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  • Leadership is Key to Improving Postsecondary Attainment Rates

    by Laura Moore | Nov 06, 2014
    Last month, Wilson County’s Director of Schools Donna Wright posed an important question to a group of educators, business leaders, and state officials from throughout the region. “We have a graduation rate to take pride in, but what does it mean when they exit?” she asked. “Once we get them into college, technical schools, whatever it might be, how do we keep them there so they graduate?”

    Wright, who took over at the helm of the district’s schools in July, has put a stake in the ground on at least the first part of her own question. She has been a big proponent of Tennessee Promise, Gov. Haslam’s initiative to provide free community college and technical education to all graduating high school seniors. Over the last several weeks, Wright has been encouraging seniors in her county’s high schools to apply for the program. As a result, every eligible student at each of the county’s four high schools applied for the program by the state’s Nov. 1 deadline.

    Wright’s work is just one example of a larger fact about what it will take to ensure Middle Tennessee has the workers necessary to fill a projected workforce deficit of 35,000 workers by ...
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  • J.F. Kennedy Middle Prep Impresses VIP Tour Guests

    by Rita McDonald | Nov 04, 2014
    The Nashville Area Chamber, Metro Nashville Public Schools and the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors are hosting four Middle Prep VIP Tours in the 2014-2015 school year to introduce the redesigned Middle Preps to the community, and to share how the schools' vision, mission and values are aligned with the MNPS Strategic Plan. We recently held our second tour at J.F. Kennedy Middle Prep. Principal Sam Braden discussed the focus of the school, which is teaming/music. After the briefing, seven student ambassadors led more than 40 business and community leaders, elected officials and realtors on an informative tour of their school.

    Guests witnessed students engaged in all classes; they were amazed to see sixth-grade math classes adding and subtracting algebraic equations. Our VIP tour participants were further astounded to see students immersed in a simulated "Black Friday Fun Day," where they calculated sales tax and discounts.

    As the group moved on to a physical science class, guests were impressed with the students in their lab coats as they created "elephant toothpaste," an experiment demonstrating a chemical reaction of yeast and hydrogen peroxide. Before exiting J.F. Kennedy, VIPs were wowed by the music department. The fifth- and sixth-grade choir sang an ...
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    Category: Education
  • 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 ...
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    Category: Education
  • Freshman Career Exploration Fair Helps Guide Students' Futures

    by Rita McDonald | Oct 30, 2014

    This week, more than 7,000 Metro freshmen converged at the Music City Center for the annual "My Future, My Way" Career Exploration Fair. Presented by Shoney's, the fair is an opportunity for students to connect with business volunteers, participate in hands-on activities, and learn more about various career choices and the educational pathways associated with reaching their career goals. It also helps students begin to think about what career academies they might choose for the remainder of their high school career.

    In preparation for the career fair, students completed career exploration research, guided by their teachers. They also learned about professional dress, behavior and resume writing. Students also participate in a follow-up essay contest to reinforce what they’ve learned and to help them continue to think regularly about their career aspirations.

    The CEO Champions, a group of local business leaders who serve as public supporters of the Academies of Nashville, had a special meeting at the Music City Center on the day of the career fair, followed by a tour of the exhibit hall. Their enthusiasm and positive feedback about the interaction between the students and business partners helped underscore what makes the career fair such a special opportunity for ...

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    Category: Education
  • Committing to Improve Postsecondary Attainment Rates in Robertson County

    by Laura Moore | Oct 23, 2014
    In 2009, Robertson County was faced with a critical choice.

    That year, a referendum was placed on the ballot to determine if voters would approve construction of Robertson County’s first higher-education facility. Voters’ ultimate approval of Highland Crest, a satellite campus for Austin Peay State University and Volunteer State Community College, kicked off a process that was marked by significant collaboration and partnership. A local resident donated land for the facility, Springfield leaders provided millions of dollars for construction, and Springfield’s NorthCrest Medical Center fronted the operational costs for the first two years.

