The new capital of the South: Nashville emerges as hot spot for foreign properties

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On a Tuesday morning in Lebanon, blocks of what will soon become porcelain tile, come and go on conveyor belts.

Charles Huang smiles as he opens the door to his warehouse. On that door— a warning sign, written in more than four languages, including Chinese.

It’s an easy read for Charles Huang who grew up near Hong Kong. He’s the CFO of the ceramic tile company American Wonder Porcelain, in Lebanon on Wonder Lane. The parent company, Wonderful Group, is based in China.

Charles Huang and News 2’s Erica Francis watch product fly by on conveyer belt

“We love this area,” said Huang. “This is the American dream for me.”

Michael Kephart is the president of the company, who said their location in Middle Tennessee has been extremely beneficial.

“Within about a 500 mile radius you have about 70 percent of the U.S population,” Kephart said. “To put things on a truck here and move them it is time effective and relatively cost effective .”

“[Lebanon] is in the center of the country and I think the highway system is good and conducive to outbound shipping,” Kephart said.

He notes the tax benefits are nice, too.

​In addition, the raw clay-based material those at American Wonder Porcelain need to make their products is nearby.

American Wonder Porcelain is one of more than 960 foreign-based establishments in the Volunteer State. Others include: Beretta, Bridgestone, Calsonic Kansei, Denso, Electrolux, Hankook Tire, LG, Nissan, UBS, Volkswagen, just to name a few.

Lori Odom, Vice President of International Business for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, says Nashville has around 333 foreign-owned companies.

Below, you’ll find images showing the different locations of those foreign-owned properties, provided by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Map from Department of ECD showing companies from China

Map from Department of ECD showing companies from Germany
Map from Department of ECD showing companies from Italy
Map from Department of ECD showing companies from Japan
Map from Department of ECD showing companies from Korea
Map from Department of ECD showing companies from the UK


John Scannapieco the Chair of Global Business team at Baker Donelson  law firm works with non U.S companies, looking to do business primarily in America. He tells News 2 he is currently or recently worked with business owners from Korea, China, France, Italy and Germany.

“The south as a whole is becoming the economic engine of the U.S and with Nashville being on top, it’s taking on the role of the new capital of the South,” Scannapieco said. ​ ​”It’s competitive and they will find a place that will welcome them.”

Scannapieco says there’s cheap land here, lots of it and there’s an educated workforce. ​

John Scannapieco speaking to News 2’s Erica Francis

“If you think about Nashville, Nashville has three highways that intersect, it’s one of I think six cities in the country maybe that has that type of connectivity,” he said. “If you sell widgets this is a great place to be because you can get to most of the U.S within a day.”

Tennessee is also home to the second busiest cargo airport in the world, the third largest rail center in the U.S and the 5th largest inland port, that’s according to the Tennessee Department of ECD.

An IBM Global Locations Trends report ranked Tennessee No. 1 among all U.S. states for foreign direct investment in 2015.

“It’s a very fast growing market we have a lot of challenges with growth, labor and infrastructure, but it’s also very dynamic and it’s a fun place to live and fun place to be ​,” said Kephart.

“I would expect economic development will keep their foot on the pedal of trying to get businesses and companies to come to this market and incentivize them accordingly based on the size scale and scope and what they can deliver with labor.”



Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

Community Calendar