l-r; Meg Harris, Jacky Akbari, Mayor David Briley, Seth Bernstein, CEO Alliance Bernstein; Ronald Roberts, President, Downtown Nashville Rotary Club; Suzanne Buchanan, Laquita Stribling, Rotary District Governor; and Harry Allen. Photo submitted

NASHVILLE, TN — Strong recruitment efforts and robust strategic partnerships are vital in forming successful business relocation projects. As part of these efforts, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce provides key leadership on business recruitment projects with assistance from area resource partners including Jacky Akbari, workforce economic development strategist.

Akbari, President of the Council on Workforce Innovation and founding board chair of the National Organization for Workforce (NOW) Diversity – assists on high-profile business relocation projects, such as AllianceBernstein and others.

Nashville senior area organization leaders and Rotary Club of Nashville leaders.

Following the announcement that the asset-management and research firm is moving its corporate headquarters to Nashville, Akbari led and moderated a “Chat with the Chief Business Roundtable” to explore collaborative engagement with AB’s CEO Seth Bernstein on Monday, Jan. 28. 

Nineteen senior area organization leaders and Rotary Club of Nashville leaders attended to hear about community collaboration and alliances, strategic partnerships and recruiting strengths in Nashville. 

Community Engagement

Akbari kicked off the conversation by highlighting AB’s initial engagement with nonprofit organizations, such as Salute to Excellence and the Nashville Ballet, asking Bernstein what are some factors AB considers when engaging in the community. 

Bernstein said that the move to Nashville triggered the conversation about corporate giving programs and community engagement.

“But we want to start it [in Nashville] and create a model that we can apply more broadly across our communities,” he added.

“We thought it was really important to focus first on education … and part of our responsibility, we think, is to give back to the community. We think we have value to add outside of just writing checks, we want our [employees] to be engaged and help to lead that progress more broadly … whether that’s developing robotic programs in city’s schools … or in fact, developing programs to provide additional educational support to really promising inner city students who wouldn’t necessarily have access to these resources. We want to try and understand how we can have as a great impact as we can in the community.” 

Meg Harris, Head of Strategic Initiatives at Alliance Bernstein, added: “We’ve spent the last several months just listening to what the community is really telling us, whether that’s business leaders or civic leaders or nonprofit institutions … I think what we’re going to really be looking as we start to access the opportunities are what is the community impact.” 

A key component of this strategy is employee engagement. 

“Do our employees feel invested and have the chance to give back on their own or with teams,” Harris added.

Collaborative Community and Strategic Alliances

Akbari then shifted the conversation to the importance of collaborative community and strategic alliances. 

Jacky Akbari, Program Co-Chair Downtown Nashville Rotary Club

She described the value of businesses and organizations working together to help support the community as a whole in terms of strength, saying “high tide raises all the boats.”

Bernstein and Harris agreed, describing some strategic partnerships that are already beginning to form. 

Harris highlighted that collective impact in Nashville is such a prevalent topic right now because there obstacles that requires collaborative solutions, such as education, housing, transit, inclusion and access and that AB wants to be part of those solutions. She also noted that conversations and roundtables like Chat With The Chief is one example of that. 

“The momentum [in Nashville] is really positive internally and externally .. the feeling about Nashville when people come and see it is really good. We’ve gotten nothing but good feedback,” she added.

Recruiting Strengths 

Bernstein said he wants Nashville to be a “fertile, rich place for kids to want to call home and practice skills here” and for AB to support that vision. 

A few ways AB sees opportunity in that is: 

• Ensuring the talent pipeline is growing and that employees are engaged in the community

• Looking at the landscape for partnerships with local educational institutions, such as with the Nashville Software School, local high schools, colleges and universities, and the Academies of Nashville 

• Visiting schools to tell students about the jobs possible through career fairs

• Talking to professors and administrators and visiting classrooms at area universities to learn more about its curriculum and data science programs to form future partnerships 

The conversation closed with a rich dialogue among attendees about how businesses can work together to increase and support Nashville’s diversity and inclusion and talent pool as a whole. 

This roundtable was the first of the now-monthly “Chat with the Chief” discussions, hosted by WorkforceNashville, business community initiative to support workforce engagement in Middle Tennessee. The next “Chat with the Chief” will be held in March. For more information contact Jacky Akbari at jacky@workforcenashville.com.