Business, Education, Health

TN COVID-19 Unified Command is partnering with Roundtable member Launch Tennessee

Can your business’s services, products and/or ideas help fight COVID-19 in Tennessee? 

Roundtable member #LaunchTN is partnering with Tennessee’s COVID-19 Unified Command to connect business solutions, resources  and capabilities to COVID-19 response needs, through the new Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform.

Starting today, businesses can:

  • Register on the Platform to inform the state’s Unified Command of the goods and services your business provides, so the Unified Command can rapidly find and contact you when there’s a need your business can fill.
  • View Open Solicitations for goods/services (e.g., medical materials, temporary housing, transportation, etc.)

To get started, connect to the Platform at


Tennessee Business Roundtable Welcomes Knoxville’s Mollenhour Gross, LLC to Membership

The Tennessee Business Roundtable ( is pleased to welcome Mollenhour Gross, LLC to the organization’s membership, following the unanimous approval of the firm’s membership bid by the Roundtable’s Executive Committee on March 11.  Founder and Co-CEO Jordan Mollenhour will serve as Mollenhour Gross’ principal representative to the Roundtable’s all-member Board of Directors.

“The Tennessee Business Roundtable offers me and Mollenhour Gross a unique opportunity to help shape positive policies for the benefit of all Tennesseans, and to learn from the deep well of business experience, perspective and wisdom within this business organization’s executive membership,” said Mollenhour.

“I look forward to developing lifelong relationships with likeminded civic and business leaders as I begin engaging with my fellow Roundtable executives,” he added.

Founded in 2004 by Mollenhour and business partner Dustin Gross, privately-held Mollenhour Gross actively seeks ownership positions in successful companies with annual revenues of at least $1 million per year.  The firm focuses on providing its portfolio companies with strategic guidance, support and long-term stability, preferring to rely on the “exceptional people” who have started and grown its companies—often in what it terms “humble, stable industries”—to continue leading, managing, and growing them.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Jordan and Mollenhour Gross to our organization’s growing membership,” said Eddie Jett, CEO of Knoxville-based MBI Companies, Inc., elected in January to serve as the Roundtable’s 2020-21 Regional Vice President for East Tennessee.  “Jordan and his firm bring additional entrepreneurial and business-investment perspectives to our organization, and I’m also glad to have him join me and others in representing Knoxville’s business community within the Roundtable membership.”

Mollenhour Gross currently holds ownership positions in over a dozen companies whose operations span the United States and extend abroad, operating in a wide variety of industry sectors including software, e-commerce, aviation, warehousing/order fulfillment, recycling, printing, manufacturing, hospitality, appliance services, and real estate.  The firm also makes occasional investments in public securities, specialty loans, and other assets.

“Mollenhour Gross and Jordan Mollenhour are terrific examples of the kind of company and executive which make our Roundtable unique among Tennessee business organizations,” noted Matt Kisber, Chairman of the Board of Nashville-based Silicon Ranch Corporation, who serves as the Roundtable’s 2020-21 Chair. “One of our Roundtable’s core strengths is its ability to convene executives who lead businesses in over a dozen different sectors across our state, yet recognize that our collective business success relies on securing both an educated and healthy workforce and business-friendly public policies for Tennessee,” Kisber continued.  “We were delighted to discover that Jordan and Mollenhour Gross share our vision, and we’re looking forward to the contributions they’ll make to our Roundtable.”

Education, Policy

Summary of Governor Bill Lee’s Literacy Initiative

Governor Bill Lee has proposed a major initiative aimed at improving reading proficiency among Tennessee students, particularly in grades K-2, as they approach the critical fourth-grade reading benchmark. Here’s a summary of the Governor’s proposal, which the Roundtable has endorsed:


The Lee Administration’s 2020 Literacy Initiative (HB2229/SB2160): Executive Summary (inclusive of Amdt. 3)

I. Improving Literacy Instruction in Grades K-2: Requires TN’s public school districts (LEAs) to:

Implement new methods for teaching K-2 students to read, based on English language arts (ELA) standards adopted by the St. Board of Education (SBE) that include foundational literacy skills;

Provide K-2 students with SBE-approved foundational literacy textbooks and instructional materials, unless an LEA has delivered 4th – grade reading growth of “above expectations” for 2 years, and continues it for 3 years;

Give a TN Dept. of Education (TDOE)-approved reading diagnostic to all K-2 students (and to 3rd -graders with a significant reading deficiency) that benchmarks literacy skills and growth, three times per year;

Provide students who have significant reading deficiencies with additional instructional supports; and

Not promote 3rd -graders who lack basic understanding of reading curriculum and required reading skills, unless they participate in a foundational literacy skills-based intervention program before the next year.

