Originally posted on Tennessean.com.
Nashville has seen a dizzying explosion in population and reputation. That has pros and cons.
As more cities embrace the principles and practices of agile planning and execution, they are achieving strategic goals like never before. But are they ready for the speed of success that agility creates?
From Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon—spanning newly booming cities like Providence, R.I., and Nashville—cities across the country are using agile strategic planning, public relations and communications to enhance reputation, attract business and personal relocation, and brand themselves as the next “it city.”
For better and worse, it’s working. Developers, real estate agents, property owners, local business associations and municipal services are cheering a windfall of attention, relocations and tourist dollars.
Nashville has seen a dizzying explosion in both population and reputation. Nearly 31,000 people each year moved to the region between 2010 and 2015, more than double the national growth rate, and the city ranked No. 30 on Forbes’ Best Places for Business and Careers list in 2016.
Over the past few years, the city has served as the backdrop and veritable title character of a TV series so beloved that even cancellation by ABC couldn’t stop it, and it was picked up by CMT. This weekly tourism ad has amplified attention to the already hot city.
In a true display of agility, Nashville’s charismatic first female mayor, Megan Barry, has deftly balanced open-tent progressive politics with sharp business acumen to transform that publicity to real business results. In her first State of Metro address in 2016, Barry unveiled a bold budget and strategic initiatives to continue the momentum of the city’s growth, with no tax increases. She called it “growth with intention, growth with purpose, growth with design and direction.”
But just like a country song, it’s not all happy.
The building boom that has reshaped the city’s skyline with luxurious though strangely uniform condos has come at the expense of tearing down historic sites and beloved small restaurants and shops, and caused many residents to worry about the erosion of what makes Nashville special and unique.
The population explosion has also helped Nashville top other lists—like cracking the top 25 for worst traffic in the country. Parking has become both ridiculously expensive and difficult, and all that building boom is eliminating affordable housing, particularly in historically African-American neighborhoods.
It’s a litany heard in Portland as well: Skyrocketing prices, sprawl and congestion. And though many feel the city has been slow to respond to these challenges — particularly affordable housing—there are signs that the agility that helped drive opportunities there can also be deployed to solve problems.
Portland offers an example of how agile execution allows for quick pivots and course corrections: The state had banned zoning that required new buildings to include affordable units, but actions by nonprofit advocacy groups declared a renter state of emergency. That motivated the city to unanimously approve in October 2016 a law that requires landlords to give 90 days’ notice for no-cause evictions and for rent increases of more than 5 percent.
Agility can never eliminate conflicts, missteps or challenges, but its fundamental principles of smart planning, consistent measurement, clear communication and collaboration are invaluable, particularly in areas as emotional and complex as local growth.
What does that mean for the people who live in cities striving for agility? When these places breed energy and stealth, they can actually make their residents more agile.