The World Is Coming To Tennessee

Tennessee’s red-hot financial sector, which has added more than 24,000 jobs in this decade, continues to attract foreign direct investment from global asset management leaders.

By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2018 Issue

During this decade, more than 24,000 jobs have been added to Tennessee’s financial sector, which has one of the highest growth rates in the Southeast. TN’s financial players are attracting a significant amount of foreign direct investment. Most recently, TN Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and AllianceBernstein L.P. (AB) officials announced that the global asset management firm will invest more than $70 million to establish its corporate headquarters in Nashville.

“Tennessee is home to many world-renowned brands and we’re extremely proud to welcome AllianceBernstein, a global financial leader, to Nashville,” Haslam said. “Tennessee’s pro-growth policies continue to attract international companies to our state, providing fantastic job opportunities for our citizens. AB’s decision to bring 1,050 corporate office jobs to Nashville is an incredible win for our state and shows that Tennessee will lead in creating high quality jobs.”

“AllianceBernstein’s selection of Middle Tennessee for its global headquarters underscores Nashville’s rising profile as a hub for U.S. and international businesses and reflects the continuing robust growth of the entire region,” Rolfe said.

“Since 2011, Tennessee’s financial industry has grown at the second fastest rate in the Southeast, creating approximately 24,500 jobs. I’d like to thank AB for bringing so many high quality jobs to Nashville, and I look forward to the many ways AB will impact Nashville and the surrounding counties by its presence in Davidson County,” he added.

AB is a leading global investment management firm that offers a comprehensive range of research and diversified investment services to institutional investors, individuals and private wealth clients in major markets across the world.

“We see Nashville as a game-changer in terms of our ability to source, develop and retain talent; provide a high quality of life for our employees; enhance our competitive edge in an increasingly challenging marketplace; and make a lasting impact on our new community,” Seth P. Bernstein, president and CEO of AllianceBernstein, said. “While we will always maintain a presence in New York City and are a global firm with offices in more than 22 countries, we are very proud and excited to call Nashville our new corporate headquarters.”

AB’s new Nashville headquarters will include finance, IT, operations, legal, compliance, internal audit, human resources, sales and marketing.

Nashville Mayor David Briley and the Tennessee Valley Authority applauded AB for its decision to locate its global headquarters in Davidson County.

“AllianceBernstein’s decision to make Nashville its corporate headquarters is a testament to our community’s deep and talented workforce and our unique quality of life,” Briley said. “These high quality, high-paying jobs will make our city an even stronger player in the financial services industry and show how easy it is to do business here. Thank you to AB for investing in Nashville, and thank you to Gov. Haslam, Commissioner Rolfe, TVA and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for helping us make the case that this great company needs to be right here.”


On May 4, 2018, Nashville, already known worldwide as “Music City,” extended its brand even further on the global scale. That’s when British Airways began service five days a week from Nashville International Airport (BNA) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) via the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, one of the newest aircraft in British Airways’ fleet. Nashville has been focused on securing transatlantic service for years, and the partnership with British Airways not only promotes Nashville as an international destination, but it also provides BNA with better access to global destinations beyond London.

MNAA Tennessee financial sector
MNAA president and CEO Doug Kreulen celebrates the opening of the Interim International Arrivals Building with board members and other distinguished guests.

For Nashville, the LHR service is a historic milestone in the continued ascent of the city, the population of which has taken off like never before. To keep up with Nashville’s unprecedented growth and booming passenger traffic, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA), which owns and operates BNA, launched a dynamic expansion plan—called BNA Vision—that will transform the airport into a world-class facility to support an anticipated increase in international service and provide a smooth and welcoming experience for many more passengers and flights from all destinations.

BNA Vision will include the construction of a state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility (IAF), which is slated to open in 2023. To accommodate immediate needs for additional international capacity, the first major step on this expansion journey was to renovate and upgrade the current International Arrivals Building (IAB), which opened March 21 of this year. This building, which doubled BNA’s previous international processing capacity, will serve as an interim international passenger processing and welcome center while the permanent IAF is being designed and constructed.

