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MTSU, state Chamber launch ‘Tennessee Business Bar...

MTSU, state Chamber launch ‘Tennessee Business Barometer’

Middle Tennessee State University and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry have partnered to launch the Tennessee Business Barometer, a new quarterly index capturing the mood and outlook of business leaders statewide through online surveys.

The index consists of a core set of 17 questions, with the overall index score computed by adding the percentage of favorable responses to each question and subtracting the percentage of negative responses.MTSU logo web

The Tennessee Chamber is helping MTSU researchers generate a sampling of responses among the chamber’s member base and through the dozens of regional chambers of commerce and the businesses they serve.

The first index, released Wednesday, July 15, measured at 325, setting the benchmark for future indices.

Conducted July 1-8, the inaugural survey indicates “Tennessee business leaders are optimistic about the future growth of their businesses,” said Dr. Tim Graeff, professor of marketing in MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business, who is coordinating the index.

However, Graeff said state business leaders are more upbeat about state and local economic conditions than the national picture. And the current survey highlights some of the top challenges shared among business leaders, what Graeff describes as a “big five” — staffing, health care costs, regulation, political uncertainty and economic uncertainty.

Dr. Tim Graeff

Dr. Tim Graeff

Catherine Glover

Catherine Glover

By partnering with MTSU on the index, the Tennessee Chamber will have access to useful information to help fulfill its mission of advocating for a business-friendly environment in Tennessee.

“The Tennessee Business Barometer will be an invaluable tool for job creators and policy leaders who are at the forefront of making sure our business climate is one of the most favorable in the nation,” said Catherine Glover, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We’re excited to work with Dr. Graeff and MTSU to further the understanding of what makes Tennessee work best.”

A key concern expressed by business leaders is finding qualified employees to fill positions. Staffing was by far the most often top-ranked issue, Graeff said, with almost half of survey respondents (46 percent) saying that qualified employees are “hard to find,” and only 1 percent of respondents saying that qualified employees are “easy to find.”TN Chamber logo-web

“This is significant,” said Graeff, who has conducted surveys to gauge the outlook of Middle Tennessee consumers for several years.

“For most businesses — especially those in the service sector which makes up approximately three-fourths of our nation’s GDP, the people component of their business is perhaps the most important in terms of attracting and maintaining customers and ensuring future business and marketing success. And that people component requires being able to find qualified employees.”

Other key findings:

This "word cloud" shows the 20 words that were most often given when Tennessee Business Barometer respondents were asked ÒWhat one word comes to mind when you think about the future of the economy in Tennessee?Ó The size of each word reflects the relative frequency with which it was mentioned. (MTSU Office of Consumer Research)

This “word cloud” shows the 20 words that were most often given when Tennessee Business Barometer respondents were asked “What one word comes to mind when you think about the future of the economy in Tennessee?” The size of each word reflects the relative frequency with which it was mentioned. (MTSU Office of Consumer Research)

  • On the U.S. economy — Two out of three respondents (65 percent) said that current economic conditions were neither good nor bad (“in between”). Only 25 percent said current economic conditions in the U.S. are “good.”
  • Tennessee business leaders feel much more positive about the economic conditions in the state of Tennessee (64 percent rating it as “good”), their industry (54 percent “good”) and their specific firm (63 percent “good”).
  • Employment outlook is mixed, with 42 percent expecting to increase employment at their firm and only 9 percent expecting to decrease.

The Tennessee Business Barometer will also provide an opportunity for researchers for the Tennessee Chamber and MTSU’s Jones College to add customized questions about timely topics such as:

  • Hiring plans for the Christmas and holiday seasons.
  • Effects of proposed legislation on business decisions.
  • Effects of recent events — such as energy prices, cybercrime, interest rates, etc. — on the business outlook.

MTSU and the Tennessee Chamber will track the index over time to identify patterns in the assessments of Tennessee business leaders about the business climate, similar to national consumer confidence surveys. The next index is planned for October.

Dr. David Urban

Dr. David Urban

“Today’s collegiate business schools must demonstrate their positive impact,” said Dr. David Urban, dean of MTSU’s Jones College of Business.

“The Tennessee Business Barometer will prove to be an excellent example of how faculty in the Jones College of Business can leverage their considerable research skills to benefit the broader community by influencing policy and practice.”

For more information about the Tennessee Business Barometer, contact Dr. Tim Graeff at 615-898-5124 or tim.graeff@mtsu.edu. The pdf version of the full report is available here or at the MTSU Office of Consumer Research’s website, www.mtsu.edu/consumer.

For more information about the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, visit www.tnchamber.org call 615-256-5141.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)


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