As a small business owner in Nashville, I know how essential a clean environment is to running a successful business. I am one of the owners 312 Pizza Company and Tempered Cafe and Chocolate, a family-owned business in the Germantown neighborhood. Our business depends on Nashville’s vibrant tourist industry to keep our doors open. Small businesses like ours thrive in healthy and clean communities where our employees and visitors’ health is not threatened by chemicals in the water and toxins in the air. Yet, this is what is at stake in the current federal budget debate in Washington, and exactly why small business owners across Tennessee should be concerned with the outcome.
The Trump Administration and its allies have proposed a 30 percent budget cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), endangering programs that help keep our communities healthy, vibrant, and strong. Tennessee currently benefits from $38 million in federal EPA grants a year to help keep cities across the state clean and reduce toxic pollution that can be harmful to our communities.
Protecting public health and environmental safety should go hand-in-hand with creating a positive climate for economic growth. Excessive pollution and hazardous wastes are typically not attributes that entrepreneurs and business developers look for in communities when considering new business opportunities. Beyond the obvious health threat, contaminated communities will see lowered real estate values, fewer investment opportunities, and businesses like mine will suffer from declines in our tourist economy. The Cumberland river used to be polluted and too toxic for recreational use. There has been a lot of work to clean it up and it is finally to a point downtown that it can be enjoyed. I would hate to see all that work reversed.
When I think about the budget cuts to the EPA, I think about what big cities were like in the 1970s before the EPA cleaned up our air and water. For Nashville, the health of the Cumberland River is especially important as it runs through downtown. The river is a tourist attraction in itself; people enjoy watching concerts on its banks and relaxing in its waters. If the river becomes toxic due to pollution, this vibrant downtown hub of Nashville would be devastated, depriving our neighbors of a beautiful outdoor attraction and damaging our tourist economy.
One thing I’ve learned about owning a business is that everything is not about financial gain, sometimes it’s about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. We only get one planet and it’s our job to take care of it. This is why Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker need to defend all Tennesseans by refusing to support a budget that puts the health of communities, our state’s natural resources, and economic competitiveness in jeopardy.
312 Pizza Company and Tempered Cafe and Chocolate