Tennessee Chamber Update: Is a monthly newsletter distributed in place of the weekly Capitol Update which is produced when the legislature is in session. 
TN Chamber Update                      June 7, 2017
In This Issue
2018 Election News
Vanderbilt Poll Measures Voters Attitude on Issues
Inaugural D.C. Fly-In
Tennessee Chamber members  (pictured
 above and below) were fortunate to have a private visit with Senator Alexander and Senator Corker, while in Washington D.C..
Tennessee Chamber Finalizes 2017 Legislative Session Wrap Up and Scorecard: 

The Tennessee Chamber will soon be mailing and sending electronic versions of our 2017 Legislative edition of the Business Insider that includes a comprehensive recap of the first session of the 110th General Assembly that filed over 1400 bills for consideration.  The publication will include key vote counts on the most important bills debated this session and the overall impacts of the session on business and is distributed to business members and local chambers of commerce. For business professionals, it is a must read to stay current on a number of important issues. We will also preview Tennessee politics 2018 and the upcoming Gubernatorial election.  For each legislative session, the Tennessee Chamber reviews all filed legislation and either advocates for passage or works to defeat policies that are harmful to Tennessee's business climate. As a primer for our publication, please click here  to see the outcome of a number of important bills impacting business and industry. 
Business Leaders and Tennessee's Congressional Delegation Talk Issues During Recent TN Chamber Washington D.C. fly-in visit

The Tennessee Chamber recently concluded our inaugural Washington D.C. fly - in on May 15 / 16 visiting Tennessee's congressional delegation to talk about important issues.  The annual trip is an important opportunity to link Tennessee companies with our elected officials to explain how policy directly impacts jobs in the Volunteer State. Chamber members also heard important updates from both the U.S. Chamber, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Chemistry Council all of which the Tennessee Chamber is the state affiliate.   
If you are interested in participating in similar opportunities in the future, please contact Carolyn Davis
IMPROVE Act gets Local Audiences:
Tennessee Chamber Partners with Transportation Alliance to Showcase Local Economic Development Impacts

Following passage of the IMPROVE or Tax Cut Act of 2017, the Tennessee Chamber hit the road talking to local communities about the impact of the legislation which includes local transportation projects as well as tax reductions for manufacturers and sales tax cuts on grocery food items.  Charles Schneider with the Tennessee Chamber, presented to 9 communities to talk about the legislation. Governor Bill Haslam has also completed a number of ceremonial bill signings across the state that have included local chambers of commerce and businesses. Please click on the links below to view local news reports of the meetings. 
Special Election Update:  
Collierville Chamber & Tennessee Chamber Hosted Legislative Candidate  Discussion in House District 95

Unless you live in the Memphis area, you may not be aware that there is a special election for House District 95 (Collierville and East Shelby County).  Republican nominee Kevin Vaughan successfully emerged from a crowded and hotly-contested seven-candidate primary election back in April and now moves on to face Democrat Julie Byrd Ashworth and independents Robert Schutt and Jim Tomasik in the general election.
Earlier this month, the Tennessee Chamber partnered with the Collierville Chamber of Commerce to host Kevin Vaughan for an informational breakfast question-and-answer forum at the Collierville Chamber offices.  Vaughan, who currently serves as a Collierville School Board member and an ex officio Collierville Chamber board member, spoke about the importance of education and a business-friendly tax and regulatory climate to grow both the state and local economy.  He urged attendees not to ignore the low turnout for the special election and observed that the outcome of the race could easily be decided by the number of people present in the room.