    Fast-forward to five years later, and that building served as the backdrop to another critical educational challenge: How will Middle Tennessee ensure it has the workers with the necessary skills to fill a projected workforce deficit of 35,000 workers by 2021? That was the question that united a group of leaders from Robertson County at a meeting earlier this year hosted by Robertson County Mayor Howard Bradley and Springfield Mayor Billy Paul Carneal.

    The meeting was a follow-up to the 2013 Nashville Region’s Vital Signs report, which tracks key issues that impact the region’s economic well-being. One of the key findings of the 2013 report (and the ...
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    Category: Research
  • Previewing Nashville's Future

    by Rita McDonald | Oct 23, 2014
    City planners project that about 185,000 new residents and 326,000 jobs will come to Davidson County by 2040. How do we proactively prepare for that growth and lay the groundwork for a better future? That's the question the NashvilleNext process seeks to answer by collecting input throughout our communities.

    Throughout this past summer, NashvilleNext conducted a series of 25 public discussions where Nashvillians could review three possible "futures" - ways our city and county can grow and thrive over the next two and a half decades. The three futures were assessed for their impact on the most important values Nashvillians identified in the community meetings.

    Planners have used the public input to create a "preferred future" which will be unveiled to the public Thursday, Oct. 30. The meeting will be at 5 p.m. at Rocketown (601 Fourth Ave. S.). Or attend one of these other upcoming meetings for information and to share your input:
    • Monday, Nov. 3 – Whites Creek High School, 6 p.m.
    • Thursday, Nov. 6 – Hillwood High School, 6 p.m.
    • Monday, Nov. 10 – McGavock High School, 6 p.m.
    • Thursday, Nov. 20 – Southeast Library Complex (at the Global Mall), 6 p.m.

    As a member of the ...
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    Category: General
  • Tracking Our Progress on the Drive to 55

    by Laura Moore | Oct 17, 2014
    There’s an old saying that goes, “What gets measured gets done.”

    Last week, the Nashville Area Chamber released the 2014 Nashville Region’s Vital Signs report to the Middle Tennessee Mayors' Caucus.  Vital Signs is a way for our region to take an annual snapshot of how we’re doing and identify areas in need of action. The goal is to learn from what we’re doing well and address areas of opportunity to ensure that Middle Tennessee remains a place where natives and newcomers want to live, work and play.

    This year’s report highlights a lot of good news: our economy is strong and getting even better, more and more people are choosing our region as a place to live, our cost of living remains low while incomes increase, and our residents are more likely to be civically engaged than people in our competitor regions.

    For all the good news, the report also highlighted areas that must be addressed if we want to remain a region of choice.   

    One of these areas continues to be the need to increase the number of Middle Tennesseans who hold a degree after high school. When we look to 2021, we project we will be ...

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  • Chamber, MNPS Announce Date of 2015 Academies of Nashville Awards

    by Rita McDonald | Oct 14, 2014
    The Nashville Area Chamber and Metro Nashville Public Schools have set Monday, May 18, as the date for the 2015 Academies of Nashville Awards. The fifth annual event will recognize the outstanding teachers, principals, schools and business-school partnerships in Metro high schools that comprise the Academies of Nashville (Antioch, Cane Ridge, Glencliff, Hillsboro, Hillwood, Hunters Lane, Maplewood, McGavock, Overton, Pearl-Cohn, Stratford, Virtual School and Whites Creek).

    Next April, hundreds of educators and business partners will vote for the award winners in 15 categories. All winners will be announced at the invitation-only awards dinner in May. For highlights from the 2014 Academies of Nashville Awards, see the video embedded below.

