Nashville has caught the digital beat. In the past decade, the area’s 43 percent growth in data processing and systems design is one reason Forbes recently ranked Nashville the 10th best U.S. city for tech jobs.
“With our creative culture, central location, low taxes and warm climate, tech jobs are booming,” says Liza Lowery Massey, president and CEO of the Nashville Technology Council.
Encouraged by these cultural and quality-of-life advantages, major tech companies are expanding their Nashville footprint. ServiceSource, a global leader in service revenue management, recently enlarged its downtown Nashville sales center and regional headquarters in a multimillion-dollar investment that will create hundreds of new jobs. Law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman also chose downtown accessibility when relocating its headquarters to Nashville, leasing 44,000 square feet for its global operations center that will house 150 professionals. Another big tech player, Asurion, a worldwide provider of technology protection services, is bringing 500 jobs to its new office in the SoBro District's Ragland Building.
Attracting IT Workers
Long known for its leadership in music and health care, Nashville has diversified its industry base to include corporate operations, advanced manufacturing and supply chain management, opening opportunities for the tech sector at every juncture and creating a thriving IT job market.
“Technology is woven into all of our target industries, so it’s natural to focus on the workforce,” says Courtney Ross, vice president of economic development for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The 21 colleges and universities here have 100,000 students, supplying a huge pool of talent. The fact that almost 60 percent of them choose to stay here because of the quality of life is a big selling feature for this region.”
Nashville’s tech sector is growing so fast that IT positions remain unfilled, and, as a result, companies are recruiting talent from across the country. To help address this need, the Nashville Area Chamber has teamed up with the Nashville Technology Council, the city of Nashville, Williamson County and area businesses to launch WorkIT Nashville, a collaborative regional marketing campaign to recruit IT workers to the area. The Chamber is focusing on a multi-faceted, short-term strategy to attract IT workers, while the Council is concentrating on developing a long-term pipeline of IT talent through educational and training programs. A few years ago, the Chamber envisioned an entrepreneur center to nurture the high number of creative thinkers flocking to the area.
Today, the Entrepreneur Center, whose motto is "turning ideas into reality," fosters innovation and entrepreneurship by helping startups launch and create jobs – many of which are tech-based.
“The culture of co-writing and collaboration is a definitive feature of Nashville,” says Kate O’Neill, a onetime songwriter and founder and CEO of [meta]marketer, a local marketing analytics and optimization consulting firm she started after moving to Nashville from the San Francisco area. “That carryover from the music scene to the community and into the business world is a distinct competitive advantage.”
A Hip Place to Be
Another advantage? Nashville’s eclectic cultural mash-up of diverse music and urban ambiance is magnet for cool-seeking techsters. The city's creative cultural scene recently landed it among GQ's “America’s Best Cities for Hipsters," and its arts, nightlife and pro sports offerings rival that of many bigger cities.
No state income tax and a low cost of living make Nashville more affordable than many of its larger counterparts, and those who want to live and work downtown have plenty of options, with increased residential and office space in the revitalized SoBro and the Gulch districts, as well as new spaces for creative class workers in the Rolling Hill Mill area, where the Entrepreneur Center is relocating.
As the Nashville Technology Council's Massey says, “You have a vibrant tech community here that is more collaborative and close-knit than in any other city I’ve ever seen.”