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.
Buckingham Cos. — the Indianapolis-based company that hopes to develop a massive mixed-use development on land the LaGasse familiy owns along 21st Avenue across from Vanderbilt University — is declining to say anything specific, instead simply issuing a statement about how company officials are excited and hopeful to develop a building in Midtown Nashville. But speaking volumes about its sincerity is Buckingham's choice of local attorney James Weaver (pictured), the Waller land-use pro who will help navigate zoning issues. That process begins with a Nov. 8 appearance before the Metro Planning Commission.
Liz Garrigan pulls no punches in this week's Scene about how the Dean administration/Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce drive to redevelop the fairgrounds was stopped in its tracks by "Darrell Waltrip and a coterie of carnies." While she indicts the Mayor's Office for a culture where "staff members [...] often don't talk even to one another, much less to important constituencies, [and] work their various issues without much internal input, collaboration or support for each other," it's outgoing Fair Board chair James Weaver who nails the ECD angle that Dean should have pounded home more forcefully with regard to the fairgrounds.
"For way too long we've watched great projects go to other counties because we can't offer big campus-type sites that are ready to go in terms of development potential. Saying to a big company looking to move or expand here that we will get this great site ready for you in 12 to 14 months — if we can change the zoning and community plan, have 15 neighborhood meetings, get NES and Public Works and the Water, Planning and stormwater folks to all agree, have a Planning Commission vote or two and after three readings at council — is not exactly a prescription for success."
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