“Build the Rooftops and They Will Come”

By Spring Hill Mayor Rick Graham

Many of you were not around then, but the City of Spring Hill leadership made a

conscious decision many years ago to encourage the building of residential

rooftops so that we can attract the businesses that we need and desire in our


Boy, did that work. It was this strategy that led us into many years of turbo

growth, including several years of over 1,500 annual residential permits, followed

by the reset of the recession (years 2008-2009) to under 200 permits, and the

recent climb back to over 800 new home permits annually.

This catalyst likely led you to bring your business to Spring Hill, and we thank you

for that investment. Our attractive market of over 40,000 folks brought you to us,

and that is a blessing to our citizens today. We likely did not recruit you, but you

found us. You have brought additional choice to our citizens and reduced what is

already a heavily burdened traffic situation.

People ask me often why we recruit businesses today, if they come on their own,

like you probably did. Well, we don’t aggressively pursue businesses that already

similarly exist in Spring Hill. We are actually trying to capture the businesses we

don’t have that necessitate us regularly driving north. We call it “leakage,” and it

is more than just the loss of sales tax dollars to our coffers and the personal

inconvenience; it’s also largely about the reduction of our traffic congestion.

Our Economic Development Commission and our City’s Economic Development

Coordinator, Kayce Williams, focus on reducing our city’s leakage. It’s also about

bringing office jobs within our City limits. Both of these bring job opportunities to

our residents and reduce traffic.

Recruiting for the absence in retail and office-oriented businesses only

strengthens us and reduces our migration north each day resulting from being a

bedroom-dependent community. It will also assist in keeping the market from becoming too saturated in many segments, which forces business closures and

empty building boxes.

In this effort, can we tell businesses knocking on our doors to stay away because

we have enough of your type? No. This is still America, and we live in a capitalistic,

free market-driven economy; thank you Lord. There are plenty of laws regulating

this, and as a community we made that choice a long time ago. We cannot allow

some and exclude others, legally, on the same grounds.

I get emails from citizens asking why we allowed a particular business to come to

Spring Hill and why we picked a particular location? We do not have the legal

authority to pick and choose, as people can freely open a business here if they

meet the city codes and laws of our land. Businesses and landowners determine

their own locations; our influence is with the land zoning. That is where we have

some discretion, within zoning laws and property rights, which is a much broader

discussion for another time.

As you know from our annual State of the City Address every January, traffic

congestion and the lack of adequate road infrastructure is one of our most

important issues. This business recruiting strategy I have described is one way to

help in this cause. There is no silver bullet to solve our traffic concerns, as it must

be a multi-pronged approach, as widening roads alone will not be enough for our


Spring Hill has been a full participant for several decades in a national trend of

suburban sprawl. Nationally, our society has continually become more

automobile-dependent, which has caused further migration outside the urban

areas to more expansive physical space to accommodate our need for larger and

newer houses for less money.

I recently gave our city staff, aldermen, and many of our planning commissioners,

a book called, “Where We Want to Live,” by Ryan Gravel. Mr. Gravel notes that

cities like Nashville could never accommodate all of us living there, so sprawl was

practical and bound to happen. However, today we realize that sprawl areas like

ours must adapt to change, otherwise we will eventually choke on our success.

Spring Hill’s decision to grow the rooftops many years ago worked very well for

our needs at that time, but today’s strategies must adapt as we can’t continue to

drive a little further to get exactly what we want.

We must recruit what we don’t have in jobs and retail to help ourselves in trying

to resolve our many other challenges as a city. We must broaden our thinking to

encourage more entrepreneurship with less travel. Mr. Gravel comments that

citizens wonder why the costs of maintaining the free flow of our roads is growing

so much, and blame government ineptitude rather than the consumer market. He

says it is easy to find excuses to not be ambitious, and we must act to identify

new strategies and solutions that improve our lives.

As the city made a decision many years ago that took decades to materialize,

short-term remedies will not be enough for our new strategies. As in the past, the

decisions we make today will not give us immediate satisfying results, but they

can move us in the right direction.

I envision and pray that a future Spring Hill mayor addressing the Chamber of

Commerce many years from now will state that the decisions made way back in

2019 set the course of a higher quality of life for them, and they are thankful.



Rick Graham