NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — They’re some of the fastest-growing cities in the country and now they share one of the world’s leading tech companies. Austin and Nashville will each get a new Oracle tech center, but it’s Austin who has had years of experience with Oracle facilities already built.
We’re not saying it’s like looking in the mirror for these two cities. The similarities, however, are hard to ignore. Both metros have been the center of tech news with Oracle announcements four months apart. Then you had Tesla, as well as Apple, committing to build in Austin.
Joah Spearman is a local entrepreneur in Austin and owns the Localeur. The company is a collective of local creatives who travel and recommend different attractions that emphasize buying local. Spearman is also an advocate for affordable housing and the last several years, watched as Oracle continued to build more facilities.
“The positive is that obviously, they’re bringing jobs, which is good because if people are going to move here we need them to be gainfully employed,” Spearman said.
One concern in Nashville has been whether the 8,500 new jobs we’re promised, will be filled from within Davidson County. There’s been nothing concrete in terms of what hiring will look like, but Mayor John Cooper has said Oracle plans to do a considerable amount of local hiring.
Spearman says the company continues to be one of the top recruiters at their local colleges, but he hopes they emphasize more inclusion.
“Overall I like the idea of them acquiring young professionals who can live and work close to there,” Spearman said.
The biggest issue has been housing, which should be no surprise for anyone living in a sprawling metro. Housing prices continue to rise, with people from all over the country saying they’re willing to pay $50,000-$100,000 cash over the asking price. In Nashville, it’s no different as investors see dollar signs for an area brimming with potential.
At least in Austin, Oracle managed to buy a $75 million apartment complex capable of housing more than 3,000 workers across 295 units. It’s the first time for Oracle to purchase a property for this purpose, but Spearman says this is an issue that the tech company can’t tackle on its own.
Spearman says what’s often lost in the narrative is how this growth is inevitable. It’s not Oracle’s fault that Austin has to adjust to create more affordable housing. This was always going to be an issue with the growing city. The question is, what they plan to do about it?
One solution came from the Austin Transit Partnership in March, where they agreed to a grant for an anti-displacement fund worth $300 million over 13 years. The fund would help neighbors in the transit corridor stay in their homes.
“Even if you remove Oracle, it doesn’t mean the growth won’t happen. So if you’re going to allow Oracle to come into town, they need to be a catalyst for smart growth so that you’re not just reacting,” Spearman said.
Nashville Metro Councilmember Zulfat Suara has watched what Oracle has elsewhere and come up with an idea of her own. Nashville would take half of the property tax Oracle pays each year and invest back into affordable housing.
“We’re looking at about $9 million that goes into housing. Is that enough? No, but it is a good start,” Suara said.
Suara says the agreement is a first for Music City to directly link a company to help fix an already existing problem. Ideally, she wants the city to have more flexibility to charge impact fees on new developments. She says the state has given other counties the freedom to create this revenue, but not in Metro Nashville.
“We see the most development, but we cannot because the state says Metro county cannot do that. We need to make sure the state allows us to use all of the tools in the box to answer the problem of affordable housing. We need policy,” Suara said.
The Metro council agreement on spending Oracle’s tax revenue on affordable housing is non-binding, which means it will have to be approved each year by the council. Oracle will also only begin paying property taxes once they’ve developed the land.