Nashville Business Breakfast: Nashville gaining reputation as vital, energetic city

The city of Nashville — Lipscomb University’s hometown — is gaining notoriety across the country and around the world.

More than 550 Nashville area business leaders gathered Dec. 7 in Allen Arena to hear Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; Butch Spyridon, president of Nashville’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; and Loucas George, producer of the new ABC hit television program, “Nashville,” discuss the growing interest in Nashville.

“People are taking notice of Nashville,” said Dean. “We have a very diverse and strong economy. Our unemployment rate is less than the state and national average. There is a lot of energy in this city.”

Dean noted that “this has been a good week for Nashville” with several key announcements and events this week. This week the Nashville Metro Council approved incentives to encourage the development of two new office buildings in the mid-town section of the city that brings a potential $250 million investment and 2,000 new jobs in the health care industry; the city announced plans to develop a 600-acre park in the Donelson area; the Grammy Awards nomination show was broadcast live from Nashville; an episode of “Nashville” aired; and Major League Baseball’s winter meetings were held at Gaylord Opryland Resort.

Spyridon said the success of Nashville has been a strategic process that has included a number of obstacles.

“Nashville’s success didn’t happen overnight,” Spyridon told the audience. “It has been 125 years in the making. Our reputation as Music City began more than a century ago with the Fisk Jubliee Singers and has grown from there. Nashville has been through a lot. We made it through the tornado that hit downtown, a theme park closing, the impact of 9/11 and the flood. Each time, we have come back stronger than ever.”

Nashville has been lauded in numerous national media outlets this year including GQ, Rolling Stone, USA Today, Bon Appetite, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, Marie Claire and Southern Living among others. That exposure in addition to the attention created by “Nashville” has resulted in a record-setting tourism year for the city.

“The show, ‘Nashville,’ has brought a lot of attention to our city,” said Dean. “The producers are doing a great job reflecting the beauty and excitement of Nashville. It is bringing the city exposure around the world in a way that we can’t do on our own.”

George said that producing the program in Nashville has been “a great experience.”

“Nashville has been so welcoming. It’s such a dynamic, vibrant city. I enjoy shooting the show here because it gives it such authenticity,” said George.

The filming of “Nashville” is making an impact on the local economy. George said he has had the opportunity to work with a number of businesses in Nashville during the show’s production. He said in an average month during shooting in Nashville he will spend about $200,000 on housing for the cast and crew, $45,000 on renting vehicles, $55,000 on fuel and $80,000 on catering. He said he typically spends $460,000 per episode with local vendors in addition to about $1.6 million per season on camera equipment rental.

The exposure the city has received through the series has also had an impact on the number of visitors to the city. Spyridon said the show has “really helped encourage people to host events here because of its exciting, energetic portrayal of the city.”

Dean said the way to “keep the momentum of Nashville’s exposure and growth going” is to focus on improving public education.

“Education. Education. Education. Tennessee ranks among the lowest in the country for the quality of its education, and Nashville ranks below that. When we get our schools right, we will be where we need to be,” he said.

He also said public safety, economic development and public transportation are other key areas for continued focus.

“We have to always know that we can get better,” said Dean. “We’ve got the momentum. Now we need to use that momentum to strengthen these other areas. Nashville is known for its friendliness, its diversity, its inclusiveness and as a city that just gets it. Every day we send out an image of who we are to the rest of the country. We need to make sure we keep this great image. These are good days for Nashville.”

The Nashville Business Breakfast is a quarterly networking event presented by Lipscomb University and the Nashville Business Journal, with a news-conference style format, featuring business leaders with local economic impact. The event is sponsored by PNC Bank.

Recent speakers include Robert Dennis, CEO of Genesco; Jim Wright, CEO of Tractor Supply Company; Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans head coach; Gov. Bill Haslam; Colin Reed, CEO and president of Gaylord Entertainment; Michael Woodhouse, chairman, president and CEO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store; Bill Winsor, president and chief executive officer of Market Center Management Company (MCMC), developing the Medical Trade Center in Nashville; Carlos Tavares, chairman, Nissan Motor Company's Management Committee; Mark Emkes, CEO of Bridgestone Americas; and Kix Brooks, country music artist and former chairman of the Country Music Association.