How does a city earn that coveted ‘cool factor’ and then use it to attract and retain high-paying jobs for its residents? That’s exactly what the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance (Broward County’s chief economic development agency) was looking to explore when it embarked on a 4-day leadership mission to Nashville.
Last month, the Alliance executive team and 80 of its members – including yours truly – descended upon Music City to meet with top officials from Nashville’s public and private sectors to see what lessons it could bring back home.
Schwartz Media Strategies was along for the ride, and here are some of the key takeaways from the deep dive mission:
• Embrace your assets: When addressing our group, the Tennessean’s Emerge Nashville Columnist, Jaime McGee, confessed that the city used to be embarrassed by its “hillbilly roots” and shied away from the attention it garnered. It wasn’t until Nashville embraced its “Music City” reputation as a tool to attract talent and build camaraderie among residents that the City took off.
• Its all about the branding: Few cities do a better job of owning their brand than Nashville. When Warby Parker was scouting locations for a new corporate office, it was the Music City Music Council that convinced the eyewear purveyor that Nashville’s music culture is an integral part of what makes the city an attractive place to do business. Here in South Florida, we have one of the most amazing natural assets at our door step: our beautiful waterfront and beaches. We need to do a better job of bragging about what sets South Florida apart to the national business community.
• Talent is the new currency: With the US labor market growing tighter than ever, the biggest factor in any city’s economic future is the ability to provide a steady pipeline of talent. During the trip we learned about Opportunity Now, which places 14-to-24-year-olds in apprenticeship programs with companies throughout Nashville. This reinforced the importance of what Broward is currently doing with its training and workforce programs, and also sparked new ideas on how we can expand these efforts.
• “Today is your best traffic day”: Those were the words of Courtney Ross of the Nashville Chamber Commerce as she explained that congestion will only get worse if we don’t continue investing in mobility solutions. An important insight to carry with us as South Florida progresses with its own transit initiatives, such as Brightline.
Above all, one of the most surprising lessons we took away from this trip was just how much our two regions have in common. There is a reason that both our cities are on the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2. Nashville and South Florida are thriving regions on-the-rise that share many of the same opportunities – as well as the growing pains that come with them.
Check out video of Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, explaining what his organization was looking to achieve during the trip, courtesy of ABC Nashville affiliate WKRN.