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Tennessee Thrives Surpasses 350 Members

By Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 2:00 PM CT, January 26, 2017
CONTACT: [email protected]


NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Thrives has exceeded 350 members, demonstrating widespread business support statewide for the organization’s mission of nondiscrimination.

Since Tennessee Thrives launched last December with a mission of promoting an open and prosperous Tennessee, more than 150 businesses from the state’s cities and rural areas have signed the coalition’s pledge — nearly doubling the coalition’s size in a matter of weeks.

Supporters represent a broad array of Tennessee organizations, from leading companies, such as International Paper, Nissan, HCA, FedEx and Radio Systems Corp., to smaller businesses fueling local communities, including Tennessee Cheesecake in Lebanon, Half Hill Farm in Woodbury, Milosi Landscaping in Hendersonville, and Republic Plumbing in Madison.

A few of the coalition’s newest supporters from across Tennessee share their thoughts on the importance of the Tennessee Thrives initiative:

Jacqueline Arthur, General Manager of Three Rivers Market: Born and raised in East Tennessee, Three Rivers Market is a center of sustainable commerce cooperatively-owned by nearly 8,000 Tennesseans. Our business exists to serve our people by creating and nourishing a healthier environment, healthier people, and a healthier community. We value the diverse ideas and perspectives of the community we serve, welcome the innovation that comes with a diverse workforce, and eagerly join the Tennessee Thrives coalition to honor the differences and commonalities of all people.

Dr. Dennis Freeman, CEO of Cherokee Health Systems: At Cherokee Health Systems, we are proud to serve individuals and families from all walks of life, and we think an essential part of serving these folks is having a diverse workforce. When an organization’s staff members have different ideas, viewpoints, experiences, and talents, everybody wins! Diversity is good for business and good for Tennessee, and at Cherokee Health Systems we are proud to support the ideals of Tennessee Thrives by hiring talented staff members, regardless of their race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dave Gilboa, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker: We’re proud that Warby Parker is an open, welcoming and diverse organization. We can’t wait to establish a bigger presence in Nashville and grow an even bigger team.

Teresa Kingery, Principal of Kingery & Associates: As a small business owner of a recruiting agency, I am fully aware of the need of our businesses to reach out and make it a priority for more diversification within our employee mix. With our fast-paced growth in Tennessee and our desire to continue to be an example — not only to our citizens but to those who will be future residents — we must continue to thrive in these areas of concern and focus.

Scott Pierce, Chief Operating Officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee: We are proud to say the members we serve and the people we employ reflect the entirety of Tennessee. We believe Tennessee should always strive to remain a place that offers equal opportunity to everyone.

Dr. David Rudd, President of the University of Memphis: At the University of Memphis, we are passionate about ensuring all students from across Tennessee and beyond feel welcomed, supported and accepted. The Tennessee Thrives pledge underscores our commitment to maintaining an open and welcoming Tennessee for all.

Patrick Sheehy, President of Tennessee Business Roundtable (TBR): Through the Tennessee Business Roundtable, Tennessee businesses work for public policies that enable our state’s economy and all Tennesseans to succeed. As many of TBR’s member companies have also affirmed individually, the Roundtable supports the idea that our state welcomes and values the economic and workforce contributions of all Americans — and must continue to do so in a nondiscriminatory manner if Tennessee’s businesses, communities and people are to realize their full potential.

Charles Starks, President and CEO of the Music City Center: From a job creation and tax revenue standpoint, the convention and meeting industry has been vital to our state’s success. Equal treatment of all people is a cornerstone in our industry and we pride ourselves on our diverse customer base. It is important for us as a business community to stand together on issues that could compromise that — only united can we ensure that all are welcome here in Tennessee.

A full list of coalition supporters is available here. If your company is interested in signing the Tennessee Thrives pledge, click here.

To learn more about Tennessee Thrives, visit

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Tennessee Thrives is a nonprofit 501(c)6 coalition of businesses and community leaders committed to promoting an attractive, prosperous, and economically vibrant Tennessee. We believe that when our state is welcoming to all people – regardless of race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity – our businesses and our communities win. More information on the coalition and its supporters is available at

Tennessee businesses align against possible anti-LGBT bills

By News Clips

CLICK HERE to read the full story at WSMV.


In the new year, Tennessee businesses are uniting against discriminatory laws.

It comes in the wake of North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill, which caused the state to lose out on some big business.

In Middle Tennessee businesses are joining forces to make sure that doesn’t happen here.

Many business owners told Channel 4 that it was an easy decision, but also one that surprises them. They said in 2017 it should be understood to not discriminate in the work place.

“We depend on tourism as much as any attraction in the state and we want to be as friendly as possible,” said Jim Bartoo with the Nashville Zoo.

Whether it is the zoo, a stroll down Broadway, or a Predators game at Bridgestone Arena, businesses are taking a stand through a coalition called Tennessee Thrives.

“I think the coalition is needed because there is some legislation out there that at least points at least to something different than being open and welcoming to everyone,” Bartoo said.

The coalition formed just weeks ago. More than 200 businesses of all sizes and types have already joined forces to raise awareness of an open and inclusive Tennessee.

Discrimination is a topic happening across the nation after North Carolina’s bathroom bill. The law targeted transgender people by forcing them to use bathrooms that correspond with their sex at birth.

The NBA moved its All-Star game out of Charlotte, NC, and many musicians boycotted playing in the state.

Some Tennessee legislators introduced a similar bill last year, but ultimately the bill’s sponsor decided to table the legislation.

