Build on Nashville area's growth to expand Middle Tennessee's economic opportunity | Opinion

·3 min read

It is natural to look back on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of a journey after achievement. Honest evaluation accompanies this reflection.

Common questions include what could have gone better, what has gone undone, and how to better prepare for the future.

Like many U.S. metropolitan areas, the Nashville region has transformed and brought new issues to consider.

Recent changes encourage conversations among stakeholders who wonder how the region’s prosperity can benefit the most people.

The facts that contribute to the region’s expansion are unlikely to diminish. Nashville’s culture, distinct sense of place, and lower cost of living compared to other metros entice new residents.

Its competitive advantages make it an attractive place to do business. Its business culture – an expectation that leaders will serve the community along with their organizations – sways corporate executives and site selectors as they choose a location for new or expanding operations.

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Workforce, small businesses and quality of life are key priorities

Supporting Nashville’s reputation as an attractive place to live and work is a collaborative community and economic development system.

The Chamber's Partnership serves as a backbone organization, harmonizing and enhancing local economic development organizations’ capabilities.

Since its founding in 1990, this regional public-private partnership has played a vital role in the creation of more than 533,000 new jobs, the relocation of more than 1,030 new companies and more than 2,000 expansions.

The Partnership also tackles important issues such as workforce development, small business development, and quality of life that define a community’s attractiveness as a place to live, work, and do business.

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Middle Tennessee faces news and complicated issues

Three decades of economic growth have transformed the region. Expanded economic opportunity for Middle Tennesseans has resulted in a 208% growth in per capita income.

The downtown skyline of Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, March 24, 2022.
The downtown skyline of Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, March 24, 2022.

Nashville has consistently ranked among the top 10 U.S. metros for job growth and remains below the national average cost of living. The region serves as the economic engine for the state, generating nearly 40% of the state’s GDP and 30 percent of its tax revenue.

Today, conversations and voices are emerging that will shape the region’s next direction. These conversations will ask new questions and require new answers from the region’s community and economic development system.

More: Reread 'Costs of Growth and Change in Nashville' series

Stakeholders recognize the region’s new and complicated issues. Some describe the region as at an inflection point. Whether the region addresses its challenges, and how it does so, will chart its future course. The region’s critical issues include economic prosperity and inclusion, affordability, education and training, transportation, and public health.

These issues must be assessed against the backdrop of a more diverse, growing Nashville region.

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This is a crucial time for the greater Nashville region

These are real challenges that stakeholders must work together to address, and Nashville is fortunate to be able to tackle these issues from a place of strength with a vibrant, diverse economy.

J Mac Holladay
J Mac Holladay

Every job that is created provides an opportunity for someone in the community. Those 533,000 jobs created over the past three decades have benefited real individuals, families, and communities.

This is a critical time for the city and region. Historically, the Nashville region has embraced its success while working together to find meaningful solutions to its challenges.

Nashville can do this again while acknowledging its strengths: continued economic investment, job creation, and expanded opportunities for people across the community.

J. Mac Holladay is a Memphis native and founder of Market Street Services, an economic and community development firm that facilitated the development of the current and past iterations of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Partnership 2030 economic prosperity plan for the region. Over his career, Holladay has directed numerous chambers of commerce in Tennessee, Indiana and South Carolina, and he led the state economic development organizations in three states.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Build on Nashville area's growth to expand economic opportunity