Nashville's Immigrant Community Spurs Economic, Cultural Diversity
Perhaps nowhere is Nashville’s ethnic vibrancy showcased better than at the annual Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival, held each fall at Centennial Park.
Nashville has always been a relocation favorite for businesses and individuals throughout the United States, thanks to everything from its climate and employment opportunities down to good old-fashioned Southern charm. These days, those same factors still bring people here, but now they’re coming from all four corners of the globe.
The influx of international newcomers has had many benefits for Middle Tennessee. Skilled workers in a variety of industry sectors have also brought with them new cultures and perspectives for the region. And because Nashville has rolled out the red carpet so successfully, it’s posting some stratospheric numbers in the national media when it comes to cities on the move.
In 2011, Forbes magazine ranked Music City third on its list of 52 U.S. metro areas with populations of more than a million that are likely to grow and prosper in the coming decade. The magazine cited low housing prices and a pro-business environment for its accolades, but also noted that Nashville’s ethnic population, particularly Latinos and Asians, has doubled in size over the past 10 years.
Immigrant Entrepreneurship in Nashville Booms
Forbes noted that Nashville’s immigrant population rose 83 percent, to 107,000, between 2000 and 2008, the fastest increase among the largest cities in the U.S. During that time, the minority population grew from accounting for 20 percent to 44 percent of Nashville's overall growth.
And while many of these new residents came here in search of jobs, several of them also have launched their own companies. In the Forbes ranking, Nashville was sixth in self-employment among Asians and fourth among Hispanics. Many business-related organizations have come online to further boost these entrepreneurs. Conexión Américas, which opened in 2002, provides a wide variety of services for both businesses and individuals in order to help them assimilate into the Nashville community successfully, both personally and professionally.
Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival Expands
Perhaps nowhere is Nashville’s ethnic vibrancy showcased better than at the annual Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival, held each fall at Centennial Park. What began as a small-scale event at Scarritt-Bennett 18 years ago to highlight the evolving diversity within the community is now an event with approximately 40,000 people attending.
“This year we’re doing marketing in 12 languages, and there will be more than 30 cultures represented,” says Cindy Politte, who handles marketing, promotion and sponsorship development for the festival, and also owns Red Cap Communications, a nonprofit marketing and development firm.
Politte credits the rapid growth of immigrant populations for much of the festival’s expansion, but also points out that the existing community has been accepting of its new neighbors, and in turn, has helped the event succeed as well.
“Nashville has become rather exotic and cosmopolitan,” she says. “We have one of the largest Kurdish populations in the world here, a huge Somali population, Laotians, Burmese … and they are all comfortable. Whether it's the climate, or how they’re able to find work, or the people, they have been welcomed.”
The festival also helps tell the world about Nashville. In 2011, the State Department sent a film crew as part of a documentary segment on how communities are embracing new cultures.
“We are a model of how we treat our neighbors, and how we learn more about them,” Politte says. “It makes you very proud to be from here.”