Oracle pumps $1.2bn into Nashville campus as search for southern comfort goes on

Mayor thrilled with $175m up front for Guitar Town infrastructure projects

Oracle is continuing its journey into the heart of the southern United States with what's said to be a $1.2bn investment in a new campus in Nashville, set to create 8,500 new jobs.

Big Red's new base in Tennessee is set to include 1.2 million square feet of office space along the East Bank of the Cumberland River.

"We are thrilled that Oracle is ready to make a billion-dollar bet on Nashville," Mayor John Cooper said in a news release.

"Oracle will bring a record number of high-paying jobs to Nashville and they will pay upfront all the city's infrastructure costs. This is a huge win for our city."

Oracle plans to buy the land and offer $175m upfront for public infrastructure, including a pedestrian bridge, environmental clean-up, a sewer pump station, and a riverfront park, according to the city.

Christened Guitar Town in Steve Earle's 1980s hit, Nashville is home to the Grand Ole Opry, the crucible of country music for 95 years. The jury is out on whether it will prove such a setting for tech innovation.

The move follows the software giant upping sticks from its California headquarters to a basecamp in Austin, Texas, a move which would "improve our employees' quality of life and quality of output."

Oracle said it would continue to support its major hubs around the world including US bases in Redwood City, Austin, Santa Monica, Seattle, Denver, Orlando, and Burlington.

Founded in Santa Clara in 1977, Oracle is not the first to leave its California home. HPE late last year said it would move a big chunk of its workforce to Texas. Elon Musk has also said Tesla's operations would move from Cali to Texas and Nevada.

HPE has denied that tax rates lay behind the change in HQ. Adam Bauer, director of issues management and policy communications, said HPE remained incorporated in Delaware so its tax status would not change. He did, however, argue that as HPE fills open positions from the Houston market, there may be some cost savings by hiring people on lower salaries. And Neri said some savings should be expected from lower real estate costs in Houston.

Other tech firms reversing the great westward migration might be similarly hoping the economics will work in their favour. Housing and office space in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area remains staggeringly high, and the pandemic has shown that location is less important when managing workers.

It's feasible then that Oracle, HPE, and others might save on salaries with the shift south. But will they still get the best people so far from the Berkley, Caltech, and that West Coast mountains-surf-and-city lifestyle?

Whether a groundswell of tech brothers and sisters would be willing to ditch their Patagonia gilets and Allbirds sneakers for plaid shirts and cowboy boots is an open question. Either way, it's a big shift in mood music. ®

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