An open letter to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce

tnchamberThe following open letter was sent this morning to membership development and Board of Director members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce from prospective member Short Mountain Distillery. Our letter repeats concerns posted publicly by Alcoa, Nissan, FedEx, Comcast, AT&T, Embraer, KPMG, UnitedHealth and other prominent business leaders.

As a small business owner in Tennessee, I’m very interested in what the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce can offer us as members. However, recent events involving your president, Deb Woolley, are a cause of great concern.

I’m referring to the Chamber actively lobbying Tennessee lawmakers for legislation (HB600) that does not represent the values and business practices of the Chamber’s very best known brands and job creators.

Since Friday, several of these members, including Alcoa, Nissan, FedEx, Comcast, AT&T, Embraer, KPMG, and UnitedHealth, learned of the Chamber’s support of HB600. Within weekend hours, these business leaders issued statements distancing their successful brands from the Chamber’s misrepresentation of their values to lawmakers, our governor and the voters of Tennessee. It should have been as immediately clear to Chamber President Deb Woolley that this legislation was bad for business.

Once these brands reiterated their strong and successful values in public opposition to the Chamber’s actions, Mrs. Woolley blamed activists for the united actions of the Chamber’s best members and then issued a statement of opposition to the legislation after Gov. Bill Haslam had already signed the bill.

My concern is how the very best brands and job creating members were represented by the Chamber. What assurances do other businesses have that Chamber leadership will adequately represent the values of its best members? What can the Chamber do to ensure the values of the Chamber’s most valued brands wont be co-opted by personal political agendas causing members to issue embarrassing press releases to create distance from Chamber mistakes?

The Chamber benefits from diverse membership and leadership that stands for the values that make its best members as successful as they are. I appreciate your understanding and any effort you make to address these concerns.


Billy Kaufman, CEO
Short Mountain Distillery


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