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How Nashville became more than the Music City

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It might not be as old as Edinburgh or Krakow. It might be a little older than Singapore. But Nashville is certainly at the heart of the throbbing U.S. music scene and has been for some time. In fact, it’s had the label of ‘Music City’ since 1950. And today it continues its long tradition of live music, with bands playing in many of the bars in Nashville every day of the week.

As the state capital of Tennessee, Nashville is a very popular destination in the USA. It attracted over 16 million visitors in 2019, beating destinations such as New Orleans or Austin, Texas. Whilst most of the visitors to Nashville are from the U.S., the airport is already operating over 250 flights a day and growing. Most of them are internal flights now, but the way the city is heading there could be more destinations opening soon.

In the political sphere, Nashville is represented by Congressman Jim Cooper who has been referred to as a “moderate and proud ‘nerd’”. It’s also represented by Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty. As opposed to Congressman Cooper, who is a long-standing Democrat, both Senators are Republican. And Senator Hagerty was the one that caught the eye the most. Soundbites like innovation are good to hear from anyone, let alone someone representing such an important city as Nashville.

In March Senator Hagerty was quoted on the Stablecoin Transparency Act: “This legislation aims to provide much-needed clarity without giving the keys away to unaccountable bureaucrats who threaten to choke off innovation.” Senator Hegarty is also a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, where Senator Sherrod Brown is the Chairman. Senator Brown is a long-standing advocate for consumer protection in the face of scams and risks that consumers face from crypto and is pushing U.S. regulators to do more.

Then there is the Mayor. Representing the Democrats, John Cooper is the current Mayor of Nashville. Nashvillians whom he represents often read the Tennesseean, the Nashville Post or the Nashville Business Journal. The Tennessean seems to cover the most stories about the Mayor’s office. Their journalists sometimes comment on the Mayor offices’ economic-development strategy. But the Mayor also uses Twitter a lot himself:

However, it is hard to see how much input the local politicians have had on the success of the Music City. Apart from getting their pictures taken and promoting a few initiatives for funding local businesses. There isn’t that much more to find on local government working on enticing companies and talent to the area. So, perhaps one must look elsewhere for this.

Who are the stakeholders making things happen in the Music City?

Politics and local government are certainly something to consider when looking at a destination from a business perspective. However, it’s often things that go under the radar that make the difference in a location. And, whether their efforts go under the radar or not, the entrepreneurial spirit in Nashville is alive and kicking.

With many entrepreneurs focusing on Music and Entertainment, Healthcare as well as many other sectors there’s a very useful directory of companies you can find listed on the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s site. An organization that believes that the future of Nashville depends on the ability to grow successful entrepreneurs. From its origins in the 1980s, companies like Paramount Network (which you may know as the owner of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon or MTV) can draw their roots back to Nashville. Today the city continues its tradition of encouraging new businesses to take shape. Ones that fit into an exciting industry sector.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is Nashville’s largest employer which has clearly encouraged entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector. Amazon is also represented from the tech sector, whilst UBS’s Nashville Business Solution Center is growing to bolster representation amongst financial services firms.

UBS came to Nashville in 2013 promising to bring 1,000 jobs to downtown Nashville. Today the Swiss bank employs more than 1,700 people in the city. Many of them working in tech roles. UBS is also an example of the pull that the city possesses. For both entrepreneurs as well as big corporations who now consider the Music City as a business hub.

The tech scene is not as well represented as some other sectors in the city. Currently the city is ranked at 41st. This was published in the latest annual analysis of strongest market for tech talent in North America. Despite growing its tech headcount 3rd fastest in the U.S., the reason Nashville didn’t rank higher are for reasons that were listed in the report. For instance, average tech salary is 16% below the national average in the Music City. Nashville also added more tech jobs than local universities were able to produce tech graduates. A sign that the city needs imported talent.

Is the Music City relying on its reputation to pull in talent and investment?

Nashville needs to attract companies and employees and will be competing with hotspots like Austin, Texas or Miami, Florida. The tax incentives for companies are certainly comparable. However, employees may not be looking at the Music City as such a desirable location. Or are they?

So, what is it that is bringing tech talent to Nashville?

Well, it’s a bit of everything. Oracle have also joined Amazon in Nashville. And tech jobs grew in Nashville the most in the U.S. during the pandemic (Dec. 2019 to Dec. 2021). According to a report from the Technology Councils of North America. A 7.6% jump.

Another element is how attractive the city is to entrepreneurs. A study by Clever, a real estate data company, found Nashville is the best city to network with startup founders. There are apparently 4.14 CEOs for every 1,000 Nashvillians.  

“Nashville is home to nearly 4,000 health care companies that garnered $940 million in venture capital from 2005 to 2015, 60% of total investment dollars at that time,” Jaime Dunaway-Seale, the author, states in the report.

Earlier in 2022, Video game developer Iron Galaxy Studios expanded into Nashville from Chicago. Co-CEO Adam Boyes said in an interview how Nashville “sang to us.” He went on to explain how “the vibrancy of the city will be a huge lighthouse for people wanting to experience a fantastic culture. When you say Nashville, people’s faces light up. That’s what I love about it.”

The Music City is unique. It doesn’t need to copy other cities.

Mayors from New York to Miami might be talking about bitcoin. Business communities in San Francisco or Austin might have better access to investors. However, there is something constant about Nashville. Something that their Congressman embodies well. Congressman Cooper has been called “the House’s conscience, a lonely voice for civility in this ugly era”. Could Nashville resemble something akin to the ‘conscience’ of the United States? Or is it more like the beating heart of Southern culture in the United States?

To bring matters back closer to home, there is the small matter of the Greater Nashville Technology Council. Representing a vibrant Middle Tennessee ecosystem worth $8 billion and encompassing 60,000 technology professionals. The mission of the Council is to “lead greater Nashville into the world that is becoming.”

Well represented by women from the community. The Council held their 13th Annual NTC Awards this February. Where they announced winners of several awards.

There were a lot of winners, however a few stood out. One of them was Ali Bakhta, Manager of Software Engineering & Automation Engineering Leader at HPA (A Cognizant Company). Ali was recognized as Emerging Leader of the Year and shared how “Nashville is really the place to be right now. It’s one of the hotspots in the U.S. So, if you’re a technically minded person or just want to do something different. Nashville is the place to be.” And Ali isn’t the only one who is enamoured by the Music City. Other winners shared his sentiments too.

The Council awarded Taylor Desseyn, Senior Recruiter Advocate at Vaco Nashville, with the Tech Influencer of the Year Award. Taylor does a lot of promoting of Nashville to talents from across the U.S. every day. He has also helped many of them relocate to the city. Taylor had the following thoughts to share about why he feels so many people are choosing the Music City as their new home. “Nashville is a special place because I don’t think you can find the southern hospitality and the top tier engineering talent anywhere in the country. Yes, there’s Silicon Valley. Yes, there’s New York City. But I think the passion and the kindness that individuals bring to the Nashville area on top of the top tier engineers is something that you can’t beat.”

In case you thought that the Greater Nashville Technology Council were the only ones rewarding Nashvillians in the past few months. There was another recent awards ceremony. This time for 48 young professionals:

There is a lot more to write. There are things happening in fintech, banking, and many other sectors. However, as an introduction to the Music City this story is just the first of many. If you are a member of the business community in Nashville, please reach out to our editorial as we also believe the Music City is unique. And we also want to come and experience the fabled southern hospitality for ourselves.

Author: Andy Samu

#MusicCity #Nashville #Entrepreneurs #SouthernHospitality #TechnologyHub #UBS #Nashvillians #TechTalent #Hotspot

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