II. Improving Literacy Instruction for K-2 Teaching Students—and Their Instructors

By March 2021, TDOE must provide to the St. Board of Education and to the General Assembly’s House and Senate Education Committee chairs, and post on its website, a report that includes:

A landscape analysis of literacy in Tennessee K-12 schools and LEAs, randomly selected;

A landscape analysis of literacy instruction by Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs); and

A joint analysis (with the TN Higher Ed. Commission) regarding EPP affordability for aspiring teachers.

By August 2021:

EPPs must train aspiring K-2 teachers on: (1) foundational literacy skills, (2) instructing/slow readers, (3) identifying/teaching dyslexic students, (4) using high-quality instructional materials, (5) behavior management in reading classrooms, and (6) understanding and using student reading data.

▪ The SBE must update its EPP regulations, and TDOE may develop additional guidance for EPPs.

➢ By August 2022:

To get a license/endorsement to teach in K-2, aspiring teachers must pass a “TN Reading Instruction Test”—specified by TDOE, approved by SBE—that tests their knowledge of foundational literacy skills.

To teach reading instruction to aspiring K-2 teachers, EPP instructors must have an active Tennessee teacher license, pass the TN Reading Instruction Test, or complete state literacy training (see Sec. IV).

EPP instructional leadership (principal/admin.) programs must teach foundational literacy skills.

EPP post-Bachelor’s students must pass the TN Reading Instruction Test to renew/advance their initial teaching license, and those holding a teacher/instructional-leader license from a reciprocal state must pass that Test, or earn a literacy certificate, before renewing/advancing their license in TN.

III. Making Third-Grade Reading Proficiency a Part of School and LEA Accountability

By June 30, 2021, TDOE must convene an advisory group on “meaningful integration” of third-grade reading proficiency (measured by student TCAP testing) into school and LEA performance goals and measures.

▪ TDOE and the stakeholders will consider how third-grade reading proficiency should be weighted in calculating school and LEA performance accountability. If changes are warranted, TDOE must submit proposed revisions to the St. Board of Education and, if necessary, to the U.S. Dept. of Education.

IV. New Training for Tennessee’s Pre-K-5 Public School Literacy Instructors

By June 30, 2022, all public-school literacy instructors in grades pre-K to 5th must participate in two separate, mandatory literacy trainings, provided regionally or locally by TDOE: the first on foundational literacy skills instruction, and the second on implementing literacy programmatic and instructional materials.

Literacy instructors earn a literacy certificate after completing the trainings and demonstrating proficiency.

Schools or LEAs must assign mentor teachers to support teachers who don’t earn the literacy certificate.

➢ LEAs can apply for competitive grants to get literacy implementation and coaching support for up to three years from state-approved providers, after which all literacy training will be provided by EPPs.

Business, Competitiveness, Policy, US

Roundtable Calls on Congress to Enact USMCA Trade Pact

The Tennessee Business Roundtable (“the Roundtable”; “TBR”) today voiced its support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) by joining several Tennessee business groups in signing a letter to Congress calling for enactment of the agreement.

“Mexico and Canada are two of Tennessee’s most critical trading partners, and our Roundtable stands with Tennessee’s business community in calling upon Congress to enact the USMCA agreement,” said TBR 2019 Chairman Anthony C. Kimbrough, CEO of Columbia-based Farm Bureau Health Plans.  “Tennessee exports over $15 billion in goods and services annually to Mexico and Canada, and trade with those two countries alone supports nearly a quarter-million jobs here in Tennessee,” Kimbrough added.  “There’s no question that Tennessee’s economy and globally-competitive workforce stand to win from implementation of the USMCA, and our Roundtable therefore supports enactment of this critical international trade policy as soon as possible.”

