I had to photograph this traffic control box near Nashville’s convention center. Not only is it the prettiest I’ve ever seen, it plays music (country, of course). Nashville is a it a very exciting public works department for which to work.
Credit: Stephanie Johnston I had to photograph this traffic control box near Nashville’s convention center. Not only is it the prettiest I’ve ever seen, it plays music (country, of course). Nashville is a it a very exciting public works department for which to work.

I’m from Chicago, where lots of retirees head to Tennessee and the Carolinas instead of Arizona and Florida. Having made my first trip to Nashville, Tenn., for World of Asphalt (WOA), I can see why. (Read about my WOA adventures and observations on my blog.)

Nashville's growing so fast, it’s in serious danger of a real estate bubble. One of my Uber drivers pointed out a corner lot across from the convention center that sold for $10 million one year and $20 million the next. Fueled by zoning changes that enable the kind of walkable-city environment that young professionals crave, developers are pouring $2 billion into projects that incorporate residential, office, retail, and entertainment space on both sides of the Cumberland River.

Nashville’s not just the U.S. country music capital, though. It’s also the state capital and home to almost 20 institutions of higher education, including Vanderbilt University. That means it’s somewhat insulated from economic downturns.

All of which makes it a very exciting public works department to work for. (And, yes, there are openings.)

Next page: Lots going on