In popular imagination, Nashville is the destination of aspiring country singers who arrive with guitars on their backs. But the city has shed its honky-tonk image to become a hotbed for creatives of all types, says Lisa Chader, SVP of corporate communications at CMT, the country music and entertainment channel owned by Viacom.
"People think of Nashville as country music, and now it is that and so much more," Chader explains. "It is our little gem of a city that we like to keep to ourselves, but people are now discovering it."
Rolling Stone named Nashville the best music scene in 2011, but the Tennessee capital also has thriving food, hospitality and tourism, and healthcare industries, Chader says.
The TV market is growing as well, highlighted by ABC's popular series Nashville, which films there. Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State, and this is evident in Nashville's large number of nonprofits, she adds.
"The spirit of helping each other and volunteerism is big here," she adds.
Chader's favorite place for a business lunch is The Southern Steak & Oyster, located at 150 3rd Avenue S, Nashville, TN 37201
Nashville-area companies on the 2013 Fortune 500 list include: Vanguard Health Systems (#391); Community Health Systems (#184); Dollar General (#175); and HCA Holdings (#82)
The 350,000-square-foot Music City Center opened in downtown Nashville last May. The convention center took three years to complete, cost $623 million to build, and is the most expensive publicly financed complex in Tennessee's history
The Nashville metropolitan area's population is 1,647,200, according to Forbes
A 2012 Gallup poll ranked Nashville among the top five metro areas for job creation, alongside Oklahoma City; Pittsburg, PA; Richmond, VA; and Orlando, FL. Nashville's hiring rate was 37% and its letting go rate was 15%
The Nashville metropolitan area's unemployment rate in July 2013 was 6.8% according to the US Department of Labor. The median household income is $52,424 and the median home price is $159,600, according to Forbes
These sectors offer ample opportunities for PR and communications professionals, especially those with entrepreneurial spirits. In the entertainment business, for example, many PR executives who might have left record labels or large companies have set up boutique firms to represent artists and shows, Chader explains.
"A new wave of talent has come in, particularly on the entertainment side, of individuals who have started their own firms and built them from the ground up," she says. "You can have a one- to two-person firm and do well for yourself. A lot of growth is among independent freelancers here."
Nashville is also home to agencies such as McNeely Pigott & Fox, DVL, and ReviveHealth. In addition to major media bureaus, such as the Associated Press and the recently launched Al Jazeera America, many freelancers for national publications are based in the city.
As in other cities, Chader and her team look to recruit communications employees with strong writing and interpersonal skills, as well as an "openness" and "willingness to be out a lot," she explains.
There is "a lot of creative talent" in the city, including a large number of people who have migrated from metropolises such as New York and Los Angeles, she says.
Many of CMT's senior staffers are from different places, including Chader, who is a native of Atlanta and later relocated to Nashville from LA. Quality of life and a laid-back pace are big draws to the city, she adds.
"With the grind that comes with the PR and entertainment businesses, Nashville is fantastic in terms of quality of life. You can go home and actually leave your work at the office," she says.
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