How Williamson County grew from farmland to Davidson County’s economic rival

Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 10:13pm

 

Williamson County’s official website paints a certain picture.

In collage across the top of the page, the county sells itself as a bucolic paradise: A horse stands in a field, the apricot sun setting behind it; the concrete ribbon of the Natchez Trace Parkway unobtrusively spans rolling green hills; an antebellum home stands in stately glory.

To look at the photos, Williamson County is a quiet place — an escape from the bustle of the city. That’s a legend, of course, and when the legend becomes fact, print the legend, as the old proverb says.

The fact is that in the past 30 years, Williamson County has become an engine for Middle Tennessee, a white-collar and retail boom world. There are horse farms and natural beauty and pockets of history, yes, but there are also corporate headquarters, retail behemoths and an unstoppable avalanche of economic power churning just south of Old Hickory Boulevard.

It has raced to be one of the state’s largest counties and its most prosperous — with a median income of $88,316, it’s the nation’s 17th richest county. It is attractive to families and to businesses alike.

Selling it as an easygoing Southern paradise isn’t a mistake — it’s a strategy.

“Companies are still looking for the same thing. They are looking for interstate visibility and access and a good stock of corporate housing,” Matt Largen, Williamson County’s economic and community development director, said. “We have this great rural nature, where they can live and have their homes, and they can work in this commercial zone. … Most places have a place like Cool Springs, but they don’t have these other things. We’ve maintained this great balance.”

And those selling points have often proven a thorn in the side of Davidson County.

With what seems like an endless supply of available open land and a proactive system of recruitment, a reputation for quality education and a motivated workforce, Williamson County is forever in the discussion for the latest corporate relocation, able to offer what Davidson County cannot.

By and large, Williamson’s major advantage is one Nashville can do little about: land and lots of it.

In Davidson County, there are just over 40 parcels left of at least 200 acres — a mid-sized threshold for a major corporate campus or manufacturing site. Because of topography or flood concern, just seven of those would allow large-scale development. (For perspective, 200 acres would fit two LP Field footprints, including parking, or one Dell campus).

Meanwhile, in Williamson County, despite a population and economic explosion, thousands of open acres are still available.

This is the story of an uneasy partnership, a barely contained rivalry and how Williamson County flipped from pastoral Eden to big business paradise.

 

 

In the most basic demographic way, Williamson County’s growth is downright meteoric. In 1980, the census counted 58,108 people — roughly the same size as Wilson and Maury counties. It was, like many of the ring counties around Nashville, a mix of bedroom commuters and large family farms. The growth started in earnest in the 1970s: the great emigration from cities to the suburbs across the nation, a phenomenon tagged with the uneasy name “white flight.”

That 1970s population jump was not unique to Williamson County — it was common of all the Nashville-bordering counties and, indeed, similarly situated locales everywhere in America.

But in the mid-’80s, Williamson County benefited from something most of the rest of the country did not. It wasn’t white flight so much as Rust Belt flight.

In the early 1980s, Nissan and Saturn brought auto manufacturing to Middle Tennessee — to Smyrna and Spring Hill, respectively.

With auto manufacturing comes workers and their money.

Situated neatly in the nexus of a Nashville-Smyrna-Spring Hill triangle, Williamson County benefited. By the time the first Saturn rolled off the line in Spring Hill in 1990, Williamson County had added 23,000 people. In the next 20 years, Williamson County added another 100,000.

Just as the automakers moved into Smyrna and Spring Hill,  something else happened in a sliver along Interstate 65.

In 1983, Cool Springs happened.

 

 

It is a metaphor almost too perfect to be true.

In the 1930s, a small five-and-dime store opened in Pulaski, and by 1960, the store had become successful enough to open the first of its large stores in downtown Nashville.

As suburbs grew and urban shopping gave way to mall shopping, this store — Service Merchandise — became a retail powerhouse: a $4 billion company.

And in 1983, Service Merchandise moved from its downtown headquarters into a 33,000-square-foot building along the interstate in an area that was, at the time, basically the middle of nowhere.

Largely, the move was borne of a need to streamline. Service Merchandise was working out of four different offices in Nashville and wanted to consolidate its operations. So widespread was Service Merchandise’s Music City operation, it took seven years before everything ended up under the same roof in Williamson County.

Just a short jaunt down the interstate, Cool Springs had something Nashville didn’t: lots of land conveniently located next to an off-ramp.

The office market of Williamson County was just starting to get going then, mostly small suite operations along Old Hickory Boulevard in the line-straddling suburb of Brentwood. The economy of Williamson County was flexing between small-bore, largely homegrown light industry and farming. There were no corporate headquarters to speak of pre-Service Merchandise. Any executives in town were making a daily commute, affiliated with companies in the larger neighbor to the north.