Business owners told Channel 4 that Tennessee Thrives is a way to show not only those in the Volunteer State, but our tourists as well that they won’t discriminate against anybody.

It pays for Nashville to be a welcoming community

By News Clips

Click here to read the original article at The Tennessean

Tennessee Thrives and the #Indivisible campaign are a few examples of why Tennessee should avoid marginalizing anyone.

More than 200 large and small businesses across Tennessee have united behind a message that they believe in the state’s famed friendliness and hospitality.

As members of the Tennessee Thrives coalition, they are proclaiming that they are open for business, want to grow their reach and want to attract the best talent.

They also want to see the record job growth and tourism growth continue.

That means standing for a political environment that encourages and embraces diversity and rejects discrimination against people for whatever reason.

This effort sends an important message to the Tennessee General Assembly — which convenes anew on Jan.10 — that it should abstain from legislation that is openly or subtly hostile toward people, regardless of their nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other factor.

This is an important step because, last year, Tennessee lawmakers did pursue legislation that gave the impression outside the state that they were hostile to Muslims, refugees, the LGBT population, among other groups — in other words, that they were closed for business.

Bills that dominated the 2016 session were the counselor discrimination bill, which did pass into law (and has a proposed Part II for 2017), and a bill regulating transgender and intersex bathroom use, which did not come to a vote.

Three organizations canceled their conventions or meetings in Nashville in favor of other cities.

It wasn’t quite as bad as it was for North Carolina, which lost NCAA championship games, a PayPal location and the NBA All-Star game for its infamous House Bill 2 bathroom law, discriminating against transgender people. Lawmakers are now trying to undo that mistake.

The purported reasons I have heard for these types of bills are public safety or religious freedom. Yet, there is no evidence that there is a real problem these bills will fix.

In short, these measures seek to discriminate against certain classes of people.

That shouldn’t be the aim of lawmakers, who have many serious issues of head of them, like roads and transportation funding, healthcare and education, among others.

The election of Donald Trump as president has further put many of these groups on edge because of promises to deport undocumented immigrants and to bar Muslims from entering the United States.

Data released by the Partnership for a New American Economy earlier this year showed that immigrants, who make up 5 percent of the Tennessee population, are making significant contributions to the labor force and tax rolls. They are also filling jobs that Americans are not taking, such as in the technology and construction industries.

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That includes undocumented immigrants whose statuses could have been corrected years ago but for failed bipartisan effort during both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidential administrations.

The #INDIVISIBLE campaign spearheaded by Renata Soto, co-founder of Conexión Américas, encourages residents via social media and civic action to create a welcoming environment for all Americans regardless of where they were born since they all play an important part in strengthening the fabric of this nation.

This message is critical and it solidifies the cities and towns of Tennessee as gateways to the South, which today embraces its roots but also embraces innovation, openness and growth.

So, it was fitting that Nashville was the first “gateway” city of the South to host the National Immigration and Integration Conference earlier this month.

Twelve percent of the city’s population is foreign-born and the South has the highest rate of percentage growth among Hispanics across the United States.

The conference produced powerful messages of dealing with struggle, contributing to the economy and becoming a productive part of the community.

Hopefully, lawmakers will heed these messages as they return to Nashville next month for the legislative session.

They should if they are serious about keeping the state open for business.

David Plazas is The Tennessean’s opinion engagement editor. Call him at (615) 259-8063, email him at [email protected] or tweet to him at @davidplazas.


Butch Spyridon explains the importance of the new group Tennessee Thrives.



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Love and tolerance can be good for business

By News Clips

CLICK HERE to read the original piece at the Knoxville News Sentinel

“Judge not lest we be judge” is good religion. It keeps us humble. Surprisingly, it is also good for business. It means more customers, longer lines for the rides, more meals eaten in restaurants and more money in the cash register.

We can’t revive an economy with stores that want to turn away customers, counselors who do not want to see clients, bakers who don’t want to sell cakes, florists who don’t want to deliver flowers, industries that don’t want new markets, employers who don’t want to hire the most qualified applicants.

Our nation just went through a very divisive election campaign; but one thing we learned close to home from the fires in Sevier County is that when times get tough, we can set aside differences and work together as one people. Republican or Democrat, immigrant or native, Christian, Muslim or Jew — we are all neighbors who can turn toward each other in a time of need, support each other through trauma and work together to keep our communities safe and secure.

Economists across the liberal to conservative spectrum tell us that when a community is struck by disaster, charity is good but customers are better. Charity will see you through the crisis of the moment. Good customers can sustain you for a lifetime.

To revive our region’s economy from a devastating setback, we need customers from red states and blue states, big cities and rural areas, people of every kind from far and wide. The Smokies are an ideal location for weddings, honeymoons and family reunions. Let’s offer hospitality to everyone.

My church history professor in seminary used to say, “In America, religious freedom means we can condemn each other to hell on Sunday and go back to work together on Monday.” Religious or political differences need not lead to acrimony or be an impediment to economic growth and greater prosperity for all.

I am a minister. Love is my religion and my business. I believe the best way to love God who we have not seen is by loving others who we can see. Once when I was on vacation on the coast of Maine, I stayed at a retreat center where the cafeteria listed every ingredient of every item on the menu, including the most important ingredient of all: “Love.” Although I was far away from here, I felt right at home. Let’s send a similar message to everyone who visits our state. In Tennessee, we are not only too busy to hate — we are ready to love.

Chris Buice is pastor of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville.