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Nashville vs. everybody: Hiring update from some of Nashville’s biggest economic development recruit

Greater Nashville beat many of America’s biggest cities to win some of its recent economic development recruitments. In other deals, the competitor had a population of less than 70,000. In one case, Nashville topped the home of Warren Buffett.

With the region on the cusp of regaining the last of the jobs lost during the Covid-19 recession and rebound, we sought updates from 13 of the region’s most recent business relocations or expansions. The companies largely say they’re on track or ahead of expectations, despite the pandemic’s monumental disruption and a chaotic job market.

This isn’t to say the region wins every deal: It’s finished runner-up for companies in the areas of tech, electric vehicles, solar energy and health care in recent years. Spirit Airlines announced 345 jobs in Franklin, but scrapped that expansion last year. Some companies leave, such as the headquarters of SPB Hospitality, which owns multiple national restaurant brands. And given the secrecy of some site searches, there’s likely others that scouted the region, but eluded public attention.

But the activity of the past few years shows that Nashville is landing on the short list more often and earning attention from higher-profile companies that are pursuing bigger and bigger projects. More than ever, there are deals to be won — and that’s after a year that brought the two largest jobs announcements in state history and the two largest business investment announcements in state history.

The competition is intensifying: While the GreaterNashville Technology Council is wooing tech talent in six cities, states such as Michigan and Ohio are juicing their incentives by billions of dollars to win deals from automakers and computer-chip companies. Tennessee is, too — committing more than $1 billion in 2021 to successfully recruit Oracle Corp. to Nashville, an electric vehicle battery plant to Spring Hill, and Ford Motor Co. to a megasitein West Tennessee.

This reporting is based on interviews and state records, including each company’s application for state incentives. Many of these companies still have a couple of years or more to reach their job commitments.

Ernst & Young (EY) Announced: November 2018 (same morning as Amazon’s 5,000-job announcement)

Deal type: Expansion

Jobs pledge: 600,at average pay of $52 an hour

Who Nashville beat: Dallas; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Florida; Alpharetta, Georgia

Incentives: $6 million

Update: EY, formerly Ernst & Young, had 252 employees when it announced its expansion. It has added 277 more since and is continuing to recruit and hire, said office leader Dan Thibault. “Nashville has first and second preference. Third is remote, if we have to, but we’re trying to hire as many local residents as we can,” Thibault said. EY is working with two-year colleges to tailor their curriculums. “Even with a two-year degree, if you have the right course load … you can come pretty well prepared for the work we’re doing,” Thibault said.

The Icee Co Announced: February 2019 (code name: Project Bear)

Deal type: Headquarters relocation from near Los Angeles, along with warehouse jobs

Jobs pledge: 207, at average annual wage of $60,152

Who La Vergne beat: Greenville, South Carolina

Incentives: $1.2 million

Update: Icee has filled 175 jobs so far. The company says the decision to relocate “has exceeded our expectations. … An overwhelming percentage of our largest teams have been Tennessee recruits.” (The two largest groups are finance, which has been 90% in-state hires, and customer service, 92% in-state).

Mitsubishi Motors North America Announced: June 2019 (code name: Project Big Bang)

Deal type: Headquarters relocation from Cypress, California

Jobs pledge: 202, at average hourly wage of $49.52

Who Franklin beat: Dallas

Incentives: $3.32 million

Update: More than 160 employees hired so far, including a new vice president announced in December.

NTT Data Services Announced: March 2021

Deal type: Expansion

Jobs pledge: 350, at average hourly pay of $46.90

Who Nashville beat: “They were all up-and-coming cities in the U.S. … primarily in the western U.S., but not as far as the West Coast,” said Dan Albright, senior vice president and head of global consulting.

Incentives: $3.5 million

Update: Andrew Corbett, who leads the Nashville office, said NTT has made “dozens” of hires thus far and is on course to hit its commitment of 350 jobs within the next four years. “The team’s focus for this year is adding new college campus hires, as well as bringing in some more experienced team members as we further develop the size and experience of our team,” Corbett said.

Revance Therapeutics Inc. Announced: November 2020

Deal type: Headquarters relocation from San Francisco Bay Area

Job pledge: 127, at average hourly rate of $41.28

Who Nashville beat: Phoenix; Atlanta

Incentives: $1.25 million

Update: The publicly traded company initially leased 40,661 square feet atop the Gulch Union office tower but quickly added another 30,000 square feet. “The thesis is working out,” CEO Mark Foley said in mid-2021. To date, Revance has 49 employees in Nashville, 39 of whom were new hires, said spokeswoman Sara Fahy. The company opened a customer experience center within its office space. “We have seen an increase in our ability to recruit more diverse talent in this area, which we are very pleased about,” Fahy said.

August Bioservices Announced: November 2020

Deal type: Expansion

Jobs pledge: 181, at average hourly wages of $52.01

Who Nashville beat: Three unnamed locations, all outside Tennessee, “which are in closer proximity to the majority of the biopharma, biotech and pharmaceutical companies and August Bioservices LLC’s customer base.”

