March 14 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

CVMR Corp. to move to Oak Ridge, create 620 jobs (News-Sentinel/Fowler)
It was code-named “Project Elisabeth,” for Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce employee Elisabeth Johnson, who took the initial phone call from the inquiring company nearly 18 months ago. That project, which remained under tight wraps for months, was officially unveiled amid much fanfare Friday, and it’s the biggest manufacturing coup for Oak Ridge and Roane County in years. Gov. Bill Haslam told a crowd of more than 200 gathered in the former Theragenics building in Oak Ridge’s Horizon Center Business Park that high-tech metal powder processing firm, CVMR Corp., is moving its global headquarters from Toronto to Roane County.

Canadian company bringing HQ to Tennessee (Nashville Business Journal)
East Tennessee is getting a big shot in the arm, as Toronto-based CVMR announced plans Friday to move its global headquarters to Oak Ridge. According to a news release from the state, the company is investing $313 million and will create 620 new jobs in Roane County, including a manufacturing presence. CVMR is an advanced manufacturing company specializing in products made from metal powders. For more on what they do, watch the video embedded with this story. The company said proximity to the U.S. government’s Oak Ridge National Lab was a huge factor in its decision. “We evaluated four states before we decided to move our head office to Oak Ridge,” Kamran Khozan, chairman and CEO of CVMR, said in the news release.

Canadian company bringing 620 jobs to Oak Ridge (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
A Canadian company is moving its global headquarters from Toronto to Oak Ridge, creating 620 jobs. Gov. Bill Haslam and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd made the big announcement in Oak Ridge Friday afternoon. CVMR, a mining and metal refining company, will invest $313 million to move to a manufacturing facility at 103 Palladium Way. The company provides feed materials for 2D, 3D, and 4D printing. “Today is exciting not just for Oak Ridge and Roane County but for all of Tennessee, and I want to thank CVMR for its significant investment in our state, making us the home of its corporate headquarters, research and development and manufacturing,” Haslam said.

Company creating 620 new jobs in East Tennessee (Times Free-Press/Pare)
An advanced material manufacturer plans to create 620 jobs and invest $313 million in East Tennessee, officials said today. Gov. Bill Haslam said that CVMR will establish its global headquarters in Oak Ridge. CVMR is moving its current operations from Toronto and creating the CVMR Centre of Excellence for Innovation in Powder Metallurgy. It also will have production facilities for a wide spectrum of advanced metal products. “Today is exciting not just for Oak Ridge and Roane County but for all of Tennessee,” Haslam said in a statement.

Haslam May Meet With Tennessee School Directors Next Week (WHBQ-TV)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he will try to meet with the state’s four largest school districts as early as next week to discuss education funding. The move comes as three of the four districts are actively considering a lawsuit against the state to get more funding for schools. Districts in Shelby, Knox and Hamilton counties are gathering information for a possible lawsuit. Metro Nashville Public Schools decided on Tuesday to wait at least 30 days before actively considering a lawsuit..The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports Haslam told reporters on Wednesday that he understands the concerns of the districts.

Ed. commissioner comes to Chattanooga to visit ‘priority schools’ (TFP/Omarzu)
When teachers apply to work at Dalewood Middle School, Principal Chris Earl makes sure to ask a couple of key questions. “Do you like kids?” he asks. “Do you like being around kids?” Hiring a bunch of new teachers who like kids, Earl said, is one reason why the suspension rate at Dalewood, a Chattanooga school with mostly low-income, black students, has dropped steadily. It was 768 in 2012 when Earl took over as principal and 122 so far this year. “You can’t learn if you’re not in school. The first thing we had to do is learn how to keep the kids in school,” Earl said Friday, as he gave a presentation to new Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, who visited Dalewood, Woodmore Elementary School and Brainerd High School.

Hawkins claims $380,000 in winter disaster relief from FEMA (Times-News)
Hawkins County will seek about $380,000 in federal aid for disaster claims incurred during the recent winter storms, most of which is related to city and county snow and ice removal. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be in Hawkins County Tuesday and Wednesday reviewing claims made by Hawkins County, as well as the cities and three utility districts. FEMA is currently touring Tennessee assessing winter storm and flood damage claims, and is expected to make a decision within the next few weeks if Tennessee will receive federal disaster relief funds. In Hawkins County the Highway Department claimed $185,000 for expenses that occurred during storms Feb. 15-26.

