Number one for small business employment. Number 14 in tax competitiveness. And now a B grade for small business friendliness. Tennessee continues to rack up the awards.
The latest comes from Thumbtack’s Small Business Friendliness Survey, in which Tennessee performed well across the board. Only two metrics fell below a B:
- Overall friendliness: B
- Ease of starting a business: B+
- Ease of hiring: B-
- Regulations: B+
- Health and safety: A
- Employment, labor, and hiring: A-
- Tax code: A-
- Licensing: A-
- Environmental: A-
- Zoning: A-
- Training and networking programs: C
- Government websites: C
“We’re in a groove, thanks in part to much good work by Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee’s General Assembly in recent years, as well as local business and education leaders across the state,” NFIB/TN State Director Jim Brown wrote in a Commercial Appeal op-ed. However, he noted, successes come with challenges, and one of the most critical hurdles facing small businesses right now is finding qualified workers. In fact, NFIB members around Memphis have routinely said that this is the top challenge in recent years, ahead of even rising healthcare costs and regulations.
While state officials have taken steps to address the issue—such as with the launch of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) program—there is more to be done to improve workforce development. Brown says these steps include expanding TCATs, improving community college job programs, loosening overly restrictive requirements on apprenticeships, improving marketing to younger people about workforce development programs, and more.
This will be an ongoing priority for NFIB/TN, and Brown encourages all employers to engage with elected officials and industry groups to share needs and be part of the conversation about bettering the state’s workforce development.