Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nashville - Below Average in Patents, Above Average in Income Growth

Encouraging signs coming out of the Music City. Specifically, it's avoiding the temptation to join the PhD or patent rat race, and is instead trying to build on its unique characteristics. Moreover, the city is playing down the buzzword industries that many other places are desperately chasing after. This is so basic it shouldn't be news, but it is when everything in economic development right now is a blur of biotech/greentech sameness.

I mention patents and PhDs specifically, because Nashville has very few of them. In the research done with Market Street consultants to update its economic development plan, the city found it had just 1.5 patents per 10,000 employees. Not only was this way below Austin, which has 27.2 per 10,000 employees, its below the national average of 6.4 per 10,000. Yet at the same time, the city's wage growth and per capita income growth rates have soared past national averages, as well as past cities like Austin, even when factoring out the recessionary impacts of the last year.

Nashville still looks likely to bump into a few of the same life sciences, green jobs roadblocks that have stopped other cities from defining distinct messages. However, its plan to focus on existing health care, manufacturing, and music industries show a much stronger willingness to build on its own strengths than the follow-the-fad strategies being pursued by so many other cities.

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