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    Category: Education
  • Chamber Leader Discusses Economic Development Priorities

    by Rita McDonald | Oct 08, 2014
    Economic development, a top priority of the Nashville Area Chamber, was the topic of the most recent NashvilleNext community conversation. Chamber Chief Economic Development Officer Courtney Ross was the keynote speaker, sharing how the economic development process works in Davidson County. Ross introduced her presentation with a definition from the International Economic Development Council: “Economic development is improving the economic well-being of a community through efforts that entail job creation, job retention, tax base enhancements and quality of life.”

    Growing our economy has emerged as the third-highest community priority during the NashvilleNext process, behind affordable living and transit. Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s success in creating jobs is the result of how the needs of clients – both already doing business here and those new to our area – are met as they look at land and real estate options, transit options, workforce/talent inventory, the quality of K-12 education and quality of place. You can watch a video of the complete community conversation below.

    It is clear that efforts to grow our economy require strong foundations in land use planning and zoning policy and the areas listed above as client needs. The Chamber, working with a variety of local and regional ...
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  • Metro Schools Introduces Middle Preps with Community Tours

    by Rita McDonald | Oct 07, 2014

    Middle school is a pivotal time for students, both developmentally and educationally. Success in middle school lays the foundation for continued learning in high school and beyond. For the 2014-2015 school year, Metro Schools has introduced the "Middle Preps" model, which represents a new approach to teaching middle-school students that better prepares them for college and career.

    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Metro Nashville Public Schools and the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors are hosting four Middle Prep VIP Tours this school year to introduce the redesigned Middle Preps to the community, and to share how the schools' vision, mission and values are aligned with the MNPS Strategic Plan.   

    Our first tour was last month at Isaac Litton Middle Prep. Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jay Steele discussed the district's vision and the middle school alignment, and Isaac Litton Principal Tracy Bruno discussed Isaac Litton's mission of being a first-choice STEM school. Finally, six excited student ambassadors led more than 50 business leaders, elected officials and realtors on an enlightening tour of their school.

    The guests witnessed fifth-graders working on pamphlets to combat childhood obesity; sixth-graders working with engineers to solve a stormwater ...

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    Category: Education
  • 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
    Go comment!
  • 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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  • Congratulations to Our NEXT Awards Finalists

    by Stephanie Coleman | Sep 16, 2014
    The Nashville Area Chamber and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center have announced the finalists for the fourth annual NEXT Awards. These awards recognize excellence in business and entrepreneurship in Middle Tennessee.

    The NEXT Awards honor companies and individual entrepreneurs in five business categories that are vital to the Middle Tennessee economy: health care; technology; digital media and entertainment; social enterprise and sustainability; and products and services. Individual awards will also be given for Entrepreneur of the Year and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

    A celebration of these finalists will be held Tuesday, Oct. 21, at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. Winners will be announced during the NEXT Awards event Thursday, Nov. 20, at War Memorial Auditorium.

    2014 NEXT Award Finalists

    Digital Media & Entertainment
    • Make It Pop Creations
    • Proof Branding
    • Talkapolis
    • Wheelhouse Marketing Advisors, LLC
    • DWP Live
    • Paramore | the digital agency
    • REACH, LLC
    • Snapshot Interactive LLC
    Health Care
    • Aspire Health, Inc.
    • Bernard Health
    • InvisionHeart Inc.
    • MedCycle Management, LLC
    • Applied Health Analytics, LLC
    • Change Healthcare
    • EnableComp, LLC
    • Sitters Etc.
    Market Mover
    • Cumberland Pharmaceuticals LLC
    • emids
    • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
    Products & Services
    • 6th Man Movers
    • Dan's Gourmet Mac & Cheese
    • Music City Pizza
    • Pfeffer Torode Architecture
    • Hamilton-Ryker IT Solutions, LLC
    • Inova Payroll
    • Swiftwick, LLC
    • TechnologyAdvice
    Market Mover
    • Avenue Bank
    • EHD Corporation
    • Interior Design Services
    • Reliant Realty
    Social Enterprise and Sustainability
    • Good.Must.Grow.
    • Nisolo
    • OZ Arts, Inc.
    • PRO Employment, a social enterprise by Project Return
    • Future Vision Energy
    • Operation Stand Down Tennessee
    • PM Environmental, Inc.
    Market Mover
    • Belmont University
    • Project Preserve, an initiative of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
    • Checkd.in
    • Cicayda
    • DePalma Studios
    • Entrada Inc.
    • NSG
    • VendEngine, Inc.
    • Virsys12
    Market Mover
    • Bedroc
    • ForceX, Inc.
    • LPS Integration, Inc.
    • Peak 10
    Entrepreneur of the Year
    • Mark Cleveland, Swiftwick, LLC
    • Roe Frazer, Cicayda
    • Tammy Hawes, Virsys12
    • Jim Lackey, EnableComp
    • Turner Nashe, Innertainment Delivery Systems
    • Tim Ozgener, Oz Arts, Inc.
    Young Entrepreneur of the Year
    • Tim Downey, Picd.us
    • Ben McIntyre, Internpreneur
    • Channing Moreland, What’s Hubbin’
    Go comment!
  • Chamber's New Programming Helps Grow Your Business

