#7. Franklin TN
This picturesque town outside of Nashville has been singing a different tune in recent years when it comes to the types of jobs that are in high demand. Once a sleepy, rural community, Franklin has experienced rapid population growth (an increase of 26 percent since 2010) driven partly by a surge in innovation and technology-driven industry. Some businesses, such as Tractor Supply Company, are merging the two, bringing a high-tech approach to the agricultural field.
As a result of this change, more than 15 percent of the jobs in Franklin these days are in the STEM category. And while this is a relatively affluent community in general with an overall median income of $60,742, the STEM jobs are easily among the best-paying, with a six-figure median income of $100,648.
This transformation is being felt all the way to the Williamson County school system, which has been recognized nationally by U.S News & World Report and others as being among the best in the nation. The approximately 40,000 students in the system receive a wide variety of STEM education, beginning as early as kindergarten.
“We work very closely with the Chamber of Commerce, and they are constantly communicating with us the need for workforce development and employees, especially in any form of technology,” says Dave Allen, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Assessment for Williamson County Schools. “So as this growth occurs, there’s this tremendous need to have a tech pipeline, and that’s what we’re trying to provide.”
It starts with a computational-thinking curriculum that emphasizes logic and problem-solving. “We introduce that to them in kindergarten,” Allen says. “Doing that from day one makes those types of courses less scary for kids as they get older. They’ve been doing that type of learning all along, so it’s nothing new to them.”
High school students have the opportunity to program self-driving cars through a collaboration with MIT, and work on robotics equipment in a $500,000 in-school laboratory. There also is a program that teaches students how to build and pilot drones for industry-specific purposes. And in 2019, the school system is schedule to open a 12,000-square-foot entrepreneurship and information center that will enable students to actually go through the process of creating a product or developing a startup business.
All these opportunities take place in a city that Livability has named to be one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live as well as one of the Top 10 Best Downtowns, with a strong health-care system and tight-knit community. In addition, all the sights and (especially) sounds of downtown Nashville are barely 20 miles away.
Find out more about living in Franklin, TN.