Friday, September 25, 2009

Help arrives for Nashville entrepreneurs

Center, Web site may help spur job opportunities By Wendy Lee • THE TENNESSEAN • September 25, 2009 function changeFontSize(inc){ var p = document.getElementsByTagName('p'); for(n=0; n At a time when several thousand Nashville-area jobs were lost due to the economic downturn, local business leaders said Thursday they hope to spur renewed opportunities by encouraging entrepreneurs to invest and expand. The Nashville Entrepreneur Center, aimed at helping early-stage entrepreneurs, launched on Thursday. Its creation was recommended by the entrepreneurial task force of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce's Partnership 2010. "It's important to (be) creating jobs," said Joe Freedman, a local businessman who sits on the board of the Entrepreneurs' Organization in Nashville, a self-help group of business owners. "If we can have community support and resources for entrepreneurs to create stronger businesses, we can turn the tide on job losses." The Nashville area lost 14,733 jobs from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, according to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, falling short of the chamber's goal of an 11,500 job gain for the same period. Chamber officials said the center would help entrepreneurs get the financial resources and information they need to start businesses. Already, 21.6 percent of the work force is made up of sole proprietorships, said Janet Miller, the chamber's chief economic development and marketing officer. The center is currently a Web site at, but the organization's product manager, Joe Kustelski, said eventually it will establish a physical office and hire a small staff as well as an executive director. The center would operate on a $1 million to $2 million annual budget, raised by private, state and federal funding, Kustelski said. The move to create more jobs comes as the Nashville-Murfreesboro metro area's August unemployment rate crept upward to 9.8 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from July, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Soumen Ghosh, head of the economics and finance department at Tennessee State University, said he believes we've probably seen the worst in unemployment. He expects the jobless rate will not go beyond 10 percent here. The upcoming holiday season will help improve the situation, Ghosh said, as retailers hire seasonal help and consumers become more apt to buy products. Still, don't expect to see major improvements when it comes to job growth. Several Nashville-area businesses, such as engineering firms S&ME and Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon Inc., said they expect hiring will remain flat through the first quarter of next year. Center 'a good idea' Local economists said challenges to starting up the chamber's new center include locating capital and people willing to fund new ideas in a recession, but in the future the center could boost the area's economy. "I think in the long run, it's a good idea," said David Penn, director of the Business and Economic Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University. "We need more business formation to get more jobs to get job growth going again." Statewide, last month's unemployment rates increased in 47 counties, fell in 42 counties and remained the same in six counties. The August unemployment rate in Maury County decreased 4 percentage points to 12.4 percent, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Lauderdale County held the state's highest unemployment rate at 19.7 percent. Meanwhile, Lincoln County had the lowest county jobless rate at 7.2 percent.

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