Staying Involved in State and Local Politics

Tracy GuarinoOn Tuesday, I had the honor of introducing Governor Bill Haslam before he delivered the 2015 Governor’s Address to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce.

Several of the key talking points of interest to the Nashville business community included:

Earlier this year, Tennessee was named “State of the Year” by Business Facilities magazine – for an unprecedented second year in a row –because of the capital investment and new jobs created in our state. 

Nearly 225,000 new private sector jobs have been created in Tennessee in the last four years.

The governor’s continued commitment to education, through his support of high academic standards, has helped Tennessee become the fastest-improving state in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. He is focused on improving college access and success, increasing educational attainment rates and enhancing workforce development efforts through public and private partnerships. Creating the Tennessee Promise has distinguished our state as a leader in workforce training.

All of these items are crucial those of us in the business community. I’ve written about the importance of creating a welcoming environment so companies such as ours can recruit talented, qualified people to join our team. The city’s participation in the TechHire Program will help with this. Educating a skilled workforce is an absolute must, especially for companies such as ForceX, whose growth depends on being able to attract talented workers trained in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.

This will be an interesting period for the state, and for Nashville in particular, as the city elects a new mayor this summer. One question I will be asking as I meet the various candidates relates to affordable housing in the city as well as transportation. The Nashville Chamber’s Vital Signs Reporoutlined several concerns regarding these topics that are top-of-mind for me as we relocate our headquarters to Nashville later this year.

One of the many reasons we are so excited to move to The Sheds on Charlotte is because Forbes named Nashville the 9th fastest-growing large metro in the country. However, in a growing area, traffic and transportation become crucial concerns.

The Chamber report noted that funding for transit service in Nashville is 64 percent below the per capita average of similar cities. Nashville’s MTA spends $87.58 per capita, while similar cities, such as Atlanta, Austin, Denver and Kansas City spend an average of $136.23 per capita. The report indicates, “People who live in the Nashville region spend more of their income on transportation than they do on housing costs alone.” Many of our team members will be commuting to our new location, so transit and transportation concerns are on our minds.

Housing is another area of interest. Some ForceX, Inc. employees want to relocate closer to the new office. However, recent building developments, especially in East Nashville and the 12th Ave South District, are raising housing prices significantly. The selection of affordable housing is limiting our team members’ ability to make a move to Nashville. In fact, the Chamber’s Vital Signs report says that transportation and housing combined account for a greater share of resident’s income than in some peer cities.

These are important issues and concerns for mayoral candidates to address. I’ll be attending Megan Barry’s event this coming weekend and will be listening for her proposed solutions to these problems.

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