“Promoting stable and fair trade relations between the United States, Mexico and Canada is one of the most important things our congressional delegation can do to secure the long-term success of Tennessee’s economy,” stated TBR President Pat Sheehy.  “By making key improvements to existing trade rules between the U.S., Canada and Mexico on agriculture, intellectual property, goods market access, labor, and rules of origin, we expect the USMCA agreement will enhance the competitiveness of key Tennessee industries, including agriculture, chemicals, manufacturing, medical devices, and trucking,” he continued.  “Our Roundtable is proud to join TBR members Eastman, UPS and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and other Tennessee business leaders, in strongly supporting enactment of the USMCA by Congress.”

Signed in November 2018 by trade negotiators from the United States, Mexico and Canada, the USMCA now awaits ratification by the signatory nations’ respective national legislatures before taking effect.  White House officials submitted a so-called Statement of Administrative Action, a step toward introducing USMCA ratification legislation, to Congress on May 30.  Federal trade officials and congressional leaders continue to hold discussions aimed at resolving concerns about provisions on enforcement, labor, environmental standards, and drug pricing.

Click these links to see more about the importance of Tennessee and U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico, courtesy of the DC-based Business Roundtable and the USMCA Coalition.

Education, Policy, Workforce

Tennessee 2018 NSFY Grant Snapshot Released

In 2017, Tennessee was awarded $2 million in funding through a New Skills for Youth (NSFY) grant to aid in career readiness initiatives. The Roundtable was pleased to serve on the grant team which secured this funding and worked with those partners to create long and short term goals for the following year. This week, Advance CTE, one of the organizers of the NSFY grant, released snapshots of the progress made by each of the 10 state recipients.

Tennessee’s NSFY 2018 snapshot highlights:

  1. the establishment of a career pathways certification program;
  2. the addition of regional career pathways coordinators;
  3. and the alignment of career pathways across state departments.

The career pathways certification program emphasizes employer partnerships and requires EPSOs/work-based learning and alignment with labor market needs, while the new pathways coordinators act as the main points of contact between education and industry. In an effort to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce fragmentation, a statewide reorganization of disparate Dept. of Education, Economic Development, and Labor regions occurred, resulting in 9 coordinated regions.

These three focuses connect to the following TBR education and workforce policy priorities:

  • Accelerate alignment between the K-12 and post-secondary curricula that supply the high-skill, living-wage occupations in greatest demand in Tennessee’s economy.
  • Better-coordinate Tennessee state government’s workforce-development efforts, make them more transparent to those served, and open them up to input from and involvement by our state’s job-creators.

As we enter the third and final year of this grant, the Roundtable will continue to work with the Department of Education as a partner to help build pathways for students into Tennessee’s workforce. If you would like to learn more about the work currently being done by the state, or if you would like to get in touch with your Pathways regional coordinator to find out how you can get involved in career awareness in your area, contact Cassie Foote at

Business, Education, Workforce

Roundtable Joins SCORE, TN Chamber in Supporting Gov. Lee’s GIVE (Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education) Act

The Tennessee Business Roundtable joined the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry in expressing support for the legislative component of Governor Bill Lee’s first education improvement effort—the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Initiative.  Legislation to enact the GIVE Act (SB 805/HB 949), sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson and House Majority Leader William Lamberth, began moving in Tennessee General Assembly’s education committees this week.

In a letter to the Tennessee Senate Education Committee on March 6, the leaders of TBR, SCORE and the Tennessee Chamber hailed the GIVE Act as “a significant and needed investment to increase the number of young adults earning an industry certification and entering a career within one year of high school graduation.”  The legislation expands access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students by providing funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs.

“The Tennessee Business Roundtable is pleased to join our partners at SCORE and the Tennessee Chamber in raising our voices, as business community leaders and education innovation advocates, in support of Governor Lee’s GIVE Act,” said TBR President Pat Sheehy. “We agree with Governor Lee that it’s critically important to position Tennessee’s future workforce for success now by expanding our state’s vocational and technical offerings, with a view to helping more of our high school students discover quality career paths and gain skills with high workforce value,” he added. 

