Governor and Williamson Inc. both played a role in Mitsubishi’s decision to relocated to Franklin
By MATT BLOIS, JOHN MCBRYDE and ALEXANDER WILLIS
After his second ribbon cutting of the day and an announcement that Japanese auto maker Mitsubishi is moving its North American headquarters from California to Franklin, Mayor Ken Moore reacted with understatement.
“It’s been a good day,” Moore said after ribbon cuttings at Mars Petcare’s new headquarters in Cool Springs, and on Main Street for the Grilled Cheeserie, a restaurant that grew its appeal with a food truck.
The county is already home to the North American headquarters for Nissan, a partner in an alliance with Mitsubishi and French auto maker Renault.
Williamson Inc. Chief Economic Development Officer Elizabeth McCreary said the chamber of commerce has been working with Mitsubishi executives for the past few months.
A consulting firm helped Mitsubishi narrow down the search for a new location down to three cities.
“In the Middle Tennessee region they selected Williamson County pretty early on as being their option,” McCreary said. “We’ve been working with them ever since. We’ve had multiple visits from the company from both their California executives as well as their Japanese executives coming in to tour and get an idea of what Williamson County has to offer.”
Last week Williamson Inc. CEO Matt Largen traveled to California to talk with Mitsubishi executives. Williamson County native and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bob Rolf accompanied Largen on the trip.
Mitsubishi will start moving its headquarters in August and will complete by the end of the year. In all 200 jobs are coming to Williamson County.
McCreary said some executives will make the move to Middle Tennessee but the majority of the jobs will be local hires. She expects Mitsubishi will have recruiters in the area as soon as next week.
All of the automaker’s corporate departments will be relocating, including sales, marketing, IT, human resources, communications, parts and service, product planning, dealer operations, finance and legal.
“This area’s just booming, and the automotive industry seems to like it here,” said Tim Stannard, president of United Auto Workers Local 1853, which represents General Motors Workers in Spring Hill. “I’m glad it’s happening.”
Mayor Moore also pointed to the auto industry and its suppliers throughout Tennessee.
“I suspect that for every job that they’re bringing, somewhere they’ll be some ancillary support industry that will pop up in the region,” Moore said. “I think it creates a great opportunity for citizens to make a great living, and I understand that they’re very community-minded, so we look forward to them being part of our community and contributing to our community. “
Despite Mitsubishi’s relationship with Nissan, Mitsubishi doesn’t plan to move employees into the Nissan headquarters, according to McCreary. The company is in the final stages of securing a separate lease.
Nissan has been manufacturing in Tennessee since 1983, and announced the relocation of its North American headquarters from Gardena, California to Middle Tennessee in 2005. Mitsubishi’s headquarters is in Cypress, California, just a dozen blocks from Disneyland and about 25 miles from the former Nissan location.
On Tuesday, Mitsubishi executives said they chose Franklin in part to realize cost savings via Tennessee’s “business-friendly work environment” but also to be much closer to sister company Nissan, according to the Nashville Post.
McCreary said the pro business environment in Middle Tennessee played an important role, but also pointed to the region’s robust talent pipeline.
“The thing about Williamson County that they saw was access to talent as it relates to public schools … and also the attraction of talent,” she said. “That’s why we’re such a great location for headquarters in general. You can recruit at all levels in an operation.”
State Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, said the business climate in Tennessee is once again paying off.
“It demonstrates the hard work of our community leaders to create a strong business friendly environment that will benefit every citizen of our community,” Whitson said in a text message. “It also clearly shows that Williamson County continues to be the economic engine of Tennessee.“
McCreary said Mitsubishi executives were also impressed by the Nashville airport. During the Outlook Williamson event in April Nashville Airport Authority CEO Doug Kreulen said the airport authority hoped to build longer runways that would allow for direct flights to Asia.