But Service Merchandise — ill-fated as the company ended up being, another legacy retailer falling victim to e-commerce — began a movement that ended with the ultimate coup.

 

 

In the 25 years after Service Merchandise opened up Cool Springs and Williamson County, the area became a hot relocation spot for businesses on the up. Eventually two dozen Fortune 500 companies would slot local or regional headquarters into shiny office parks and towers in the northern part of Williamson County.

Why?

Cool Springs visionary Pat Emery, whose Crescent Properties led the development in the empty fields, calls his success in Williamson County the result of both luck and an “educated guess.”

“What I ended up seeing was a funnel: With Davidson County being the large part of that funnel and Brentwood narrowing down, and the only place it could come out was right across the Franklin-Brentwood line at Moore’s Lane,” he said.

In fact, he said, the seeds for Williamson County’s success were sown long before the antebellum mansions went up in Franklin.

While Sumner and Wilson counties have experienced their own levels of success, the massive corporate growth went south. Emery says it was topography more than anything else that influenced the market forces, friendly geography coupled with a government willing to take a chance. While Service Merchandise opened the door, Nissan would kick it down.

Service Merchandise’s crawl toward irrelevance, the decline and fall of a merchandiser unwilling or unable to keep up with a changing retail map, left Williamson County devoid of a marquee corporate headquarters.

And then Nissan started to scout. The Japanese automaker planned to spin off its American operations into an autonomous company, and with the fresh start would come a fresh home, outside Southern California.

Nissan picked Cool Springs, giving Williamson County the biggest white-collar economic development coup in state history. Nissan brought 1,300 high-end jobs to town and gave Williamson County the kind of marquee operation everybody wants. It was lauded broadly — not just in Williamson County, which had reason to be pleased, but even by Davidson County luminaries who preached a “rising tide raises all boats” sentiment that perhaps obscured the truth: Nashville got beat.

Davidson County was placated somewhat by Nissan’s short-term solution: The company took several floors of the BellSouth (now AT&T) tower downtown while the corporate campus was completed south of the border. Nashville, by all accounts, was in the mix on Nissan — rumored addresses inside Metro were all outside the 440 loop, where the land is easier to package; the Opryland area was reportedly seen as a sexy locale.

Still, the fact that Nissan went south isn’t surprising. Like most corporations with wanderlust, the automaker’s first entree into Middle Tennessee was via the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. A company can deal with the chamber — a private entity with some level of secrecy, which is an impossibility when communicating with a governmental department like an economic and community development (ECD) shop, broadly subject to open-government laws.

The tension is that the chamber’s purpose is to bring employers to “somewhere,” which may not be “right here.”

Once the chamber has convinced a company to come to the region, local ECDs take over in incentivizing the move.

Williamson County can offer, once again, plenty of wide-open real estate, plentiful housing stock and a suburban environment, all within a short-drive of the amenities of a big city. Cool Springs also had the advantage of sitting atop a rough triangle whose other points are at manufacturing plants in Smyrna and Decherd, Tenn. Via I-65 and State Route 840, those plants are a quick trip from Williamson County, short jaunts unhindered by city traffic.

Nissan was wooed with a hulking $197 million incentive package, which included tax-increment financing and $14.8 million in local tax abatement — and that’s in Franklin, a city that hasn’t had a property tax increase in nearly a quarter-century.

It’s unknown what, exactly, Davidson County offered — many of the incentives came from the state and would have been available to Nissan if it moved to Nashville, Cool Springs or, indeed, Crossville — but it couldn’t overcome the go-get-’em attitude of Williamson County, and it certainly couldn’t compete with geography.

Local leaders in Williamson County have been far more open to using major tax abatements than has the Metro Council. Davidson County  is  more willing to back off when the price gets too high. For example, in 2008, Nashville was the leader in the clubhouse for a Bridgestone R&D facility that would have brought more than 600 jobs to the city. Akron, Ohio, countered Music City’s pitch with a tax-break-laden $68 million package — and Nashville demurred at the lofty price tag.

While the Nashville area as a whole has become a hot spot for corporate relocations, seemingly every big headquarters move goes to the other side of Old Hickory Boulevard. Nashville scored Bridgestone America’s corporate headquarters, but in addition to Nissan, between 2000 and 2010, the neighbor to the south locked down Healthways, Community Health Systems and the Tennessee headquarters for Verizon.

