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.”

Education, Leadership, Workforce

Tennessee Business Leaders Honor Governor Bill Haslam with Gordon Fee Leadership in Education Award

Haslam Becomes Just Sixth Leader Recognized by Roundtable for Education Contributions to Tennessee

Gov. Bill Haslam (left) on Feb. 1 received the Gordon Fee Leadership in Education Award from 2018 Tennessee Business Roundtable Chair Anthony Kimbrough (right), CEO of Farm Bureau Health Plans.

On Thursday, February 1, 2018, the Tennessee Business Roundtable (“TBR”; “the Roundtable”) presented its Gordon Fee Leadership in Education Award to Governor Bill Haslam at its 2018 Annual Meeting, in recognition of Haslam’s enduring contributions toward excellence in public education throughout his tenure as Tennessee’s Governor.

“This is only the sixth time our leadership has voted to bestow this award since its creation in 2008,” said 2018 TBR Chair Anthony Kimbrough (CEO, Farm Bureau Health Plans, Columbia, Tenn.).  “It’s one thing to be a voice for education, as most political and community leaders claim to be. It’s quite another to pair the voice with real and lasting action. Governor Haslam has done exactly that, and the list of accomplishments during his tenure as governor will help re-write the history of education in our state.”

Above: TBR Chair Anthony Kimbrough presents Governor Haslam with the Gordon Fee Leadership in Education Award.

Right: Governor Haslam addresses TBR’s 2018 Annual Meeting after receiving TBR’s Gordon Fee Leadership in Education Award.

During his tenure as Governor, Haslam has prioritized education reforms year upon year.  After launching the Drive to 55 initiative, aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with postsecondary credentials, Haslam spearheaded the Tennessee Promise and Reconnect initiatives, which have respectively expanded the financial resources available to Tennessee’s traditional students and adult learners in pursuit of postsecondary credentials.

“Under Governor Haslam’s leadership, Tennessee’s public education systems have implemented a range of innovative programs that are now getting more of our students better-prepared for today’s workforce,” said Gordon Fee, the longtime education advocate and TBR leader from Oak Ridge, Tenn. for whom the Award is named.  “These programs are clearly making a difference. I can think of no one more deserving of this Leadership in Education Award than Bill Haslam.”

"It’s one thing to be a voice for education, as most political and community leaders claim to be. It’s quite another to pair the voice with real and lasting action. Governor Haslam has done exactly that."
Anthony Kimbrough
TBR Chair

Other successful Haslam administration education initiatives include the SAILS program to reduce the need for remedial math classes, Read to be Ready to boost 3rd grade literacy, and revised Tennessee Academic Standards which raise expectations for students across the state.

“Governor Haslam applied incredible insight in first recognizing that sustaining the success of our state’s economy and communities requires a much greater rate of post-secondary attainment among Tennesseans, then developing a well-designed plan to meet that need—the Drive to 55 initiative,” said Margaret O. Dolan (President & CEO, LocalShares, LLC, Nashville, Tenn.), TBR’s immediate past Chair.  “The strategic integration of the Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, AdviseTN, and other components give more Tennesseans real opportunities to attain postsecondary credentials, no matter their age, life stage, or financial situation.  Governor Haslam has made this work to boost economic prosperity for all a priority throughout his service to our state.”


The Roundtable’s Leadership in Education Award is named for Gordon G. Fee of Oak Ridge, Tenn., a longtime member of the Roundtable and champion for public education. Fee is a past President of Lockheed Martin Energy Systems and plant manager of the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge. The award serves as an ongoing tribute to Fee as the Roundtable’s longest-serving Education Committee Chair from 1992 through 2015.  In this capacity, Gordon tirelessly championed the Roundtable’s education initiatives by serving in many leadership roles, including being the first volunteer executive in the State Department of Education.

