COMMENTARY: This week’s NFL draft demonstrates what leadership has meant to Nashville

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

On Thursday night, the National Football League’s (NFL) annual draft kicks-off in Music City. It’s the first time Nashville has ever hosted the event and, according to Steve Underwood of the Tennessee Titans, it’s the largest sporting event in the history of the Volunteer State.

So, why is today’s feature story/commentary in about that event? The reason is simple: it’s just one more reason Nashville is on fire and getting seemingly warmer because of wise, forward-looking leadership over the past few decades.

We heard Underwood, the Titans’ President and Chief Executive Officer, speak earlier this year at the annual “Day on the Hill” luncheon hosted by the Tennessee Economic Development Council (TEDC), an organization comprised of those involved in economic development.

Clearly, the draft will have a huge economic impact on Nashville with more than 100,000 people expected to pour into the Lower Broad area for each of the three days. VisitDallas estimated the impact of the 2018 event in the Texas city at more than $125 million.

In David Letterman style, Underwood listed the top 10 reasons Nashville was selected for this year’s draft. The one word that came to mind was “leadership” – laying a solid foundation for future success. This one just happened to be the NFL draft.

Here are Underwood’s 10 reasons that Nashville won the competition.

#10 – The city’s vibrant downtown, the phenomenal Music City Center, Bridgestone Arena and Nissan Stadium, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and the downtown clubs and music venues. He did not say this, but decades ago the city’s assets did not include any of these other than the honkytonks.

#9 – “Nashville is blessed with a ‘can do’ attitude,” he said, citing the arrival of the NFL’s Titans and the construction of 15,000 new hotel rooms in recent years. “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”

#8 – “Nashville knows how to throw a party,” Underwood proclaimed.

#7 – In something that might surprise many, he gave a shout-out to the “highly capable, well-trained police force.”

#6 – Underwood said Nashville is very unique among destination cities with unmatched hospitality.

#5 – The city has a great airport and a user-friendly downtown area.

#4 – The Lower Broad and riverfront areas will combine to create “a unique venue unlike any other,” Underwood said. It will house one of the largest temporary stages ever constructed.

#3 – Nashville is blessed with one of the nation’s best convention and visitor bureaus that collaborates well with other organizations.

#2 – Nashville has an unmatched reputation for hosting events.

#1 – And, the number one reason was what we said earlier. In Underwood’s words, “Nashville on several levels is blessed with thoughtful and inspiring leadership.”

As a person who had an office in Nashville during my University of Tennessee career and have continued to be in the city on a regular basis, landing events like the NFL draft and the resulting visibility did not happen by chance or overnight. It took decades to transform the city under a series of Mayors and with the strong support of the private sector. Leadership is so important, and the points that Underwood made in his presentation to the TEDC luncheon attendees underscore how important the upcoming Mayor’s race in Knoxville is to our city’s future. Just look at what can happen to move a community forward in a major way with wise leadership in conjunction with committed private sector involvement at the highest levels.

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