Business, Competitiveness, Education, Health, Policy, Transportation, Workforce

TBR Announces 2019 Policy Priorities

The Tennessee Business Roundtable today announced its 2019 State Policy Priorities, reflecting Roundtable members’ top concerns in the areas of Education & Workforce Development, Health, and Competitiveness & Business Climate.

“When we asked dozens of our state’s executive business leaders about their top policy concerns, they identified fourteen priorities for action by our Roundtable,” said TBR President Pat Sheehy.  “TBR is making these ‘big rocks’ our priorities in working with the incoming Lee Administration and the Tennessee General Assembly to create positive policy change supporting businesses, people and economic growth across our state’s three Grand Divisions.”

Here are the Roundtable’s top policy concerns for this year—click the links to view details about each priority:

Education and Workforce Development

  • Fix Tennessee’s K-12 academic testing—and keep it closely aligned to our state’s academic standards.
  • Keep Tennessee’s hard-won, rigorous K-12 academic standards strong—and keep improving them.
  • Expand the availability of early childhood education programs for Tennessee’s youngest future workers.
  • Accelerate alignment between the K-12 and post-secondary curricula that supply the high-skill, living-wage occupations in greatest demand in Tennessee’s economy.
  • Better-coordinate Tennessee state government’s workforce-development efforts, make them more transparent to those served, and open them up to input from and involvement by our state’s job-creators.


  • Fight the chronic health conditions which prevent too many Tennesseans from participating in and contributing fully to our state’s workforce, and whose costs hurt our economy, through policies that:
    • Empower employers to promote employee health through HSA and health insurance incentives.
    • Promote government-private sector partnerships to address chronic health conditions.
    • Enhance availability of low- or no-cost generic RXs to control chronic health conditions.
    • Increase the number of primary care providers in TN via better payment & opportunities.
    • Reduce regulatory barriers to workplace-based medical facilities.
  • Further expand access to affordable health coverage for working-age Tennesseans.

Competitiveness and Business Climate

  • Make state projects to relieve commercial and commuter highway congestion a top priority for planning, ROW acquisition, engineering, and completion, second only to critical safety repairs.
  • Make Tennessee’s franchise & excise tax rates more competitive with those of other Southeast states.
  • Preserve Tennessee employers’ rights to control firearms and other risks on their property.
  • Protect and improve Tennessee’s Worker’s Compensation and Unemployment Insurance programs.
  • Keep Tennessee welcome to all persons who want to contribute to our workforce and economy.
  • Keep Tennessee’s regulatory “playing field” fair for alternative & advanced energy development.
  • Fight the opioid abuse threatening Tennessee’s workforce productivity and business reputation.
Business, Leadership, Policy

Tennessee Business Roundtable Marks 35th Anniversary

Executive business group founded in 1983 hailed by Tennessee Governors for policy leadership

Nashville, TN, December 19, 2018 – Business and political leaders joined the Tennessee Business Roundtable (“TBR”; “the Roundtable”) today in celebrating the nonprofit state business policy organization’s thirty-fifth anniversary by recalling the group’s formation, policy achievements and outlook for the future.

On December 19, 1983, a group of seven prominent state business executives, led by former state Finance Commissioner Bill Sansom, announced the formation of the Roundtable for the purpose of promoting and protecting free enterprise in Tennessee, and held the organization’s first Board meeting. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville), who was then serving his second term as the 45th Governor of Tennessee, recently recalled the motivations which led to TBR’s establishment:

“I frankly thought that the existing business organizations were too narrowly focused on their own specific interests, which is understandable. But I thought we needed a business organization focused on a broader set of issues which would help make Tennessee a better place to live and work, such as improving our schools and building the best four lane highway system in the country. I asked Bill Sansom of Knoxville, the former finance commissioner, and others to create the Tennessee Business Roundtable, and they did. I’m grateful for all that they’ve done, and I wish them success in the years to come.”

Founded on the belief that Tennessee’s vibrant economic climate is driven by an educated, healthy populace and sound state fiscal policies, the TBR has worked with Alexander, his successors and Tennessee General Assembly leaders to drive pro-business public policies.

