Dress and suit clad Williamson County residents, fall-colored flowers and red table cloths dressed up the gray, unfinished interior of McEwen Northside at the Williamson, Inc. Annual Celebration on Tuesday.
This future mixed-use space holds significance not only because it will soon house one of the largest companies in Middle Tennessee, Mitsubishi Motors, but it will also become the new headquarters for Williamson, Inc. itself.
As guests entered the space for the celebratory luncheon, they observed a model of what Cool Springs looked like in the early 1990s — green, open and undeveloped — juxtaposed with today’s tall buildings that represent a booming business sector visible through the wall of second-story windows.
“Cool Springs has been a job generator for the past 30 years, and we’re very thankful for the people who came before us and the decisions they made to get to where we are today in Williamson County,” Williamson, Inc. President and CEO Matt Largen said.
As Largen began the program, thanking the staff, board members and volunteers at Williamson, Inc. for their work over the last year, he reflected on the central goal of the chamber: bringing good jobs to Williamson County.
“A good job changes a person’s life for the better, and that’s what business recruitment is all about,” Largen said, quoting Gov. Bill Lee.
Representing about 200 jobs in Williamson County, over 60 of which have yet to be filled, is Mitsubishi Motors, which is in the process of relocating its American headquarters to Franklin. Largen welcomed the company’s CEO, Fred Diaz, to give the keynote address.
Diaz said, when he arrived at the company two and a half years ago, sales and morale were not where he wanted them to be, and he heard many people say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” He said he was part of a rebirth of the company, and he hopes, with some of the changes they are rolling out over the next few months, that Mitsubishi will lead a rebirth of the entire auto industry.
He unveiled the company’s new mission statement: “Because it’s said that the car-buying process is broken, Mitsubishi Motors commits to making the whole experience fast, fair and fun. We will quit the process you know today.”
Diaz said, while “words are easy to throw on a slide,” he is serious about this mission statement and wants to eliminate the bad experiences people associate with purchasing vehicles, describing his company as a 103-year-old startup as it seeks to spark change across the industry.
Largen then welcomed Williamson, Inc. Chief Economic Development Officer Elizabeth McCreary, who worked behind the scenes to bring Mitsubishi to Williamson County, to share her perspective of the deal. She explained the chamber, with the help of the state of Tennessee, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and Tennessee Valley Authority, was able to show the company that Middle Tennessee was the best choice for relocation.
Diaz said the company was initially considering Charlotte, North Carolina; Phoenix; Denver; Atlanta; and Dallas as contenders to the Nashville area.
“Tennessee, on the other hand, the chamber, Williamson County, city of Franklin — you talk about bending over backwards and rolling out the red carpet to make us feel welcome,” he said.
McCreary explained the chamber does everything it can in these kinds of deals to not only recruit businesses, but also retain them. She said, from the moment they strike a deal with a business, it becomes a partnership.
Williamson, Inc. worked with other organizations and government officials to organize a Sunday meeting with Mitsubishi during the negotiation process, flew Largen to Japan to meet with company executives, dedicated some of its own office space as a halfway house for the company as it searched for a permanent office in Franklin and hosted a job fair for the business.
“That (job fair) was a little self-serving in that we wanted to make sure it was Williamson County residents who got first dibs with those jobs,” McCreary said.
She explained that, because so many people are moving to Williamson County for the schools and quality of life, it’s Williamson, Inc.’s mission to provide quality jobs for those incoming families.
At the close of the program, Largen announced they will partner with the Walt Disney World Company to present the Disney Institute, a course in which Disney representatives will share their approach to business that continually drives their business towards success.
This course will take place on March 25 of next year at the Factory at Franklin from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and caps at 275 registrants. Largen said tickets will be available first to Williamson, Inc. members.
To learn more about Williamson, Inc., visit williamsonchamber.com.