Incentives: $2 million

Update: The company closed a $236 million funding round in May 2021 and is well underway on its $65 million expansion. CEO Jenn Adams said the company is on track to hit its hiring projection and construction timeline. The company had 55 employees at the time of its announcement, and ended the year with 94. “We are building an impressive team,” Adams said. Inc. Announced: June 2019

Deal type: Expansion housing the finance, customer support and account management departments for the San Francisco-based bookkeeping and tax software company, which focuses on serving startups and small to mid-sized companies.

Jobs pledge: 455, at average hourly pay of $31.46

Who Nashville beat: Denver; Atlanta; Salt Lake City

Incentives: $773,500

Update: has more than 100 employees today, roughly 40% of its companywide workforce. “A significant percentage of the company is based in Nashville, and a significant percentage of our expansion has come out of our Nashville office,” said CEO and co-founder Waseem Daher. “That’s real proof that it is working.”

Accenture Announced: January 2020

Deal type: Expansion

Jobs pledge: 165, most with average wages of $40,000 to $45,000

Who Nashville beat: Tampa

Incentives: $330,000

Update: The company had 200 Nashville employees when it made its announcement. Now, that headcount has grown beyond 500, more than double the new jobs pledged. “Access to skilled talent is key to growth for the Nashville technology community and for Accenture,” said Alejandro Sam, who oversees the company’s Nashville Advanced Technology Center. “Between the talent available through local schools and the individuals who’ve come through our apprenticeship program, we’re able to bring in the talent we need as the region grows.”

Thnks Announced: March 2020

Deal type: Headquarters relocation from New York City

Jobs pledge: 50, with pay scale ranging from $45,000 to $100,000

Who Franklin beat: Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina

Incentives: $100,000

Update: Thnks has 45 employees, and co-founder and CEO Brendan Kamm expects to fill at least another 20 jobs this year. “The talent market is definitely hot right now — lots of great candidates, but lots of competition for talent as well,” Kamm said.

Kaiser Aluminum Corp. Announced: July 2021

Deal type: Headquarters relocation from Foothill Ranch, California

Jobs pledge: 80, at average hourly wages of $67.27

Who Franklin beat: Dallas; Louisville

Incentives: $1.25 million

Update: Kaiser expects its permanent office to be ready for occupancy by the end of the first quarter. The company has 12 employees locally now, with a number of open positions. “We have been active in our recruiting efforts, but as I’m sure you know, it’s a fairly tight labor market these days,” said executive Melinda Ellsworth.

Microvast Inc. Announced: February 2021 (code name: Project Hertz)

Deal type: Expansion; manufacturing plant for batteries powering electric commercial vehicles

Jobs pledge: 287, at average hourly wages of $25.47

Who Clarksville beat: Two areas in Washington State: Moses Lake and Tri-Cities

Incentives: $3 million

Update: Renovation and expansion of an existing nearly 600,000-square-foot building are underway. Manufacturing equipment will be tested and installed over the course of this year, said a spokeswoman for the company, which went public last year. The majority of hiring will happen in late 2022 and into 2023.

CloudOne Announced: March 2020

Deal type: Expansion; new call center. The company provides customer service support, digital marketing services and lead generation for automotive dealerships.

Jobs pledge: 318, at average hourly wage of $19.26

Who Nashville beat: Omaha, Nebraska, and Kansas City, Missouri. “You guys had a really good blend of call-center business and regular business. From what we could tell, the talent available in Nashville was a lot higher,” said David Bolton, chief operating officer.

Incentives: $79,500

Update: “Our future is the growth of the Nashville operation,” Bolton said in mid-2021, when the Nashville site had more than 60 people. Requests for updates were not returned.

QTC Management Inc. Announced: June 2020

Deal type: Expansion

Jobs pledge: 412, at average hourly wage of $25.31

Who Nashville beat: Phoenix; San Antonio; Fort Worth

Incentives: $1.25 million

Update: QTC, based in California, has filled at least 241 of its pledged jobs. A company spokesman says that pace is ahead of schedule, with hiring efforts ongoing. QTC provides disability and occupational examination services such as physicals, diagnostics, vaccinations and vision services.

Oracle Corp. Finalized: May-June 2021

Type: Expansion; riverfront tech campus in Nashville

Jobs pledge: 8,500 jobs by 2031; average salaryof $110,000

Incentives: $103.4 million of state money (jobs grant plus infrastructure work); in a deal with Metro, Oracle will fund $175 million of infrastructure up-front and recoup that money by keeping half its annual property tax bill, over a period of up to 25 years.

Status: Planning/design phase; Oracle’s $253.7 million land purchase occurred in May-June 2021 Inc. Announced: November 2018

Type: Expansion; two office towers at downtown’s Nashville Yards development

Jobs pledge: 5,000 full-time jobs in seven years; average annual pay of $150,000

Incentives: $86.7 million of state grants and tax credits; $17.5 million of jobs grants from Metro

Status: Amazon is more than halfway to its hiring target. Its first tower is open, and a second is under construction.

Ultium Cells LLC Announced: April 2021

Type: Expansion; electric vehicle battery factory next to General Motors plant in Spring Hill

Job pledge: 1,300 jobs, at average wages of $22 an hour

Incentives: $60 million state grant; 60% discount off certain county property taxes for30 years

Status: Under construction, opening next year

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