Nashville has achieved its recent stardom in the rankings of “best of” this and that primarily because of an intangible asset called “quality of life.” That term encompasses a wide variety of characteristics which are blended together to make Nashville a great city to live in. In thinking about how to answer the question “What are the Top 10 business and development stories of the past year?” I began to think more about the people, events and projects that affect our quality of life than which deal grabbed the biggest headline. What makes Nashville such a great place to live is the unique combination of: our hills, water, green spaces; our spiritual, cultural, and educational institutions; and the diverse interests and backgrounds of the people that call Nashville home. So instead of listing what everyone would call the biggest deal, I offer my diverse list of the people, events and projects that had the biggest impact on our quality of life over the last year.
First, the Great Flood of 2010 brought devastation to every neighborhood throughout the county. Our city responded with an outpouring of volunteer spirit as neighbors, churches, businesses, and city employees all pitched in to help each other cope with the massive loss. Nashville was squarely in the national spotlight and we were so proud of OUR city.
Second, the Economy held center stage as the unemployment rate continued to hold steady, new construction was held hostage to the credit crunch, and businesses hunkered down for a long slow climb out of the bottom of this cycle.
Third, the Music City Convention Center and Hotel are underway in creating a huge impact on our ability to attract visitors to our region. The complex will boost to the vitality of downtown businesses and attractions.
Fourth, Governor Bredesen showed great fiscal leadership in navigating our State out of the revenue tailspin. Having steered us through the TennCare quagmire(a test case of unlimited health care without tying it to patient responsibility, evidence based care, and tort reform), he kept our State’s costs under control while he successfully attracted new investment from a who’s who list of corporations.
Fifth, Downtown living is now a vital addition to the vibrancy of our downtown environment. Through a host of projects from the Stahlman building, Lofts at 160 to the towers of the Gulch, Nashville has tripled the residences downtown. Even though some of the projects will fail to meet their financial objectives, Nashville will benefit by its new important neighborhoods – SoBro, the Gulch, and Germantown.
Sixth, Belmont University has exploded in its impact on our community. Debate 08, the new Pharmacy and Law School, its American Idol finalist- Kimberley Locke, its growth to over 5,000 students, almost beating Duke at the NCAA basketball tournament, the Scarlett Leadership Institute – just to name a few.
Seventh, Karl Dean has held his focus when it comes to addressing the most important quality of life issue of all – Public Education. By taking the lead on Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, and Charter Schools, he has taken positive first steps in actually effecting change rather than talking about it. There is no one size fits all solution. Each business, teacher, parent, student and administrator all have to shoulder some aspect in allowing our kids the chance to be successful.
Eighth, The Grand Ole Opry has been the home for country music since its creation. We were fortunate to have been selected to undertake the restoration of the Opry House after the flood. In four incredibly short months a round the clock team of workers breathed new life into the 35 year old structure.
Ninth, The Arts continue to receive faithful support with the huge investments by our first families of philanthropy the Frist’s and the Ingram’s. We are richly blessed to have the Impressionist masterpieces at Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Schemorhorn Symphony Center has survived the flood. These impressive marble and limestone structures will be must see stops for our cultural edification for decades to come.
Tenth, The Salvation Army of Middle Tennessee founded the Angel Tree program two decades ago and it has spread nationwide. Today as we near Christmas, our community has to come together donate food, clothing, toys, and money to help those who need it most. 14,000 children will be served this year by the Salvation Army and through the generosity of thousands of individuals who have opened their hearts and wallets. Nashville earns its reputation as a giving and generous city when each of us reaches out to help the poor, the homeless and the sick.
Thank you Nashville for being a great place to call my home.