Mitsubishi’s North America CEO said Franklin beat out other cities under consideration as a new location headquarters in part because economic development officials rolled out the red carpet.
North America CEO Fred Diaz explained why his company chose Franklin at a Williamson Inc. event on Tuesday afternoon.
A corporate relocation firm assisting Mitsubishi initially looked at six cities, evaluating them on a range of factors including weather, taxes and talent availability. Charlotte, Phoenix, Denver and Atlanta were quickly eliminated. That left Dallas and Franklin.
Ultimately, Diaz it was economic development officials who were willing to “bend over backwards” that elevated Franklin above Dallas.
"Dallas was — I’m from Texas, as you know — they were very nice, very cordial, but not very interested," he said. "Tennessee on the other hand, the chamber, Williamson County, city of Franklin, you talk about bending over backwards, rolling out the red carpet to make us feel welcome."
In this case, bending over backward means a combined economic incentive package worth more than $3 million from state and county governments.
It also meant regular old hospitality. Mitsubishi’s temporary office at SPACES on Mallory Lane wasn’t immediately available, so Williamson Inc. offered part of their offices for several Mitsubishi human resources employees that arrived early.
Some Japanese executives had never heard of the Nashville area before the relocation process started, but Diaz said one executive was impressed when he visited with economic development and government officials on a Sunday morning last May.
“The only way that we could make it work … was for him to fly in on Sunday and for us to have a meeting with government officials on a Sunday, right around church time in the bible belt of the United States," Diaz said. "I'm thinking, oh my God, I don't know if this is going to work.”
It worked. Schneider Electric lent the chamber of commerce a conference room to make the meeting happen, and Williamson Inc.’s chief economic development officer Elizabeth McCreary made sure there were snacks on hand.
“We're southern. That's part of the hospitality,” she said.
Later, Diaz said Williamson Inc. CEO Matt Largen made an impression on top Japanese executives when he traveled 25 hours to meet with them in Japan.
Undoubtedly, more quantifiable factors, notably a lower cost of doing business and a strong public school system, put Nashville near the top of the list.
Diaz, who previously lived in the Nashville area for four and a half years while working for Nissan, said it was the southern hospitality that pushed the area over the finish line.
“Fundamentally, we needed to look for a better place with a better cost of doing business,” he said. “Having lived here, in Williamson County, in the past, I knew that this was a great place to do business. I knew the talent was plentiful.”