The Hampton Roads Chamber Inter-Regional Visit to Nashville continued Wednesday morning with an economic development tour through the booming Music City. Courtney Ross, Chief Economic Development Officer for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce led the tour.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOUR
“The honky-tonks on Broadway put Nashville on the tourism map. There is music here 24 hours a day.” The tour continued across the Cumberland River to view Nissan Stadium where the Tennessee Titans play football. “The presence of the Titans and the Predators has done so much for our economy.” Next stop showed a sight familiar to Hampton Roads, the newly opened Top Golf complex. “This is a growing area with three major developments in the River North, Old Convention Center, and Germantown.” The tour bus passed the Triple-A Baseball Park where the Nashville Sounds have played for the last three years.
A trip past Vanderbilt University and Belmont University highlighted the connection between the city and higher education. Belmont focuses on music production and management.
The tour concluded with a trip down Music Row where dozens of recording studios and music industry offices have been located in old houses since the 1970’s.
The 37 Hampton Roads leaders then took a quick walk through the Gulch neighborhood, a privately developed mixed-use neighborhood.
GOVERNOR BREDESEN; NASHVILLE THEN AND NOW
The next stop was the Thompson Hotel in the Gulch. Former Governor Phil Bredesen spoke with the group about how Nashville sparked this booming economy. Bredesen was Mayor of Nashville from 1991 to 1999. “I was the first Mayor to come from a business background. It had always been politicians before me. I knew we had to invest in civic furniture to give the city structure, to attract people, and to make it a lively place.”
Bredesen led the movement to build an arena for music. “They took a poll and only 17 percent of the people wanted it.” Bredesen pushed on and in 1994 the arena opened. Shortly after that, the NHL was expanding and Nashville landed the Predators. The arena was $108 Million arena was financed with a 10 cent property tax increase. Next came the Titans. “The Houston Oilers got the term sheet we’d prepared for the NHL and asked to meet to see if we’d do the same for them.” In 1999 the city opened the $144 million stadium and paid for it with public money. “I’m not a sports guy. I think people understood that what I was doing was in the best interest of the city.”
Governor Bredesen stressed to the Hampton Roads leaders the need to work together and collaborate. “Things happen because of the people like you in this room. Working together as a coalition for a stadium, an arena, or a library creates successful bonds. The way you get people to work together is to give them something to work together on. Working together as a coalition successfully changed Nashville. We got it out of the political system and into the business sector. The Mayor can be a convener.”
Mayor Bredesen stressed that you cannot justify an arena or a stadium on itself “it has to be the halo effect. What will that stadium or arena draw?”
“Consolidating our government changed Nashville. The idea of having the economic unit and the political unit led to today’s Nashville.”
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PANEL
Courtney Ross helped moderate the economic development panel that included Steve Bland, CEO Nashville Metro Transit Authority; Dirk Melton, Development Director Market Street Enterprises; Doug Sloan, Metropolitan Nashville Planning Department.
Ross started with an explanation about the roots of Nashville’s growth. “In 1989 a Wall Street Journal article stated Nashville has unbridled growth with no plan. So business leaders came together and said we have to do better. So they formed a 10 year plan which was renewed to be our partnership 2020. We do not have battles across county lines. Companies see regions, they don’t see counties.”
Dirk Melton explained to the group about how his company purchased the land for The Gulch and then developed the mixed-use region. “There were public-private partnership tools in place that helped us to create this area. We helped create a downtown code to standardize and simplify the path of a permit. The city invested $7 million and that has turned into $700 million in private development.”
Doug Sloan stressed Nashville’s success is based on cooperation. “We rezoned 80 acres downtown by consent. We brought people together early in the process and got buy-in.” The main hurdles now for the city are affordable housing and transit. For affordable housing “we have the developer hold 15 % for affordable housing but then the city pays the developer the difference in rent.”
For the issue of transit, Steve Bland spoke of the $5.5 referendum going to voters in May. “This includes 4 rapid bus lines and 4 ½ light rail corridors emanating from downtown. With the continued explosive growth people have begun to realize it is harder to get around and will only get worse.”
The Hampton Roads Chamber Inter-Regional Visit continues with workforce development and entrepreneurism and place making panels.
Former Governor of Tennessee and former Mayor of Nashville Philip Bredesen talks about Nashville's early prepartation for economic growth.
Economic Development Panelist include Courtney Ross, Chief Economic Development Officer, Nashville Area Chamber, Dirk Melton, Development Director, MarketStreet Enterprises, Doug Sloan, Executive Director, Metropolitan Nashville Planning Department and Steve Bland, CEO, Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Philip Bredesen, former Governor of Tennessee addresses the Hampton Roads leaders.