Nissan Celebrates 25 Years In U.S. With New HQ

About 1,500 employees are moving into the new headquarters 25 years after the Japanese company became the first foreign automaker to build cars in the southern U.S.

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) -- Nissan North America focused the design of its new $100 million headquarters on employee and energy efficiency, but it didn't forget appearance matters in the auto industry.

Rob Traynham, the Nissan executive who oversaw the construction of the building 20 miles south of Nashville, says planners didn't start by saying, "Let's make a building that looks cool."

But the glassy, sleek, S-shaped structure turned out that way.

Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and other company and community leaders are attending a Tuesday dedication of the Japanese automaker's new headquarters in the U.S.

The 10-story building has sunshades with computer-designed blades to reduce glare and summer heat, an interior light harvesting system and employee discussion areas at open stairways connecting 460,000 square feet of offices. The goal is to save energy and foster collaboration.

"When you do all that and the building looks great too, that's a wonderful thing," Traynham said.

About 1,500 Nissan employees are moving into the headquarters 25 years after the company became the first foreign automaker to build cars in the southern U.S. by opening an assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn. Since then it has added an engine plant in Decherd, Tenn., and another assembly plant in Canton, Miss.

Nissan's own facilities engineers, working with Gresham Smith & Partners of Nashville and Swedish construction company Skanska AB, developed and built the headquarters.

"We really understand our employees and the way they work and how people interract with each other," said Traynham, the non-manufacturing facilities director for Nissan North America.

According to Traynham, the building came in below budget and is expected to consume about 35 percent less energy than a traditionally designed building. He said it's too early to put a dollar figure on the projected energy savings.

"The building is absolutely performing the way we expected," he said.

The employees aren't the first to occupy the new site. A restored wetland on the 50-acre campus already has attracted new wildlife to move in, Nissan officials said.

The Nissan headquarters is being dedicated while Tennessee officials are still celebrating Volkswagen's announcement last week that it plans to build an assembly plant at Chattanooga.

"We don't look at it as sharing the stage," Traynham said. "If it's a great thing for Tennessee, it's a great thing for us."

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