VOL. 113 | NO. 188 | Monday, October 4, 1999
Tennessee Basks in Global Spotlight
Tennessee Basks in Global Spotlight
By: Sharon H. Fitzgerald
Special to The Daily News
You wouldn't buy a house without seeing it first. The same logic applies when luring business and industry to your state. It pays to let the buyer look around.
That's just what will happen when the International Development Research Council (IDRC) convenes a World Congress at Nashville's famed Opryland Hotel this October. More than 2,000 of the most influential corporate site selectors and real estate executives will be taking a good look at Tennessee, and a statewide team of business and government leaders has been working for years to ensure that the Volunteer State puts its best foot forward.
Tennessee hosted a similar World Congress event in 1992, and IDRC's return to the state -- and so soon -- speaks volumes for the job the state did the first time around and for Tennessee's growing appeal as a preferred business location.
What is the IDRC?
IDRC is a worldwide association of more than 2,800 members. Its active membership includes representatives of Fortune 1,000 corporations and consulting professionals who help companies decide where to relocate or expand. These active members have responsibility for property acquisition and real estate asset management. IDRC associate members are economic development professionals, real estate agents, architects, engineers, contractors and the like. The organization also has academic members in support of its cutting-edge research, education and certification efforts.
IDRC holds five conventions annually, called World Congresses, in cities across the globe. The agendas are designed to improve members' management skills, networking opportunities and give participants an opportunity to tour the locations where
the conferences are held. While most World Congresses are hosted by an individual city,
the Nashville gathering Oct. 16-20 will be hosted by the entire state.
And that's a big plus, explains Bill Baxter, state commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. It means statewide participation and a chance to showcase Tennessee as a whole.
"It's an opportunity to sell our state on our own turf, and that's very effective. We're bringing the decision-makers here," Baxter said.
His department's "strategic conferencing" initiative has attracted several major business conventions to Tennessee during 1999, including Automotive News and Inc. magazine's Inc. 500 Conference. State officials are already scheduling conferences for 2000, including a major gathering in May sponsored by business magazine IndustryWeek.
Another top business location publication is Site Selection, published by IDRC.
That magazine estimates IRDC member companies spent more than $315 billion for new and expanded facilities in the United States from 1996 to 1998, resulting in 1.9 million new jobs and about 2 billion square feet of new construction.
"Hundreds of millions of those dollars have been invested in Tennessee, and we hope to see our state continue to share in that wealth," says Joe Imorde, BellSouth director -of corporate affairs and economic development, Imorde is president of the Tennessee Economic Partnership (TEP), a nonprofit organization instrumental in the planning and implementation of the Tennessee World Congress.
The TEP is an alliance of business, industry, government and community leaders which was created in 1990 'to help the state host the IDRC World Congress in 1992. After 1992, the TEP never missed a beat, hosting receptions at each World Congress around the globe to keep the word "Tennessee" on the tip of participants' tongues.
Another public-private partnership working to ensure the success of October's event is the Tennessee Industrial Development Council (TIDC), a grassroots organization of individuals who work in economic development in Tennessee on a daily basis.
The economic impact of the IDRC World Congress is huge," says TIDC President John Bradley, who is senior vice president of economic development for the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce. "Those of us in economic development talk to
representatives of these companies every day, but the face-to-face time to build relationships with these decision-makers is priceless. This is our chance to tell our story."
Last year's TIDC president, Ronnie Price with the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board, says Octobers conference is "a chance to get the message across that Tennessee is a good place to do business."
That's why, together with the TEP, the TIDC is coordinating a Tennessee-themed hospitality lounge unlike any attraction concocted for a previous World Congress.
A little R&R
Tim,.. Tidwell, regional marketing manager for Rentenbach Constructors in Knoxville, chairs the committee organizing the Tennessee Rest and Relaxation Center. Open during the day on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of the conference, the Tennessee lounge will give participants a convenient place to put up their feet, satisfy a hunger or quench a thirst. What will make Tennessee's hospitality center unique is that visitors will be surrounded by and enjoying Tennessee products - from the food they eat to the beverages they drink, the televisions they watch and the sofas they sit on. One of Tennessee's newest corporate players, Dell Computer, will even offer workstations that allow participants to check personal e-mail and log onto the Internet.
"We're charting new ground with this center," says Tidwell, an IDRC associate member. "We intend to pamper these people while they're here and showcase Tennessee at the same time."
Just imagine the possibilities: IDRC members could kick back in a La-Z-Boy recliner made in Dayton, sip a Jack Daniels coffee from Lynchburg, munch on a Goo-Goo Cluster from Nashville and watch a Sharp television from Memphis. On the way out, visitors might pick up a Purity Dairy ice cream sandwich from Middle Tennessee and drop Charm's Blow-Pops and Brock's hard candies from Covington and Chattanooga into their attaches and purses.
The 6,000-square-foot R&R area will also offer stress-relieving neck and shoulder massages, shoeshines, manicures and a coach to fine-tune golf swings.
"This won't be a typical soft drinks and cookies trade show booth," Tidwell says.
And visitors won't leave the reception area without a better understanding of Tennessee, he adds. A Tennessee display will dominate the lounge, and 10 banners
touting the top 10 reasons to do business in Tennessee will drape from the high ceiling.
The state's new Economic Development Guide will also be available for the taking.
Throughout the four-day event in Nashville, it will be difficult for participants to forget that they're in the great state of Tennessee. The opening night reception will feature country music by Crystal Gayle and Lee Greenwood, and visitors will tour some of the state's leading industries, including Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp. and the Saturn Corp.
World Congress organizers expect as many as 2,500 attendees at IDRC's last convention of the millennium - an opportunity that may make Tennessee's next millennium even more productive and profitable.