Sunday, May 30, 2010

Growth jolts TN job market to life

Two and a half years ago, Jackson National Life Insurance was hurrying toward an expansion that would bring new business and jobs to the Nashville area.
"They were ready to sign a lease and make an announcement," said Janet Miller, chief economic development and marketing officer for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. "Then the economy went into a tailspin."

Last week, the Michigan-based company finally announced it would open a 150,000-square-foot regional headquarters in Cool Springs, creating 750 jobs in three years. About 300 jobs could be in temporary space as early as July, said Matt Largen, director of economic development in Williamson County.

The insurance company's announcement is just one in a string of recent economic development gains in the area that seem to signal a growing level of confidence that the economy is rebounding.

Loews Hotel said this month it plans a shared-services center in downtown Nashville, while Nissan North America broke ground last week on a $1 billion lithium-ion battery plant in Smyrna. On Thursday, the Vanderbilt University Children's Hospital announced a 30,000-square-foot addition, after having delayed a 2008 expansion plan that would have been much larger.

"The economy is improving, and confidence is building," said Matt Kisber, Tennessee commissioner of Economic and Community Development. "We're as busy as we've ever been."

State officials are working well over 100 active projects related to expansions and new investments, up as much as 40 percent over last year when the nation was deeper in recession, Kisber said.

In the Nashville area, the number of economic development projects actively being worked is back to pre-recession levels, Miller said.

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