“The Tennessee Business Roundtable has been a great partner over the past eight years, helping us implement some groundbreaking policies and programs, such as Drive to 55, Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect,” said current Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R-Knoxville). “I congratulate this important organization on its 35th anniversary and encourage the members to keep providing a voice for Tennessee’s business community in support of public education and other policies that benefit all Tennesseans,” Haslam added.

Now comprised of over fifty companies doing business in over a dozen industry sectors and hailing from all three Grand Divisions of Tennessee, the organization has pursued its Mission of optimizing the quality of life and well-being of all Tennesseans by convening business leaders and strategic thinkers who develop and seek to implement public policies that enhance Tennessee’s vibrant economic climate.

“Over the last thirty-five years, Tennessee has achieved meaningful gains in education, workforce development, and quality of life for its citizens,” observed TBR 2018 Chair Anthony C. Kimbrough, CEO of Farm Bureau Health Plans of Columbia, Tennessee. “Some of that progress has not been easy, and we’re proud that our Roundtable’s proactive voice has made a difference at critical stages of the policy efforts that have produced those gains,” he added.

Kimbrough also pointed to the Roundtable’s unique relationship with executive leaders in Tennessee state government as a key to its success. “Tennessee has been blessed with some strong political thinkers and doers at all levels of government, and we like to think that TBR has played a pivotal role in helping them think and do things that are tremendously helpful to Tennessee.”  Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen (D-Nashville) endorsed Kimbrough’s sentiments:

“During my eight years as Governor, the Tennessee Business Roundtable was a reliable thought partner on issues ranging from TennCare reform to workers comp reform. I especially appreciated the Roundtable’s focus over the years in education and workforce development. Our partnership in the Tennessee Diploma Project led to higher academic standards in K-12 classrooms across the state — and eventually made Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the history of the Nation’s Report Card. I congratulate the Roundtable’s leadership and membership on 35 years of advancing sound public policies and look forward to seeing how the organization works with Gov.-elect Bill Lee and future governors.”

As the Roundtable marks its thirty-fifth anniversary, Kimbrough says he and TBR’s member executives are firmly focused on achieving the organization’s vision for Tennessee.

“Our state’s future challenges will continue to center around many of the things about which our Roundtable members have always been concerned—quality of life, jobs and economic achievement,” Kimbrough observed. “While the hopes, needs and goals will remain the same, the challenges will present themselves in new ways, so the ways in which our business community contributes toward meeting them must continue to evolve,” he continued, adding, “TBR will bring together a mix of wisdom, business acumen and executive leadership to meet them, and will remain a dynamic force that brings together executives who have Tennessee’s best interests at heart.”

Business, Education

Partners Launch Tennessee Business Fund for Public Education

Partners Launch Tennessee Business Fund for Public Education
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA), the Tennessee Business Roundtable (TBR) and the American Public Education Foundation (APEF) are proud to announce the launch of the Tennessee Business Fund for Public Education (TBFPE).

The new charitable Fund will directly support the creation of programs in public schools that lead to postsecondary success and career opportunities for students, while giving businesses the opportunity to develop a future ready workforce.  Through the Fund, Tennessee businesses and individuals will be empowered to create grant opportunities for public school districts in four career-connected focus areas:

  1. courses and programs that provide postsecondary credit, national industry certifications, and credentials;
  2. literacy;
  3.  character education; and
  4. health.

“We are very excited about the Fund and believe this will help prepare students for their future careers. School districts will be able to meet the needs of their community and create lasting partnerships with local and regional businesses,” said TSBA President and Campbell County Board Member Faye Heatherly.

“This Fund will provide Tennessee’s businesses a unique opportunity to positively influence the future of our workforce through direct partnerships with our public schools,” said William A. “Tinker” Kelly, CEO of Voluntary Employee Benefit Advisors and 2018 Vice-Chair of the Tennessee Business Roundtable. “By donating funds to assist a single school, to support one or more school districts, or on an unrestricted basis, this Fund allows businesses of any size to take an active role in building a talent pipeline,” he added.