The interim IAB accommodates immediate needs for additional international capacity, specifically with British Airways’ new nonstop service. It also supports other existing international destinations from BNA such as Calgary, Cancun, Cozumel, Grand Bahama Island, Montego Bay, Punta Cana and Toronto.

“Our upgraded interim International Arrivals Building expands our ability to serve international passengers flying to Nashville, whether from the United Kingdom, Mexico, the Caribbean or elsewhere,” said Doug Kreulen, MNAA president and CEO. “It was built with convenience in mind and will significantly improve and expedite the process for passengers until our permanent, state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility opens in 2023.”

Upgrades to the interim IAB include:

  • A second passenger boarding bridge;
  • Improvements to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing area, including self-check kiosks and screening equipment; and
  • A new, direct connection between the interim IAB and the baggage claim, eliminating the need to re-check baggage or be re-screened by the Transportation Security Administration, unless transferring to a domestic flight.

Construction on the interim IAB project began in May 2017 and concluded at the end of February 2018. As a result of the upgrades and improvements, BNA’s processing capacity for international arrivals has increased from 200 passengers per hour to 400 passengers per hour. As with all other BNA capital improvement projects, no local tax dollars were used.

BNA currently is served by 14 airlines and offers 450 daily flights with nonstop air service to more than 65 destinations. Current projections suggest BNA will surpass 20 million annual passengers by 2035—a time in which the Greater Nashville Area will have exceeded 2.5 million residents.

BNA Vision includes an expanded and renovated lobby, additional parking, ticketing and baggage claim expansion, a new concourse, an on-site hotel, additional security screening lanes and a state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility. Take a virtual 360-degree tour, view renderings and watch the BNA Vision video at


We now find ourselves in a time where family events and their associated meals are sometimes pre-selected, pre-cooked, pre-packaged and then pre-delivered. While these options certainly provide the advantages of convenience they can eliminate one of the treasured family traditions. The responsibilities of planning, cooking and serving the “traditional meal” was a significant event. I remember the meals that were mastered and handed down through generations combining both “secret ingredients” and the “baking techniques”. In some regards it was seen as a “rite of passage” or a step in the continuation of one’s family’s legacy to its next generation.

Lebanon Tennessee financial sector
Michael Kephart, president of Wonder Porcelain LLC, cuts the ribbon opening the new American Wonder Porcelain plant in Lebanon, TN as Commissioner Bob Rolfe of the TN Department of Economic and Community Development and investor Jianping Huang look on.

In many ways, the same can be said of the economic philosophy of Wilson County, TN and its three cities of Lebanon, Mt Juliet and Watertown. Serving as its economic umbrella for almost four decades the Joint Economic and Community Development Board serves as the cook which combines the community’s ingredients, its preparations and its services. This philosophy comes from not only its county and city leadership but also from one of its legacy employers of Cracker Barrel whose origin and service philosophy has now allowed for its growth of over 800 plus corporate headquarters employees.

Most likely Wilson County’s traditions are not so secret at all. The community continues to invest heavily in its education systems, to provide safe and secure communities and to address its infrastructure needs. These continued efforts have resulted in some of the highest high school graduation rates in Tennessee, state and national ranking of safe and livable communities and to have the ability to manage and control its growth in an orderly manner.

The structured but proven development philosophy continues to lead to the community’s success. In 2017 the community saw diversified investments by Pennant Moldings, a tier one stamping and metal service center to Lebanon. Medline Industries, a provider of medical products, to its new 330,000-square-foot service center in Mt Juliet, TN. It also saw the lease of over 650,000 square feet of new logistics space to existing and new clients along with the construction of over 1.8 million square feet of new logistic/e-commerce speculative space. The community also finished its agreement with both owners and their development partner in the future development of the former Nashville Speedway property which totals over 1200 acres.

