• The talent within the ecosystem is the key driver of economic value. Talent not only embodies the knowledge within the ecosystem, but it is also the generator of all new ideas.
  • Talent is looking for environments that continue to inspire them and enable them to bring their ideas to market.
  • For major occupation categories associated with innovative activities,  Nashville ranks well below its selected peers when not including production-related occupations. Nashville in 2016 had 170 jobs per 1,000. Austin had nearly 36% more per 1,000 at 219.3. Indianapolis was only slightly higher at 178.9. 
  • Brookings’ Healthcare IT 2016 report concluded: “Nashville has 4,100 fewer IT workers than would be expected given the size of the Region’s IT and software industries which also rank among the smallest across the peer metro areas.” 
  • For tech job growth, Brookings ranked Nashville 30th nationally with a compound annual growth rate of 6.7% between 2013 and 2015. The city added approximately 1,700 technology jobs during this period. Unfortunately, this growth was behind all selected peer cities who more than doubled Nashville’s growth rate. (Figure 1.6) 
  • Advanced manufacturing is one of Nashville strongest sectors and is a focus of the cities economic development strategy. Brookings ranked Nashville first in annual average job growth for the period between 2013-2015. This growth equated to 7.8%. The region ranked 44th in its share of advanced manufacturing jobs of all jobs at 8.8% growth in this same period. Advanced manufacturing accounted for 82,206 jobs which ranked Nashville at 31st in the country. 
  • Approximately 37% of the Nashville population that is 25 years or older has a bachelor’s degree or higher. When comparing education levels with the selected peer cities, Nashville trails all of the selected peer cities except Indianapolis, IN. 
  • Graduates who received non-STEM majors also contribute to the innovation ecosystem. It isn’t the sole domain of traditional STEM majors.   A report by Endeavor Insight published in 2014, revealed over 60% of founders of technology firms in NYC had non-STEM related majors.


  • T1.0 Ensuring quality of life.  As the enabling environment is necessary to the innovation ecosystem, the quality of life is necessary to attract and retain talent. The city’s prosperity has put pressure on traffic congestion and the affordability to live and work in the city. These issues have fostered unintended inequities and tensions within the community. City leaders are addressing these foundational issues. Their efforts must continue. 
  • T1.1 Connect talent. The density of the city’s social network plays an essential role in the flow of ideas and the innovation capacity of the ecosystem. Individuals must feel they are part of the community and establish roots. Implementing the network recommendations for strengthening the social ties within the ecosystem can facilitate these connections. In particular, focusing on the talent graduating from local universities will build stronger ties between graduates and the community, local organizations, and companies. These connections will increase the likelihood of retaining students. The Wond’ry’s Innovation Garage program is an example of partnering with the private sector and the university to establish stronger connection between graduates and local companies. Ensuring local firms engage graduates during their years in the community promotes the establishment of roots in the ecosystem. Nurturing the talent will both keep them in the community and also increase the knowledge flow within the system.  Additionally, the Wond’ry’s entrepreneur programs help enable graduates to fulfill their entrepreneurial goals and start local companies that benefit the entire ecosystem.
  • T1.2 Establish Nashville embassies. To attract talent, establishing physical embassy spaces within key markets would build global pipelines and connect Nashville’s ecosystem with larger pools of talent. A Nashville embassy would entail placing a recruitment outpost within these markets. Their purpose would be to expose people to the culture of Nashville as well as the innovative activities happening within the city. Utilizing one of Nashville’s unique assets, music, these facilities could include a concert venue to help fund them and attract talent. Embassies would also involve events focused on particular targeted industries and Nashville companies. 
  • T1.3 Connect to resources. Besides the social ties with the ecosystem, providing information in the form of a comprehensive website about the resources available within the city. The target audience for the site would be individuals who are deciding whether to move to Nashville to start their company or local entrepreneurs. The Swedish Innovation Compass24 provides a simple yet powerful example of organizing existing information into a single point of entry for entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, company leaders, and others innovation oriented individuals.
  • T1.4 Utilize local hospitality hubs for recruitment. Nashville’s tourism and hospitality sector is often the first exposure many have to Nashville. The city often leaves a positive first impression. As with the Nashville embassy concept, local tourism, and hospitality hubs, such as the airport and Music City Center could be used to promote Nashville’s innovation activities and encourage visitors to move to Nashville. Other places could include window displays along 3rd Avenue streetscape at the Chamber of Commerce or outdoor public spaces. Sponsored interactive kiosks and staffed outposts  at these locations focused on recruitment could facilitate the attraction of more talent within the ecosystem. The more exposure people have to the city’s innovative activities the greater the chances talent will connect, utilize, and combine it to create innovations within the city.