstanding reputation as a creative community, Nashville is likely to continue to attract people, established companies, and innovative startups for many years to come.

References:

1.  Source: “Report: Nashville ranks high for economic growth in 2021,” Nashville Business Journal, 9/13/21

2.  Source: “‘The Great Relocation:’ Nashville shines as U.S. gateway markets continue to lose ground to Sunbelt,” The Tennesseean.com, 10/28/21

3.  Source: “AllianceBernstein moving headquarters, over 1k jobs to Nashville,” The New York Post, 5/8/18

4. Source: “‘The Great Relocation:’ Nashville shines as U.S. gateway markets continue to lose ground to Sunbelt,” The Tennesseean.com, 10/28/21

5. Source: Partnership 2030 launch brochure

6.  Source: “Nashville Sings a Different Tune to Attract Tech Talent,” Connect National, 11/5/21

7.  Source: “Nashville Ranked No. 1 in Millennial Population Growth in U.S. Among Small Tech Markets,” CBRE, 7/14/21

8.  Source: “Austin, Nashville Rank at Top of Hottest U.S. Job Markets, The Wall Street Journal, 2/24/20

9.  Source: “How to Love Nashville Even If You Don’t Love Country Music,” A Dangerous Business Travel Blog, 3/1/21

10.  Source: “Moving to Nashville? Get a Taste of Music City,” Life Storage Blog, 5/3/21

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