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  • Joseph Stresses Importance of Mentorship at Education Committee Meeting

    by Verlinda Darden | Aug 22, 2016

    Newly appointed Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Dr. Shawn Joseph addressed the August meeting of the Chamber’s Education Committee at Lipscomb University. Joseph shared his vision for MNPS and highlighted the critical need for mentorship within our schools as a component of student success.

    Joseph said he truly believes Metro Nashville is capable of being one of the best urban school districts in the nation, but added, “If you don’t expect a lot, you don’t get a lot.” To this end, MNPS employees are now expected to mentor and inspire district students. Joseph himself mentors two students at Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.

    Mentorship at any age is pertinent for next-level attainment, but it proves especially critical during the transition from middle school to high school, when students are most susceptible to the woes of the world and dropout rates are most prevalent.

    Education Committee Chair Laura Delgado, director of Lipscomb University's Pionero Scholars program, said, “Dr. Joseph spoke powerfully about how his values and personal experience with schooling have shaped his priorities as a leader.” Delgado was most touched by Joseph’s comments on societal views of poor children. Joseph believes we look at children from underprivileged families ...

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    Category: Education
  • New Report Issues 10 Recommendations for Middle Tennessee's Transit Future

    by Marc Hill | Jun 22, 2016

    A year of research and discussion by more than 100 community volunteers has culminated in the release of the first Moving Forward report, containing findings and recommendations on how to advance a transit plan for the Nashville and Middle Tennessee region.

    The rapid growth our region has enjoyed has led to more jobs, more investment and an influx of new residents, but it has been accompanied by a marked increase in transit congestion. We're reaching a point at which our region's lack of transit options is negatively affecting our quality of life, environment and economy. In addition, a new generation of workers wants and expects a strong transit infrastructure, making transit a key concern for employers.

    We recognize that Middle Tennessee leaders must prioritize transit in order to keep our economy vibrant and growing, and this new report represents a major step in the discussion about what we can do to develop a regional, multi-modal transit system.

    The report includes 10 specific recommendations that address Middle Tennessee's most pressing transit challenges, in support of the nMotion strategic transit plan currently being developed by the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) and the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning ...

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  • Chamber Co-hosts Community Conversation about Student Mobility

    by Whitney Weeks | Jun 17, 2016

    The Chamber is partnering with The Tennessean, the Nashville Public Library and the ASNE News Literacy Program to host a public conversation about what we as a city can do to help with the issue of student mobility within Metro Nashville Public Schools. 

    Last year’s Chamber Education Report Card identified student mobility as a top concern facing MNPS and our community. Tennessee’s accountability system is based on the assumption that schools have their students for a full academic year and that these students should show a certain amount of academic growth. That’s a reasonable expectation for students who do not move around, but in Nashville, that is often not the reality. Approximately 35 percent of MNPS students move to a different school within the academic year. These moves are highly correlated with poverty, the cost of housing and parents’ access to employment. Students who move frequently between schools may experience a range of problems, including a greater risk for dropping out, attendance problems, difficulty developing peer relationships, and more barriers to academic achievement.

    On Wednesday, June 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the North Branch of the Nashville Public Library, three panelists will discuss their unique perspectives on the ...

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    Category: Education
  • 'We Built This City' Membership Campaign Exceeds Goals

    by Rita McDonald | Jun 07, 2016

    Our spring membership campaign, themed "We Built This City," was a resounding success, bringing in nearly 50 new Chamber member companies.

    Special thanks to all our campaign volunteers who brought their excitement and enthusiasm to call potential members and tell them how the Chamber is continuing to build this city. The campaign exceeded our goals, which would not have been possible without our team leaders: Rob Elliott, Stansell Electric; Kate Ezell, Ezell Consulting; Derrick Free, Lipscomb University; Mike Sain, Materials Handling; Pam Thomas, Piedmont Natural Gas; and Jewell Winn, Tennessee State University. 

    Chamber investment creates opportunities to advocate for the needs and concerns of your business, improve your visibility, gain access to other business leaders, build your network and connect to others with similar interests. Your membership also supports the Chamber's work to create prosperity throughout Middle Tennessee. Whether you've just recently joined, or have invested in the Chamber for many years, thank you for belonging!

    If you're not a Chamber member, join us today. If you have questions about your membership or want to know more about getting involved, feel free to reach out to me.


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    Category: General
  • Academies of Nashville Awards Celebrate Another Great Year for MNPS High Schools

    by Candy Johnson | May 10, 2016

    On May 9, we honored the many accomplishments of our outstanding teachers, principals and public high schools, as well as the businesses that support their success, at the sixth annual Academies of Nashville Awards.

