Editors Note: This article is Contributed Content, authored and paid for by Gallatin Economic Development.
Area Development recently completed a survey of site consultants asking them to name the states they believe best meet eight site selection criteria:
1. Lowest business costs
2. Most business friendly
3. Corporate tax environment
4. Overall labor climate
5. Work force development programs
6. Fast-track permitting
7. Rail and highway accessibility
8. Shovel-ready sites
According to this survey, Tennessee was named as the "top state" for business. In fact, it was ranked among the top-five states in meeting seven of the eight criteria. And one Tennessee city in particular - Gallatin -Illustrates why it won these accolades.
Gallatin, located in the northeastern portion of the Nashville MSA, prides itself on being a key player in the success story of its region. And keeping up with the rest of the Middle Tennessee region takes some doing, according to Clay Walker, executive director of the Gallatin Economic Development Agency.
"Being a relatively small city in such a progressive, well-known, and highly regarded region can be a bit of a double-edged sword," says Walker. "We get to see a lot of RFPs and RFIs, but we also know that it is tough to stay in the hunt for a project as there are so many other communities around us with so much to offer. It forces you to raise your game, and we take great pride in our history of being able to do just that."
It seems that Gallatin exemplifies how a city must go about satisfying the business needs listed above. Let's take a look at how it is meeting some of these criteria for those companies seeking a new location, as well as for those that want to continue to grow in Gallatin.
Labor Climate/Work Force Development
Gallatin is the county seat of Sumner County, and while the city's population is just under 30,000, it boasts of a highly qualified work force of some 500,000 within an easy half-hour drive. The city has become an employment center for the area with more than half of the county's major employers - including six corporate headquarters, several dozen advanced manufacturing facilities, and a handful of distribution centers, including the largest in the state in the Gap's 2.5-million-square-foot facility.
Much of Gallatin's success can be attributed to many programs and initiatives that can all be traced to one thing: a deep commitment to and understanding of a large primary employment base's value to a community.
The most important resource for any company is an educated work force. And Sumner County has helped improve that critical component with a dramatic, cutting-edge program: Educate and Grow Sumner. Under this program, qualified students (with a C average and a history of extracurricular activities and community involvement) can attend two years at Volunteer State Community College at no cost. In its third year, this program is not only improving the quality of local job candidates, it is making employment recruitment much easier. The program adds yet another advantage to living and working in an area already known for an exceptional quality of life.
Through sound fiscal policies, the city has been able to keep property taxes low, and it utilizes federal grants whenever possible for major infrastructure projects. In fact, Gallatin was second only to Nashville in receiving American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding.
The bulk of Gallatin's infrastructure efforts have focused on transportation issues, including extending the limited access Highway 386 all the way into Gallatin, connecting the city to Interstate 65; and widening Highway 109 from two lanes to four, providing better access to Interstate 65 to the north and Interstate 40 to the south. The city and county have also partnered to obtain grant money to expand and improve Sumner Regional Airport.
The city has also implemented new, tiered Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) programs in recent years so that it can continue to lead the charge in major highway and other infrastructure issues for the region.