Nashville has made various efforts to compete with the large, open-land model Emery championed in Cool Springs, most recently with the May Town Center project on 500 acres north of downtown in Bells Bend.

The massive $4 billion campus was intended to be Nashville’s answer to the corporate strip of Williamson County, but it never came to fruition, falling apart with concerns from environmentalists, preservationists and skeptics. While access was never in question in Williamson County — the thousands of open acres were bifurcated by the interstate long before Emery ever decided to make his play there — Bells Bend development would have required a bridge across the Cumberland to make it feasible.

It was Nashville’s second big try at creating a corporate campus. The first, MetroCenter, was a slow grower and did not start attracting major employers until Cool Springs already made its biggest moves — and MetroCenter is far easier to access than Bells Bend.

Still, there is a level of partnership between the counties. HCA and its sister companies have made Nashville a health care giant, and both sides of Old Hickory have benefited. Jobs in health care — an industry largely immune to recessionary market forces — are largely well-paying, attracting well-educated and affluent employees. Major players ply their trade on both sides of the county line and in one recent case were willing to move from one side of the street to the other.

 

 

LifePoint spent years in Brentwood, growing into the United States’ fourth-largest for-profit hospital operator (seven of the top 15 hospital operators are headquartered in Nashville or Williamson County).

And like Service Merchandise decades before, the company found itself spread across a number of office buildings, especially in Maryland Farms. It went looking for a new home, but didn’t have to look far. In November, the company announced it would move less than three miles, squeezing into Davidson County at Highwoods Properties’ Seven Springs project.

Why? LifePoint pointed to its ability to bring its entire operation under one roof, but there’s no doubt the incentives Metro brought to the table wooed them.

“We’re excited we’re able to do this move in the current economy,” said Diane Huggins, LifePoint spokeswoman. “We know that our company is going to benefit by consolidating all of our employees in one location. We believe Davidson County will benefit too.”

Under the plan, LifePoint gets a 100 percent property tax discount in its first four years, a 60 percent abatement in years five through 11, and a 25 percent cut over the final four years of occupying Seven Springs.

Matt Wiltshire, director of the mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, told The City Paper the abatement would range between $6 million and $7 million.

LifePoint is getting what is called a PILOT — payment in lieu of taxes — deal. Metro has used the tool 10 times in its history — half of those coming during the Dean administration. The largest was the deal that wooed Dell in 1999. Since then — except for an ill-fated plan to bring troubled Canadian company IQT downtown — all have been used to bolster companies with an existing presence in Middle Tennessee.

While Williamson County aims for companies looking to relocate entirely — from California in Nissan’s case, for example — Nashville keeps it down home.

Wiltshire admitted that offering LifePoint the incentives to jump the line was better than the other option: the company moving deeper into Williamson County, perhaps to Cool Springs or beyond, to the large-scale Berry Farms development — farther from the city and thus depriving Nashville of some of the ripple benefits.

For their part, LifePoint admits that without the incentives offered by Metro, they’d never have considered going to Seven Springs.

 

 

What else does Williamson County have that Metro doesn’t? A well-educated work force, one of the best in the country.

“It starts and ends with talent. Over 50 percent of our workforce has a bachelor’s degree or higher — 52 percent. It’s twice the national average,” Largen said.

While that’s often the opening line — and one that does a lot to attract service-based employers — Largen says there’s no doubt Tennessee’s business environment generally does a lot of good, but the ECD brochure can’t start and end with the “no income tax” and “low cost of living” line.

“I don’t think you want to position yourself as the absolutely lowest place to do business. That’s not the model you want to get into. There’s much more to the equation than being the cheapest place,” he said.

It helps to have friends in high places, too, especially when wooing companies means pinging the state for that extra incentive. In the three decades since the county truly opened up, a seismic shift in Tennessee’s political makeup benefited its most affluent county.

For years, the Volunteer State’s government was dominated by an alliance of urban liberals and farm-and-factory Democrats from rural parts of Middle and West Tennessee. The Republican Party was regional, dominating its traditional East Tennessee enclaves. It was a battle-borne political landscape largely unchanged since the Civil War.

With the South’s shift to the GOP, Tennessee’s power base has — like its affluent population — moved out of the city and off the farm and into the tony suburbs.

The population boom, of course, has bolstered Williamson County’s representation, while Davidson County’s delegation has largely stayed static. Williamson gets ever more seats in the legislature. And where the county used to be a red dot in a sea of blue, the state’s conservative shift means that Davidson is now the outlier, a Democratic outpost surrounded by Republican counties.