Successful communities exhibit the ability to hold to traditions but also to embrace new techniques which address its community’s opportunities. Wilson County, TN provides a business friendly environment which addresses the opportunities provided by being within thirty miles of downtown Nashville, Tennessee and its international airport. Those opportunities include addressing the residential growth, which has seen its county population increase to over 135,000. It also allows the community to work on the development of Tennessee’s first rail transit-oriented development combining residential, retail and transit services. An examination of the retail growth has been the result of investments by local, regional and nationally recognized clients.

Key ingredients and proven techniques leads to the success of the final product be they MeMa’s holiday meals or the announcement of a major economic partner. In the end, the “proof is always in the pudding”, a phrase that looks at the accumulation of all ingredients and efforts. In many ways the same philosophy that has led our past will continue to direct our future. What has proven essential in the past will continue to serve as our economic development foundation. When corporate and industry plans include growth, we ask that you consider a community that offers both traditions, honesty and opportunity to earn your business.


“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”—Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

We saw this quote from our 32nd president and it made us think about how we as an organization, the Blount Partnership, and the community prepare our youth for the future.

One key way is through the first-rate education being provided within the cities of Maryville and Alcoa and Blount County school systems. This is where our future lies. We must get the youth excited about the plethora of career opportunities that await them through the many medium and large-scale companies that dot the landscape of the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. And to obtain these positions, companies are requiring not only a high school diploma or equivalent, but a secondary vocational certificate or associates degree. These are not the manufacturing careers of old. These are hi-tech positions that require an additional knowledge base.

“The future depends on what we do in the present.”—Mahatma Gandhi.

That’s where the Blount Partnership, which serves as the economic and workforce development agency for Blount County, has stepped in to bring educators and company human resource personnel together. Each month, school superintendents and company representatives from DENSO to Arconic to Cirrus Aircraft to Boatmate Trailers discuss and implement programs and initiatives to get our student population prepared to assume jobs in our local economy as quickly as possible.

The facts are that East Tennessee is a highly competitive regional manufacturing center, with nearly half of the nation’s population within a day’s drive. With that in mind, it’s imperative that we supply the best trained workforce to remain globally competitive. And to achieve this, one answer is to establish a workforce development center on the Pellissippi State Community College Blount County Campus.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”—Malcolm X.

This roughly $15 million facility is being built with the help of Pellissippi State, Tennessee College of Applied Technology and the state, because Tennessee elected officials have recognized that Blount County is the fastest growing economy in the state and needs training facilities to service existing and future industries that will locate here. Without this facility, the recruiting efforts to bring in national employers would grind to a halt. This educational facility also is the fastest way for job seekers to gain the necessary skills needed to move into a well-paying career in Blount County. Per the state’s labor statistics, wages in Blount County are higher than the statewide average.

This workforce development center will focus on advancing job skills that are vital to the growth and industry expansion in Blount County. Advanced manufacturing is a major driver of the Tennessee economy, creating over 30 percent of all new jobs. These jobs are career pathways, allowing students to progress through diploma, certificate and degree-level programs.

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”—Theodore Roosevelt.

We’ve grown past the point where Blount County is just a local economic entity. With the influx of more than 4,000 jobs and $1.5 billion of capital investment since 2010, the county is becoming more of a regional leader in East Tennessee and thus, we must have a regional workforce that draws from the surrounding population.

There are several keys to achieving success in molding the type of employee needed by our local companies. The first is building broad partnerships and strengthening links between public schools and regional manufacturers. Second, motivate students to pursue manufacturing careers. Next, we need to provide motivated and highly skilled instructors who can teach engineering and technical curricula on state-of-the-art equipment. And finally, engaging and assisting employers in making sure their employment needs are being satisfied.

To that end, the Blount Partnership has hired Jessica Belitz as its director of events and partnership programs. In this role, Belitz has been tasked with working with the school systems and manufacturers to assist in workforce development. She is the liaison to ensure that the skills being taught match those that area employers need.

The Blount Partnership stands behind the implantation of the Blount County workforce development center and sees it as a huge step towards preparing our youth for the future.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”—Mark Twain

For more information on economic development in Blount County, contact Bryan Daniels, president/CEO of the Blount Partnership, at (865) 983-2241.