    by Stephanie Coleman | Sep 10, 2014
    Guest post by Corey Davis, Chamber director of business growth initiatives

    business_studio_logoSmall and entrepreneurial businesses are vital to the Nashville region's economy. They are also an integral part of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce – nearly 90 percent of our membership is comprised of companies with 100 or fewer employees.

    This month, we're excited to launch Business Studio, a suite of new programming designed especially for our small business members. Whether you're a brand-new solopreneur looking for ways to build your business, or a seasoned small business owner seeking ways to increase employee productivity, Business Studio will provide you with relevant resources that are customized to meet your needs.

    On Tuesday, Sept. 30, we're hosting our first Studio Session. At this event, we'll provide a "business checkup" to give you a full understanding of the key components of owning and running your own business. We'll start with the basics and touch on everything from choosing the right legal structure to certifications, tax and insurance liability, grants, funding, and even going as far as setting up company policies and procedures.

    For your assessment assistance, we'll also have a panel of experts on hand to help us gain a better understanding of these key business components and field any questions along the way.

    • Carla Curley, business specialist, Nashville Business Incubation Center
    • Wisty Pender, director, Business Enterprise Resource Office, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
    • Richard Wilson, small business advocate, TN Office of Small Business Advocacy

    This session is free for Chamber members - register today to join us!

    We need your feedback to help us continue developing future programming to help your small business prosper. What topics and content do you want covered in Business Studio? What speakers would you like to hear? Would you like to contribute content or share your expertise at an event? Please let us know by emailing your ideas and suggestions to cdavis@nashvillechamber.com.

    Go comment!
  • Positive Momentum For Resetting Charter School Conversation

    by Marc Hill | Aug 29, 2014
    What a difference two years can make. In 2012, the Metro school board was consumed for nearly a year with the Great Hearts charter school application, a standoff between the school board and the State of Tennessee that made everyone involved look bad. Most galling, to many business leaders, was the $3.4 million in state funds that Metro Schools lost as the result of the fiasco.

    So, what’s changed between 2012 and 2014? For one, after more than a decade of reacting to whatever charter school applicants happen to propose, Metro Schools is now asking potential charter operators to consider the district’s strategic needs. Perhaps more importantly, it appears that the school district administration and a majority of the board now recognize that the district’s lowest-performing schools are not improving fast enough, and that the charter sector will need to play a greater role in turning these schools around.

    The most recent step forward for Metro Schools on this issue took place on Aug. 21, when the school board voted to approve the amended application of STRIVE Academy, a charter middle school proposed for the McGavock cluster that was initially rejected in June. The Metro School board’s recent vote means that STRIVE Academy will be overseen by local officials and the academic results of its students will count in Metro’s totals, as opposed to being authorized by the state board of education under new legislation adopted earlier in the year. It also means that MNPS avoids a charter school appeals confrontation with the state this school year, leaving some other Tennessee districts to be the first to experience the new process. It was a difficult vote with legitimate arguments on both sides, and board members Anna Shepherd, Jo Ann Brannon and Cheryl Mayes are to be commended for not letting a tough re-election battle against pro-charter challengers drive their decision making.

