Sweet Harmony

Article published in Global Traveller - April 2017 issue. Written by Katie McElveen.

With more than 120 live performance venues and a whopping $9.7 billion impact on the music industry, Nashville more than earns its Music City moniker. But dig a little deeper, and a more comprehensive region begins to emerge, one with a diverse economy, a low cost of living and a well-educated workforce. Add cultural diversity, unique neighborhoods, professional sports teams and a thriving creative community, and it's no wonder Nashville is experiencing unprecedented growth in tourism, business development and population.

"The Nashville region is a magnet, particularly for a younger generation," says Ralph Schulz, president and chief executive officer, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. "Over the last year, the Nashville economic region was named on of the top-performing regions in the world."

It's one of the most innovative, particularly when it comes to sustainability. Completed in 2013, Music City Center, the city's 2.1-million-square-foot convention center, earned LEED Gold certification and features a four-acre green roof; a 360,000-gallon rainwater collector; and an array of 856 solar panels. Nashville International Airport, serving 12 million passengers annually, is eco-friendly, too, supporting the environment with programs like solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations and an award-winning cooling system that provides significant savings in electricity and water. Small business takes part as well: Compost Nashville provides composting services to local restaurants, Green Cab runs a fleet of electric taxis, and artist cooperatives are transforming old factories into galleries.

The city is getting prettier, too. Cumberland Park opened in 2012, transforming a 7.5-acre abandoned industrial site into an urban oasis; across the river, Ascend Amphitheater brings music to a former landfill. Throughout the region, more than 190 miles of trails - about a third of which are paved - weave through parks and link open spaces. Streetscapes include bike lanes, LED streetlights and plantings of native trees and shrubs.

"It's critical that we preserve and protect the natural beauty and environmental resources that contribute to Nashville's unique appeal," says Mayor Megan Barry, whose Livable Nashville Committee leads the city's eco charge. "We're working to develop the right solutions to ensure that as our city grows, we do it in an environmentally sustainable way."

Even with all these green initiatives, Tennessee's business-friendly tax laws keep the cost of doing business in Nashville at about 88.5 percent of the national average. Businesses have noticed: Between July 1, 2016, and Nov. 29, 2016, 41 businesses - including Warner Music Group, General Motors and health care information company myNEXUS - announced relocations and expansions that will result in 4,630 jobs and more than $5 million in capital investment. They'll join companies like Nissan North America, Dollar General, Gibson Guitar and Hospital Corp. of America, all headquartered in Nashville.

Most recently, Nashville's biggest growth industry is tourism. In 2015 more than 13.5 million tourists spent $5.7 billion on visits to Nashville, an increase of 3.5 million from just five years ago. To keep up with the rising tide of travelers, 11 hotels - including Cambria Suites, Kimpton Aertson, 21c Museum Hotel and The Noelle - will add 1,528 rooms to the region's existing 39,700 in 2017. The city is so hot it even has its own TV show, CMT's aptly named Nashville, starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere.

Driving this growth are Nashville's music attractions, including everything from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and historic RCA Studio B to the honky-tonks that line Lower Broadway. But they're not the only game in town. A stroll through Nashville's museums, galleries and historic sites proves the city has evolved into a sophisticated, multifaceted destination.

Interested in checking it out? Getting here couldn't be easier. Not only is Nashville one of just six U.S. cities with direct access to three interstate highways, but Nashville International Airport is served by 12 airlines - including 2016 additions JetBlue and WestJet - and offers direct flights to more than 50 destinations.