This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam and his economic development team know that the automotive sector remains a good bet for Tennessee, and they worked hard during an 18-month courtship that landed Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. in Clarksville-Montgomery County. Haslam and the South Korean company announced Monday that it will build and operate its first American manufacturing plant in Clarksville. The project will unfold in two phases and be worth $800 million. It will add 1,000 jobs to the local economy in phase one by 2016, and another 800 jobs when it’s complete in 2018.
South Korean tire-maker Hankook announced Monday that it will build its first North American plant in Tennessee, creating 1,800 jobs. Hankook, the world’s seventh-largest tire maker, said it will build the $800 million facility in Clarksville. Construction on the 1.5 million-square-foot facility is scheduled to begin by the end of next year, and it will begin making high-end performance tires by early 2016. Seung Hwa Suh, Hankook’s vice chairman and CEO, called the construction of the U.S. plant “the next natural phase for our continued growth.”
In 2001, local government and taxpayers took a leap of faith and spent $28.6 million to buy largely vacant land in hopes that someday a major employer would be drawn there. That “someday” is now. On Monday morning, a huge return on that 2001 investment was confirmed when it was announced by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and others that South Korea-based Hankook Tire Co. will build an $800 million manufacturing facility in Clarksville, creating about 1,800 direct jobs to distinguish it as Clarksville’s largest private employer within the next few years.
A Korean tire maker will open its first U.S. factory in Tennessee, hiring a thousand people over the next couple years and 800 more in a second phase. Hankook Tire is now poised to be the largest private employer in Clarksville. Governor Bill Haslam says the state started working to attract the $800 million plant more than a year ago, noting the tire maker is growing rapidly. Hankook supplies fellow Korean companies like Hyundai and Kia. And Vice Chairman Seung Hwa Suh says they’re becoming more of a household brand by supplying a slew of U.S. carmakers, too.
A South Korean company will bring 1,800 new jobs to Montgomery County, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday. “I want to thank Hankook Tire for its substantial investment in Tennessee and for the 1,800 jobs they’ll create in Montgomery County,” Haslam said. “The auto sector is a key industry cluster where Tennessee has a distinct advantage with more than 900 auto suppliers and manufacturers, and today’s announcement reinforces our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”
South Korea-based Hankook Tire will build a plant in Clarksville, company and government officials announced today, creating more than 1,800 jobs. The plant represents an investment of $800 million. Once at full-speed, the Hankook plant will be the largest private employer in Clarksville. Groundbreaking on the plant is expected by the end of 2014, while tire production is set to begin in 2016. According to Korea-based Yonhap News Agency, Hankook also reviewed sites in Georgia and South Carolina. Hankook, the world’s seventh-largest tire maker by sales, represents a much-needed economic development win for Clarksville.
Hankook Tire Company, based in South Korea, has committed to build its first American plant in Clarksville in a move that will create 1,800 new jobs for the area. “This is a historic day for Clarksville, Montgomery County and the state of Tennessee,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “We are sure we can secure good people from this area without any problems. That is the main reason we chose Clarksville, Montgomery County, Tennessee,” said Hankook CEO Seung Hwa Suh. The facility itself will span 1.5 million square feet, and construction will begin next year, with plans to begin production by late 2015.
The world’s seventh-largest tire manufacturer this morning announced it will spend $800 million to build a plant in Clarksville, creating 1,800 jobs in the process. Hankook Tire Group executives had been considering sites in South Carolina and Georgia as well as Tennessee but reports surfaced out of South Korea last week that the company had settled on the Nashville area. Hankook plans to crank out 10 million tires a year from its new facility, which will be its first in the United States and eighth overall. “This new facility will help Hankook Tire accomplish our plan to establish a production base in all major markets,” said Seung Hwa Suh, vice chairman and CEO of Hankook Tire.
To land the 1,800-job Hankook Tire plant, Montgomery County must agree to a $49 million payment in lieu of taxes deal spread over 24 years. It’s the price of competing, said Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers. “This is a very competitive market when trying to recruit major industries,” Bowers said. “You have to beat the competition and offer similar incentives. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in the game, so to speak.” Bowers said Hankook will also get $72 million in incentives from the state. The plant represents an investment of $800 million. Once at full-speed, the Hankook plant will be the largest private employer in Clarksville.
The Montgomery Commission made quick work Monday night of a deal to hand over about 469 acres of land for the incoming Hankook Tire plant. The agreement, which had to be kept off of public agendas as state and local officials finalized negotiations with the South Korea-based company, sets up an internal sale of the property with the City of Clarksville and the Industrial Development Board that allows the IDB to give Hankook the site. The site is worth an estimated $28.6 million. Commissioners also agreed to approve the development agreement, which includes about $50 million in local property tax abatement.