APSU working with STEM classrooms (Leaf Chronicle)
On a gray January afternoon, Ihab Habib, Austin Peay State University associate professor of construction engineering technology, traveled to Nashville to inspect an elaborate waterslide. The slide’s designers—fifth grade students at Croft Middle School—crowded around Habib, eager to explain the intricacies of their project. “It was exciting for the students to design different slide structures and compete among one another,” Habib said. Last year, the APSU professor and his colleagues made a similar trip to H.G. Hill Middle School in Bellevue to examine a bobsled track built by seventh graders.

Davidson, Williamson have lowest jobless rates in Tennessee (Tennessean/Barnes)
Out of 95 counties in Tennessee, seven Middle Tennessee counties, including Davidson, have the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Davidson, Williamson, Wilson, Sumner, Robertson, Rutherford and Cheatham counties have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Within the top 10 lowest rate rankings in order from greatest to least, Cheatham is ranked ninth lowest at 6 percent. Robertson is ranked eighth lowest at 6 percent. Wilson and Sumner technically tie for fifth and fourth place at 5.7 percent. Rutherford is in third place at 5.5 percent. Davidson moved up six spots from December to second lowest at 5.4 percent, and Williamson has the lowest rate in the state at 4.8 percent.

Tax collections up in Tennessee (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
Tennessee tax collections rose in February to $782.5 million, or $25.8 million more than what the state budgeted for the month. State Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin said February marked the seventh consecutive month in the current fiscal year in which collections exceeded budgeted expectations. “The renewed strength in our sales and corporate tax collections is an indication of an improving economy in Tennessee,” he said.

Campaign buckles down on seat belt laws (Knoxville News-Sentinel/McConnell)
“Click It or Ticket” just got a face-lift. Members of the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and area law enforcement agencies gathered in Neyland Stadium on Friday afternoon to discuss the regional launch of the Seatbelts Are for Everyone (SAFE) Campaign. The new educational campaign, which aims to reduce careless driving behavior and promote seat belt use, addresses this year’s rising numbers of fatal crashes in the Knoxville district, said Steve Dillon, law enforcement liaison for the Highway Safety Office. “

Proposal would require media to get permission to record (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering requiring the news media to get permission from a judge before reporters can use a laptop, digital recorder or any other electronic device to cover a court proceeding. Currently, the news media have to ask for permission to use a still or video camera in the courtroom under a regulation known as Rule 30. But in a nod to the changing world of technology and a modern-day era where reporters use Twitter to cover murder trials and a cellphone can shoot video, take photos and record testimony, the court is considering changing its media rule.

Harwell survey shows 6 out of 10 support Insure Tennessee (Tennessean/Boucher)
A new survey conducted by the office of House Speaker Beth Harwell shows nearly six in 10 respondents favor Gov. Bill Haslam’s now-doomed Insure Tennessee health proposal. Harwell, R-Nashville, never publicly stated whether she definitively opposed or supported the plan to provide as many as 470,000 low-income Tennesseans with federally subsidized health care. In the hours before the plan officially died Feb. 4, she told reporters she didn’t think there were enough votes in the House for the proposal, and reiterated those comments Thursday. “I hadn’t taken a position on it. We were continuing to gain information. There were lots of good points,” Harwell said in a phone interview with The Tennessean.

Tennessee Republicans quarrel over ‘social hour,’ expenses (TFP/Sher)
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick drew hoots and hollers of agreement from his colleagues when he suggested that members of the Senate had met during recent winter storms in the interest of padding their expense accounts. Now fellow Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is firing back in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, suggesting that House members aren’t concerned with completing legislative business in timely fashion. “I am certain that Tennesseans prefer legislators who use their work time productively rather than adjourn committees early to partake in social hour,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey fires back over expense account padding remark in House (AP)
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick drew hoots and hollers of agreement from his colleagues when he suggested that members of the Senate had met during recent winter storms in the interest of padding their expense accounts. Now fellow Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is firing back in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, suggesting that House members aren’t concerned with completing legislative business in timely fashion. “I am certain that Tennesseans prefer legislators who use their work time productively rather than adjourn committees early to partake in social hour,” Ramsey said.

Memphis will wait on state to set ride-sharing rules (Commercial Appeal/Poe)
Preempting a Memphis ordinance, Tennessee lawmakers have filed legislation that would set statewide rules on the controversial and technology-driven industry of ride-sharing. KEY WORDS: “What I don’t want to do is waste everyone’s time,” said City Councilman Kemp Conrad, who is proposing and has worked on the city ordinance. THE DETAILS: Until the legislature sets the state’s rules, Conrad has put on hold an ordinance that would regulate ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, which use technology to connect independently contracted drivers with passengers. Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, are sponsoring a bill that would require ride-sharing companies to maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward criminal offenses for its drivers, and would set insurance coverage amounts.

