For 11 consecutive months in 2017, Tennessee ranked no. 1 for small business growth, according to data gathered by payroll provider Paychex. Of any state in the nation, Tennessee’s small employers added workers at the fastest pace to grow more than 2 percent during the year.
The reason? A lower regulatory burden, according to some. NFIB/TN State Director Jim Brown told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Some of the major reforms we made in Tennessee in workers compensation (in 2014), unemployment insurance (in 2011), and eliminating estate taxes and other tax reforms (in 2015 and ongoing) have really been helpful, not only for businesses that are here, but in attracting new businesses to our state. A lot of folks from all over the country are loading up U-Hauls and coming to Tennessee.”
However, as the state business climate improves, giving small businesses the ability to hire more workers, actually finding qualified workers to fill the available jobs is a worsening problem.
“Getting enough workers four or five years ago ranked No. 32 on the list of concerns by businesses we survey, and now getting qualified workers ranks among the top 3 business concerns,” Brown said.
In fact, 88 percent of members responding to NFIB/TN’s annual survey in advance of the 110th Tennessee General Assembly said that Tennessee should do more to provide vocational and technology training for high school students who are not college-bound.
Along with other business, education, and state leaders, NFIB/TN recently took part in conversations around the state about improving workforce development. Options could include expanding the Tennessee College for Applied Technology program, improving community college job training programs, more vocational schools, loosening restrictions on apprenticeship requirements, and earlier engagement with students about career opportunities and workforce skills.
“NFIB will be working more directly with the executive and legislative branches and other business groups to ensure Tennessee is meaningfully and reasonably meeting the specific workforce needs that various industries have in our communities,” Brown said in a statement.
Workforce development will be a top priority for NFIB/TN in 2018, and we ask you to continue to voice your concerns and be part of the conversation about solutions.