While the district has historically leaned Republican,  early reports indicate that turnout is low with less than 1.4% of voters casting their ballot in the first week of early voting.  We predict overall turnout to be even lower than expected, which leaves more room for unpredictability and, potentially, even surprises on Election Day.  For our business leaders in the Collierville and Germantown areas, it is critical that the uncertainty such low turnout brings to this election not be taken lightly and that business-minded voters find their way to the polls.
Early voting ends Saturday, June 10th and Election Day will be
next Thursday, June 15th.
Open Seat announcements
Senate District-17. On June 3 Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) announced she is running for Governor. In doing so, she will not be able to retain her Senate seat. There is plenty of speculation on who will run for the Senate seat in this district. There are three St. Representatives that live in this district, if any of them decide to run it will open up additional seats down ballot.
House District-67. On May 25 St. Rep Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) announced that he will not run for re-election in 2018.  He will continue to serve out the remainder of his term. This seat leans democratic but could become a competitive contest depending on the eventual candidates. 
TN Chamber Environment Committee hosting
TDEC on June 29th to Hear Important Updates

Stacey Cothran, Chair of the Tennessee Chamber Environment and Energy committee recently announced a summer meeting with Chamber members and TDEC to discuss important pending and possibly upcoming rules in the air, water and solid and hazardous waste divisions. The Tennessee Chamber Environment Committee is one of the chamber's largest policy committees weighing in on environmental policy in the legislature and TN Department of Environment and Conservation.  Commissioner Bob Martineau and Deputy Commissioner Shari Meghreblian and directors of TDEC divisions will be joining the meeting.  We hope you can join us for this important update and opportunity to weigh in on important environmental policy. 

Meeting Location : Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry  
    414 Union Street, Suite 107, Nashville, TN 37219
Time: 10:00 - 11:30AM CT

Is Cyber Security a Concern for your Business?
U. S. Chamber comes to Nashville to Co-host 
Conference to Inform Business Leaders:

As part of a nationwide effort to boost businesses knowledge of cybersecurity threats, the U.S. Chamber is partnering with the Tennessee Chamber to host a cybersecurity conference on June 21, 2017 in downtown Nashville at the Sheraton.  The U.S. Secret Service and FBI will also be participating in the discussion that is a must hear for business owners and managers.  The U.S. Chamber has been hosting similar conferences around the nation.   

To view the agenda and register click here
Workforce Update:
Tennessee Chamber Working to Find Solutions to Employers Concerns

August 15th TN Chamber to host Workforce Conference in Nashville to share local stories and programs that are working

As we go across the state and listen to Tennessee Chamber members, one thing is abundantly clear, workforce is a top state concern for the future success of all businesses. Denise Rice, who heads up manufacturing for the Tennessee Chamber, noted that one employer after assessing their workforce, noted that over 40% of their entire workforce was ready to retire in the next 5 years.  This is a substantial trend that requires both business and organizations like the Tennessee Chamber to think ahead and plan.  All across Tennessee, local chambers, workforce development boards, businesses, their local TCAT and Community colleges are working on solutions.  In order to bring the business together on these crucial issues we hope you will save the date and plan on joining us August 15th from 10 - 3 pm in Nashville for a workforce conference. We are in the final stages of announcing our agenda so stay tuned. 
Tennessee Landing Substantial Manufacturing Investments from Overseas

Kudos to all of Tennessee's economic development efforts.  Whether you are Tennessee ECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe, TVA's Senior Vice President for Economic Development John Bradley, MTIDA Executive Director Bob Bibb, a local chamber or a local economic development agencies across the state, you have been busy and hard work is paying off. 
Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly are to be commended for contributing to what many thought they would never see: Major manufacturing operations coming back and establishing American operations from abroad.  The Chattanooga Times Free Press noted recently that Sinomax, Wonderful Group and Yanfeng Automotive, all Chinese manufacturers, are establishing  significant manufacturing operations in Tennessee.  This is good news for the volunteer state since many of these operations are highly sought after by competing states and create a substantial economic impact fueling jobs, raising incomes and boosting state and local revenue collections. Overall those that work ensuring Tennessee's economic competitiveness should to be commended.
Tennessee's Recent Manufacturing Announcements:

