A delegation from the state’s Small Business Development Center is exhibiting at this year’s METSTRADE Show for the first time

Tennessee is no stranger to the world of recreational marine; it’s a US$3bn industry that employs over 15,000 residents of the state; but the marine world may not be aware of Tennessee, so a delegation from the state’s Small Business Development Center is exhibiting at this year’s METSTRADE Show for the first time “to increase knowledge of trade for Tennessee.”

Tennessee, according to Small Business Development Director Bruce Hayes, is trying to build on a 13% increase in exports experienced during 2016. By helping manufacturing grow, the state tax base grows.

“Tennessee does not have an income tax,” Hayes told IBI, “We survive solely on sales tax. So, the more people we employ, the more they buy and the more sales tax Tennessee generates.”

Hayes and Senior Business Specialist Laura Overstreet are collecting sales leads and distributing literature for inboard engine builder Indmar, while directing potential customers to other Tennessee companies that are exhibiting at METSTRADE.

The state has received a federal Small Business Administration grant of $US150,000 that it distributes to companies to encourage participation at international trade shows. “It helps offset costs like exhibit space and interpreters,” Overstreet said, explaining the four Tennessee companies have taken advantage of the program since it began a year ago. “This is a new initiative. It’s a very different way of going about this for us. Overall, it’s a very good collaboration and partnership,” between business, state and federal governments.

A secondary mission for the delegates is bringing businesses to Tennessee.

“We are strongly supportive of direct foreign investment in our state,” Overstreet said, with Hayes adding, ‘We would love to lure foreign manufacturers to Tennessee.”

The pair are impressed with the sheer size of the METSTRADE footprint as well as the magnitude of marine companies represented at the show, and have already began exploring ideas and planning for next year.