A foundation closely aligned with Gov. Bill Haslam begins its message campaign today to combat the preventable diseases that are crippling and killing Tennesseans. The “Healthier Tennessee” campaign aims to inspire people to exercise more, eat better and smoke less. The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness has $12.7 million from public and private funds for the initiative, which will also promote programs in workplaces, churches and neighborhoods to help people change behaviors. Over time, the goal is to lower the rates of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, emphysema, stroke and cancers related to tobacco use and obesity.
A deal to open the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the weekend came too late for the state to send money to the federal government, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday. The price tag to remove the barriers to the country’s most-visited national park? $60,100 a day. Haslam told reporters that banks were closed by the time the state was informed about how much money to wire to the federal government Friday. The governor said the closure of the Smokies is especially hard on the local economy, because this is normally the busiest time at the park. According to park officials, it averages about 1.1 million visitors in October.
Governor Bill Haslam says he would’ve reopened the Great Smoky Mountains National Park days ago, except for one problem: the bank’s been closed. With the federal government partially shut down, officials say opening the Smokies back up would cost the state $60,000 a day. Fall is prime season for tourism in the Smokies, so Haslam says a missed weekend is irrecoverable. Tennessee’s been in talks to fund operation of the country’s most-visited National Park. “We had those discussions with them all day Friday – never heard back anything definitive from them until late in the day Friday, like 4:45, when they said okay, well if you want to open for the weekend you have to wire us the money. Well unfortunately for us by that point in time the banks were closed and we couldn’t.”
The government shutdown of America’s most visited national park is costing tourism businesses in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina more than $3.3 million a day, prompting the state of Tennessee to consider how it might reopen its biggest national park. The two-week-old partial shutdown of the federal government due to the budget impasse in Washington D.C. has forced the closing of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which typically draws 26,577 visitors a day in Tennessee and 10,335 visitors a day in North Carolina.
East Tennessee may soon get some good news about the still-closed Great Smoky Mountain National Park. State lawmakers hope to have the park reopened sometime this week, even if the partial government shutdown continues. Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe co-sponsored a bipartisan bill which ensures any state that reopens a national park during the shutdown will be reimbursed by the federal government for those operating costs. “It would be just a situation of replacing the money, where it comes from,” said Representative Roe by phone Monday afternoon.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he’s “very pleased” that a top Volkswagen labor leader apparently is saying union representation at the company’s Chattanooga auto assembly plant shouldn’t come without a secret ballot vote. “I’ve said all along that if they’re going to adopt a union there it should be by a vote and not by card check,” Haslam said. “I was very pleased to hear them say last week that if they were going to have [a union] it would have to be by a vote.” The United Auto Workers said it has collected signed union cards from more than half the 2,000 production workers as it seeks to unionize the plant.
Afterschool programs across Tennessee will host special performances, festivals and open house events Thursday during the 14th annual Lights On Afterschool Day. The day was designated by Gov. Bill Haslam at the request of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. The commission said only one in eight K-12 students participates in an afterschool program, leaving some 300,000 students to take care of themselves. Some of Thursday’s events are scheduled to include petition efforts by families to support continued funding for afterschool activities, according to the commission.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is partnering with more than 150 employers to help veterans get jobs. The Paychecks for Patriots initiative will include hiring fairs to be held on Thursday in 13 sites throughout the state and will feature local employers interested in putting veterans to work. The hiring fair in Nashville will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Millennium Maxwell House on 2025 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard. Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a proclamation announcing October 17th as Paychecks for Patriots Day.
Later this week, the Tennessee Department of Labor will team up with Knoxville businesses to help veterans find jobs. The “Paychecks for Patriots” initiative will hold a hiring fair this Thursday at UT’s Visitors Center on Neyland Drive. The fair runs from 10 am until 2 pm. Employers will have representatives on-site who will be accepting resumes or referring applicants to online applications. “Paychecks for Patriots is a great event that connects our veterans with jobs here in Tennessee,” Gov. Bill Haslam said.
The Tennessee Department of Labor has joined with Dollar General and several major employers in Tennessee to connect veterans with jobs. The Paychecks for Patriots initiative will include hiring fairs to be held on Oct. 17 in 13 sites throughout the state and will feature local employers interested in putting veterans to work. The Paychecks for Patriots hiring fair in Nashville will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Millennium Maxwell House on 2025 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard. Governor Bill Haslam signed a proclamation announcing Oct. 17 as Paychecks for Patriots Day.
The Tennessee Economic Development Council announced its new board officers for 2013-2014. The new officers were elected by the TEDC’s members at its annual fall conference held in Brentwood, Tenn.