Prior recipients of the Gordon Fee Leadership in Education Award include:

  • Gordon G. Fee, retired President, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, 2008
  • Michael Edwards, President/CEO, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, 2009
  • Governor Phil Bredesen, 2010
  • Richard Montgomery, former TN St. Rep. and TN House Education Chairman, 2012
  • Randy Boyd, CEO, Radio Systems Corporation, 2014
Gordon G. Fee

Welch named to TBR Executive Committee

Longtime TBR Board member Charles B. “Chuck” Welch, Jr., of member Farris Bobango PLC, has been appointed to TBR’s Executive Committee by 2017 Chair Margaret O. Dolan.

“Chuck has consistently expressed a high level of interest in the work and direction of the Roundtable,” says Dolan. “In addition, he has provided rich and long-time service to our organization, and those qualities make Chuck a great addition to our Executive Committee, which will begin to take on an enhanced leadership role for the Roundtable.”

A Partner at Farris Bobango, Welch’s practice concentrates in the areas of administrative law, governmental relations, commercial transactions, civil litigation, and telecommunications law. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee and a Juris Doctor degree from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. A member of the Memphis, Nashville, Tennessee and American Bar Associations, Welch is a former Assistant Shelby County Attorney and the former Assistant City Attorney for the City of Collierville.

“Having been involved with the TBR for nearly a decade, I am very interested in its growth and continued success,” said Chuck. “I very much welcome the opportunity to take a more significant role in the organization’s future, and look forward to working with Margaret, Pat and the Executive Committee.”

With Welch’s appointment, TBR’s Executive Committee now stands at eleven members, including the nine 2017 Officers elected by our Board plus Welch and longtime TBR board member Gordon Fee. The Executive Committee meets monthly via teleconference and serves as the core of our Roundtable’s member leadership team. Please join us in congratulating Chuck on his appointment.

Business, Leadership, Policy

TBR to Host 2018 TN Gubernatorial Candidate “Round-Robin” on Sept. 12 in Nashville

In conjunction with the Roundtable’s Fall 2017 Board Meeting in Nashville, TBR members and invitees will have an opportunity to hear directly from the men and women who want to serve as Tennessee’s next Governor.

TBR is inviting the 2018 gubernatorial candidates to share their respective policy visions for our state at its 2018 Gubernatorial Round-Robin on Tuesday, Sept. 12, time and location TBD.

“This forum provides a unique opportunity to have candid conversations with gubernatorial candidates about issues important to not only Farm Bureau but also the business community at large,” stated Anthony Kimbrough, CEO of Farm Bureau Health Plans. “I look forward to learning more about the candidates and their positions.”

TBR has invited the following declared candidates to provide remarks and take Q&A, in a serial non-debate format, with Roundtable members and invited guests:

  • Mae Beavers (R), Middle TN, State Senator (District 17)
  • Randy Boyd (R), East TN, business owner (Radio Systems Corp.) and former Commissioner of Economic and Community Development
  • Karl Dean (D),Middle TN, former mayor of Nashville
  • Beth Harwell (R), Middle TN, TN House Speaker
  • Bill Lee (R), Middle TN, business owner (Lee Company)

Others considering bids for governor include U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R) and TN House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D). The gubernatorial primary election will be held Aug. 2, 2018, with the general election on Nov. 6.

Registration for the Round-Robin is available to all TBR members, and to their invited guests via invitation only.  Click here to request event sponsorship information.

Leadership, Membership

Tennessee Business Roundtable Elects 2017 Officers


Tennessee Business Roundtable Elects 2017 Officers

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 24, 2017 – At its meeting on January 19, 2017, the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Business Roundtable (“TBR”, “the Roundtable”; elected nine senior-level state business leaders to serve as its Officers for the 2017 term.

Elected annually from among the Roundtable’s member company representatives, TBR’s Officers provide strategic direction and oversight to the Nashville-based state business policy group.  TBR’s 2017 Officer slate is comprised of senior Tennessee business professionals from a variety of the state’s business sectors, including health care, investment services, technology, law, retail, and human resources. Continue reading





Former Cracker Barrel executive takes reins of Tennessee business public policy group from retiring Howorth


Nashville, TN, PJS 13530008July 1, 2016:  The Tennessee Business Roundtable (TBR) today announced the appointment of Patrick J. Sheehy as Executive Vice President upon the retirement of former TBR Executive Director Charlie Howorth.  Sheehy succeeded Howorth effective July 1.

