Known for country music in the southern part of the United States, Nashville has become a booming metropolis, including the tech industry. However, the rapid growth also meets with criticism.
There is no escape: Country music is omnipresent in Nashville. Be it the tourist bars on Nashville Broadway, the music venues near Vanderbilt University or Germantown, a hip neighborhood on the Cumberland River. From the speakers you can hear Johnny Cash classics or new, softer country-pop melodies. Again and again, the songs contain allusions to Nashville, the unofficial capital of American country music.
Nashville is proud of this heritage and its nickname “Music City”. Local business representatives regularly point out that a special mix of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit prevails in the metropolis. They mention that the production of new music is a joint project. This collaborative, innovative mind is, so to speak, the foundation of the local economy.
100 newcomers per day
The real strength of Nashville is “the character, the personality” of the city and its inhabitants, says Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Nashville is a wonderful place to live. Even people who grew up on the east or west coast of the US would quickly bond with Nashville. This is also related to the openness of the locals. This impressed entrepreneurs who were looking for new company locations, says Schulz. Because nowadays, companies prefer to move to cities that already have a pool of well-trained professionals.
Nashville is spoiled in this respect, says Schulz. He points to a statistic that supports his claim. Thus, the place appears not only in the ranking of those five US metropolitan areas with the largest job growth, but also in the ranking of those cities where wages increase the most. The metropolitan area has grown from 1.3 to nearly 2 million over the past two decades.
The Greater Nashville Tech Council is located in an industrial zone in the outskirts of the city. Alex Curtis smiles as he is addressed to the bleak environment. Then, the organization’s vice president, who sees himself as the voice of the more than 2,600 local technology companies, says in an apologetic tone: The neighborhood is “up and coming”, emerging, and will soon look better.
Take things slowly
Curtis leads us into the office of Brian Moyer, who is President and CEO of the Greater Nashville Technology Council for 2 years. Moyer is living proof that Nashville is a fertile ground for innovation. In his earlier life, he worked as a company founder, mainly in the healthcare industry. People often forget which central role information technology plays now within traditional industries. Tech is literally everywhere according to Moyer.
The Tech Council is a kind of living room for exponents of the scene, says Moyer. It’s the place where new projects are born and informational events are taking place. He is particularly proud of a continuing education program that is developed by his organization. It’s based on a model that already exists in Seattle. It should enable lateral entrants to enter the technology industry. Moyer says that the goal of “Apprenti Nashville“, that’s the name of the program, is to leave behind the fears of the old-established population of not being able to benefit from the boom.
These efforts are sorely needed. At least that’s what Bob Mendes says, who has been politicizing for four years in the 40-member parliament of the Nashville conurbation. The lawyer, who grew up in Chicago, believes that his new home of choice would be well advised to take things more slowly. Because among the population, which is in principle open towards economical growth, dissatisfaction over the unregulated growth is spreading, says Mendes.
“The change is a new challenge for us.” Mendes speaks of longtime homeowners driven out by speculators from historic neighborhoods or commuters who get stuck in traffic every morning. He does not want to turn back the wheel and is pleased that Nashville is so attractive to companies, says Mendes. “But we have to make sure that all residents benefit from this boom.”