UT Report: Entrepreneurship $23 Billion Strong in Tennessee

KNOXVILLE — In recent years, entrepreneurs have generated as much as $23 billion in revenue in Tennessee, according to statewide research to be presented Nov. 18 as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, an initiative to promote the entrepreneurial aspirations of young people worldwide.

The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and Columbia Main Street Program will host a discussion of “Entrepreneurship in Tennessee: Striving for Success,” a study by Michael Wilcox and Dayton Lambert, both assistant professors of agricultural economics with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Clyde York Conference Room, 147 Bear Creek Pike, in Columbia, Tenn.

Historically, economists have been more diligent in researching the impacts of manufacturing jobs and overall public and private sector employment in metropolitan areas than in researching the growth and impact of entrepreneurship in Tennessee.

This study — which uses 2006 data, the latest available –found that entrepreneurs have been playing an important role in Tennessee’s economy, generating more than $23 billion, or 12 percent of total personal income, in 2006. In addition, firms with fewer than 20 employees constituted 84 percent of all firms in Tennessee and made up nearly 20 percent of Tennessee’s 3.7 million-plus total jobs.

While economic forecasts for 2009-2010 vary, when the economy trends downward, displaced and dissatisfied workers often look to self-employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, Wilcox said.

The researchers say this study will help develop baseline statistics on entrepreneurship. Also, because it looks closely at rural areas, the data will help state officials determine what can be done to assist entrepreneurs.

“Tennessee appears to enjoy a comparative advantage with respect to growth in its stock of entrepreneurs relative to the Southeastern region,” Lambert said. “But a single answer as to the state of entrepreneurial growth in Tennessee is difficult to discern because the evidence is mixed, and depends on where one looks and what measure is used.”

This research project supports Gov. Phil Bredesen’s continuing efforts to place special emphasis on job development in Tennessee’s more rural areas. It received joint support from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the UT Institute for Public Service (IPS) and UT Extension.

“Using university resources and expertise to foster entrepreneurship and innovation is a key focus of the University of Tennessee’s efforts to advance the economic well-being of Tennesseans,” said Beth Phillips, IPS economic development specialist.

To register for the event, call 1-800-872-7201.

For more information, contact Wilcox at (865) 974-7410. Additional details are also available online at http://agriculture.tennessee.edu/

Contacts:

Queena Jones, UT Institute for Public Service, (865) 974-1533, queena.jones@tennessee.edu

Patricia McDaniels, UT Institute for Agriculture, (615) 835-4570, pclark@utk.edu