    More than 330 educators and business partners attended the awards dinner at Rocketown to celebrate the progress of Metro's 12 zoned high schools and MNPS Virtual School.

    MNPS launched the Academies of Nashville in 2006 as a push toward preparing students for college and careers through a more rigorous, relevant curriculum. High school students choose a thematic course of study, such as information technology, health care or engineering, then complete coursework in classes such as math, science, English and social studies in the context of their academy theme. The program has been instrumental in improving attendance and graduation rates, and is now recognized as a national model for high school reform.

    A committee composed of school district, Nashville Area Chamber and PENCIL Foundation leadership selected nominees for each of the 15 award categories, and more than 300 educators and business partners voted online. Special thanks to our sponsors: Altria, Deloitte, Fifth Third Bank, Dollar General, Nissan, Saint Thomas Health and the Memorial Foundation.

    Congratulations to these ...

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  • Learning in the Twin Cities: Key Takeaways from the 25th Annual Leadership Study Mission

    by Whitney Weeks | May 04, 2016
    On April 17, nearly 140 Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce members, including business owners, faith leaders, elected officials and nonprofit executives, began their three-day study mission in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. For the 25th consecutive year, the Nashville delegation explored issues of importance to our community in a peer city. The focal points of the 2016 Leadership/Transit Study Missions included regionalism, transportation as an economic driver, affordability and workforce development and retention.

    The mission included a number of conversations with both city and regional officials about how they are tackling various challenges that Middle Tennessee is also facing. Of particular interest to the Nashville delegates was the Metropolitan Council, a unique governing body that allows for the seven counties in the Minneapolis-St. Paul MSA to make decisions with the entire region in mind. Experiencing the Twin Cities was key to the visit, as well. Each of the three days of the mission included multiple options for smaller breakout sessions that examined such topics as the creative economy, the economic impact of the upcoming Super Bowl LII, and workforce development training programs specific to the region’s construction and health care industry needs.

    In addition to learning about innovative programs and solutions in ...
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    Category: Policy
  • Education Committee Explores Legislative Priorities

    by Rita McDonald | Mar 07, 2016

    The Chamber's Education Committee reconvened at the offices of ChanceLight Behavioral Health and Education for their third meeting of the 2015-2016 school year in February. ChanceLight President and CEO Mark Claypool welcomed committee members and explained his company's work as the nation’s leading provider of behavioral therapy and alternative and special education programs for children and young adults.

    The February meeting focused on an in-depth discussion of legislative issues. Committee members were excited to have a Q&A with Rep. Mark White, chair of the Tennessee House of Representatives' Education Administration and Planning Committee. The meeting also provided status updates on the Chamber's state and Metro legislative priorities, which include the following bills:

    • HB 1485/SB 1899 – Quality Pre-K – With the surprising and inadequate results of the Vanderbilt study that was released last September, this bill is a proactive approach to improving the pre-K program in Tennessee. As school districts annually apply for pre-K dollars, this bill will require them to do the following: have a plan for parental/family involvement; have a plan for professional development; have a plan for collaboration between pre-K educators and elementary school educators; and utilize the portfolio growth model as the evaluation of performance.
    • HB 2022/SB ...
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    Category: Education
  • VIP Guests Impressed By McKissack Middle Prep

    by Rita McDonald | Mar 01, 2016

    The Nashville Area Chamber, Nashville Metro Public Schools and Greater Nashville Association of Realtors hosted this school year's third and final Middle Prep VIP Tour to Moses McKissack Middle in February.

    More than 60 attendees, including Vice Mayor David Briley; Metro Council members DeCosta Hastings, Scott Davis, Bob Mendes, Dave Rosenberg, Ed Kindall, Erica Gilmore, Jacobia Dowell, Jim Shulman, Mina Johnson and Sharon Hurt; and school board member Mary Pierce, were greeted by student ambassadors as they entered the school auditorium. The program began with an inspirational selection by the school band called “I Am So Glad I Go to McKissack Middle.”

    VIP guests reported enthusiastic feedback about the student ambassadors who led the tour groups, as well as the leadership of Executive Principal Darren Kennedy and his team, and the school's business and community partners. “The building is so clean, and I love the college wall. I’m sure your students appreciate the way their school looks,” one VIP told Kennedy after the tour.

    “The academic culture of McKissack is clearly changing. I was so fascinated with the catapults I saw in the STEM classroom," said another attendee.   

    McKissack's student population is 357; the school's student-teacher ratio is 20 ...
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    Category: Education
  • Metro School Board Honors MNPS Freshmen

    by Rita McDonald | Feb 24, 2016

    Medicine and music were the prominent themes in a pair of essays submitted by freshmen from John Overton High School and Antioch High School following the seventh annual "My Future, My Way" Career Exploration Fair at the Music City Center.

    The students, Lindsey Dao of Overton and Nolan Carasquillo of Antioch, were recognized by the Metro Nashville Board of Education at this week's meeting for their outstanding essays detailing their experiences at last November’s career fair. The "My Future, My Way" Career Exploration Fair is held annually by the Academies of Nashville and the Chamber so Metro freshmen can learn more about what it takes to create a career they’re passionate about. More than 7,000 students toured the 2015 career fair, and each had the assignment to take notes about the potential employers they met and to write about what impressed them most.

    Dao wrote that the career fair helped her explore possible careers in health care; a conversation with a Vanderbilt University Medical Center physician helped her understand what she would need to pursue a career in pediatrics, her area of interest. Carrasquillo was impressed by the live performances of the Nashville Musicians Association, and his discussions with the ...

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    Category: Education
  • Next Time You See Academic Data, Close Your Eyes and Imagine a Child You Know

    by Candy Johnson | Feb 10, 2016

    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is involved in education policy work on many fronts, as part of our mission of facilitating community leadership to create economic prosperity. Public education is the Chamber’s No. 1 priority, with our annual Education Report Card serving more specifically as a catalog of the overall performance of Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), which serves nearly 86,000 students.

    This independent viewpoint of the successes and challenges of MNPS is important because it creates a sense of urgency in Nashville’s public education strategies to ensure that all students have access to the highest-quality education and are graduating from high school college- and career-ready.

    The 2015 Report Card, released Dec. 15, 2015, reflects more than 750 hours of research, interviews, meetings, school visits and data review by 23 volunteers, including 10 Metro Schools parents.

    Chamber President and CEO Ralph Schulz described the Report Card project as one of the most time-consuming and difficult tasks the Chamber asks volunteers to undertake. “It takes extraordinary leadership to be able to pull this off, and final recommendations serve as a planning resource to the school district and business community,” Schulz said during his remarks at the December event. 

    The data ...

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    Category: Education
  • New Report Issues 10 Recommendations for Middle Tennessee's Transit Future

    by Marc Hill | Jun 22, 2016

    A year of research and discussion by more than 100 community volunteers has culminated in the release of the first Moving Forward report, containing findings and recommendations on how to advance a transit plan for the Nashville and Middle Tennessee region.

    The rapid growth our region has enjoyed has led to more jobs, more investment and an influx of new residents, but it has been accompanied by a marked increase in transit congestion. We're reaching a point at which our region's lack of transit options is negatively affecting our quality of life, environment and economy. In addition, a new generation of workers wants and expects a strong transit infrastructure, making transit a key concern for employers.

    We recognize that Middle Tennessee leaders must prioritize transit in order to keep our economy vibrant and growing, and this new report represents a major step in the discussion about what we can do to develop a regional, multi-modal transit system.

    The report includes 10 specific recommendations that address Middle Tennessee's most pressing transit challenges, in support of the nMotion strategic transit plan currently being developed by the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) and the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2040 regional transportation plan adopted in February.

    1. Use the most comprehensive and far-reaching of the three scenarios outlined in nMotion’s strategic transit plan as a starting point for developing a bold, regional plan.
    2. Design transit projects between Nashville and surrounding communities such as Clarksville, Franklin, Gallatin, Lebanon and Murfreesboro so that they can be upgraded to high-capacity transit, like rail, in the future.
    3. Urge the Nashville Mayor’s Office to develop a plan for downtown transit access by the end of 2016 which includes all modes of mobility.
    4. Recommend public agencies prioritize transit projects based on a community’s projected density and land-use policies.
    5. Include a direct light rail connection between downtown Nashville and the Nashville International Airport.
    6. Encourage Tennessee, Middle Tennessee’s mayors and other stakeholders to continue exploring the relocation of the Radnor Yard rail facility.
    7. Request Tennessee create an Office of Public-Private Partnerships.
    8. Ask RTA and the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee to hold public discussions of transit planning in each county surrounding Nashville at least twice per year.
    9. Request that the upcoming Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) regional technology study identify the capital and operational costs of installing an “intelligent transportation system” in each city and county in the region.
    10.  Recommend MTA/RTA include strategies for incorporating autonomous vehicles into the nMotion plan, including their integration into the overall regional transit system.

    Moving Forward officially launched in August 2015 with a Coordinating Committee overseeing the work of an Advisory Forum and three task forces: Routes, Networks & Modes (led by Mathews Company President Bert Mathews and Rev. Judy Cummings, Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship); Revenue & Finance (led by Fifth Third Bank of Tennessee President & CEO Don Abel and Corinne Bergeron, program officer, Frist Foundation); and Public Engagement (led by Paramore │the digital agency President Hannah Paramore Breen and Gini Pupo-Walker, senior director of education policy & strategic growth, Conexión Américas). The chair of Moving Forward’s Advisory Forum is Pinnacle Chairman Rob McCabe. For more information, visit movingforwardmidtn.com.

    Gary Garfield, president and CEO, Bridgestone Americas, spoke in his role as chair of the Moving Forward Coordinating Committee at the public release of the Moving Forward report on June 22.

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  • Regional Chambers Weigh In On No Child Left Behind Reauthorization

    by Marc Hill | Mar 03, 2015
    Sen. Lamar Alexander is leading the effort to reauthorize the federal education law this year, and Tennessee's four regional chambers of commerce have weighed in on behalf of the business community. Alexander is the new chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which will be responsible for crafting the new legislation. In response to Alexander’s call for public input last month, the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville Area Chambers of Commerce submitted a letter sharing our perspective on accountability, flexibility of federal funds, early childhood education and teacher quality. You can read our letter here.

    The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was first passed in 1965, providing federal funds to states and local school districts to support K-12 education. Over the years, ESEA has been reauthorized by Congress to include accountability requirements in exchange for these federal resources. The most recent reauthorization of ESEA in 2002, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, required 100 percent of students to reach proficiency in math and reading by 2014. Schools and school districts whose students did not make “adequate yearly progress” toward the 100 percent proficiency goal faced stiff sanctions, including the potential for state takeover.

    NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized by Congress in 2007. Given that we are now beyond 2014 and schools and districts across the country have failed to ensure all of their students are proficient in math and reading, the U.S. Department of Education has been issuing waivers to states that propose alternative accountability provisions. Tennessee’s waiver requires schools and districts to make modest, annual progress in the number of students proficient in math and reading for certain grades. Schools and districts must also demonstrate they are closing the achievement gaps between student demographic groups.

    While we believe that NCLB had several provisions that were unrealistic and in need of revision, it is also clear that its accountability provisions sparked much-needed change and innovation in K-12 education. We hope the current effort to rewrite the law results in legislation that continues to insist on increased student achievement for all students.

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  • Relive the 2014 NEXT Awards

    by Stephanie Coleman | Jan 09, 2015
    It’s a brand-new year for Nashville’s innovators and entrepreneurs to think up new ideas and take their companies to the next level, and we can’t wait to honor those groundbreaking individuals and businesses at the 2015 NEXT Awards this fall.

    In November, the Nashville Chamber and Nashville Entrepreneur Center hosted the 2014 NEXT Awards to recognize those who have achieved excellence in business and entrepreneurship. In case you missed the show or just want to relive the amazing experience, check out the recap video below, compliments of our Chamber member Steven Knapp of knapptimecreative. Warning: this video may inspire creative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit.

    Visit nextawardsnashville.com to view more videos from the event and to see a full list of 2014 finalists and winners. The 2015 NEXT Awards are coming this fall, and we'll begin accepting applications this summer. Will you be NEXT?

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  • Introducing Business Studio 2.0

    by Stephanie Coleman | Jan 09, 2015

    Guest post by Corey Davis, director of business growth initiatives, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

    Small and midsized businesses are the majority of our Chamber membership and a cornerstone of our regional economy. In September, we launched Business Studio, a new suite of programming specifically designed to help these businesses succeed.

    Yesterday, we hosted a special kickoff event to unveil what I like to think of as "Business Studio 2.0." We'll now host two Business Studio events each month. One will be an educational workshop with an expert presenter, and the other will be an interactive networking experience. For this month's offerings, Michael Croom and John Fink of First Advantage Bank will join us Tuesday, Jan. 20, for an overview of the SBA lending process, and on Thursday, Jan. 29, we'll have a town-hall-style event with Sam Davidson, founder of Batch Nashville. We hope you can join us; to register for these and other upcoming events, visit our online calendar.

    We're also planning big things for the online component of Business Studio. Our blog will include both original and contributed content focused on topics to help improve your business. Other features, such as our BusinessConnect RFP tool, help companies solicit bids for products or services they need, while also allowing companies to view open RFPs to find new revenue-generating opportunities. The Business Studio forum (coming soon) will give businesses a platform to engage with peers online by asking questions, posting helpful information and providing input to continually improve our programming. As Business Studio continues to grow, we'll eventually develop a library of online resources such as videos and podcasts – all aimed at helping you grow your business.

