Relocating Nissan’s Talent to Music City
In November, Nissan announced that due to lower business costs as well as a favorable legal and tax climate, the company’s North American headquarters that have been in L.A. since 1960 will be moved to Franklin, Tennessee. In a resignation notice by an almost former Nissan employee to his customers, Dean Case, writes:
“After eight great years with Nissan, the time has come to move on – or perhaps I should say stay put while the company moves on. While I still love my job, my personal situation simply does not allow my relocation outside of Southern California, nothing personal about Nashville.”
It’s the last statement that got me…”it’s nothing personal about Nashville”….Really.
According to the Nashville City paper, a delegation from the Nashville region is out to encourage the L.A. employees to relo by setting the record straight about the misconceptions about life in Tennessee that the employees in Southern California may harbor. Nissan has given its 1,300 sales and marketing personnel at California headquarters until April 1 to decide whether to move to Nashville. Much like our Mr. Dean Case from the above letter, Nissan expects about half of the California staff members to decline. Of course, companies that make moves like this bank on a lot of people opting out of the move since they can then trade high cost, high salary jobs for the same skills at a
podunk friendly price, a favorable market price.
I have to admit that this story has fascinated me from the beginning and I am not sure why. Maybe it is because we moved from Silicon Valley a few years ago (I know, that’s NorCal not SoCal, but still expensive as all hell) – I remember calling my mother to say, “you will never believe the 3 bedroom house across the street that is for sale for 1.8 million dollars.” I was shocked at the prices of everything in California – so I can relate when I hear that even huge corporations can’t deal with the Californication any longer. But that doesn’t seem to be entirely it.
I am fascinated with online recruitment, so hearing that a corporation received 13,000 online resumes for its new HQ sales and marketing jobs got me as well. I mean, they have 10 sourcing teams to handle the resumes for the new round of hiring that must take place. Job postings range from senior analysts to admins. But, the huge resume response isn’t it either. Anyone that has ever placed an ad for an Admin or an IT support position on Monster knows how *not* rare of an occurrence it is to receive 13,000 resumes.
According to an article in the Tennessean.com:
“Jed Connelly, who led the sales and marketing division for Nissan North America through the automaker’s comeback, isn’t moving to Nashville when the carmaker shifts its headquarters here from the Los Angeles area.”
Despite this resignation, analysts with J.D. Power and Associates feel that the Nissan products can carry their own weight. While there will be a transition, they don’t expect that the product will suffer *that much*. Further, according to a post about the move, on Inside Line from Edmunds.com:
” A Nissan official told Inside Line that there were some fears that Nissan’s longtime California employees would find it challenging to “adapt” to the culture of the American South. Edward Lapham, an Automotive News columnist, said up to 80 percent of Nissan’s California employees were expected to refuse to move to Tennessee, quoting Nissan insiders.
What this means to you: Nissan is the first of the major Japanese automakers to move its U.S. headquarters out of California, apparently for no bigger reason than to save money, and it took a non-Japanese president, Carlos Ghosn, to make that happen. The impact on the customer is expected to be nil.”
Will the impact really be *nil*? Will their brand (and employer brand) continue to flourish once Nissan sacrifices much of their L.A. talent that built it with this move? It seems dangerous to me to rely on your current product line to just maintain your brand and stay competitive. Maybe Nissan doesn’t value the contributions of their sales and marketing employees enough? From Tennessee’s perspective, this move is clearly good for Nashville (an average Nissan HQ job is worth about 80k a year), but in this highly competitive marketplace, will the move be good for Nissan and its brand that has risen to new heights in recent years? On the other hand – I was shocked to learn that this move marks one of 32 corporate relocations Nashville has scored in the last fiscal year. Seriously?
I have also read that Nissan is recruiting heavily in Detroit. Detroit has thousands of auto industry executives worried about downsizing – so Nashville may just be the right move for them. ChiatDay, the ad agency that has handled Nissan’s ads for the past 18 years might even open a Nashville branch. I can see it now:
This quote in another article from the Tennessean discussing how this move might boost the advertising industry in Nashville cracked me up:
“Others said Nissan’s decision would make it easier for local firms to recruit creative people from other parts of the country. Nissan and its key vendors — such as Chiat/Day — also will need legal, accounting and other services… They are sophisticated people. They’re going to need local suppliers to do things. There’s certainly going to be some business sloshing out of the headquarters to local people….”
They are sophisticated people…those creative and marketing types. So, if you are not physically in the location that is considered to be the king of cool from a hipster perspective (that also happens to be the center of where the creative energy is happening around your industry) can you *really* keep your edge? Julian and I wonder that ourselves having left Silicon Valley.
Therein lies my real question for Nissan and the talent that it will lose and have future access to….
You can put the girl in the country, but can you keep the country out of the girl?
Meet the new Nissan Honky Tonk 300Z. I have an image of Bo and Luke from the Dukes of Hazzard jumping a 300Z in The General Lee’s color scheme over the river. Wow, Uncle Jesse would be so proud.