Fast-Track Permitting/Shovel-Ready Sites
Tennessee was the consultants' top choice in the fast-track permitting and shovel-ready sites categories. Gallatin again provides proof of why the state achieved this ranking.
Even in the middle of a major recession, the city has purchased 207 acres to expand its industrial center. The EDA is working with Nashville's economic development department to obtain subzone status of Nashville's Foreign Trade Zone #78 for the park and with a local design and build firm to establish a Virtual Building Program that will offer qualified companies pre-permitted sites for buildings ranging from 50,000 to 300,000 square feet. The city is also seeking grant opportunities to complete the property's infrastructure, which will keep the purchase price down for companies that wish to locate in the park.
"The expansion and development of our park is a great example of how we approach things," Walker says. "We don't just buy a piece of land and wait for the companies to come. We develop the property with all the value-added aspects we can come up with that will be attractive to business and work with our regional and state partners to market it to our targeted industries."
Those marketing efforts include partnering with local companies that have become Gallatin's best ambassadors. While it is commonplace for the EDA to ask existing companies' management and human resources teams to participate in site visits, a more pro-active, unique effort came with the help of solar component manufacturer Shoals Technologies Group at a solar trade show in San Francisco. State, regional, and local economic developers were in the city for other events, so the Gallatin EDA worked with executives at Shoals to host an event for other solar companies that were at the show, to showcase the state and region.
"Together, we were able to show target companies the level of community support they can enjoy in Tennessee and why Tennessee has one of the most highly regarded business climates in the U.S.," said Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, who participated in the event. "Gallatin has experienced remarkable success, but events like this show that the community's not resting on its laurels and is aggressively going after new jobs and new investment."
And Retention Efforts Too
Gallatin's ability to work so well with its existing industry base is in large part due to the EDA's GEAR - Gallatin Expansion and Retention - program. The program, anchored by quarterly meetings and single site visits, has become one of the most highly regarded existing industry programs in the Southeast. The program is unique in the many initiatives it has spawned in terms of putting major employers in touch with educators for meaningful dialogue and creating the vehicle for company-to-company relationships. Many neighboring communities have recently begun programs modeled after GEAR.
One shouldn't think that the EDA has tunnel vision with eyes only for its major employers, though. The agency recently was recognized with an Excellence in Technology award for creating a website to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs. The site, www.gallatinbusinessvisions.com, is a resource center that helps visitors with issues such as writing a business plan, finding funding sources, developing a market strategy, and locating education opportunities as well as assisting in the more mundane, but necessary tasks of obtaining business licenses and hiring additional staff. The EDA has also partnered with Volunteer State Community College to have a feasibility study and business plan developed for a small business incubator. The partnership is now seeking federal funding to complete the project.
"We pay attention to all the little things and the big things," Walker says. "Being in a region and a state with such a stellar reputation as a business destination forces you to provide prospects with a great product. Our leadership gets that and backs it up every day."