Face Off: Navigating growing pains

Face Off: Navigating growing pains

2022-10-06T10:54:39-04:00October 6th, 2022|Economy, Education, Nashville, Transportation|

Writer: Ryan Gandolfo

2 min read October 2022 —  Earlier this year, a report by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research estimated that Tennessee could add close to one million new residents by 2040. As corporate relocations and expansions continue throughout the region, this larger population will be important for sustaining that growth.

City of Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts and Paige Brown, mayor of the City of Gallatin, shared their thoughts with Invest: on managing growth in their cities, diversifying revenue streams and navigating workforce challenges.

How is your city handling growth?

Joe Pitts: The top issue has been transportation, and we have been investing in it. Public safety has also been of importance. We want to invest in the quality of life, so our park systems are getting upgraded. Swimming pools are being added to new parks, and the existing parks are being renovated. We are making them more accessible to all citizens. The downtown area continues to enjoy our renaissance of resurgence, which is thanks to Montgomery County’s investment. People are discovering property downtown, and they are imagining what it can look like. It’s a great opportunity for small businesses. There’s a lot going on, and we are excited about the future.

Paige Brown: It’s been very hard to absorb the volume that we’ve experienced. Surprisingly, we haven’t seen the growth in schools that you would anticipate with this kind of growth. People having fewer children, couples waiting longer to start a family, homeschooling and private school options are all factors in that, I believe.  

We are focused on the redevelopment of the Downtown periphery. Our core is a small square, and it’s a solid foundation, but I think if we can redevelop around that with more mixed-use, higher density housing, walkability and livability, it will be somewhere everyone wants to be and will be sustainable for 200 more years.  

What is the city doing to diversify its economy?

Pitts: We are being smart about our investments by using recurring revenue for recurring expenses. I’m all for investing in our people. We are adding employees, but we’re adding them when it’s necessary. However, we’re paying our employees more and investing in technology, training, and the tools needed. We are keeping an eye on the national and international economies that influence us. 

National and international conversations are about electric vehicles. We are waiting for the technology to catch up and making sure that our electric infrastructure is in place. If there’s a considerable investment on the consumer side, our economic counsel will take it into consideration.  

We are a little more cautious on these sides of things; however, we will be a fast follower. I’m not ready to bet on existing technology because I know technology is going to evolve. Regardless, we want to make sure that our infrastructure is ready when the market is.

Brown: Our daytime population grows by up to 9,000 people because we have so many people who come into our community to work. With our retail growth, we have the most diverse revenue stream we’ve ever realized. That helps us have better stability than some other cities that are highly dependent on one tax generator, i.e. property tax.

We are in a transition period with the types of jobs we recruit. We want to attract high-wage opportunities, but because of the workforce challenges, we want employers that won’t cannibalize other businesses. My goal is to have more great opportunities for people who live in the area because ultimately when you think about how to measure the success of your city, individual prosperity is a huge piece of that. Gallatin historically has a very economically diverse population and I would like to see more people able to make better income.  

What workforce development programs are underway to aid the city’s business community?

Pitts: We are working with the Chamber of Commerce and Development Counsel on their recruitment strategy. We’re looking to see if we’re competitive concerning wages. We haven’t been as competitive as we needed to be, but we have taken a big step to do that. However, it’s not always about pay. On a few occasions, it’s about the environment. I’m optimistic about the future concerning workforce development.

Brown: Sumner County has the largest opportunity to pursue career and technical education offerings in the state. Our public school system is focused on providing a path for all interests and abilities, and that goes hand-in-hand with our technical schools, our local Volunteer State Community College, and other area colleges like Gallatin’s Welch College.  

Additionally, many of our local educational facilities have partnered with our industries to help develop training programs for very specific positions. One of my favorite things that is happening here with the construction of the new Meta site is their internship program where students from high school or college can get dual exposure to data centers and construction, with a great potential of becoming a full-time employee.

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