Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. is relocating its headquarters to the Nashville area from California in a move that will strengthen the Japanese automaker’s financial ties to Nissan – and bolster Tennessee’s stature as a major U.S. auto hub.
The move, expected to be completed this year, will bring 200 jobs to Franklin, Tennessee, just south of Nashville, including positions in sales, marketing, IT, human resources, communications, parts and service, product planning, dealer operations, finance and legal. Mitsubishi expects to invest $18.25 million in its new site.
Mitsubishi cited Franklin’s “vibrant technology skillset” in its announcement, as well as its new proximity to Nissan among its reasons for relocating. Mitsubishi is part of a global alliance with Nissan and Renault that seeks to align the companies to boost development and facilitate cost saving, according to the company.
“Mitsubishi Motors is changing the way we go to market in the United States, and it is leading to a rebirth of the company,” said Fred Diaz, Mitsubishi president and chief executive officer. “As we drive toward the future, this is the perfect time for us to move to a new home. While we say farewell to the Golden State with a heavy heart, we’re excited to say hello to Music City.”
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Mitsubishi, which will begin moving in August, has not determined a site for its offices, but it will move operations to a temporary office in Franklin. Company officials expect to invite about 60 of its 200 employees in California to make the move to Franklin and will hire the remainder of employees from the Franklin office.
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The automaker’s arrival further cements Tennessee as an automotive powerhouse, perhaps second only to Detroit in terms of industry significance. With $22.9 billion of foreign investment and 130,000 people employed, Tennessee’s automotive manufacturing cluster includes three major assembly plants and automotive operations in at least 86 of the state’s 95 counties.
Nissan North America, which has its headquarters in Franklin, employs more than 12,000 people in Middle Tennessee and General Motors in Spring Hill employs close to 3,400. General Motors unveiled a new vehicle this year at the plant and said it was investing $300 million in Tennessee. Volkswagen employs about 1,700 workers and 3,200 temporary workers at its Chattanooga plant.
“The reputation of Tennessee’s business climate and skilled workforce has attracted countless world-class businesses to our state,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Over the years, Tennessee has become the epicenter of the Southeast’s thriving automotive sector, and I’m proud Mitsubishi Motors will call Franklin its U.S. home and bring 200 high-quality jobs to Middle Tennessee.”
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The announcement is the latest in a string of significant corporate relocations and expansions for the Middle Tennessee region. Last year, AllianceBernstein designated Nashville its new headquarters instead of New York and EY and Amazon chose Nashville for new operations. In March, SmileDirectClub also announced a major expansion for its Nashville headquarters and last week, publicly traded Harrow Health said it was moving to Nashville from California.
Headquarter jobs have grown by 37% in Tennessee since 2013, according to state economic officials. Local business leaders had predicted recruiting momentum to continue even after the significant wave of success in 2018.
The Mitsubishi relocation follows six years of consecutive annual sales growth and comes as the company seeks to reinvent itself with new leadership and dealer partnerships, according to the company. Eighty percent of leadership is new to Mitsubishi or new in their role and 34 dealer partners have been added in the U.S.
Mitsubishi leaders have described the company’s new strategy as “small but beautiful,” with a focus on steady profitability over rapid growth, according to Automotive News.
The company has faced scrutiny surrounding an alliance with Renault and Nissan after Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of the three companies, was arrested in Japan last year on allegations of financial misconduct. Nissan has a 34% stake in Mitsubishi, according to Automotive News.
Mitsubishi narrowed its relocation search to Dallas and the Nashville area before deciding on Franklin, said spokesman Jeremy Barnes, pointing to schools, quality of life and the climate, in addition to its location near Nissan.
“The scale swung towards Franklin for all the things it takes to do business in Tennessee and the Nashville area – cost of doing business, cost of living for our employee team, the lifestyle the area offers,” Barnes said.
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore also emphasized the value of low taxes and a strong schools reputation in Williamson County in helping fuel the city’s economic development success.
“We are working hard to create opportunities for companies to come in,” Moore said. “We have a competitive advantage because we’ve done long-range planning into our future with wastewater, land use, capital projects.”
Elizabeth McCreary, chief economic development officer at Williamson, Inc., said the Mitsubishi addition to Franklin makes sense, given the area’s already established auto sector and its ability to recruit talent.
“Industries like this do have a tendency to cluster together. They find they can reach the right talent and access the right pool of people,” McCreary said. “As long as Williamson County can be a place of a high quality of life, more will come here.”
Williamson County offered incentives to Mitsubishi, but McCreary declined to disclose any details because the company is under lease negotiations.
Reach Jamie McGee on Twitter @JamieMcGee_.
Automotive jobs in Middle Tennessee:
Nissan Franklin: 1,850 jobs
Nissan Smyrna: 8,000 jobs
General Motors in Spring Hill: 3,400 jobs
New jobs announcements in Middle Tennessee:
Mitsubishi: 200 jobs
Harrow Health: 27 jobs
Xtend Healthcare: 200 new jobs, in addition to existing 700 in Tennessee
SmileDirectClub: 2,010 jobs
AllianceBernstein: 1,050 jobs
Amazon: 5,000 jobs
EY: 600 jobs