By MATT BLOIS
A large finance company’s decision to move its headquarters to downtown Nashville could benefit Williamson County by attracting new residents and increasing real estate value.
This week AllianceBernstein, an asset management firm with more than $500 billion under management, announced that it planned to move its headquarters to the region. The company already has a temporary space in Nashville, but plans to build a permanent home downtown.
According to a press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the move will bring about 1,000 new jobs. The company also plans to invest more than $70 million to establish its headquarters in Nashville.
Williamson Inc. is claiming some of the credit for bringing the company to the area. The Chamber of Commerce twice hosted Kim Moore, the consultant hired to help AllianceBernstein find a new location for its headquarters.
Consultants looked at some of the real estate options for employees, and talked with executives from Nissan and Tractor Supply, which already have offices in Williamson County. They also talked with Williamson County mayors and the superintendent of public schools.
Nashville beat out 23 other cities. However, in the beginning, it wasn’t even in the running. Moore added it to the list near the end of the process after a finalist was eliminated.
Williamson Inc.’s Chief Economic Development Officer Elizabeth McCreary led the chamber’s effort to bring AllianceBernstein to the area.
Williamson Inc. President Matt Largen said that many of the employees will likely live in Williamson County. He said AllianceBernstein CEO Seth Bernstein told him many of the company’s employees want to live here.
“We know that a lot of their employees will live in Williamson County, which is to educate their kids in Williamson County,” Largen said. “We’ll certainly get the benefits of them living here from a real estate standpoint.”
Matt Daniel, President of the Williamson County Association of Realtors, said home values do typically go up when business move their headquarters to Middle Tennessee. He saw values jump when Nissan moved its headquarters to the area, and he expects that will happen again.
“I’m sure that quite a few of those thousand employees will have families and children that are going to need to be educated and Williamson County is the best school system in the state,” he said. “I have a feeling that even though they’ll be working out of the Nashville market that Williamson County will see some of the benefits of those people heading this direction.”
It’s hard to predict how many employees will move to Williamson County, but Daniel estimated that it could be somewhere between 25 to 40 percent. He said the number of people who move here will likely depend on word of mouth. If one employee finds a home they like in the area, Daniel said there’s a good chance they’ll recommend the county to a friend.
Bringing the headquarters directly to Williamson County would have had an even larger impact, but Largen said that the company wanted a more urban location. AllianceBerstein currently has its headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.
“They’re used to a downtown location. They believe that they’ll have an easier time attracting the kind of employees they want if they’re in a downtown location,” he said. “If you’ve got a company who is hard wired for an urban location it’s really a tough sell to get them to Williamson County.”
AllianceBerstein is the latest wall street company to move out of New York, but several have already opened offices in states with lower taxes and a lower cost of living. In 2013, Deutsche Bank expanded its presence in Jacksonville, Fla., as part of an effort to cut costs. Goldman Sachs opened an office in Salt Lake City in 2000, and it is now one of the company’s largest locations.
According to Largen, AllianceBernstein selected Nashville because the company felt like it could attract quality employees. But low taxes and a reasonable cost of living don’t hurt, and he said those components are often hard to separate.
“If you recruit talent they’re going to want to come to a place that’s lower cost, has lower taxes,” he said. “As long as there’s a safe environment, great schools, which Williamson County offers, and amenities … all these different components fit into a company’s decision-making process.”