“This is the price of growth.”
Gary Garfield, the CEO of Bridgestone Americas, summed up Nashville’s transportation quandary in six simple words Tuesday afternoon. It’s perhaps the most succinct statement I’ve heard anyone in the business community make on the topic.
Garfield, whose own company is contributing to that growth with a new 1,600-job headquarters downtown, is chairing a new transit initiative, spearheaded by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Transportation has been among the key issues in this mayoral election. From a business and economic development perspective, it boils down to competition — either in the form of workers choosing to move to Nashville or companies investing millions in new regional offices or headquarters.
We got more details on the goals of the new group, named “Moving Forward.” Alongside breaking ground on a rapid transit project by 2020, this body wants to identify and secure a dedicated source of local funding for regional transit within three years. The initiative also wants to ensure the state of Tennessee and the federal government both get onboard in the form of funding. The initiative wants both to raise revenue for transit system by 2017.
That’s perhaps a longer shot on the state side, as we saw during the drawn-out debate surrounding the failed Amp transit route: While federal transit officials budgeted $75 million for the project, state legislators unsuccessfully attempted to pass a bill to prevent that specific project from being built.
For the chamber, this isn’t the first time it’s jumped fully into the transit debate. CEO Ralph Schulz was among the loudest proponents of the Amp and the chamber was closely involved with the Amp Coalition, which supported the rapid bus line.
That body featured heavy hitters in the business community, including Mike Schatzlein of Saint Thomas Health. This new group is no different. Under Garfield and Pete Wooten, an executive with Avenue Bank who will serve as the group’s vice chair, there are three main “task forces.”
Don Abel, the Tennessee president and CEO for Fifth Third Bank, is chairing a task force looking into revenue and dedicated financing for transit projects. Bert Mathews, president of The Mathews Co. (who also chaired Mayor Karl Dean’s Amp Citizens Advisory Committee), is chairing another task force focusing on routes and transit networks.Hannah Paramore, president of Paramore | the digital agency, will lead the public engagement task force. The goal is to engage 30,000 Middle Tennesseans on the topic during the next two years.