A business-friendly Tennessee

July 21, 2020 3:36PM

Written by Beacon intern Lauren Pratt

Growing up I saw running your own business as true freedom; a way to not only better your own life, but the lives of those in your community. While many young entrepreneurs may envision a small specialty store as their first endeavor, I took a more unorthodox approach to my first business by opening a gun store alongside my family. Needless to say, opening it in the highly political world of the  Washington, D.C. area, there were many loud opinions about our endeavor, but luckily I had not only my family’s support but also the support of many national special interest groups. With hard work, our shop successfully opened amidst the controversy and is still operating today to serve the needs of its community. But what about those who don’t have the help of grassroots organizations to fight back against unjust practices? What about men and women all across the country who have been seasoned professionals in their trade, but due to outdated licensing or zoning laws are no longer “legally” operating their businesses in Tennessee? Why is it that unreasonable and archaic laws are continuing to hinder the opportunities of so many in our state, let alone the country? Every American should be able to strive to own a small business as a route to financial independence. However, with the seemingly endless regulations you must be aware of, incessant amount of paperwork that must be filed, and often openly hostile treatment from bureaucrats, many are denied that opportunity, or know the financial risk isn’t worth it. 

You can easily see this with local and state regulations around home-based business and occupational licensing. Until recently, Nashville zoning laws denied the freedom to open home-based businesses and make an honest living. Removing this ban was a powerful win in the fight for a freer Tennessee. However, other arbitrary and stifling laws continue to prohibit talented individuals from pursuing small business endeavors, like occupational licensing laws. While no one is arguing to eliminate regulations that truly promote safety in our community, many licensing restrictions hinder hard-working citizens from pursuing careers. For example, requiring a high school degree in order to be a barber, previously requiring separate licenses to braid or shampoo hair, or even- using outdated alarm installer licensing to prevent new and innovative companies from starting and growing. These unjust licensing and zoning laws are very simply put, destroying Tennessean’s right and freedom to work. 

Over the past year, the Beacon Center has kept this idea of freedom and business innovation in mind when compiling our City Freedom Index which maps the Tennessee cities that have the most individual liberty, free enterprise, property rights, and reasonable costs of government. As a very business-minded individual, this index provides an essential toolkit for evaluating the relative ease of transitioning into different industries here in Tennessee. It also highlights areas where local lawmakers have an opportunity to change in order to better benefit the small businesses in our area and help remedy many of the licensing and zoning burdens mentioned above. Tennesseans deserve to know their rights and what we as a state can improve upon to make Tennessee the most innovative and business-friendly state for all future entrepreneurs. 

In 1965, the Tennessee General Assembly designated the official state slogan as “Tennessee- America at Its Best.” While there are undoubtedly areas that warrant a change in our state, there is a reason why Tennessee continues to be one of the fastest-growing areas for families and businesses to move to, and we should be proud to advocate for change and lead by example as truly “America at Its Best.”