    We hope Business Studio will evolve into a community where our members can not only learn, but also develop new connections and spark great ideas for growing and thriving. For that to happen, we need to hear from you about what future programming you'd like to see, what support you need to reach your goals, and even what advice or inspiration you'd like to share with fellow business owners. To get the conversation started, share your feedback by using the comment area below this blog post or emailing me.

    More than 130 people registered to attend the Business Studio kickoff event on Jan. 8.
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  • Nashville Chamber Announces 2015 Legislative Agendas, New State Lobbyist

    by Marc Hill | Jan 07, 2015
    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to release its 2015 state and Metro legislative agendas. Our advocacy work centers on creating an environment where business can prosper, developing the region’s workforce talent, building a great quality of life, and acting regionally to ensure economic prosperity. Each fall, we begin our policy process by surveying our members to see which issues are top of mind. Our members’ feedback then informs the development of an agenda which is approved by our board of directors. Top priorities at the state legislature this year are expanding the number of Tennesseans with health insurance through Gov. Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan and support for rigorous K-12 academic standards accompanied by a new assessment that accurately measures student achievement.

    In January 2013, the Nashville Chamber was the first business organization in the state to endorse the expansion of health insurance coverage to working Tennesseans, funded wholly by federal Medicaid dollars through 2016. In our most recent policy survey, our members favored supporting the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan by a two-to-one margin. While Tennessee has not yet joined the growing number of states participating in expanding health insurance to those eligible for Medicaid expansion, Gov. Haslam is submitting a plan to the state legislature and the federal government to expand the number of insured Tennesseans through the private market. The governor’s proposal would provide access to health insurance coverage to more than 200,000 Tennesseans through their employers or through a flexible spending account, leading to a healthier workforce. The governor’s plan would also avert a scenario in which many Tennessee businesses are hit with certain tax penalties unique to states that choose not to expand Medicaid. Additionally, reducing the number of uninsured individuals helps offset the Affordable Care Act’s reimbursement cuts to hospitals and medical providers—an important issue for Nashville’s No. 1 industry.

    For the second year in a row, more than 90 percent of our members have expressed support for education standards which set high expectations for students and are designed to focus on college, career and life readiness. While the rigorous Common Core State Standards were adopted by Tennessee in 2010 and implemented in classrooms across the state, Gov. Haslam is currently conducting a review of the state’s academic standards that will continue through spring 2015. To date, the review process has netted more than 40,000 comments through an online portal. The General Assembly has a responsibility to participants who have reviewed and commented on the state’s current standards, now in their fourth year of implementation, and should resist any attempt to modify them before the review process has been completed. The legislature’s action to delay a new assessment last year means that it will be 2016 before teachers, parents and taxpayers know how our students are measuring up to the state’s more rigorous K-12 standards. As representatives of Middle Tennessee’s business community, we believe the continued misalignment between standards and assessments sets our teachers and students up for failure. We urge the legislature to honor the state’s commitment to accountability by supporting the implementation of an assessment aligned to current state standards for the 2015-2016 school year.

    In 2015, the Chamber will accomplish our longstanding goal of bringing our state lobbying efforts in-house. Adam Lister, who has been on our staff for three years, has been promoted to vice president of policy and will represent the Chamber’s positions at the state capitol. Adam will also take the lead in supporting our advocacy partnerships with the Rutherford County, Hendersonville Area and Robertson County Chambers of Commerce. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Dan Haskell and Matt Scanlan of Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin for their outstanding service over many years as the Nashville Chamber’s contract lobbyists, which concluded on Dec. 31. We look forward to continuing to work with them both on issues important to Middle Tennessee’s business community.

    The Tennessee General Assembly will convene at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 13, for their 2015 legislative session. For the latest information on our legislative priorities, please visit Middle Tennessee Business Voice.
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  • Executive Orders Highlight Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

    by Marc Hill | Dec 08, 2014
    It is always an honor for Nashville to host the president of the United States, and we welcome President Obama to our prosperous city and region this week. The president is expected to speak Tuesday on an issue of great importance to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce: the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Our Chamber has been a longstanding advocate for congressional action to fix our broken immigration system, opposing efforts in the state legislature to supplant the federal responsibility, as well as helping to defeat a local “English-only” referendum in 2009. We hope the president will share how he intends to work with leaders in both parties to pass comprehensive immigration reform when the new Congress begins work in 2015.

