About the Research Center

Every data point tells a story. Through one-on-one interviews, focus groups and surveys of stakeholders and industry leaders, our staff will elicit a full understanding of the context behind the numbers and trends. The Research Center does not merely take quantitative data at face value; trends often mask part of an industry’s story.

The Research Center conducts research on a variety of different topics and strives to be a center of knowledge for the community. End products for research clients engage many levels of planning and analysis to support industry needs and goals for growth. Regardless of the scope of your project, the Chamber's Research Center is equipped to deliver the data you need to feel confident in your results. With sensible, rational and consistent methodologies, the Research Center works with businesses, social institutions, communities, and entrepreneurs to help them function better and make strategic decisions.

To contact a member of the Research Center, click here


Led by Dr. Garrett Harper, the Research Center provides each client with hands-on research rooted in a data-driven approach that has been nationally recognized. The Research Center’s work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Billboard magazine and The Atlantic, among others.

Dr. Garrett Harper

Dr. Harper serves as Vice President of Research and Information for The Research Center, a position he has held since 1990. He has also served as Research Director for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau and for Heartland Alliance in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Harper is past president of the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association and he is a Certified Community Researcher. He serves on the National Steering Committee of the U.S. Census American Community Survey Data Group and is active in a variety of academic and practitioner organizations relating to demographics, business research, regional science, quality-of-life studies, market research, geography, and economic and international development. Dr. Harper’s work has been featured in numerous national outlets, including The Atlantic Cities, NPR, The New York Times, The Carnegie Reporter and others. Dr. Harper serves as adjunct professor at Lipscomb University, Trevecca Nazarene University, Cumberland University, Columbia State Community College and Volunteer State Community College. Dr. Harper holds the following degrees: B.A. Geography (Middle Tennessee State University); M.B.A., Healthcare Marketing (Kennesaw State University); M.P.H., Health Planning and Administration (University of Tennessee- Knoxville); J.D., Law (Nashville School of Law); Ph.D., International Economic Development (University of Southern Mississippi); M.T.S., Theology (Lipscomb University); GIS Cert, Geographic Information Systems (Penn State University); and M.S.A.N.R., Agriculture and Natural Resources (current, University of Tennessee - Martin). Dr. Harper is proficient with EMSI, REMI, Implan, ArcGIS, SPSS and a wide variety of data sources and tools.

René Dillard

René Dillard serves as Coordinator of Applied Research for The Research Center of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as the Education Report Card Intern at the Chamber for the duration of the 2017 report. She is currently completing her master’s degree at Vanderbilt University, Peabody College in Education Policy. Prior to her role at the Chamber she served in various freelance researcher roles, including at Centerstone Research Institute, Vanderbilt University Department of Special Education, and the Envision Edgehill Community Project in conjunction with the Metropolitan Department of Housing Agency. She is also a certified teacher in the state of Texas, having taught second grade in a Title 1 Public School. Ms. Dillard currently holds the following:

B.A. Anthropology (University of Chicago)

Ms. Dillard is proficient with STATA, ArcGIS, and qualitative methodology. 

Impact Analysis & Economic Planning

The Research Center can help you determine your project’s total economic impact as well as operational, planning, and sales forecasting strategies. For example:

  • What impact does hosting meetings in your office have on the local economy?
  • How much money is circulated in the community after hosting a music festival?

Strategic Business Development

The Research Center makes a priority of delivering turn-key research on a range of business, economic demographic and related topics. We focus on areas that have high impact to the economy and region. In all projects, research is application- and action-directed with an objective of serving real-life solutions for businesses and industries with ties in the Nashville and Tennessee markets. 

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