By Janel Shoun on 8/26/2011
The Nashville Business Breakfast series kicked off the 2011-12 season Friday with a record crowd – almost 1,000 people on the Allen Arena floor – who turned out to hear Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Haslam address the economic and social challenges facing the state.
The Nashville Business Breakfast is a quarterly networking event with a news-conference format featuring business leaders with local economic impact. It is co-hosted by the Nashville Business Journal.
Sponsoring the Aug. 26 breakfast were Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell and Berkowitz, Crosslin and Associates, PNC, and Van Meter Insurance Group.
Haslam told the crowd he is proud to be a close neighbor of Lipscomb (the state mansion is located within two miles of the campus), and he addressed some of the main concerns on the minds of Tennesseans, including a possible state income tax, health care reform, debt and education.
“The solution involves all of us,” Haslam said of improving education. “It involves changing the
culture of expectations that surrounds education. Quite frankly, we just haven’t expected enough of ourselves. We can change that.
“Everyone here can help make a difference. Culture change doesn’t happen overnight. Culture change happens when a group of people make a long-term commitment to communicate that reality. All of you in this room are leaders,” he said.
In a question-and-answer session after his talk led by Lipscomb University College of Business Dean Turney Stevens and Nashville Business Journal Publisher Kate Herman, Haslam said that there will be hard decisions ahead for Tennesseans.
“We’re on a non-sustainable path in this country,” Haslam said of government spending. “(Our) spending (is) so out of whack. To fix that it’s going to involve some tough decisions that I hope we have the stomach to make.”
Making reference to a new Lipscomb program in health care informatics, Haslam said the, “health care IT (information technology) area is a huge area of opportunity. Middle Tennessee has every opportunity to become a leader in that area because of the health care industry here. “
“How is Tennessee positioned to affect health care reform? I think Tennessee is ahead of the curve,” Haslam said. “One reason we’re not able to fund higher education as much is that we’re having to use more funds in health care. We’ve had to make some really hard decisions with the budget.”
Haslam was born and raised in Knoxville, Tenn., and attended Emory University in 1976. After graduating with a degree in history, he moved back to Knoxville with his wife to work "for a couple of years" managing his family's small chain of gas stations.
By the time Haslam left the Pilot Corporation years later, he had grown the company from 800 employees to more than 14,000 employees in 39 states. He sustained the company's growth by allocating resources wisely, managing the business conservatively, working hard to increase sales and satisfy customers.
In 2003, he ran successfully for Mayor of Knoxville. On Nov. 2, 2010, Haslam was elected Tennessee’s governor with 65 percent of the vote, winning 90 of 95 counties and securing the largest victory of any non-incumbent gubernatorial candidate in our state's history.