“We’re pleased to welcome Pat Sheehy as the next leader of our organization,” said Harold Carpenter, Chief Financial Officer of Pinnacle Bank, who serves TBR as President of its Board of Directors.  “Our Board believes that Pat’s public affairs experience, professional reputation and enthusiasm position him well to rally Tennessee’s business leaders in support of public policies that help all Tennesseans succeed in learning, working, and building their businesses and communities,” Carpenter added.  “We’re grateful to Charlie Howorth for serving the TBR over the past three-plus years, and for his help in selecting Pat to succeed him.  We feel Pat is the right person to help the TBR achieve its vision of becoming the most respected and influential policy voice for the business community in Tennessee.” Continue reading


TBR Executive Director to Retire

Howorth leaving his post to spend more time with his family


NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Business Roundtable (TBR) today announced that it is beginning a search to replace executive director, Charlie Howorth, who is retiring to spend more time with his wife and grandchildren.

“We appreciate Charlie’s leadership, his years of service to the Roundtable, and his willingness to stay on board until we find his replacement following the legislative session,” TBR Board Chairman Harold Carpenter said. “With his departure, it will be the board’s job to seek out the most highly qualified candidates that understand how business and government can work together to continue to improve our state, especially in the areas of education, job creation and healthcare.” Continue reading

Education, Leadership

TBR President Pens Guest Column Supporting TN Promise

The following article appeared in several papers across the state:

In February, during his State of the State address, Gov. Bill Haslam proposed something extraordinary.

He introduced the Tennessee Promise, an initiative that will provide “last dollar” scholarships at community colleges within the state, providing the opportunity for every Tennessee high school graduate to attend college free. This program will cover the gaps between tuition costs and a student’s available financial aid and is a logical next step in our state’s commitment to raising educational attainment.

Tennessee has been on the cutting edge of higher education reform in our nation, first with the passage of the Complete College Tennessee Act in 2010, and later with the launch of the Drive to 55. This Drive to 55 sets an ambitious goal of increasing the number of Tennesseans with an associate’s degree or technical certificate from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025.

As a business leader, I can personally attest that this goal is not just a statistical benchmark. Reaching the Drive to 55 is an economic imperative for our state and will ensure that companies, like the members of the Tennessee Business Roundtable, are able to find qualified workers right here in Tennessee.

Unfortunately, the current condition of our workforce can make the task of finding new employees a challenge. Among Tennessee’s current high school graduates, 41 percent fail to enroll in college. Increasing the number of students that enter higher education requires us to remove all hurdles, especially financial barriers, which hinder students from pursuing the opportunities a college degree affords. The Tennessee Promise is the most important possible step our state can take to provide this opportunity for all students.

While the HOPE Lottery Scholarship has been available for nearly a decade, we are still failing to reach a segment of students that do not consider themselves “college material.” We must send a message to these students that they can succeed in higher education, and that the Tennessee Promise isn’t a promise to a narrow segment of high school graduates, but a promise for all graduating seniors.

Finally, the Tennessee Promise does all of these things in a fiscally responsible way. Often, financial aid promises are underfunded or do not have the financing structure to weather downturns in the economy. The Tennessee Promise addresses that issue with a recommendation to create a special endowment, funded with reserve funds from the Tennessee Education Lottery. As Gov. Haslam summarized in his State of the State speech: “Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future, priceless.”

This is a bold promise. It’s an initiative that will speak volumes to current and prospective employers in the state. And it speaks volumes of another kind to generations of young people to come: Education beyond high school is a critical priority in the state of Tennessee.

Surely that type of promise is worth making … and keeping.

Gary Shorb is president of the Tennessee Business Roundtable and president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.