With help from the state, Williamson County was able to put together the $200 million deal for Nissan, for example. Package that with the natural decrease in costs the company saw by moving from California, and Williamson County was just what the Pacific Rim auto behemoth was looking for.

The county’s also shown a surprising flexibility in adapting to an always-changing economy.

As the South as a whole changed from a largely farm-based economy in the 20th century, light industry moved in. In the wake of NAFTA and a large off-shoring movement in manufacturing, Williamson County — like many once-rural places — lost blue-collar jobs. Even in recent years, American Greetings, Plastech and Worthington Metals all closed Williamson County factories, costing the county nearly 1,100 jobs — largely workers who won’t transition into Nissan’s front offices.

The county is able to make up those losses in other ways — some auto manufacturing is still there and despite all the big-ticket, high-profile relocations, the county’s biggest employer is a mall. CoolSprings Galleria softens the blow of the loss of lower-income jobs. In an era, and an area, where malls have struggled, the Galleria thrives. In the time since it opened, malls closer to Nashville have collapsed. Bellevue Center is a rump, home now to just a Sears and a dozen ideas of how to redevelop. Hickory Hollow bleeds retailers. A successful reimagining has breathed new life into 100 Oaks, now a medical enclave on Nashville’s south side.

But CoolSprings Galleria is and always was a different animal. Instead of appealing to the comfortably middle-class, it sold a luxury message and aspirational goals. Until the recent rebound of The Mall at Green Hills, CoolSprings was sui generis: plenty of high-end retailers rubbed shoulders with the more familiar legacy stores. And surrounded by, once again, ample available land, it spun off strips of big-box stores and rows of restaurants aimed squarely at the prosperous and upwardly mobile population of Williamson County.

The convenience of e-commerce has made traditional suburban malls buildings in search of a purpose as their target shoppers opt for the cost savings of virtual shopping. But with a demographic less interested in penny-pinching, higher-end malls and lifestyle centers (read: CoolSprings) continue to thrive — if they are located in affluent population centers like Williamson County.

 

 

What can Davidson County do?

Emery has a unique perspective. He’s a guy who “got lucky” with Williamson County, but he’s also a guy who predicted success for May Town. Now he’s working to develop office space in The Gulch.

Ultimately, the answer for Nashville may be to stop competing with Williamson County at all. Nashville trying to compete with its neighbor for staid Fortune 500 giants, Emery said, is like “me in Cool Springs trying to get the music industry.”

Without the sheer volume of land, Nashville will have to focus on redevlopment and emphasize its urban qualities as it markets itself to companies.

“It’s different culturally. [Williamson County] is family. If you’ve got kids and your workforce is married, Franklin’s going to be better for you. But if you’re high-tech, high-energy, you’re better going to The Gulch,” he said. “When we made a decision to go into The Gulch, we see it starting to pick up. There’s great neighborhoods [in the area], and there’s opportunities, you just have to look harder.”

Largen says — and admits no one believes him when he does — that the two counties really aren’t competitors.

“The better it is for them, the better it is for us. The better things are for us, the better it is for them. We realize we both complement each other’s products when we are trying to attract companies,” he said. “If you’ve got a company that is looking for a large suburban campus, they are far likelier to choose Williamson County, and that’s why we’ve been so successful. If you’ve got a company that’s looking for downtown, they are looking to Nashville.”

As for large-scale, Cool Springs-style projects, the ship may have sailed for Nashville when the original May Town plan at Bells Bend was scrapped.

Emery backed the Mays and Tony Giarrantana’s play in Bells Bend — “it should have worked,” he said, noting that even Cool Springs’ success, especially at the retail level, came because Franklin was more flexible than Brentwood.

“[Galleria developer] CBL wanted to go to Old Hickory Boulevard,” he said, but Brentwood kiboshed it so the mall developer looked south.

“Franklin said ‘Come on.’ ”

In one year, Franklin’s sales tax collections went from $1 million annually to $1 million monthly.“The rest is history,” he said.

 

36 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 2/20/12 at 7:23

The bar is set for Nashville to have to offer $1.50 versus 50 cents in Williamson
County when offering incentives for the same company or business. Based on
culture differences between the two it may cost Nashville even more than that suggested!

By: BigPapa on 2/20/12 at 8:02

Wmson County's success is simply due to desegregation and white flight. Unlike other doughnut counties they kept the housing prices high to keep the lower and lower middle trash out.
The result is "good schools" ie mostly white. That attracts more professional families, those professionals eventually dont see the need to drive into Nashville and move their business and attract business to where they live.