    Nashville has a well-deserved reputation as a friendly, welcoming city — not just for visitors and tourists, but also for immigrants from around the world. As a result, Nashville's immigrant population is growing quickly. As the Tennessean noted recently, more than half of our city’s growth since 2000 has come from immigrants, and 12 percent of all our residents were born outside the U.S. This population growth is important, because the Nashville region will be facing a shortage of skilled and qualified workers over the next decade. The Chamber’s 2014 Nashville Region's Vital Signs report forecasts a shortage of 34,800 skilled workers for the jobs that will exist in our region by 2021.

    That’s why the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce remains a strong advocate for fixing our nation’s immigration system. We need comprehensive legislation that:
    • secures our border against illegal immigration;
    • expands legal immigration that meets our country’s workforce needs for highly skilled workers;
    • allows an earned pathway toward citizenship for undocumented residents already living in our country, so they can pay taxes and better contribute to our economy.
    Immigration reform has been a national issue for the last several years, but our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. have yet to adopt a long-term solution to our failed system. That includes the president’s Nov. 20 announcement to take action through executive order — that is, without Congress passing legislation. The president’s plan seeks to protect an estimated 5 million undocumented parents of U.S.-born children from being deported, allowing them to obtain a work permit and social security number. The plan also seeks to bolster border security and focus primarily on deporting undocumented persons who commit serious crimes. In addition, the plan would allow highly skilled foreign workers who enter the country through the H1-B visa program to more easily change employers, as well as allow their spouses to seek employment.

    Businesses are able to invest and create jobs when there is a predictable and supportive business environment. But the future of the president’s executive orders is uncertain, since they would expire in three years. In addition, as many as 17 states have announced plans to take legal action against the president’s orders, seeking to block their implementation (Tennessee is currently not among them). While the executive orders contain provisions we would support in any comprehensive immigration bill, Congress must take action. In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill thanks to the leadership and votes of Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, among others. But the House of Representatives has failed to act.

    Whether or not you support the president taking action through executive order, one thing is clear: it is far past time for Congress to pass comprehensive legislation addressing our nation’s broken immigration system.
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  • A Look Back At the 2014 NEXT Awards

    by Stephanie Coleman | Nov 26, 2014
    The Nashville Area Chamber and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center created the NEXT Awards four years ago as a way to celebrate the people, companies and ideas that are fueling Middle Tennessee's economy. It's been exciting to see this event grow every year as Nashville continues to be one of the best places to live, work and start a business. 

    With the 2014 NEXT Awards just behind us on Nov. 20, we wanted to take a look back at the event through videos, photos and a podcast. Visit nextawardsnashville.com for a full list of this year's finalists and winners.

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  • The NEXT Awards: The Past, Present and Future of Entrepreneurship in Music City

    by Stephanie Coleman | Nov 18, 2014
    Guest post by Clark Buckner, online events manager, TechnologyAdvice

    The annual NEXT Awards celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit in Music City, recognizing businesses and individuals that are leading innovation in Middle Tennessee.

    Many of this year’s finalists gathered for the NEXT Awards Finalists Celebration at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, where I interviewed them for a podcast about the biggest trends and challenges in Nashville’s entrepreneurial growth.

    Nashville’s NEXT Awards

    The NEXT Awards ceremony is one of the largest events of the year for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, which partners with the Entrepreneur Center (EC) in making the event come to life. Corey Davis, the Chamber’s director of business growth initiatives, says it is also one of its most meaningful. “The Chamber wants to help the Nashville business community any way we can. We want Nashville to grow, and partnering with the EC to highlight companies that are the future of Nashville is a great way to help encourage that,” he said.

    NEXT Awards are presented to companies in five industries across three categories based on their stage of growth: startup (small companies), growth (mid-sized companies) and market mover (large companies). Davis is excited about the natural progression of the awards, noting that several former NEXT Award winners are finalists yet again, but in higher growth categories.

    Jared Marquette, the EC’s director of business partnerships, agrees that the NEXT Awards are “representative of the growth and change” that’s marked Nashville’s tech scene for some time. The awards don’t reveal “where we’re at now,” but rather highlight “what’s new and what’s happening.”

    For Marquette, the word “collision” signifies the event as well as Nashville’s technology industry: “There’s so much movement and so many different particles and pieces constantly bumping into each other that things start to stick. You start to not just have these tiny individual pieces, ideas, businesses, entrepreneurs, or investors—but what you have is an actual whole system that's planned and organized that allows for any part of the system to come in and understand how to walk through it.”

    The Friendliest Tech City?