Over the last eight months, TSBA, TBR, and the APEF have worked together to create a partnership that creates a way for Tennessee’s entire business community to actively support the development of career focused programs for students. Through the Fund, which will operate under the not-for-profit 501(c)(3) American Public Education Foundation, contributing businesses and individuals will gain the ability to support all four career-connected focus areas, or to focus on a specific program to meet a particular need in their community.

The APEF will provide all administrative functions for the Fund, including legal, accounting and Internal Revenue Code compliance, and financial oversight. This will ensure transparency, accountability, and the knowledge that the Tennessee BusinessFund for Public Education is empowering students and creating a future ready workforce.

“We are living in times of exponential change. We are today preparing our students for jobs that have not yet been created, using technologies that have not yet been invented, solving problems that we don’t yet realize are problems,” said APEF President David A. Pickler. “The American Public Education Foundation is proud to be a partner in this collective vision for Tennessee’s economic future. This collaboration in workforce development will be an essential ingredient in achieving a future which will empower Tennessee to fulfill its potential for economic growth and quality of life for its citizens,” he added.

For more information about the Fund, contact TSBA at (615) 815-3900 or TBR at (615) 255-5877.


About the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) –
The Tennessee School Boards Association is a state wide, nonprofit organization of school boards throughout Tennessee. TSBA’s mission is to assist school boards in effectively governing school districts. Through the years, TSBA has helped school boards and their members reach their highest potential through Association programs, meetings and services. TSBA also provides school board members with a collective voice in matters of legislation and public education concerns. For more information about TSBA, visit our website at:

About the Tennessee Business Roundtable (TBR) –
To optimize the quality of life and well-being of all Tennesseans, the Tennessee Business Roundtable develops and seeks to implement public policies which enhance our state’s vibrant economic climate. Founded by prominent Tennessee business leaders in 1983, and dedicated to the belief that an educated, healthy populace and sound state fiscal policies are the primary drivers of Tennessee’s vibrant economy, TBR seeks to be the most respected & influential policy voice for Tennessee’s business community.

About the American Public Education Foundation (APEF) –
The American Public Education Foundation partners with public school advocates from all walks of life – lawmakers, leaders, and ordinary Americans – to “keep the American Dream alive” for our nation’s K-12 students. We believe that high-quality public education is the pathway to a stronger America. The American Public Education Foundation centers our efforts on three areas that complement classroom instruction and catalyze student achievement: innovation, leadership, and service learning. Our foundation passionately and profoundly believes in the power of public education.”

Business, Policy, US

Roundtable, NFIB, Chamber Co-Host 2018 U.S. Senate Forum with Blackburn, Bredesen

The Tennessee Business Roundtable, in partnership with the Tennessee Chamber and NFIB, hosted a 2018 U.S. Senate Forum at Lipscomb University’s College of Business on August 15, 2018, focusing on federal policy issues affecting our state’s business community.

Candidates Marsha Blackburn (R) and Phil Bredesen (D) answered questions posed by moderator Ben Hall of NewsChannel5 on tariffs, health care, infrastructure, taxes, and regulatory policy. The event was live streamed by NewsChannel5+ and can be viewed here.

Marsha Blackburn and Ben Hall
Phil Bredesen and Ben Hall
From left to right: Ben Hall, NewsChannel5; Jim Brown, NFIB; Patrick Sheehy, TN Business Roundtable; Bradley Jackson, TN Chamber of Commerce & Industry

“Our Roundtable convenes Tennessee business leaders to provoke productive conversations on business and policy matters, and in presenting this Forum, we were pleased to join with our fellow statewide business organizations to begin the general election conversation on Tennessee’s 2018 United States Senate race with candidates Blackburn and Bredesen,” said TBR President Patrick Sheehy (pictured right). 

“Great teamwork by Tennessee NFIB, the Tennessee Chamber and TBR allowed our state business leaders to hear directly from the candidates on trade, regulatory, health, infrastructure, and tax issues that affect our state’s economy and workforce.  We’re grateful to Lipscomb University for allowing our Roundtable, the Chamber and NFIB to provide this opportunity for our business community, and to Ben Hall and NewsChannel 5 for partnering with us to deliver an informative, timely event.”