Ketron: CSX scuttles rail-passenger proposal (Daily News Journal)
Talks of a potential commuter rail line between Murfreesboro and Nashville were scuttled after CSX officials told state lawmakers they weren’t interested in the project, said state Sen. Bill Ketron. Officials from the railroad company visited Ketron last week and told him the mass-transit project could not happen on its rail lines, said Ketron. He made the comments during the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly panel of state lawmakers Friday morning. “Bottom line, they told us what we expected and what we had heard for several decades,” Ketron said at the panel. “They were not interested in passenger rail.”

Health care takes center stage at Elizabethton/Carter Co Legislative Breakfast (JCP)
Health insurance on both the state and federal levels was one of the leading topics of conversation at the Elizabethton/Carter Legislative Breakfast held at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology on Friday. Sen. Rusty Crowe, Chairman of the Health and Welfare Committee, discussed the recent failure to approve Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee program during a special session of the General Assembly. The program was designed to provide coverage for the state’s uninsured poor using federal funds. “It was a great plan; I asked the governor for this,” Crowe said. The senator, who represents Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties, said he still supported the plan because it emphasized personal responsibility and moved away from an “entitlement mentality.” Crowe said the program was defeated because “there was nothing to show the federal government would honor the plan. … It kind of fell apart.”

Watching teachers in classrooms may beat testing them, study finds (TFP/Sher)
Ever since the advent of the federal Race to the Top program, data has played an increasing role in evaluating teacher performance with “value-added” test scores measuring educators’ impact on student achievement in Tennessee and other states. But a newly released multi-state study by Vanderbilt University researchers finds that simply observing teachers in a classroom rather than “value-added” testing is what really drives principals’ decisions on hiring, firing, pay and other things. And in the view of principals, those observations actually “may be more reliable than the ‘value-added’ measurements.”

Y-12 celebrates early milestone on UPF (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Munger)
A rainy Friday wasn’t an optimum time to celebrate a road project and related construction work, but the government and its contractors used a couple of pop-up party tents and a slew of umbrellas to go on with the outdoor portion of the show. Frank G. Klotz, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, was in town for what he called a significant achievement — completing the rerouting of Bear Creek Road, construction of a new haul road and other site-readiness activities to help prepare for eventual construction of the multibillion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility. He was joined at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., top federal and contractor officials, community leaders and other VIPs.

Chinese auto parts company eyes Chattanooga for plant to supply VW (TFP/Pare)
A Chinese auto parts company aiming to supply interiors for Volkswagen’s new sport utility vehicle has plans to open a plant in the Chattanooga area and create 330 jobs. Yanfeng USA officials are eyeing the area for a building in which it would set up a multimillion-dollar operation, said Kerri Szalony, director of human resources for the company at its American headquarters in Michigan. “We have a few options on the table,” she said Friday, adding that officials hope to make a decision on a building within two months. “We’re currently working with local government from an incentive perspective.” Szalony said the plant would provide interior trim components for the midsize SUV, dubbed the CrossBlue, that VW is to start producing in late 2016.

Union City manufacturing expansion gets financing (Memphis Business Journal)
A planned manufacturing expansion in Union City has gotten an infusion of funding. SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Community Capital and then National New Markets Fund is providing nearly $16 million in financing for a $39.5 million expansion being done by Made in America Seating Corporation. The company, a manufacturer of ergonomic office seating, is retrofitting its 100,000-square-foot building, and it is adding 32,000 square feet of office space. Made in America seating is currently installing equipment in Union City and has started limited production and trial shipments. The company is expecting its first major shipment from Union City to be ready by July.


Editorial: Tennessee state politics harm the least among us (Tennessean)
If the Tennessee General Assembly’s activities so far are any indication, this will be a legislative session when the least among us were forgotten. While emotion and legislative activity in Tennessee have revolved around gun rights, education standards and red-light traffic cameras, there are still hundreds of thousands of working poor people who are uninsured, more than 6,500 intellectually disabled people who are on a waiting list for TennCare services and $30 million in cuts to mental health services. It’s not too late to bring back Insure Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam’s innovative program that would have used federal Medicaid dollars to cover 280,000 working poor people, requiring them to take responsibility for their health and not adding to the state budget.