Last year, Nashville was ranked in the top five regions for job growth by a Gallup poll, recognized as one of the best places to begin a technology start-up by a national entrepreneurs' group, and dubbed "Nowville" by GQ. The music industry has helped boost the region's economy with country musicians and producers flocking to "a state with no income tax and a ready-made talent pool." The annual Grammy nomination concert in December was held in Nashville instead of Los Angeles for the first time, and city officials are centering tourism around Music City Center, a huge convention center to be attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame and a new $270 million Omni hotel.
"Here in a fast-growing metropolitan region with more than 1.6 million people, the ingredients for Nashville's rise are as much economic as they are cultural," says Severson, "and, critics worry, could be as fleeting as its fame." Nashville's growth has been relatively stable and modest compared to other Southern cities like Atlanta, which meant "a softer fall and a quicker path out of recession." Garrett Harper, vice president for research with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, said, "Unemployment in Davidson County, which includes Nashville, is about 5.7 percent, compared with 7.8 percent nationally, and job growth is predicted to rise by 18 percent in the next five years." The city's economic growth can be attributed to not only the music industry, but also health care management, religious publishing, car manufacturing and higher education.
However, to pay for large development projects, the city has offered generous tax breaks and incentives which critics consider an "outdated economic strategy." Emily Evans, a member of the region's Metropolitan Council, explains, "In giving away your tax base for the purpose of expanding your tax base in the future, you make it difficult to deliver on the fundamentals, the things that make your city livable, like parks and roads and schools." Other skeptics agree that "to be a truly great city, it has to be a place that tends to its residents first and tourists second." Many of Nashville's residents, including Mayor Karl Dean, believe that more attention needs to be given to education, transportation and social issues, but for now, they are enjoying living in the nation's "it" city.