    According to Marquette, personality has been another key element to Nashville’s tech growth. “There’s a lot of competition here, but I think it’s friendly. People are always willing to offer advice or lend a helping hand,” he said.

    Virsys12’s Tammy Hawes has seen that camaraderie firsthand, and agrees that it’s one of Nashville’s defining characteristics: “Nashville is a very giving community. You run across people all the time in Nashville that truly want to help you along your path. And pretty much everybody I meet, they have some kind of golden nugget of advice or experience in the past that I can relate to .... There's always something that they say that makes me think differently about the way the world's changing. I think that's what's drawing people to Nashville -- that sense of people helping each other. I hope that we can keep that. I think we can.”

    The Push to Retain Tech Talent

    For a number of reasons, tech workers keep flocking to Nashville. Of course, it’s incredibly important for the city to retain the tech workers it is developing, too. Countless local companies and organizations are working together to increase development and improve retention. Many efforts have been directed at the middle and high school levels, including:

    • HCA investing in women who mentor girls at Overton High School
    • Firefly Logic investing in Stratford STEM Magnet High School
    • Nissan investing in the Williamson County school system
    • Griffin Technology investing in the Hunters Lane High School Design and Technology Academy (MNPS IT Academy)

    Additionally, InternNashville is an initiative from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce that offers internship resources and opportunities to connect students and employers in Middle Tennessee.

    Ben McIntyre, CEO of the startup Internpreneur, understands quite well the direct connection between rapid business growth and the need for talent acquisition and talent retention. He believes Nashville must work hard to keep the talent Nashville’s universities have been incubating. He pointed to Nashville’s relatively low cost of living as one benefit for new tech graduates, but suggested more can and should be done to ensure that Nashville’s young tech talent stays around long enough to become Nashville’s old tech talent.

    Channing Moreland, CEO and co-founder of What’s Hubbin’, believes the first steps are already evident. “I have noticed such a strong desire for collaboration with these younger kids. I really think if [experienced professionals] could just remove the stereotypes from our minds and really look at these entrepreneurs, it would be amazing what they could do because they are so willing to work,” she said.

    Hawes believes the EC’s focus on collaboration has helped encourage that growth and increase the number of ways people can connect with guidance from peers and mentors, especially when it comes to women.

    As a successful woman in Nashville’s technology industry, Hawes is active in the EC, the Nashville Chamber, the Nashville Technology Council and Women in Technology. She believes opportunities for professional development and networking are everywhere, but it’s up to each individual to take that first step. “The main thing is that they just have to put themselves out there. It's not that scary, and if they put themselves out there, great things will happen,” she said.

    What’s Next for Nashville Tech?

    Although NEXT Award finalists are taking different paths in their businesses, the themes of their stories are similar: growth and community.

    Kevin Kazlauskas, founder of Make It Pop Creations, says Nashville is beginning to rival L.A. and New York in many ways, especially on a creative and production level. Floyd DePalma, principal of DePalma Studio, praised the city’s focus on young entrepreneurs, citing the efforts of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and Jumpstart Foundry to support early-stage businesses and encourage their growth.

    Tim Downey, CEO and co-founder of Picd.us, is a product of those efforts. The NEXT Award finalist for Young Entrepreneur of the Year says the people he’s met in Nashville helped him realize he could be an entrepreneur. “I’ve fallen in love with starting businesses. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, but it was just a struggle to get there. It just took getting involved here and talking to all of these inspired people to understand that I could do it, too,” he said.

    A majority of the finalists said Nashville’s core passion and authentic generosity will continue to foster more growth in the future. Moreland believes it’s an incredibly unique place to live and do business, and the best is yet to come.

    “It's been the greatest experience of my life getting to be a part of this [entrepreneurship and collaboration in Nashville] and having opportunities to be a part of the events with the Chamber and the EC. None of this was ever what I thought my life would be. I came here as a songwriting major. I came here as an artist. My life has totally changed, but all for the better, and it's because of opportunities like these. It's just so cool that this can happen in Nashville. I'll always come home to Nashville. I'm sure about that.”

    Clark Buckner is the online events manager for TechnologyAdvice, a Nashville NEXT Awards finalist that educates, advises, and connects buyers and sellers of business technology. He hosts the TechnologyAdvice Podcast, and also covers news and trends in the tech conference scene. TechnologyAdvice has been a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce member since 2013.

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  • Regional Chambers Urge State to Reconsider School Funding

    by Marc Hill | Nov 03, 2014
    Last week, Tennessee’s four regional chambers, representing Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, urged the state to consider the unique financial challenges facing the state’s four largest public school systems. The message was delivered to a special task force appointed by Gov. Haslam to study the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) funding formula.

