The economic development team in Williamson County is in the hunt for more than 30 projects that would bring with them almost 10,700 jobs. Those are solid numbers any way you look at them, but they are down quite a bit from the figures from mid-2013. Also noticeable is that health care projects account for about a third of the potential ECD wins, down from half a year ago.
With the recent news that Janet Miller will leave her post as chief economic officer at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce to serve as CEO and managing partner of the Nashville office of Colliers International, the Post gauged the impressions of several local folks who have worked with Miller directly and/or indirectly over the years. Speaking here about Miller's impact are: Tom Hooper, vice president with the Nashville office of Jones Lang LaSalle; Tom Jurkovich, vice president for corporate affairs at Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. and a former director of the Mayor's Office of Economic and Community Development; Paul Ney, a shareholder with Waddey & Patterson and also a former Metro ECD director; Richard Wallace, an independent real estate broker and owner of Richard Wallace & Co.; and James Weaver, a member with law firm Waller.
Post: Has the corporate relocation pipeline dried and, as such, did Miller want a new challenge?
Ney: Janet is leaving at the top of her game, and I doubt she’d be leaving if she foresaw a decline in Nashville’s economic development opportunities and growth. She stuck it out through the lean times a few years ago.
Weaver: The pipeline has never been more full or robust, at least from our standpoint at this firm and within its ECD practice. We are seeing lots of projects from headquarters deals to smaller projects. Janet has said that 21 years is just a long time. I don’t think one can assume anything about the status of Nashville as a hotbed of ECD activity by Janet’s leaving. Bert [Mathews of Colliers] and his partners offered her a huge opportunity and she took it. It’s not anti-Nashville or anti-Middle Tennessee. Its pro-Colliers and pro-Bert and his partners. That’s all. Period.
Hooper: At JLL, we are seeing high levels of corporate relocation activity.
Post: What does it means for the chamber given Courtney Ross, Miller’s replacement, has worked at the entity since 2008?
Jurkovich: [Miller’s] departure from the chamber, while good for Colliers, is bound to be cause for concern in business recruitment circles throughout the city. Let’s see how — and whether — the chamber and others step up to insure that we maintain the high-quality performance that characterized the Janet Miller era.
Weaver: It’s more a question of what does it mean for Partnership 2020 as opposed to the chamber. Janet has been the face of ECD — and Partnership 2010, and now 2020 — in this region for a number of years. While the mayors and the directors of ECD for the government entities are critical and vitally important to the process, it was Janet (and her staff) who was the grease that made the whole thing run. She was personally universally trusted by mayors and legislative bodies, by the P2020 chairs, by the CEOs who in the end, of course, fund P2020, as well as by the target companies. She was the consummate honest broker. Janet has had great relationships with governors and state ECD commissioners of both parties. In short, Janet Miller will be damn hard to replace.
Courtney Ross is great, has lots of experience and deep Tennessee roots. She has been at Janet’s side ever since she got here. She is a hard worker and her experience in Austin will likely prove very important to her success in this new role. No one who knows Courtney well is worried one bit about P2020’s record of success coming to an end anytime soon. It’s not so much about filling Janet’s shoes as it is just picking up the ball and continuing to run toward the goal line. Trust is earned, however, and not bequeathed via a press release. I predict that Courtney will earn the trust of everyone involved with economic development in this region in short order and be very successful in this vitally important role.
Post: Will Colliers benefit from this more so than the chamber will be harmed?
Jurkovich: Janet Miller has been a key piece of Nashville’s successful economic development efforts for more than a decade. She’s very good at what she does, has great relationships with business relocation brokers around the country, is well respected and well liked. While it’s always been a city-wide collaborative effort, her skills, experience and institutional knowledge have made up the glue that has kept our ECD campaigns consistently successful despite changes in administrations, both at the state and local level.
Weaver: Janet has been described as a winner. Winners don’t tolerate losing well at all. Colliers knows what they are getting and will, I predict, use Janet in a number of different ways to help their company grow in this region. P2020 will continue to prosper under Courtney’s able leadership. She has great current chairs, and a literal who’s who of past chairs who believe in the concept and mission of the partnership.
Ney: I don’t know enough about the Colliers office to say how much this move strengthens them, but I trust that it does because I know Janet’s abilities and I am certain that Nate [Greene] and Bert [Mathews] and the others in that office know what’s best for their business. In short, I believe this move is going to work out very well for all parties, including Nashville and our region. The chamber economic development team that Janet built is exceptionally strong and extremely capable. That’s true of Courtney and all the members of that team.
Wallace: It is an excellent move for both Janet Miller and Colliers. Colliers is certainly one of the great leaders in commercial real estate in Nashville and she will bring a lot to the table. I don’t know Janet personally but she must be a very aggressive and talented person with a great vision to want to take on this wonderful new opportunity and challenge. Colliers and Janet Miller made the right move at the right time.
Hooper: It is a win-win for Colliers and the chamber.
“I’m not sure, quite frankly, how it turned into such a big secret,” Haslam told reporters. The governor also shared thoughts on the latest anti-Huffman letter, possible gas tax increases, Volkswagen negotiations and rising tuition in higher ed.
Williamson County's economic development leaders say they have raised about $2 million of the $2.9 million target for their five-year Economic Partnership strategic plan. The successes so far have been led by early pledges from seven so-called Founding and Platinum Investors: Jackson National Life, Tractor Supply, Grand Avenue, Mars Petcare, Saint Thomas Health, Video Gaming Technologies and Williamson Medical Center. Each of those entities has committed $100,000 or more over the next five years. Check out the Chamber's press release here.