Since January, five companies have announced the relocation of their headquarters to Williamson County including: Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Landmark Recovery, Integrated Biometric Technology, Educational Media Foundation and Kaiser Aluminum.
Alone these relocations represent 980 jobs and more than $11 million in area investments, according to Williamson Inc. No local incentives were offered to any of the five companies that announced relocations to Williamson County, says Williamson Inc. President Matt Largen.
Data outlined in the National Association of Realtors Migration Report concludes that businesses are moving to metro areas with low costs of living and a corporate-friendly tax structure that could help them save money post-pandemic. In the report, Nashville Metro, which includes Williamson County, tied as the fourth most popular destination for business migration in the first half of 2021.
Executives from all five headquarters agreed with the report’s rationale.
Matt Boyle, CEO of Landmark Recovery, an addiction treatment company with 13 facilities across the country, said Middle Tennessee’s growing population makes for plenty of available labor, and its quality of living is a draw for new talent. Landmark Recovery's decision to relocate from Phoenix, Ariz., to Cool Springs will bring at least 350 jobs to the area over the next five years.
Williamson County more than doubled its new households from migration in 2020 from the prior year, according to U.S. Census Data.
Education was also a lure, according to Largen. Williamson County is one of the most educated counties in the country — more than 60 percent of its residents have a bachelor's degree. Each of the headquarters that announced relocations migrated from counties where the percentage of degreed individuals is lower than in Williamson County.
Several of the executives who made the decision to relocate to Williamson County share more conservative political views and, at times, took issue with what they regard as liberal politics in the states where their companies were formerly based.
“When COVID-19 hit Illinois, our businesses were shut down, our schools were shut down and our police were defunded,” said Jessica Young, president and CEO of Advanced Correctional Healthcare. “The Johnsons aren’t known for backing down. Instead, we decided we had to figure out how to pick everything up and relocate where our values were more in line with Tennessee.”
Bill Reeves, CEO of Education Media Foundation, the parent company of K-Love and Air1, the nation’s largest contemporary Christian music radio networks, also cited what he sees as political leanings as reasons to relocate from Rocklin, Calif., to Franklin. EMF also considered a site in Texas, but Williamson County’s proximity to the Nashville music industry better suited the company. Largen said the Christian company will usher in a minimum of 350 jobs, but that number could jump to as high as 500.
More than a year of global supply chain disruptions have motivated manufacturers like Kaiser Aluminium, a publicly traded company and leading producer of semi-fabricated aluminium products, to relocate to Williamson County and other areas that have been relatively insulated from pandemic shutdowns and restrictions — and where job growth is expected to continue.
Kaiser Aluminium CFO Neal West announced the relocation of its Lake Forest, Calif., headquarters to Franklin three weeks ago. He said the company’s existing presence in Jackson, Tenn., directed them to Tennessee rather than another southern state. The facility in Jackson is one of its 14 North American operations. Kaiser is primed to escort 80 jobs and $3 million in investment into the county.
Integrated Biometric Technology already had a presence in Williamson County prior to establishing its headquarters in Franklin this summer. However, company executives did not make its decision based on default. Its executives considered other markets outside of Tennessee, but a strategic analysis evaluating tax structures, talent pools and general cost-of-doing-business made Franklin the obvious choice.
Unlike some burgeoning boomtowns, Williamson County isn’t attracting solely one sector, such as technology or healthcare.
“The diversity represented in these headquarters proves that executives across all sectors use the same indicators to determine which location will best position their companies and employees for success,” said Williamson Inc.’s Director of Business Development Nathan Zipper.
While there isn’t a hard in fast formula, Zipper said the companies he and Williamson Inc. have assisted predominantly looked at four factors: the size and education level of the labor pool, cost of living, state and local tax structures and the ease of doing business within the community.
“Our industry diversity is important because it means Williamson County is not reliant on one industry or one employer,” Largen said. “From automotive to consumer products to retail, we have a wide variety of companies that call Williamson County home. Our economic cluster is corporate headquarters, which makes us unique in the American economic landscape.”