by Lee Beaman
There has been much criticism recently of Nashville’s meteoric growth and the changes we’ve seen as a result. Such concerns are valid and are good reasons to take note and preserve what we most enjoy about our city and what we feel defines us. Despite the many changes we’ve seen, Nashville is still Nashville underneath it all.
The “It” City was wonderful before we got that nickname. Nashville has been a welcoming city for many generations of residents and visitors. The French novelist Jean-Baptiste Karr is the author of the phrase, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That is as true of Nashville today as it was when Karr first coined it in 1848. Nashville’s identity and character that make it unique are as strong today as they have been since we can all remember.
There has always been a strong business and industry backbone to our city that predates our country music footprint, as important as that has grown to be a part of Nashville today. Our pillars of industry, which have long been considered to be insurance, banking and publishing, are still strong here today and are joined by additional support from the automotive industry, the healthcare industry and the music industry. We have many long-time businesses that still remain in Nashville, like Southwestern Publishing that was founded in Nashville in 1855 and still thrives here today. We also have companies such as HCA, founded here in Nashville in 1968, that have grown to become the backbone of their respective industries and have resulted in the development of an industry that leads the nation, much like HCA has done for Nashville in working to create a culture that leads the nation in healthcare innovation and technology.
While Nashville has always been a home for big businesses, we have also traditionally been home to many small businesses that make up a large portion of our local business culture. A significant portion of our overall economic health can be attributed to the efforts of small businesses in Nashville and Tennessee. In fact, the Small Business Administration reports that loans to small businesses in Tennessee increased in fiscal year 2018 by nearly 10 percent over 2017, resulting in 568 loans guaranteed for a total loan volume approaching $315 million. These figures are a strong indicator of Nashville’s robust industry that is driven by our small businesses.
Not to be outdone, our music industry, which has become the unquestioned public brand of Nashville we present to the world, is still thriving, despite the changes it has weathered over the past decade or so. As Music Row works to preserve its history while transforming to meet the needs of the digital consumer, so does Nashville work to bolster what is most important to our city while also meeting the needs of residents today.
We also have a strong faith-based community in Nashville, and that is nothing new. We have been a city that takes care of its own for more generations than we can count. While Nashville’s Homeless Planning Council began anew with a new name in 2018, our private efforts to care for the homeless far outdate this hard-working city organization. The Salvation Army has been caring for Nashville’s hungry and homeless for over 125 years. The Nashville Rescue Mission has been working to help those in need since 1954. And the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, one of the oldest and largest food banks in the country, began distributing foodstuffs to the needy in 1978. And the Community Chest program, started in 1922 and long supported by my father Alvin Beaman, is the precursor to today’s United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, which provided in 2018 alone over 28,000 beds to those without a place to sleep for the night and more than 500,000 books to children just beginning their love of reading.
And for those of us who may feel like Nashville’s lifestyle traditions and way of life are changing as fast as our cityscape, take heart. We still have many of the activities that define Nashville. The Iroquois Steeplechase is still here and thriving, recently completing its 78th race. NASCAR is even strongly considering a return to the historic Fairgrounds Speedway, which was a staple in Nashville’s stockcar industry and made history as one of the oldest short tracks in the country. It helped to develop some of the best racecar drivers in the history of the sport, including Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison and both Coo-Coo and Sterling Marlin. And while many would consider this an impossibility, Nashville’s downtown seems to have more thriving honky-tonks than ever before.
So even though Nashville may be transforming in some ways, we are still the same in the ways that matter most. We have a strong corporate and industrial foundation that provides employment, tax dollars and other key economic drivers, many of which are provided by businesses small and large that have been in Nashville longer than any of us. We have a thriving music industry that has stood the test of time and continues to create and produce some of the best music the world has ever heard. And we continue to be full of people and organizations that are working to help those in need. So Nashville is still Nashville, in all the points that matter. And that won’t change. I’m proud to be a Nashville native, and I love my hometown. I’m glad that the world is beginning to discover our secret. It will only lead to more good things to come.
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Editor’s note: Lee Beaman is CEO of Beaman Automotive, an advertiser with The Tennessee Star