Haslam Travels Tennessee, Touts Road Improvement Funds & Tax Cuts

Gov. Bill Haslam hitting the road Monday (6/5) to hold bill signing ceremonies for his highway and bridge funding program called the IMPROVE Act. The governor officially signed the bill into law within days of the contentious measure's passage in the legislature in April. But that's not stopping Haslam from holding bill signings across Tennessee.  The Governor's office invited supporters to attend in Chattanooga, Nashville and Union City on Monday to celebrate its enactment.
Share the Facts: Once fully enacted the law will increase road fuel user fees by 6-cent on each gallon of gasoline and 10 cents on diesel, Tennessee's first fuel tax increase in nearly three decades. The law also made a series of tax cuts that supporters showed will more than offset the fuel increases. The cuts are
  • A twenty percent cut on the sales tax of food, down to 4%
  • An additional cut on the Hall Income tax (dividends and interest income)
  • The single sales factor apportionment for manufacturing companies in Tennessee. 
Haslam Promoting Benefits of the IMPROVE Act in Union City - WBBJ (note: heavy rains did not dampen the spirits of the attendees)
Trump To Launch $1T Infrastructure Overhaul This Week

The AP (6/4, Thomas, Boak) reports that "President Donald Trump is launching a major push for a $1 trillion overhaul of the nation's roads and bridges." The AP adds, "Trump plans a series of events this coming week to highlight his effort to modernize American infrastructure - the highway, waterway, electrical and airway systems on which the nation operates." Reuters (6/3, Rampton) quoted White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn saying, "It doesn't matter who you are - whether you're a farmer in the Midwest or a mother driving your kids to and from school, or work, or a college kid flying back and forth to school - you're affected by infrastructure." The Washington Times (6/3, Miller) quoted Cohn saying "The president views rebuilding infrastructure, which was a prominent campaign promise, as key to his agenda for creating jobs and growing the economy." Cohn added, "Whether it be roads, rail, ports, airports, broadband - it effects you and we know many of these areas are falling behind, effecting economic growth in the United States." The New York Times (6/3, Davis, Kelly, Subscription Publication) reported that "the federal government would make only a fractional down payment on rebuilding the nation's aging infrastructure," while "Trump would rely on a combination of private industry, state and city tax money, and borrowed cash to finance the rest." The New York Times (6/3, Davis, Kelly, Subscription Publication) also quoted Cohn saying "We want to be in the partnership business," and Cohn added, "We want to be in the facilitation business, and we're willing to provide capital wherever necessary to help certain infrastructure along." 
Tennessee Manufacturers Association (TMA) Road Show Tour 
The Tennessee Chamber which also serves as the Tennessee Manufacturing Association, is going statewide this summer partnering with local chambers to host manufacturing round-tables across the state.  Manufacturing is critical to our economic growth and the round-tables will allow important networking opportunities to hear from leaders about important policy topics impacting manufacturing.
Denise Rice, the new Director for the Tennessee Manufacturers Association is conducting the events, and we hope you can join us!  Most importantly, we want to hear from manufacturers about their most pressing concerns and how we can partner to find solutions.

The event is FREE 
so we hope you will join us & bring a friend.

Time (unless otherwise noted): 7:30-8:30am
  • June 22- Maryville
  • June 23- Cookeville
  • June 29- Smyrna
  • July 11- Dyersburg
  • July 20- Columbia  (*8:00-9:00AM)
  • July 27- Cleveland
  • August 2 - Chattanooga
 *Register online at www.tnchamber.org > Events > Calendar date
Project Lead the Way
I'd like to introduce you to Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing K-12 students  a hands on, project-based introduction to Engineering, Computer Science, and Biomedical careers.  
Through Project Lead The Way programs, students develop in-demand, transportable skills - like problem solving, critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and communication - that they will use both in school and for the rest of their lives, on any career path they take.
As I am sure you know, both the nation and the state suffer a shortage of people interested in and trained for jobs in STEM fields. These shortages in our STEM-related work force will continue unless we approach education differently that we have in the past.
Because waiting until high school has not proven to be effective, Project Lead The Way  introduces more students at an early age to STEM subjects. Right now, we've 106 Project Lead The Way programs active among 96 schools in our state alone, 11,076 nationally! 
Contact Info: Jim Kurtz Affiliated Director, Project Lead The Way, TN