Wmson gets richer and whiter, Nashville gets poorer and darker.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/20/12 at 8:12

The author fails to mention to real catalysts that drive Williamson County. Davidson County has a huge criminal underclass population. A schools system that is filled with an underachieving underclass population. A tax rate that is almost double that of Williamson County. Williamson County has a school system and populace that does not require as compulsory the need for private school tuition.

And last and not least Williamson County gets to benefit from all of the spending by Davidson County for entertainment. The Titans,Predators,Sounds all are available to the residents of Williamson County along with a myriad of other benefits paid for by the Davidson County taxpayers.

I heard one Williamson County resident an executive from California exclaim after being in the area for only one year, "If it were not for Belle Meade and Green Hills the rest of Davidson County would resemble Flint,Michigan 15 years ago."

By: jody.lentz on 2/20/12 at 9:41

We need to raise our line of sight in this discussion. Companies are not looking to move to a particular "province", they are typically looking at a region (in this case, middle Tennessee). The real competition in the global economy is not between Williamson and Metro, it's between Middle TN and the business regions around Hamburg or Singapore or Tel Aviv.
Besides, the companies relocating to the region are just the most sexy ECD transactions - the yeoman's work (2/3 or more) happens in growing existing businesses. Not always accompanied by headlines, but far more important overall.
And does anyone else wonder what happens in those communities when a company pulls up stakes and moves to our little piece of heaven?

By: TRHJR on 2/20/12 at 10:29

I kinda agree with BigP ... and this writer is just a drive -by ... Sit on butt in office and try to tell a story you know nothing about .....

I was born and raised in Brentwood , my children , and grand children the same ...I bought my second house in Brentheaven in 1974 , And in 74 about 85% of my neighbors were from above the Mason Dixison line !!!!! why ? Because of the SCHOOLS ... Davidson county schools had all ready declined .... And the Adams and other builders saw this .... Housing was much improved over Davidson County So get off this " white flight " .... People moving into this area ... not from Davison County ... chose this .... I could go on and on .....

By: JeffF on 2/20/12 at 10:36

There is a big difference in results between investing in economic growth and investing in tourism and downtown redevelopment. One works and lifts the boats of everyone. The other requires even more "investment".

It is nice that our neighbors choose to throw some money at our Predators and Sounds "investments". Their superior education allows them to discern that it is foolish to prop up professional sports with tax money so they are more than happy to let us suckers do it. So they have more money for real development and even better schools while are cash circles the porcelain drain.

A point not brought up in the piece above, transportation. Our officials are desperate to create one-way systems like the Music City Star. Having good jobs join the good bedrooms and good schools in Williamson is a disaster for a downtown that still thinks of itself as the region's economic engine. Neourbanista ego just cannot handle the concept of trains and buses going somewhere other than downtown Nashville. The fictitious "sprawl" world will be resurrected to fight the enemy, even though it it downtown that is the economic resource vacuum. We will have to ask for permissions and funds from the real powers (Williamson and its powerful lawmakers in the state) to create the boondoggles we like.

We in Davidson are on the verge of falling into a morass we created for ourselves. Will Williamson Countians even care? The snark coming from alternative and "progressive" news sources in Davidson makes me think we probably do not deserve their help, just their pity and Predator ticket money. Good luck to the urban utopians who are kept warm by the thought that high gas prices will drive everyone back to your chosen life.

By: Nitzche on 2/20/12 at 11:18

well Davidson can show all our housing projects, which accentuates our diversity, can you show that Wiliamson county? We can show our Occupier crowd, can they show that pluralism...absolutely not! So we win hands down!

By: bfra on 2/20/12 at 11:43

Maybe Williamson Co. has more sensible people running the show. Not so egotistical, self-serving & crooked as Davidson.

By: JeffF on 2/20/12 at 12:02

Plus 1 for Nitzche.

I will point out for bfra that Williamson does have problems with hysteric preservationists, but they do a good job with tossing them, some very, very focused bones to prevent them from screwing up the big picture. These are the people who have managed to relabel even roads and fences as "historic" and worthy of "protection". Generally, they are allowed to stunt the viability of downtown Franklin and use a disproportionate amount of resources on its viability, but those people are leaving the rest of the county's valuable resource alone. They even let the hysteric preservationists go along thinking that they are the reason for the growth as long as they do not try to do anything too crazy. "Yeah, yeah, Nissan moved here because we bought a horse farm, and turned the square into a circle, blah, blah, blah..."

By: Nitzche on 2/20/12 at 1:34

SP zoning, look it up!

By: hattrick3 on 2/20/12 at 1:59

Williamson County has: Better schools, less crime, an educated work force, less traffic, better goverment

Davidson County has: The next to last school system in the state (Memphis being the worst), higher crime rates, far higher illegal population then Williamson, and is ran by a yankee mayor and a city council who has members being busted for DUI's and hiring whores.

