By DEB SCALLY
For Business Williamson
Williamson County’s business landscape has greatly changed in the past five years, due to an influx of corporations — more than a dozen of which are larger, publicly traded companies —that have selected Brentwood or Franklin for their operational headquarters.
These companies’ decisions to settle in the county parallels a significant residential influx as well, resulting from the migration of Davidson County residents as well as large numbers of out-of- state relocations.
The reasons are fairly clear ranging from a desire to take advantage of the county’s exemplary school system and its progressive public works, and to enjoy the quality of life marked by numerous open spaces and community activities.
Businesses are likewise drawn to the corridor, often putting down deep roots into the local community. Given that the Williamson County is strategically located on the edge of both small town and big city environs, these companies reap the benefits of the state’s many pro-business policies and enjoy access to multiple transportation and distribution routes as well as an international airport. In addition, they are able to lure top talent to a desirable residential market.
Take global corporation Schneider Electric, which specializes in energy management and automation. Schneider Electric moved its headquarters here in 2016, after Williamson County voted to approve a $2 million tax incentive. The move brought roughly a thousand jobs to Franklin and its corporate headquarters now figures prominently in the Cool Springs skyline, adjacent to Nissan North America. Nissan, likewise, brought around 1,000 jobs from California in 2005, when it opted to take advantage of the lower cost of doing business in the Southeast.
And just recently, Mars Petcare, which employs more than 2,600, announced the creation of an additional 200 jobs during the next five years after a close negotiation with the Department of Economic and Community Development to create their headquarters as one of the first tenants in Ovation, one of the largest planned mixed-use projects in Williamson County.
There are many reasons companies such as Mars, Nissan, Tractor Supply Co. and others have chosen to settle in the area, but the interesting part is, they appear to be staying. While incentives often lure a business into an area, one of the game changers for many Williamson County companies is having access to some of the region’s top talent. And with constant traffic and infrastructure challenges facing much of Tennessee, it’s a persuasive lever to be able to offer competitive employment opportunities without sacrificing quality of life. Moreover, from a strategic perspective the central location of the county provides companies with the ongoing access to a desirable demographic of consumers, as well as to regional suppliers and manufacturing operations.
So it’s clear Williamson County is good for business — but is business good for the county?
While many of the effects of corporate relocations are obvious, there are other, more subtle outcomes as well.
Vanderbilt Associate Professor of Economics Malcolm Getz describes the so-called “headquarters effect” large companies can have on a geographic area.
“Generally speaking, it’s been found that there’s more philanthropy and higher instances of companies trying to be ‘good corporate citizens’ when a company is headquartered in a community,” he says. In addition, Getz notes, economic data suggests that compared to satellite operations, the plant or headquarters of a company is often more profitable, which creates a higher overall tax base for the local government.
Finally, some geographical areas eventually evolve into industry hubs, Getz explains, which has a multiplier effect — spawning many more related companies whose ecosystem feeds of each other. Take for instance, the cottage industries that sprouted from large automotive operations in Detroit or those surrounding the aviation industry in Seattle.
In this same vein, Williamson County’s thriving healthcare industry is not only teeming with major provider companies has cultivated countless other related suppliers of technology, training, medical devices, and service professionals.
These and other far-reaching economic benefits are all part of the reason that local and county governments work hard to make an area inviting to large businesses.
And with Williamson County boasting one of the largest countywide percentage increases in employment, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (a gain of 9%, well over the national job growth rate of 1.5% for the same period ending June 2016), this trend is likely to continue.
Largest Williamson County-based companies by employment:
Community Health Systems, Inc.
Nissan North America
Tractor Supply Company
Brookdale Senior Living
Delek US Holdings, Inc.
Jackson National Life Insurance Company
Franklin American Mortgage Company
Quorum Health Resources LLC
CKE Restaurants Holdings
Source: Williamson, Inc. 2018