    Some observers have suggested that the school board’s eventual approval of STRIVE Academy has diminished the ability of Metro Schools to guide future charter growth in Nashville. These folks reason that future applicants will ignore future charter RFPs because the STRIVE Academy application was approved by the board, even though it fell outside the parameters of a board resolution passed in November 2013 calling only for charter applications addressing elementary students in South Nashville and conversions of low-performing schools. We would disagree with that assessment, and would consider Metro Schools’ first-ever request for charter proposals to be a success. After all, four charter applications that largely fit the parameters of the board’s resolution were approved in their initial review with the school board in June.

    The real lesson from the school district’s first attempt to take a more strategic approach to charter applications is to avoid relying on the threat of denying an application. Since Tennessee’s charter school law was first passed in 2002, the state board of education has always been the final decider of application appeals, and the criteria for what constitutes an acceptable charter application are governed by statute, not the preferences of local boards of education. If Metro Schools wishes to continue being proactive, it should instead develop a charter school RFP process so laden with incentives that it becomes an offer high-quality operators simply can’t refuse.

    A year ago, board member Will Pinkston floated the idea of MNPS offering capital grants to charter applicants that met the district’s strategic needs. That would have been an extraordinary incentive, since securing a school facility and the related financing consistently rank as the top challenge for any would-be charter operator. In the end, neither capital grants nor any other incentive idea materialized this past year—a clear opportunity to improve the district’s RFP approach during the next authorization cycle.

    Recognizing that it’s always easy to improve a new process in hindsight, the next charter RFP process should also include input from community stakeholders and charter operators on the front end, before coming to the board for a vote. The feedback that is offered may or may not be incorporated into the final product, but just taking the time to consider a broader range of perspectives beyond the district office at Bransford Avenue increases the likelihood of greater buy-in. It’s an approach that’s well-suited to the board’s recent commitment to community engagement.

    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce supports our Metro school board taking a strategic approach to future charter school growth. The concept was endorsed in our 2012 Education Report Card, and we commended the district for taking an important step in that direction at our 2013 Education Report Card presentation last December. We encourage the newly elected school board beginning its work together on Sept. 9 to build on the experience of the past year by creating an improved charter RFP process that models the best in district-charter collaboration.

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  • Entrepreneurial Spotlight: Beth Chase, president and CEO, c3/consulting

    by Stephanie Coleman | Aug 07, 2014
    With the application deadline approaching for the 2014 NEXT Awards, we asked Beth Chase, president and CEO of c3/consulting, to share her insights on Nashville’s business community and entrepreneurial environment. Beth won the NEXT Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 and NEXT Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.

    Why did you choose Nashville for your business?

    Nashville’s been in the spotlight recently -- and rightfully so. I believed in Nashville long before Nashville was cool, AND I’ll continue to believe in Nashville because this city warrants it. Why?

    • Thriving business community: Nashville’s economy is supported by the unique combination of Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial organizations that are headquartered here. The country (and world) is beginning to understand the ecosystem that committed individuals are building in Nashville to support innovation and new business development. The secret’s out, and it’s easy to see why more and more companies are considering moving here. Even better, it’s exciting to see them thrive when they do decide to make the move.

    • Committed community: I serve on the boards of a number of community organizations, and my fellow c3 team members serve on at least 100 others. We live in a community that understands “community” begins with us. We recognize that we have challenges to be solved, but we also have the commitment required to tackle those challenges.

    • Deep talent pool: I sit amazed at the talents and abilities of the c3 team and the various business and community teams in which we partner. This town is overflowing with commitment and creativity, and we are all fortunate enough to prosper from it. I am often reminded that “A thoughtful, committed team of individuals can change the world.” Nashville, itself, proves that is true.

