Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read June 2021 — The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry serves as the primary voice of diverse business and manufacturing trade interests on major employment and economic issues facing public-policy decision-makers in Tennessee. In an interview with Invest:, Bradley Jackson, the chamber’s president and CEO, discusses the current state of Tennessee’s economy and Middle Tennessee’s role in that economy, why so many businesses are relocating to the state and workforce development initiatives.
What is the significance of Middle Tennessee to the state’s economy?
Middle Tennessee is vitally important and leads the efforts to diversify Tennessee’s economy. We not only have a strong manufacturing base, we are known across the country for so much more whether it is our tourism and hospitality sectors, healthcare, headquarter companies, entrepreneurial start ups and most recently, technology companies. Middle Tennessee has proven to be a key driver of significant economic opportunities across the state.
When you look at the overall growth in Nashville/Middle Tennessee, it has been significant. As companies look across the entire United States to expand their operations or relocate, a record number of those are choosing the Nashville area and Middle Tennessee area to either expand their current operations or establish new ones.
Overall, Tennessee leaders have managed the entire pandemic extremely well. We’re only one of seven other states that have seen positive economic growth over the past year. This tremendous growth is reflected in Tennessee’s revenue collections, currently in the ninth month of a 12-month budget year, are already about $2 billion over estimated collections.
Why are companies relocating to Tennessee?
There are a number of important factors to point to. One, we are a low individual tax burden state; we don’t have a personal state income tax. Our overall infrastructure and roads are strong. Tennessee is in a great location within a day drive to reach approximately 70% of our nation’s population and we border eight other states. We have a fair and reasonable regulatory structure for businesses to initiate their operations and be compliant. In addition to having a business friendly legislature, state and local governments have a philosophy of working with companies to help them succeed. Tennessee is a beautiful state with very friendly, welcoming people. Companies have also focused on Tennessee for workforce reasons and appreciate that we have a comprehensive plan to continue to enhance our workforce no matter where you are in the state. Companies overall see Tennessee as a solid state with a great future ahead of it.
With regard to economic development, in addition to Tennessee having a number of competitive incentive structures, we frequently get compliments from companies on the seamless transition of their expansion or relocation in Tennessee. Our various governmental entities and economic development agencies collaborate with businesses to ensure that projects are successful. .
What is your outlook for manufacturing in Tennessee?
We’re very bullish when it comes to manufacturing, especially as we look at the roles automation and technology are going to play moving forward, as well as onshoring opportunities. For Tennessee specifically, we are one of the top manufacturing states in the nation. We have a good workforce, infrastructure, and access to power and water. In addition to having about 5,500 total manufacturers across the state, we are the No. 1 automotive manufacturing state in the nation in terms of our strength, which includes OEMs and Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers. In addition, we also have some of the largest food and beverage manufacturers in the nation located here in Tennessee, as well as chemical industry manufacturers and paper and pulp.
When compared with other sectors, the manufacturing industry provides higher wages and benefits. With a strong base of manufacturing in the state, we know their presence creates strong ripple effects throughout our economy that benefits small businesses, suppliers, raw materials, trucking, etc. We’re very optimistic about continued growth in all areas of Tennessee.
How is Tennessee working to grow the workforce to match the state’s growth?
Ahead of a number of other states, Tennessee is actively working to enhance our workforce in a number of innovative ways. As companies work to find skilled workers, Tennessee is ahead of the curve with the Tennessee Promise program. The program allows free community college and technical education for high-school graduates. In addition, over the last five years, our total investment in K-12 education has well exceeded the pace of inflation and we have a number of great pathway programs for students to earn dual credits in high school for technical careers.
One of the most important factors for developing a strong workforce is a strong connection between higher education and industry. In Tennessee, we know industry works with higher education and partners to train and solve workforce challenges. In Middle Tennessee, the number and quality of higher education institutions, community colleges and technical schools is significant, which is resulting in creating a stronger workforce.
What is your outlook for Tennessee’s economy?
All the trends we see show positive economic growth for Tennessee that will exceed national growth. With the base of operations that we have for a number of major Fortune companies either headquartered or with major operations here we know Tennessee is going to continue to be a location that people notice and that companies continue to come to. There is so much migration to Tennessee from a number of states that have perhaps higher regulations and taxes; we know being a state that promotes economic prosperity and innovation is important. The Tennessee Chamber and business leaders are very optimistic about where the state is heading and the opportunities that await us.
For more information, visit: