Axios Nashville

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January 27, 2022

Good morning, everyone! We're glad you're here.

Today's weather: Partly sunny and a bit warmer, with a high of 48.

Today's newsletter is 860 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Infrastructure needs now $61.9B

Illustration of Tennessee state surrounded by scaffolding.
Illustration: Allie Carl and Maura Losch/Axios

Tennessee's growing list of infrastructure needs has hit a price tag of $61.9 billion.

  • Driven by transportation, utilities, and education projects, needs expanded by about $3.4 billion over the last year, according to a new report from the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR).
  • It marks the sixth year in a row the total has increased.

Why it matters: The latest TACIR report reflects long-needed improvements to roads, bridges, and wastewater systems as well as new needs spurred by rapid growth.

What they're saying: "There are a number of projects related to infrastructure that's deteriorated over the years," TACIR executive director Cliff Lippard told a panel of lawmakers this week. "A lot of the projects that are in the public infrastructure inventory are related to economic development wins."

By the numbers: The three top project types identified in the report are transportation ($34.1 billion), higher education ($6.6 billion), and school renovations ($5.3 billion).

  • Technology needs grew by $99 million, an 88% jump over the previous year, partly in response to the pandemic.
  • More than two-thirds of the needs identified in the report were not yet funded, although officials said more funding is typically secured as projects moved forward.

Driving the news: Infrastructure became a priority nationwide after President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion spending package last year.

  • Officials expect Tennessee will get $8 billion to support road construction, public transportation, and bridge repairs, among other things.
  • That's on top of the $1.3 billion in pandemic stimulus funds the state is using for wastewater improvements and $500 million for broadband.

What's next: Gov. Bill Lee is expected to include other infrastructure projects in his legislative priorities this year, which will be announced next Monday during the State of the State address.

  • "Given Tennessee's strong fiscal position, we have the opportunity to propose significant investments in road projects to prepare the state for continued growth," Lee spokesperson Casey Black tells Axios.

2. Spotlight back on home businesses

Nashville music producer Lij Shaw sits in front of a control panel in his recording studio.
Nashville music producer Lij Shaw. Photo courtesy of the Beacon Center

Metro Councilmember Dave Rosenberg plans to file legislation in the coming weeks to permanently legalize home-based businesses in Nashville.

  • After a decade of debate, Metro Council and Mayor John Cooper legalized home businesses in July 2020, when thousands of Nashvillians were forced to work from home in the early months of the pandemic.

State of play: Rosenberg included a sunset provision for Jan. 7, 2023, after which home businesses stand to be banned again.

Why it matters: The future of home-based businesses is an especially important issue in Nashville, where home recording studios are a vital element of the music industry.

  • Prior to the 2020 law, the studios were technically illegal, although many professional producers used them anyway because of lax enforcement.

What they're saying: "I'm thrilled that the home business bill that the council passed in 2020 has been successful," Rosenberg tells Axios. "The guardrails we set have protected neighborhoods and enabled entrepreneurial residents, and I expect to file a resolution extending the law in the coming weeks."

  • "Since the home occupation ordinance became effective in July 2020, Codes has issued approximately 41 permits," Codes Department assistant director Emily Lamb said in a statement. "Generally, enforcement of this law has not been problematic for the department."

Yes, but: A lawsuit filed before home businesses were legalized is pressing forward.

  • Music producer Lij Shaw and other business owners sued to overturn the ban in 2017. After losing in the trial court, an appeals court ruled the lawsuit moot because the legislation allowing them, with some restrictions, had passed.
  • They appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which heard arguments yesterday.

3. Building permits hit record heights

Data: Metro Codes. Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios
Data: Metro Codes. Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Nashville's explosive growth fueled a record amount of construction in 2021.

  • More than 14,600 building permits were issued last year, according to Metro Codes, easily clearing the previous record set in 2016.

By the numbers: The value of Nashville construction projects is also skyrocketing. Permitted projects were valued at $5.5 billion in 2021, up nearly $1 billion from 2020.

  • City data show that total is driven by a relatively small number of big-ticket projects, with 2,499 commercial construction permits generating $4 billion in value.

4. The Setlist

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🚨 Former President Trump endorsed former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus in the primary to represent the newly redrawn 5th congressional district. Ortagus has not said if she will run. (Tennessee Journal)

More than 300 Tennesseans remain imprisoned under a drug-free school zone law that has since been rewritten. (The Tennessean, subscription)

🌲 A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers condemned a state plan to clearcut 2,000 acres of old-growth trees in the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area in White County. (Tennessee Lookout)

Nashville's police watchdog agency says an officer violated policy by shooting a man in 2020. (WPLN)

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5 . New Year's party rakes in millions

A crowd faces the stage at a music concert as confetti falls.
Jon Pardi performs during the New Year's Eve Live Nashville's Big Bash. Photo: Mickey Bernal/Getty Images

Visitors flocked to Nashville for New Year's Eve in record numbers.

  • The Jack Daniel's New Year's Eve Live: Nashville's Big Bash brought the city more visitor spending than the pre-pandemic event in 2019 — $30 million, according to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.
  • Almost 30,000 hotel rooms were sold on Dec. 31, the CVC says, a sign the tourism industry has rebounded after prior COVID restrictions.

Nate is listening to the Dolly-themed Music Monday playlist and trying to think of ideas for future themes.

Adam just found out Serena Williams has a karaoke room in her house.