Early in my automotive career, I moved from the East coast to the Detroit area.  Naturally, I understood immediately the impact of the industry on the region.  But our industry’s growth and expansion beyond the midwest – and its creation of new automotive communities -- did not hit home for me until I began at Global Automakers.

I was surprised to learn how significant the social and economic benefits of international automakers’ investments are on local communities throughout the South.  As I visited places like West Point, GA and Montgomery, AL and Smyrna, TN it really became clear. I’ve since made it my mission to share these great stories of economic growth and revitalization with others through a platform called Here For America.

Last week in Nashville, Tennessee, Here For America unveiled its latest economic impact report at the state Capitol. It was encouraging – and fitting – to hear that Governor Haslam shared our excitement about this report, which details the investments and contributions of international automakers across Tennessee.

In a previous post, I spoke about the changing face of the industry. As the 7th largest automobile producing state in the country, Tennessee is a great example of the extent to which the South has become the new epicenter of the U.S. auto industry.

Many policymakers at the federal level still tend to neglect the full scope of domestic auto production. However, as acknowledged by many of the state legislators, the policy needs in Nashville aren’t necessarily the same as those in Detroit. That doesn’t make it any less of an ‘auto state.’

Nissan began its manufacturing operations in Rutherford County back in 1983. Younger generations – my two teenage sons included – have never known a world where local auto production was limited to three companies based in Michigan.

Now, Nissan and fellow international automaker Volkswagen together produce over 750,000 vehicles in the Volunteer state each year. They’ve invested a combined $9 billion in the state, and directly employ nearly 15,000 Tennesseans.

The numbers may be surprising to some, but they underscore an important point – the U.S. auto industry is alive and well.  It’s just more diverse and spreads further South than before.

I encourage you to check out the Tennessee study in full at www.hereforamerica.com.