Amazon’s recent selection of Nashville for its 5,000-job Operations Center of Excellence is only the latest contributor to the Metro’s booming economy and population growth. Conservative estimates put metro Nashville’s population at 2.5 million by 2035. It’s about 1.75 million today. That’s where BNA Vision comes in. Launched in 2016, BNA Vision is a comprehensive plan designed to enable Nashville International Airport (BNA) to accommodate the region’s booming population growth and meet the needs of the airport’s record-breaking passenger increases.
Following is a mid-December conversation with Nashville International Airport (BNA) President and CEO Doug Kreulen, who explains the airport’s role in the region’s prosperity today and how it will keep pace with its growth in the years to come.
How does BNA leadership define its role in metro-area economic development?
Doug Kreulen: Nashville International Airport (BNA) is a major economic engine for the greater Nashville economy. This region has seen substantial population and economic growth, and the airport both fosters and accommodates those trends. We’re a significant employer, of course, but that’s really just a portion of the impact. From businesses within the airport footprint, to the many subsidiary enterprises that rise up and benefit from airport activities, BNA is critical to our economic landscape.
The hospitality industry is a key part of our economy. Music City is a top destination for tourists and convention travelers, many of whom fly in and out of BNA. Moreover, business travelers rely heavily on our airport to get them to the places they need to go in the least amount of time. An airport is only as strong as the nonstop service it can provide. We work hard to make sure we provide nonstop service to the destinations that our passengers need and want. Typically, the availability of air service is one of the top questions asked by businesses looking to relocate or expand, and we take that responsibility seriously. Nashville is an emerging corporate center and, combined with the hospitality scene, having a great airport is key to keeping it that way.
To what extent did the Nashville business community weigh in on the BNA Vision plan formation?
DK: The entire BNA Vision plan was developed with the needs of our passengers in mind, both business and leisure. We frequently reach out to the business community to understand their travel needs, be it new routes, parking packages or terminal-based facilities. Passenger traffic at BNA is growing at an unprecedented rate, and it was critical that dramatic changes were made now to prepare for what was on the horizon. Nashville is accustomed to an easy and efficient airport — one that is warm and welcoming, like Nashville itself. It is something we promote and in which we take much pride. We don’t want to lose that, so our expansion — BNA Vision — is very consciously designed to include those characteristics that have traditionally made our airport enjoyed by our passengers and embraced by our community. BNA Vision has been well received by our business community, and excitement is continually growing as we make more and more progress.
Airports frequently are visitors’ and corporate site selectors’ first (and last) impression of the city. What will they experience when BNA Vision is fully implemented that will differentiate Nashville from comparably sized markets?
DK: Like Nashville itself, BNA has long been known for its accessibility and friendliness, and for the music, art and food offerings that define our culture. Our challenge is to keep BNA distinctive in the face of rapid growth. Ultimately, our mission is to be known as the premier airport for all travelers. With BNA Vision, we’re taking all of the best things about our airport and adding even more with bigger and better facilities, more air service to more destinations and more amenities.
Our revamped concessions program is a prime example of how we’re growing and changing. Working with our partners at Fraport USA, our new concessions program will roll out in 2019 and will embody the best of Nashville with an emphasis on local flavors and fare, including street pricing, that will fully embrace our renowned culinary scene. The look of the airport’s interior will be updated and upgraded to reflect Nashville in a visual way, drawing inspiration from the authentic craftsmanship of musical instruments and the region’s scenic beauty.
Of course, we’re Music City, and BNA will continue to represent that brand in a way that no one else can match. We’ll continue to have live music and visual arts installations in several locations throughout the terminal. From the moment you get off the plane, you’ll know you’re in Nashville, and you’ll be glad you’re here. And when travelers think about the airports they fly into, we want them to think of BNA as the best. Entertaining, welcoming and easy.
What are some examples of how BNA will facilitate regional economic development when expansion projects are complete?
DK: BNA is and has been one of the fastest growing airports in North America. The number of passengers in our terminal has grown by more than 1 million people each year for the past five years, and all projections indicate continued growth as far as the eye can see. This year, we had roughly 16 million passengers flying in and out of BNA, an extraordinary increase of about 13 percent over last year. By the time BNA Vision is complete in 2023, we anticipate more than 17 million passengers visiting our airport. That number continues to soar as we project long term.
What we’re doing with BNA Vision is building capacity to meet those growing needs, especially on our land side. We think an increase in international service is highly likely in the years to come as Nashville receives more and more world-wide interest. This will come from both the leisure and business markets. With that in mind, BNA Vision includes a state-of-the art International Arrivals Facility to accommodate that specific growth. Without a doubt, a major increase in international flights will significantly contribute to the region’s economic profile. More air service means even more visitors to Nashville for business and leisure travel, which means more money spent in our hotels, restaurants and attractions. An efficient airport is the cornerstone of the continued growth and expansion of Nashville. As we say at BNA, “Buckle up. We’re taking off.”
This Investment Profile has been prepared under the auspices of Nashville International Airport. For more information, visit BNAVision.com.
Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.