Gee, and I wonder why Williamson county has left Davidson in the dust.

By: localboy on 2/20/12 at 2:12

Good points, TRHJR..Zing! to Nitzche.
I like that "in the early 1980s, Nissan and Saturn brought auto manufacturing to Middle Tennessee.." well, maybe Nissan did, but when did the author think they turned the first shovel of dirt for the Saturn plant? Not the early 80s. "In 1983, Cool Springs happened."Well, the mall opened in 1991, and between '83 and '91 no office buildings opened at that exit (although Target made an appearance). An interesting article, though.

By: MusicCity615 on 2/20/12 at 2:26

JeffF give it a rest. you might have some points if our school system and economy was just absolutely vibrant before the Titans, Predators, and MCC, but there were NOT.

We live in a republic. We elect officials to make decisions for us (MCC). The citizens of Davidson County VOTED to build Bridgestone Arena and the Titans stadium- you obviously did not agree.

Nashville residents will be able to have another viable option when the charter schools in Davidson County come in full force.

By: JeffF on 2/20/12 at 2:48

I agree, we voted. Congratulations on the decision. But, please not that I did not mention the Titans or their stadium. I have never said anything bad about that "investment" other than it was built in a bad location. I actually voted for it.

This liberal enclave will do what every liberal enclave does, it will continue to have bad public schools. That is what makes this all so tragically funny (like an episode of M*A*S*H). We will continue to make bad decisions and try to figure out what new bad decisions we can make to finally beat the people succeeding outside of our jurisdiction. Eventually we will try going to the state for help and be met with laughter by the rest of the state. This is where Nashville will be different from Detroit and the other rotting Rust Belt and Mississippi River cities, we do not control our state so we do not control the state purse strings. The state that puts up with our craziness will not rush to help us until we get out left-wing craziness stuffed away. Obviously we are not capable of shoving aside our craziness. There's a minor league stadium to build and a convention center to complete!

By: BigPapa on 2/20/12 at 5:46

I think the last few Mayors of Nashville realized in a very cynical way that the people that live here in the county are their last concern. The schools and such.. that ship sailed and it will never come back, just write them off (pay lip service for sure) but until we can have neighborhood schools, or at least schools where people that want their children to be educated and mess with the values and concerns of the underclass, it's a lost cause.
The Mayor of Nashville is here to serve tourism, downtown, and business interests. Nashville is like so many places, a great city to come and have a night of fun, maybe even a weekend, but not a place to raise a family. If you have money you raise your kids in Williamson Co., if you re working class you go to Rutherford, if you're in the middle Sumner.

By: BenDover on 2/21/12 at 7:30

Wealth flight... duh.

By: Fancycwabs on 2/21/12 at 9:17

Williamson County, like any other suburb of a major metropolitan area, benefits greatly from its proximity to Nashville, with the stadiums, museums, and other cultural institutions that they don't pay taxes for, the world-class research hospitals they don't pay taxes for, the airport they don't pay taxes for, and the jobs they don't pay taxes on. Sure, the median income in Williamson County might be $88k, but the median wage? Hardly--with the exception of a few high-end service providers (hi, dentists!) and the aforementioned Nissan headquarters, that money's coming out of Nashville.

Anyway, economics has a way of cutting off the leeches eventually--gas prices for the commute will take care of these eventually.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/21/12 at 9:25

BIGPAPA.....In the final analysis I give your post of 2/20/12 at 4.46 my tribute as the best post on this article.

By: JeffF on 2/21/12 at 10:07

Fancy you couldn't be more wrong on the wage. There have been multiple statistical releases showing the differences between wages is far greater between the counties. Davidson has a whole lot of very low end tourist, food service, call center, and retail jobs dragging our boat down. Further Davidson's economic development strategy seems to be oriented toward getting as many of these jobs as possible.

Williamson and more specifically Franklin/Brentwood has out worked us on getting corporate HQs in recent years. Yes we got 1 or 2, but they got far more than Nissan (a prize big enough on its own). Clarcor, Jackson, at least 4 other private hospital companies, Healthways, MedQuist/MModal, and Mars are all sitting off Maryland Way, Carothers Parkway, and Cool Springs Boulevard. Add in the amazing smaller and growing businesses operating along Seaboard Land and in all those Duke owned buildings and you will instantly see we are getting our clock cleaned by people who know what they are doing.