    • Unlimited potential: I moved to Nashville more than 30 years ago to attend Vanderbilt, and I never left. When I think back to my first years in Nashville, I must admit I would have never imagined either this city or I would be where we are today. Those of you who know me well will also know that rather than be satisfied with the status quo, that progress only drives me to imagine where we can go in the future.

    • It just fits: Nashville fits me. I’ve raised my family here. I’ve started a few businesses here. My life and my loves are here. I love to travel, but I love returning home even more. I can’t imagine returning to anywhere better than Nashville.
    We are fortunate to live and work in a city that is grounded by its sense of community and is committed to helping each other reach our potential. As a result, we live in a thriving, creative and exciting town. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    The deadline to apply for a NEXT Award is Friday, August 15. Visit nextawardsnashville.com to learn more about the awards and submit your application.

    c3/consulting has been a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce member since 2008.
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  • Entrepreneurial Spotlight: Clint Smith

    by Stephanie Coleman | Jul 24, 2014
    With the application deadline approaching for the 2014 NEXT Awards, we asked Clint Smith, co-founder and CEO of Emma, to provide a glimpse into his company’s growth trajectory and share his insights on the importance of Nashville’s entrepreneurial environment. Clint won the NEXT Digital Media & Entertainment Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011.

    Q: How has Emma grown since you started the company?
    A: When we started, there were just two of us working out of someone else's office in a pair of cubicles for which we'd bartered website design work. By the end of this year, we will likely have around 150 people on staff. So in sheer people terms, it's a much different place than it was years ago, and the team today is able to do so much more than we could as a small startup. And nowadays it seems like each person who joins Emma is even more impressive than the last one (just don't tell the last one!), so to think that we're growing in talent as we're growing in size is very exciting.

    Q: What has surprised you the most about starting and running your own company?
    A: Just how often things basically boil down to a seating chart. We joke about that, but it's true - so much of our ability to move forward comes down to having the right people in the right seats, and then making sure the seats are (figuratively, if not sometimes literally) arranged in a way that leads to good chemistry and collaboration. I'm also surprised by how many people prefer using a chair in the shape of a bouncy ball. I feel like somewhere, the bouncy-ball seat maker is laughing at all of us.

    Q: Why did you choose Nashville for your business?
    A: It's a little bit like the question from Fletch in which Gail Stanwyk asks Fletch why he had his lunch delivered to her cabana and he says, "Because I knew that's where my mouth would be." We were Vanderbilt and Sewanee grads, and our mouths (and bodies and families) were already in Nashville, so this is just where we happened to be. Luckily, it turned out to be a great place to raise a family and a business and has only gotten better since.

    Q: Why is a strong entrepreneurial climate important for Nashville’s economic growth?
    A: A city, like a company, is as good (or only as good) as the people who comprise it. And smart, creative, interesting, ambitious people want to be in a place that encourages those qualities and supports them in doing meaningful things. Those people, scattered among the already highly successful companies in Nashville, streaming in from other places, and starting businesses that will help spur the next wave of innovation and success for the city, are exactly why Nashville is getting the attention it is these days.

    Q: What advice do you have for emerging entrepreneurs?
    A: Be crystal-clear in your goals as early as possible, personally and as a company. Looking back, we probably stumbled into things a little more than we should have, and while too much thinking and planning early isn't always a good thing, knowing exactly where you want to go over time makes everything else - whom to hire or partner with, where to focus your efforts and resources, how to measure success along the way - a lot easier. That, and don't buy a chair in the shape of a bouncy ball. Those are silly.

    Q: You won NEXT Digital Media & Entertainment Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011. What does this award mean to you?
    A: We're all so heads-down in the entrepreneurial world - always focused on building and improving and growing and the future and what's coming around the bend - that we don't often take time to pause and reflect. I think awards like this allow us to do that - to just take a minute (or an evening, in this case) to remember how good we've got it when we get to do meaningful work with awesome people - and to be inspired to go out and do even better. The NEXT award was definitely one of those moments.