The state’s general fund tax collections fell more than $60 million short of its projected amount in September. Total state revenues were $1.1 billion, according to a release from the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration. September marks the second month of the state’s fiscal year. Corporate franchise and excise taxes were almost $66 million short of projections and sales tax collections came in about $2 million below expectations. Year-to-date the state general fund collections have ben more than $80 million short of projections.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has failed to adequately track credit card expenses or report lost or stolen equipment, according to a state audit released Monday. The state comptroller’s office says that its auditors found dozens of problems with credit card purchases, including a violation of purchasing limits and nine transactions in which employees of the TWRA paid for items prohibited under state policies. The comptroller also says the TWRA has not fixed problems related to its management of state-owned equipment, despite being asked to address the failings in two previous audits over six years.
Nearly 400 state workers in the Tennessee Department of Labor are being furloughed because of the partial federal government shutdown. According to WKRN-TV, 369 workers began their furloughs on Monday. Twenty-seven workers within the department started last week. Department spokesman Jeff Hentschel says the workers will be on unpaid leave of absence until the state hears otherwise. The department receives the bulk of its funding from Washington for things like administering unemployment benefits. Hentschel says those benefits are still being processed and state-run career offices remain open.
Nearly 400 state workers in the Tennessee Department of Labor face some uncertainty on their first day of being furloughed on Monday because of the partial federal government shutdown. “They are on an unpaid leave of absence until we hear otherwise,” department spokesperson Jeff Hentschel told News 2. He indicated that 27 workers within the department, which receives the bulk of its funding from the Washington for things like administering unemployment benefits, began furloughs last week. Hentschel added that 369 more workers were notified Friday of their furloughs that began Monday.
The partial shutdown of the federal government continues to affect workers in Tennessee, and now hundreds more state employees have been placed on furlough. Nearly 400 employees with the Tennessee Department of Labor are off the job, largely because the agency gets a lot of its money from the federal government. Officials stress the furloughs are not impacting how unemployment claims are processed. Instead, employees like information technology workers and statisticians have been sent home.
The state Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers has fined a Memphis funeral home $1,000 after a routine inspection in 2012 found several violations of Tennessee law, including the deteriorating body of a woman who died five months earlier. Family Mortuary Inc., 878 Jackson, signed a consent order with the state board agreeing to the inspector’s findings and the civil penalty to avoid formal charges and a contested case hearing by the board, the state Department of Commerce & Insurance said Monday.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation will soon require some members of its workforce who don’t have a high school diploma to get a GED. TDOT said those workers could lose their jobs if they don’t fulfill that requirement by September 2015. The new education requirements would only apply to maintenance and construction workers, totaling around 230 statewide. Fifty-seven of those workers are from Knoxville and upper East Tennessee. “Ultimately, it gives them the opportunity to be more competitive with their wages,” TDOT Director/Assistant Chief Engineer for Region 1, Steve Borden said.
A Tennessee Department of Transportation project to connect Harriman Road with APD 40 near Exit 20 on Interstate 75 is nearing completion, Cleveland officials said Monday. Improvements to runoff control measures, which include the installation of concrete ditches, are on track to be completed by Oct. 25, said Jonathan Jobe, director of the city’s Engineering and Development Department. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has given the city a deadline of Nov. 6 to make the improvements.
A TDOT employee has been arrested and accused of stealing gas cards from Metro government vehicles. Michael Taylor, 41, a former volunteer with the Metro Office of Emergency Management, was indicted by the Davidson County grand jury on a 15-count indictment. After he allegedly stole gas cards, he would then fill up his personal vehicles. Sources close to this investigation told Nashville’s News 2 Investigates that through Taylor’s volunteer position, he gained access to Metro lots, like the one near the Genesco Plant off Murfreesboro Road.
A former state probation officer and the Tennessee Department of Corrections are both named in a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars. The case stems from criminal charges filed against former probation officer Daryell Smith. Smith is accused of demanding sexual favors from a woman he supervised on probation. Cynthia asked that NewsChannel 5 hide her identity. “He’d still put his hands on me and made me do things I didn’t want to do,” said Cynthia. “I was afraid if I didn’t do whatever he wanted me to do that he was going to put me in jail.” Cynthia feared no one would believe her, but finally reported it to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives is hosting a workshop on Andrew Jackson. It’s the latest in its series of workshops titled “Andrew Jackson: Frontiersman or Elite Southerner?” The workshop will be held October 26 from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the State Library and Archives building at 403 Seventh Avenue North in downtown Nashville. Dr. Mark Cheatham will lead the workshop. Cheatham is the author of the recently published book, Andrew Jackson, Southerner.