Dallas Fed: US Corporate Tax Rate "Easily The Highest" In Developed World

The Dallas Morning News (6/5, Cowan, Writer) reports that in a new "economic letter" the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas finds that the US corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent is "easily the highest among developed world competitors and almost double the rate that prevails in the U.K." However, once companies have taken advantage of tax loopholes, the average effective corporate tax rate "is closer to 27.7 percent." Instead of merely lowing the corporate tax rate, the Dallas Morning News adds, "the report examines the root idea of taxing the money that companies bring in - as opposed to building a tax structure based on the destination of products and cash." 
 Mike Rowe: Trade Schools Can Close Skills Gap Without Big Student Debt

Actor and pitchman Mike Rowe -- of "Dirty Jobs" fame -- recently cut a short video providing his take on how best to close America's skills gap.  "I can think of nine magazines off the top of my head that rank the top colleges," Rowe says. "None of them ever include a trade school."  Yet trade jobs account for more than half of the labor market, according to the video.  Over the next 10 years, there will be more than 3.5 million job openings in America's manufacturing sector, but roughly 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled due to the skills gap.  Rowe concludes: "The jobs that exist right now don't require massive amounts of debt.  They don't require four years of university study.  They require the willingness to learn a skill that is actually in demand."   See the video here.
Industry Wants Faster Permits, Simpler Rules From Regulatory Reform

Reuters (5/17) reports that US industry groups "have told President Donald Trump's administration that they want two main things from his promised regulatory overhaul: a speedier permit process and simpler environmental rules." Reuters adds, "Associations representing the drilling, refining, mining, and building industries have submitted hundreds of pages of documents to the Commerce Department and Environmental Protection Agency in recent weeks, outlining regulations they want to see eliminated or modified." The article quotes NAM Vice President for Regulatory Policy Rosario Palmieri saying, "We have one proposal to replace eight different regulations with one that achieves the same environmental benefit but substantially reduces the cost of compliance." Reuters (5/17) reports that NAM reform recommendations included: "Streamline specific NSPS and NESHAP regulations to eliminate redundant requirements, conflicts between rules, and undue complexity, resulting in practical and understandable regulations without reduced protection of the environment."

Chemical Approval Backlog Should Be Cleared by July, EPA says
Bloomberg BNA reports the Environmental Protection Agency has been dealing with a higher-than-usual backlog of pre-manufacture notices since Toxic Substances Control Act reform last year, but it is planning to clear up the problem by July. The EPA is advising chemical firms to meet with its staff before submitting a pre-manufacture notice so they can get details on what data the agency requires.

TN Unemployment Rate Sees Biggest Decline Since 1984
NASHVILLE - Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) Commissioner Burns Phillips announces a preliminary unemployment rate of 4.7 percent for April, dropping from the revised rate of 5.1 percent in March. This decrease is greater than the tenth of a percentage point fall the national rate experienced in April, which put the U.S. preliminary rate at 4.4 percent for the month.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has not declined this much since January of 1984.   "It's great to see fewer Tennesseans were out of work during the month of April. Every drop in the unemployment rate, even a few tenths of a percent, represents a person who is back in the workforce and a family who is resting a little easier at night," said Commissioner Phillips.
Over the past year, Tennessee's unemployment rate experienced a slight uptick of a tenth of a percentage point, increasing from 4.6 to 4.7 percent. The national rate decreased by six-tenths of a percentage point, from 5.0 to 4.4 percent.  Read more  here.

Household debt levels are on the rise once again, topping pre-recession numbers

(Associated Press, 5/18) - U.S. household debt reached a record high in the first three months of this year, topping the previous peak reached in 2008, when the financial crisis plunged the economy into a deep recession.  Americans have stepped up borrowing over the past three years, yet the nature of what Americans owe has changed since the Great Recession. Student and auto loans make up a larger proportion of household debt, while mortgages - the epicenter of the financial crisis - and credit card debt remain below prerecession levels. Those changes suggest households are still cautious about taking on debt to fuel day-to-day consumption.  Read more>>
Business Boosts Their Advocacy to Congress on Tax Reform Provisions
Working to Ensure Business Expensing Remains Deductible
Businesses across the country are working to ensure that full expensing remains part of future tax policy.  Earlier drafts of tax reform suggested only allowing businesses to deduct 50% of their expenses; meaning that businesses would have to pay tax on more of their net income.  A common business expense for many types of businesses are the costs of marketing and advertising - get engaged to learn how tax reform could affect you and your business. Click on the graphic to learn more. 
Nashville's Bill Hagerty Breezes through Hearing to be Japanese Ambassador

Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty diplomatically deflected a few potentially dangerous questions as he breezed through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May, bringing him one step closer to becoming US ambassador to Japan.  Read more
If confirmed by the Senate, Hagerty won't be the first Tennessean to serve as the Japanese ambassador. Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., who died in 2014, was ambassador to Japan under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. Luke Edward White, who was born in Giles County, served in the post from 1906 to 1907 under President Teddy Roosevelt.

Leading into 2018 ... 
Vanderbilt Poll:
Tennesseans Want the State to Invest in Itself

If you like numbers there are plenty to review in Vanderbilt's most recent public policy poll.  We noticed that despite a decrease in voters' belief that President Trump can change Washington, he remains popular with a 52 percent approval rating.
Tennesseans may not have as much confidence that Washington can be changed, but they overwhelming believe that we must invest in ourselves. The Tennessee Promise offering 2-years of free community college or technical school training garnered 83 percent support, while expanding broadband to rural areas was endorsed by 73 percent of voters surveyed.  These are high marks for two of Governor Haslam/s signature initiatives.
Healthcare and Jobs remain the top two concerns, followed by Education.  For at least the last decade these issue have remained top of mind for voters.  Here at the TN Chamber, we believe education, healthcare and jobs are interlinked and pivotal to creating supporting families and vibrant communities.  Read more about voters' perceptions on each issue, here
Tennesseans as a whole have little confidence in the media, with only 21 percent trusting most of what they read opposed to 34 percent trusting very little.  Voters are discouraged with the dysfunction of government, only 17 percent are "basically content" with the federal government.  They give state government higher marks at 36 "satisfied" with state government.  However, the large majorities of voters on both sides of the aisle would like to see bipartisan solutions, even 65 percent of Republicans would like to see more bipartisanship.  
But don't be discouraged, Tennesseans are still welcoming folks, 56 percent of those surveyed "enjoy talking politics with someone who holds a different view".  So no matter what, if you are in the Volunteer Sate you can find someone to have a great conversation. 
Note: this poll surveyed a demographically representative sample of 1,000 Tennessee registered voters. 
Vanderbilt Poll Tests Name ID for Potential Candidates for Governor

Although the field for Governor in 2018 is just beginning to take shape, Vanderbilt did include series of name identification question to measure where potential candidates start in the race. Among d eclared or discussed candidates for governor, U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin was the most familiar name at 49 percent. Former Nashville mayor Karl Dean comes in second at 38, while state Speaker of the H ouse Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville comes in third with 34. State Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet stands at 28 percent, Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd has 26 percent, and state Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville-who recently withdrew his nomination for Army secretary-has 21 percent recognition. Rounding out the field, businessman Bill Lee of Fernvale and state Rep. Mark Norris of Collierville are tied with 14 percent, while state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley has 8 percent.
With primary elections over a year away, Vandy Professor John Geer notes it is too early to read too deeply into these numbers.  "These results offer very early preliminary looks at these potential candidates for governor. No one should hang a lot on these results," Geer said. "They will change a lot in the coming months. You can become well known very quickly. Even so, these numbers will provide an important baseline as we continue to poll about the upcoming race for the governorship of Tennessee." The Tennessean (5/30) did a recap on the horse race. 

Workplace Safety Reminder
Tennessee Teen Writes Pizza Essay, Gets Accepted
to Yale University 

Tennessean article  Short essay is listed here...
Credit: Carolina Williams via Twitter 05/09/17.

Update: Despite the early fanfare this young lady announced via twitter (6/2), that she would be attending Auburn University instead. #SEC