    The BEP formula, implemented in 1992 and last revised in 2007, generates a funding allocation to local school systems, with the state and local contributions adjusted based on each county’s “fiscal capacity,” or ability to raise tax revenues. The fiscal capacity calculation causes the state’s four largest school districts to rely disproportionately on local funding to adequately resource their districts, despite serving a higher population of at-risk and special-needs students.

    The task force will meet again in November to develop common principles around how the funding formula should be changed. The full text of the letter from the Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis chambers can be found below. The letter was sent Oct. 20 and read to the group on Oct. 27.

    October 20, 2014
    To the members of the BEP Task Force:

    We are writing to you today representing the business community in the four largest metropolitan regions of the state.

    It is our understanding that the commissioner’s BEP Task Force is charged with examining potential changes to Tennessee’s K-12 funding formula, operating under the assumption there will be no additional new revenue beyond the formula growth that is typically funded by the legislature each year. As you know, local governments in our urban centers provide a disproportionate amount of the total funding to their Local Education Agency (LEA) compared to most school districts across the state, and Tennessee’s per-pupil funding for K-12 education ranks in the bottom quartile of the 50 states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    As you examine potential changes to the formula that may negatively impact the finances of the state’s four largest school districts, we ask that you consider:
    • The school districts in Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Shelby counties educate a greater share of Tennessee’s students with significant challenges. According to the 2013 state report card, these districts serve 34 percent of all K-12 students in Tennessee, but 37 percent of the state’s economically disadvantaged students and 56 percent of all English Language Learner (ELL) students. Funding levels for ELL students outlined in the last major revision of the BEP formula (BEP 2.0) have yet to be implemented;
    • Eighty-three of the 85 priority schools identified by the state for 2015 are located in the four most-populated counties, including the priority schools being overseen by the Achievement School District. The state’s lowest performing schools need a combination of reforms and additional resources in order to meet the academic needs of their students;
    • The state’s funding formula should recognize real differences in cost of living and purchasing power in urban school districts. According to the U.S. Census, median monthly homeowner costs were higher in Tennessee’s four urban counties by 3 to 14 percent more than the state overall. Outstanding educators must be incentivized through appropriate compensation to teach the state’s most challenged students.
    Our business communities believe that the improvement of our urban school districts must be supported if our regions are to continue serving as economic drivers for our state. We look forward to reviewing your recommendations.


    Bill Kilbride
    Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce
    Michael Edwards
    Knoxville Chamber
    Phil Trenary
    Greater Memphis Chamber
    Ralph Schulz
    Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
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  • Selling and Negotiating For Today’s Marketplace

    by Stephanie Coleman | Sep 19, 2014
    Guest post by Susan G. Williams, Ph.D., professor emerita of management, The Jack C. Massey Graduate School of Business, Belmont University

    Selling and negotiation are inextricably linked, yet research tells us that most salespeople and executives leave value on the table when they negotiate. The mutual gains negotiation process encourages joint solutions and a well-defined value proposition. Active listening and strong questions are required for results.

    The Chamber’s Sept. 24 professional development workshop, Negotiation: Strategies to Build Your Business, will equip you with tools and techniques to:
    • Prepare for negotiations more effectively;
    • Focus on problems and not on personalities;
    • Avoid typical "win-lose" situations; and
    • Deal better with those who play outside the rules.
    In well-done negotiations, both parties are able to satisfy their interests and there is open, honest communication. Through deep understanding of customer needs and what customers value, you will be able to build larger, more profitable agreements.

    Competing on price alone is no longer an effective strategy in today’s workplace. The negotiation process must have legitimacy so no one feels taken advantage of. Building and sustaining relationships is key, but not at the expense of your business goals.

    Mutual gains negotiation is focused on driving positive results and outcomes from the start, rather than dealing primarily with consequences when things go wrong. Agreements must be sustainable and flexible. Services and solutions require more cooperation between parties because value can only be gauged over time. Success is not defined at the point of signature, but is determined by the overall outcome achieved. (Tim Cummins, Win-Win Negotiation)

    Negotiation: Strategies to Build Your Business will focus on the new types of deal-making and negotiation strategies you can use to maximize results. Register today.

    When: Wednesday, September 24, 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. (lunch included)
    Where: c3/consulting’s the engine, 2975 Sidco Drive, Nashville, TN 37204
    Who: Dr. Susan Williams will lead the workshop
    Cost: $600 per person for Chamber members; $540 per person when you register two or more from the same Chamber-member company
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