As the target closing date for Mountain States Health Alliance’s acquisition of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital approaches, the state attorney general’s office is continuing its review of the pending transaction. Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office, said in a Thursday email that the office is continuing its review of the proposed transaction and will issue its Notice of Enforcement Intent to the parties involved closer to the proposed closing date of Nov. 1. Through the notice, the attorney general’s office may take no action regarding the sale, at which point closing can occur, decline the sale or request more information regarding the proposed transaction.
Congressman talks federal govt. shutdown, threat of default at county GOP meeting As the federal government nears the Wednesday night deadline to avoid defaulting on its debt, U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, told local Republicans on Monday the government shutdown will continue as long President Barack Obama refuses to compromise. Republicans, he argued, “have been compromising since day one,” referring to the debate that has gone on in Congress about the Affordable Care Act. Fincher spoke at the Madison County Republican Party’s October meeting at the Old Country Store.
At least 38,000 people have signed up for new health plans in the state-run insurance exchanges that opened Oct. 1, while more than 100,000 have completed applications and are close to finishing the process, according to state data. The data, tabulated by The Wall Street Journal, provide an early but incomplete glimpse of how the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s health law is faring. They show that health-law supporters are still a long way off from making a significant dent in the nation’s uninsured population, but suggest that the prospect of buying insurance without being asked about medical history has drawn considerable interest across the nation.
Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for private health plans starting Tuesday, but federal officials fear that many of them, out of confusion, might go to the new federal insurance exchange. In fact, people with Medicare generally cannot buy insurance through the exchange. Policies sold there duplicate many benefits provided by Medicare, and it is illegal for insurance companies, agents and brokers to sell such polices to people known to have Medicare, federal officials said Monday. More than one-fourth of the 52 million Medicare beneficiaries are in private managed care plans known as Medicare Advantage, and the Obama administration is giving these insurance companies a fresh infusion of federal money.
About $42 million has been recovered in the last week by the Tennessee Valley Authority to help pay for more than $1 billion in expenses stemming from the cleanup at the 2008 ash spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant. The latest payment comes after an arbitrator ruled that one of TVA’s insurers, Bermuda-based Arch, had to pay for part of the cleanup expenses from the collapse of a coal ash pond where TVA dumped coal residues for decades at its Kingston plant. The arbitration award is the first of three pending cases between TVA and its insurers over the Kingston ash spill.
Oak Ridge union leaders are joining with political activists to pressure Tennessee’s congressional delegation to help end the budget crisis before thousands of workers at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant are sent home without pay. Steve Jones, president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, is scheduled to take part in a press conference today with members of Organizing For Action, a grassroots group “dedicated to the policies that the American people voted for in 2012.” “My message is just going to get this thing solved and encourage Congress to do their job,” Jones said Monday.
A presentation on Knox County Schools’ assessments turned into a conversation about continuing to get even more communication out to principals and teachers on the implementation of new Common Core standards and assessments. Board member Thomas Deakins said it was good for the board to have the information, but he wanted to make sure those in the trenches — teachers and principals — are getting it, too. “We are hearing complaints about Common Core from some of our teachers, and do they understand this?” he said toward the end of the presentation at the board’s midmonth meeting.
Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Monday, Oct. 14, the school system will apply for $23 million in federal Head Start funding that now goes to Shelby County government. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Monday, Oct. 14, Porter-Leath children’s service will also make a bid for the Head Start contract county government now operates. And Luttrell said Monday he could foresee backing both applications. Luttrell said last month that he wanted to see the federal funding go to someone else who had the ability to expand the early childhood development program beyond what county government has been able to do in the last decade.
October brings pill mills and doctor shoppers some bad news. A new law limiting opioid prescriptions to 30 days takes effect this month. That should help Tennessee live down its No. 2 national ranking for prescription drug abuse. The state can’t incarcerate every shady medical practitioner or prescription drug abuser or dealer. But it can make getting these potentially dangerous and addictive drugs harder for people to get. Of course, this also places something of a hardship on those who legitimately need such medications, and that is unfortunate. They will have to obtain new prescriptions every month. But the state has little choice, as prescription drug abuse in Tennessee is some of the worst in the country.
A bipartisan group of senators met throughout Monday to hammer out a last-minute deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, racing to beat Thursday’s default deadline as a skittish world watched the spectacle. The temptation to use the debt ceiling crisis for political advantage proved to be too great for Senate Democrats, who joined their GOP rivals in soiling a clean bill to raise the borrowing limit. That matters got this far is unconscionable. The credit of the United States should never be used as leverage in negotiations. The risks to the economy — both here and abroad — are too great. The specter of default would have global consequences.