Years ago, before I became involved in politics, members of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Agency (TNECD) spoke at my local Rotary Club and shared a story about their discussions with Nissan about relocating its headquarters from California to Tennessee.
At the time, California was experiencing rolling electricity blackouts and the team from TNECD cleverly handed out flashlights to Nissan’s leaders and famously told them, “The lights are always on in Tennessee.”
That story stuck with me and came to mind recently while I and other state and local leaders welcomed Moldex, one of the world’s largest manufactures of N95 masks, to Wilson County.
You see, Tennessee is one of the most business-friendly states in America and companies around the globe are taking notice. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, new companies continue to move to our state and bring high quality jobs. In fact, statewide unemployment rates fell by 2.3 percent in the last month alone. This fact is a testament to the strength and resilience of Tennessee’s economy considering these numbers were achieved during an unprecedented pandemic.
It’s worth noting, Tennessee continues to recover more quickly than other states which, when faced with the same dire fiscal challenges, are considering tax increases.
Here in the Volunteer State we have instead focused on reducing burdensome regulations, cutting red-tape, eliminating and reducing taxes, tort reform and re-envisioning workers’ compensation.
These reforms brought our laws into the 21st century, but also streamlined the workers’ compensation process by giving more consistent protections for injured employees.
One major factor in Tennessee’s successful business environment is the historic tax cuts implemented through growth-minded leadership. These cuts — when aggregated since 2010 — total more than $675 million.
Another contributing factor is Tennessee’s investment in public and higher education over the past decade. Our leaders realize that good public education and workforce development is key to creating a highly-skilled workforce.
These reforms, tax cuts and investments in education have created an economic and regulatory environment so strong that the state known for the “Grand Old Opry” is now known as a prime destination for business expansions and relocations.
Despite the economic impact of the pandemic, our state managed to continue this trend by balancing our state budget through commonsense reductions totaling $1.5 billion over a two-year period. These cuts were made by making some tough choices not unlike the decisions made by so many Tennessee families this year.
Tennessee’s fiscal stability is nothing short of tremendous, especially when we compare ourselves to other states. According to the Tax Foundation, Tennesseans experience the lowest state debt per capita and third lowest individual per capita tax burden in the country.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one obvious and proud fact: we do all of this without a state income tax.
This is a major factor in Tennessee’s ability to weather the COVID-19 storm. Because we don’t collect income tax, we were in much better shape when unemployment began to soar in the spring than states that depend heavily on income tax.
More importantly, leaving Tennesseans’ paychecks alone leaves more money in the pockets of citizens who can make better decisions than the government about how to spend their money.
It is a key reason Tennessee is so attractive to businesses. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tennessee’s per capita personal income increased by 29 percent over the past 10 years. This is a remarkable testament to our ability to attract high-paying jobs.
Even in a pandemic, Tennessee has carefully and strategically utilized our COVID-19 stimulus funds to stabilize and grow our economy. Entrepreneurs and small business owners suffering from the financial impact of forced closures in the spring and summer have benefitted most from this support.
As a member of the General Assembly, I remain focused on enhancing our pro-business, pro-job environment in our community and across the state. We have achieved so much by removing barriers to success for our business community and allowing them to operate with shared prosperity and neighborly responsibility. Our state will remain a national economic leader under conservative leadership, but also the best place in the nation to live, work, raise a family and retire.
Perhaps we might even change that famous catchphrase to “In Tennessee the lights are always on … and we are open for business.
Clark Boyd is a small business owner who lives in Lebanon. He represents District 46 in the Tennessee House of Representatives, which includes Cannon and part of Wilson and Dekalb counties.