    The deadline to apply for a 2014 NEXT Award is Friday, August 15. Visit nextawardsnashville.com to learn more about the awards and submit your application.

    Emma has been a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce member since 2002.
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  • SuccessPAC Endorses Candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education

    by Marc Hill | Jul 21, 2014
    SuccessPAC, the political action committee created by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for school board elections, has announced its support for four Metro school board candidates in the Aug. 7 election.

    As previously discussed on this blog, this year's school board elections are a pivotal moment for the future of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Because Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register's contract expires June 30, 2015, chances are good that the school board convening after this August’s election will be responsible for selecting Dr. Register's replacement.

    Due to its status as a nonprofit membership organization, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates for political office. As a political action committee, SuccessPAC helps identify highly qualified candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education. To determine its endorsements for this year, the SuccessPAC board conducted its most extensive vetting process to date. Board members interviewed all candidates who qualified for the ballot across the four districts up for election. In addition, all candidates completed a SuccessPAC questionnaire.

    The committee announced its endorsements following the four candidate forums sponsored by the Chamber, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

    SuccessPAC-endorsed candidates are:
    District 2: Jo Ann Brannon
    District 4: Anna Shepherd
    District 6: Cheryl Mayes
    District 8: Mary Pierce

    These endorsed candidates share certain key characteristics of an ideal candidate, including:
    • A strong commitment to public education and the highest standards of achievement for all students;
    • The ability to work collaboratively with diverse groups, including other board members, teachers, community organizations and elected officials, and a respect for differing points of view;
    • A desire to empower the director of schools to implement board policies and achieve academic results;
    • An understanding of the need for effective financial management of the school system;
    • A push for accountability at all levels of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools; and
    • An understanding of the policymaking role of the school board.
    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce would like to thank all the candidates for their willingness to offer themselves up for public service. With early voting taking place through Aug. 2, we encourage you to research the candidates on the ballot and cast your vote for the ones who best represent the needs of our community. To find early voting times and locations, click here.

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  • Maximize the Effectiveness of Strategic Planning and Meetings

    by Stephanie Coleman | Jun 27, 2014
    Guest post by Janet McDonald, vice president, c3/consulting

    Today, two things take up an enormous amount of time in business – meetings and strategic planning. Wouldn’t it be great if you were able to wave a magic wand and transform both into things that drive your business forward and increase your competitive advantage?

    On the strategic planning front, we are all feeling the effects of rapid technological advancement and change. We used to conduct strategic planning with five- to 10-year horizons. Today, we are forced to think in a 12- to 18-month horizon. As a result, strategic thinking needs to be better than ever. If you’re going through strategic planning in order to check a box, don’t waste your time – instead, focus your energy on operational effectiveness. However, if you want to get the most out of your strategic planning sessions, understanding the critical questions and taking the time to debate them before setting strategy is essential. The Chamber’s professional development workshop, Strategy Boot Camp: From Vision to Execution, will equip you with tools and techniques that will help translate strategic planning into a competitive advantage.

    Did you know the average American spends four hours a day in meetings, yet one of the most common workplace complaints is that nothing gets accomplished in meetings? Action comes from commitment, and commitment comes from a true understanding and appreciation of the what, why and how. The Seven Separators of Facilitation Excellence will teach you how to become effective at leading meetings, increase productivity, and gain the team buy-in and consensus necessary to drive action.

    Register yourself or your team for these professional development workshops today at nashvillechamber.com/calendar. All registrants for the July workshops will receive a 10 percent discount, as well as a chance to win a $100 Southwest Airlines LUV Voucher. Don’t miss the opportunity to maximize your employee effectiveness and ensure you and your team are partners in your company’s growth and success!
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