Roughly seven million people have made Tennessee their personal home, and the number keeps growing. The number of companies picking Tennessee as their corporate home is continually on the rise, too, for a wealth of important business reasons.
Indeed, headquarters operations kept moving into Tennessee or expanding there — even as the pandemic created serious economic clouds around the world. Add in all of the new or expanding tech-related, financial services and life sciences operations, and you paint a picture of healthy growth in sectors that all states covet — growth that’s tops in the Southeast and near the top nationwide.
Count up the headquarters, tech, and finance establishments in Tennessee and you’ll surpass 16,000. These companies employ some 180,000 Tennesseans, have pumped more than $4 billion into capital investment in the past five years, and a similar dollar amount into R&D. There are lots of big and recognizable names on the list of new and expanding companies, and plenty more solid players that you might not know by name, at least not yet.
A Critical Mass of Qualified Workers
Almost without exception, these types of companies that are investing in Tennessee say workforce is one of their primary reasons. There’s very much a critical mass of qualified workers — of the types needed to fill upper-level management roles, R&D positions, technology jobs, and other not-always-easy-to-find expertise.
This critical mass of essential workers is both homegrown and attracted from elsewhere. The homegrown capabilities result in part from a comprehensive education system and a strong commitment to helping Tennesseans access that system. The commitment includes the “Tennessee Promise” offering high school graduates two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees, as well as the Tennessee Reconnect initiative, which helps adults return to higher education to gain new skills, advance in the workplace, and fulfill their goal of completing a degree or credential program. Additionally, the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act provides dual enrollment grants to high school juniors and seniors to complete credits in high-skill, high-demand trades at community colleges and the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT). At any given time, some 400,000 people are enrolled in college or grad school in Tennessee.
As for the talented workforce attracted from elsewhere, the stats suggest that Tennessee is irresistible for many people, especially well-educated millennials. The state ranks fifth in growth among that segment of the workforce, and one recent study found Tennessee among the top 10 destinations for millennials.
And when it comes to the rapidly growing tech and life sciences sectors, Tennessee’s track record in R&D also helps fuel ongoing growth and attraction of new or expanding opportunities. Even as innovative companies develop their own R&D talent, they also tap into a variety of research institutions, from the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Complex.
Whatever the lure, it’s certainly working well. Here are just some of the most significant additions to the landscape in the past couple of years, as well as noteworthy expansions:
- Not long before the world learned the term “COVID,” the city of Franklin, Tennessee, learned that it would be home to the headquarters of Mitsubishi Motors North America. In making its announcement, the company cited the area’s “vibrant technology skillset,” along with a business-friendly environment and favorable business costs.
- AllianceBernstein is a global financial company that relocated headquarters from New York to Nashville a few years ago, and it has continued to boost its growth expectations in Tennessee. An $11 million plan announced last year would add a couple hundred more jobs to bring its total to more than 1,200 — company leaders said Nashville offers the necessary talent and core values to support the growth. The jobs are in such areas as technology, compliance, and operations. Headquarters operations kept moving into Tennessee or expanding there — even as the pandemic created serious economic clouds around the world.
- One of the best-known Tennessee-based names is FedEx Logistics, and the company underscored its commitment to its home state by consolidating headquarters operations into a former Gibson Guitar factory in downtown Memphis. Some 689 new jobs were part of the plan that, among other things, was intended to help continue to attract top-notch talent by upping the cool factor. The company’s primary hub is located at Memphis International Airport and continues to expand, too.
- Smart USA Co., a London-based retirement technology company, picked Nashville for its U.S. headquarters. More than 120 jobs are part of the deal, which was sealed by a combination of business factors and quality-of-life advantages, according to the company’s CEO Jodan Ledford: “Nashville has all the recipes to be a great place to work and live.”
- Pilot.com, a bookkeeping software company, picked Nashville as the place to move its finance account management operations. The announcement promised 450 new jobs, and company officials said they were attracted to the area by exceptional schools and a talented workforce. It was one of several San Francisco companies to open up shop in Nashville in the past several years.
- Memphis was the choice when Boston-based Prospero Health was looking for a new operational headquarters, which opened a few months before the pandemic hit. Its Tennessee workforce was given the task of providing administrative help for doctors, nurses, and social workers serving patients with serious illnesses. The plan is to staff up toward 250 employees.
- The Lampo Group is the name of financial guru Dave Ramsey’s empire. It’s headquartered in Franklin and it’s growing.
- Cognate BioServices has manufacturing and headquarters operations in Memphis, and earlier this year announced expansion plans that will nearly double capacity and create more than 500 new jobs. It’s a contract development and manufacturing organization involved in cell and gene therapy. Tennessee’s critical mass of essential workers is both homegrown and attracted from elsewhere.
- NTT DATA Co., based in Tokyo with U.S. headquarters in Texas, picked Nashville earlier this year for what it calls an “innovation and digital delivery center.” About 350 new jobs are expected, and the company cited the area’s talent pool as a major draw.
- Western Express, based in Nashville, keeps on growing its headquarters operations. Its most recent plans there included an $88 million investment into new technology and business services, and more than 200 new jobs.
The state also recruited various other headquarters projects in recent months, such as Advanced Correctional Healthcare in Franklin, Woods Air Movement in Murfreesboro, Revance Therapeutics in Nashville, and GS Performance in Nashville.