While Williamson County says "Yes we can" Davidson County says "no it will compete with downtown". While Williamson says "we can get that" we in Davidson county allows residents from many miles away to block our only development hopes.

I do find it quaint that some people think that Williamson County is using all our cool stuff for free. Maybe Williamson Countians with all their education advantages understand better that some things we build just are not that good. Williamson sure was jumping at the prospect of a billion dollars in public convention centers and half a billion in sports facilities. I think they know something we don't know.

and Fancy, "they don't pay taxes for, the world-class research hospitals " ...I am curious as to what taxes we are paying in Davidson for world-class research hospitals. Is that Metro General, the only public hospital in Davidson?

By: BigPapa on 2/21/12 at 12:23

Thanks Rasputin
Maybe I'm wrong but I think busing can be seen as the central cause of all of this. In my heart I dont think people care that their kid goes to school with a black person. THEY DO CARE IF THEIR KID IS IN SCHOOL WITH GHETTO THUGS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTY.

By busing you are punishing people for success by forcing them to mingle with the under class. We need a lot more Darwinism in the schools, and I'm not just talking about science class. Schools need to serve their area, let the chips fall..

By: TRHJR on 2/21/12 at 1:19

well the die is cast !!! I hate to say it .... BUSING absolutly knock Davidson County`s d n the dirt ..... But that is Liberls for ya ..... they pissed off the the Pearl high people to .... good ole John Seigenthaler ....thats where the pitch forks should show up down @ the Tennessean paper

By: jonw on 2/21/12 at 4:30

JON
By: Nitzche on 2/20/12 at 10:18
well Davidson can show all our housing projects, which accentuates our diversity, can you show that Wiliamson county? We can show our Occupier crowd, can they show that pluralism...absolutely not! So we win hands down!
***************************

They probably cannot show it, nor do they want it. Hands down (not up) is where Davidson will probably stay.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 2/21/12 at 6:36

BigPapa is right, but not only has busing destroyed the public school system in Metro but also in the rest of the country as well. It's the biggest tragedy in my lifetime. Notice Seigenthaler's son has left Nashville for more "progressive places".

By: jonescry on 2/21/12 at 8:13

NashNative
Everyone including the author of this article is forgetting very important points. If all things remain the same it will still take Williamson County 14 years to bring in more taxes than Davidson - this is important - Davidson County's tax base is solid for the next decade even if the personal tastes remain the same (they are already changing) and Davidson County's education does not improve. Second Williamson County does not have the Cumberland River, CSX rail hub or an airport. These are critical logistics hubs that Williamson will never have. The article is correct only regarding Williamson Counties main comparative advantage - education. This is a weak point; however, because the educated population in Williamson Cty can easily migrate each day to Davidson. Primary and Secondary education are key factors for Williamson; however, only Davidson can boast the number 16 IN THE NATION high school which Williamson doesn't even come close to (Hume Fogg) and Davidson is using this to model real reform for all of its schools. Lastly, property taxes - it is simply MUCH cheaper to live in Davidson - yet Davidson has more services (like curbside recycling, mass transit and extensive park and recreation services). As the population ages (without kids) this will be an important factor for Davidson. Also younger people even with kids want to be closer to urban centers - another shift in the national culture in Nashville's favor. Lastly, the lack of oversight - especially in Williamson County's subdivision construction (with the only exception of Brentwood) will be disastrous in the next decade once the homes really start to fall apart. In short - Davidson Cty is posed to take off but Metro must make the right decisions - i.e. know that the 1990's version of success (i.e. Maytown) is over and will not return and increase even current investments in education, mass transit, sidewalks, parks.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/22/12 at 8:43

JONESCRY........You can be arrested for possesion and smoking that stuff.

By: FLeFew on 2/22/12 at 10:42

Nashville has done NOTHING about traffic since Bill Boner was mayor and he installed the road sensors, most of which do not work anymore.

And we have slowed everything down by encouraging unlicensed law-breaking bike riders ... with "share the road!"

Plus, with all of the patronage and graft built up over the centuries, our taxes are out of sight. Pay and benefits of city workers significantly exceed those working for private industry.

Maybe someday Williamson County will catch up with us.

By: JeffF on 2/22/12 at 10:52

I will remember to bask in the warm glow of the greatness of the airport and the CSX system knowing that they are things no one from Nashville will ever use and see economic gain from.

You do know that many people get off airplanes at BNA rent cars and go work for 4 days in Cool Springs and Maryland Farms without spending a dime at a Nashville restaurant or hotel?

