Columbus Chamber Inter-City Leadership Trip Highlights Collaboration in Nashville on Day One

Staff Report From Columbus CEO

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

The Greater Columbus Georgia’s Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd Annual Inter-City Leadership Conference (ICLC) headed to Nashville for three days of learning from one of the strongest, most vibrant economies in the U.S.

Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T Tennessee, grew up near Columbus and welcomed the group by comparing the two cities. “What Columbus and Nashville have in common is their commitment to developing around what is authentically them.”  Phillips added, “We are not trying to be something we are not. We are trying to be the best we can be and that is a great principal for sustainability.” 

Through the course of the day it became apparent there are a few other things these two cities have in common, most notably collaboration between public and private sectors and a regional outlook on economic development. However, with their similarities there are also major differences. Most notably, Nashville’s ideal location at the intersection of three interstates, a skilled workforce fueled by 100,000 college students in the region and a rapidly growing population of Young Professionals. 

The (ICLC) group heard a lot about an article written in the Wall Street Journal in 1989 predicting Nashville would not grow and thrive like comparable cities. In 1990, a group of visionary community leaders decided that they didn’t want to leave the city’s future to chance and created Partnership 2000 (now Partnership 2020). For the last 25 years Nashville has been working to become the city it is today – an economic powerhouse and one of the best cities to live, work and play in the country. 

Deana Ivey, Chief Marketing Officer at the Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Corporation (CVC), discussed how even with a strong country music heritage, developing Nashville into ‘Music City’ was a process. The CVC had to harness its history as a music mecca to create its brand. 

Ivey said, “Simply calling ourselves the ‘Music City’ wasn’t enough to brand Nashville. We needed businesses and community buy-in to make it work.” 

The idea of community and business buy-in became a theme throughout the day.  

When Craig Owensby, Public Information Officer for the City of Nashville’s Planning Department, spoke to the group he emphasized the role public input had in developing Nashville Next – a plan to maintain and strengthen the quality of life for current residents while accommodating new growth.  The plan involved more than 18,000 residents over the course of three years culminating in an extensive plan for the next 25 years of growth in Nashville.  

The Chamber is dedicated to aligning Nashville’s business community with the K-12 system to develop a workforce that fulfills the needs of the growing region. This is most evident in Metro Nashville Public School District’s creation of Academies, which have transformed a once ailing education system into a workforce development success. The school system works with the business community to transform high schools into smaller learning communities, known as academies, which enable students to learn through the lens of a career or academic theme.

What Nashville is doing is impressive not just in scale and scope, but also in its commitment to community-wide collaboration and dedication to planning for tomorrow.