The Hampton Roads Chamber’s Inter-Regional Visit to Nashville got off to a roaring start at the NHL Predators Game.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry met with the 37 delegates at a reception before the game. “Nashville owes so much of our success to a decision made 50 years ago to consolidate our government. Our economy is fueled by property tax and sales tax. We are a growing city. Eighty-one people move here every day. We will have one million more residents by 2040."
Mayor Barry explained how regional cooperation has made initiatives like their proposed transit expansion possible. “Compromise is key. It has made everybody in Tennessee stronger.”
Nashville’s Renaissance dates back to when Governor Phil Bredesen was mayor and bet on the future. “Nashville follows Wayne Gretzky’s playbook to go to where the puck is going to be not where it is. We built this arena before we had a tenant.”
Nashville Chamber of Commerce CEO Ralph Schulz broke down the secret of Nashville’s success. “Economic and workforce development grew out of a consolidated government. Cohesion and public leadership willing to invest in the community is key. Business leaders need to be involved in building prosperity. For workforce development, you must have the workforce ready and available to draw the jobs. Education and transit are also key."
Next stop was 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.
“The honky-tonks on Broadway put Nashville on the tourism map.” The tour continued across the Cumberland River to view Nissan Stadium where the Tennessee Titans play football, and a trip past Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities with the tour concluding in a trip down Music Row.
Former Governor Phil Bredesen spoke with the group about how Nashville sparked this booming economy. “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 at great political risk. “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 cost $108 Million and was financed with a 10 cent property tax increase.”
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. Working together as a coalition successfully changed Nashville. We got it out of the political system and into the business sector.”
The Inter-Regional Visit continued with panel discussions on Economic Development, Workforce Development, Entrepreneurism and a sense of place. The visit included tours of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, The Wond’ry Innovation Center at Vanderbilt University, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Bridgestone Arena.
The Hampton Roads leaders who participated wrapped Up the Inter-Regional Visit with a debrief session at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The group noted Bredesen as a visionary leader who had the courage to make the tough decisions that led to Nashville’s booming economy.