And as stated before, having one shining star in a pile of manure does not raise the pile of manure any higher than the status of being a pile of manure. The theoretical boom in people wanting to raise families in urban cores has been supposedly on its way since the 1970s and has not reached reality yet. The only people that think there are gentrifiers excitedly enrolling their kids in urban school districts are those people who have been smoking the hip neourbanista product for too long. Let me know how that Hume Fogg modeling is working.

I find it amazing that you think Franklin and Brentwood are creaming us with 1990s style development. Corporate campus development is the only new corporate office growth in this country. Lucky for Franklin they have a public transportation system that runs through between their corporate campuses. We just have a public transportation system but no corporate.

And you obviously have never built a home or office. Builders despise the building inspectors and approval process in both Brentwood and Franklin. In the 80 they may have been lax, but since the 90s both cities have been incredibly nitpicky. The builders that made hay in Antioch and Bellevue dipped their toes in those pools but got out as fast as they could once they realized the detailed inspection process both cities abide by. I dare you to find an Ole South built home anywhere in Franklin or Brentwood.

I hate arguing with condo realtors, they are so detached from reality.

By: BigPapa on 2/22/12 at 2:27

"Also younger people even with kids want to be closer to urban centers - another shift in the national culture in Nashville's favor."

HA! As an East Nashvillian I see this ALLLL the time. Young couple move to the east side, love it's cool, bohemian vibe, like the old houses, being close to down town, etc. .. then they have kids- boom - they bolt for the suburbs.

They don't want their kids going to some place like Maplewood, McGavock, Stratford, etc.. They don't want their kids dealing with all the problems of the underclass.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/22/12 at 5:12

BIGPAPA..........You have such a way with words.

By: jonescry on 2/22/12 at 8:42

Gentlemen (know sarcasm?),
Its clear that I stand corrected. I was under the impression that the city in "City Paper" stood for Nashville. Apparently, only people in Williamson Cty read this magazine. I was wrong. Generally, you fight analysis with the same - not petty responses better suited for a playground. I work for a massive logistics company in Davidson County. Home to many companies just like it. The global economy MOVES on logistics - it is what made Nashville to begin with. As far as people getting off those planes and not stopping in Nashville - that's pretty funny - I was referring to GOODS not people. You know that thing that makes the world go round? My company alone moves millions of dollars of product through Cherokee Marine each month. I could have mentioned much more - how about Tennessee's largest private employer and the top 20 college in the nation? How about all of those other very high ranking colleges? The truth is that Williamson county does not even begin to compete with Davidson and it never will. Take care and please learn some manners. You are in the South now.

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By: JeffF on 2/23/12 at 11:49

I understand having pride in one's industry of choice, but logistics is just a portion of this economy. Looking West toward Memphis is all it takes to understand the ceiling cities can hit with logistics. The Mississippi River cities are dying while their logistics systems are booming. Cleveland is an important logistics location and no one wants to be like that place.

Durham and Baltimore (Baltimore also has LOGISTICS!!!!) both have world class, private universities as well. Curiously no one has wanted to be one of those cities as well with their rotting neighborhoods, high violent crime rates, and multi-generational systemic issues.

We are not Williamson Countians, we just do not want Davidson/Metro/Nashville that specials itself to death. Nashville is not doing anything that every other spastic, struggling to remain truly relevant city in the U.S. has done. Step back and see the dying schools, dying neighborhoods, but surprisingly quaint tourist-oriented but irrelevant downtown. Those other cities, that have airports as well, does it help? We can have a city that can be the first Nashville, instead we make decisions that put us in line to be the 23rd St
Louis, or the 18th Cleveland, or the 29th Detroit. All cities that think bad schools, shrinking tax bases, and high crime is okay as long as the convention facilities are kept up to date.

We are closer to being the 2nd Cairo, IL (Logistics!!!!!!) than the 1st Nashville.

By: TRHJR on 2/23/12 at 1:33

HOLY COW ... I JUST NOTED THE PICTURE ( THAT INTRODUCES ) THIS BLOG THING OR ARTICLE ... LOOKS JUST LIKE A SOLDIER FROM THE WAR OF NORTHERN AGGRESSION ! anyone else see that ?

By: BigPapa on 2/23/12 at 2:46

"All cities that think bad schools, shrinking tax bases, and high crime is okay as long as the convention facilities are kept up to date."
Good post
As I said, a nice place to visit but.....

By: NewYorker1 on 2/23/12 at 6:00

So, CoolSprings Galleria "sold a luxury message and aspirational goals"? Really? No baby, they don't. Trust me. I'm from New York City and there are no high-end retail in this area yet. When you get a Bergdorf's, Fendi, Versace, Clive Christian, Hermes, etc. then we can talk.

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