We’ve all seen the construction taking place in and around Brentwood: new offices, retail shops, residential communities, and more roadwork. These are all signs of our area’s rapid growth – and it was the topic of a recent symposium presented by the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce, “Outlook Williamson.” The Factory’s Jamison Hall was filled to capacity with attendees who came to hear regional business leaders discuss the reasons behind the surge, as well as the pitfalls we need to avoid.
Williamson County has been one of the leaders in job growth in Middle Tennessee with a 27% increase from 2009 to 2014, according to the Chamber of Commerce’s “Trends Report.” From 2013 – 2014, 6,600 new jobs were added in Williamson County or a 6% increase. This has led to a vacancy rate for Class A office space in the county of only 2.3% and just under 1% in Brentwood. This incredibly tight market explains why new space is being built so quickly. It also means that rather than wait, some corporations may take their businesses to other markets such as Austin, Tampa, or Indianapolis.
There are more factors that go into the decision to relocate besides the availability of office space. Most companies also look for an educated workforce. Williamson County can boast 54% of its population has a bachelor’s degree and 95% has a high school diploma or higher. If a business requires a highly trained skill set, they will need to recruit talent to relocate from out of the area. This means the new city needs to have safe residential communities, quality schools, and a variety of places to worship. People also want fun, recreational activities, such as parks, restaurants, microbreweries, and musical venues.
Between Nashville and Williamson County, we have much to offer newcomers. The current danger is that all the demand will cause growing pains in the form of increased traffic. In the Chamber’s survey, the majority of Williamson County residents said they would be willing to pay more in taxes for better transportation. The panel of commercial real estate experts seemed to agree that this region needs a big, bold vision for transportation, be it public, private or some combination. While growth is inevitable, we all want Brentwood to maintain the qualities that have made it so attractive to so many.