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Scenic Vistas Protection Act Dies in Senate Committee

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; March 20, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) pledged to carry on her fight to protect Tennessee’s mountaintops and the state’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry despite this year’s special interest setback in the state legislature.

Rep. Johnson’s companion bill — the Scenic Vistas Act, a measure that would prohibit mountain top removal above 2,000 feet in Tennessee — died Wednesday in the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee.

“It’s clear that big special interests control too many politicians in legislature,” Johnson said. “If we do nothing to protect our mountaintops, we will be left with nothing. Our irreplaceable mountains will be destroyed, the economic benefits will be shipped to China, and our multi-billion dollar tourism industry will be left in shambles.”

According to MarketWatch, Guizhou Guochuang Energy Holding Company, based in Guiyang, Guizhou China, is the “first Chinese company to invest in coal in America,” The Chinese corporation now owns 30,000 acres of East Tennessee ridgelines.

The Scenic Vistas Act would protect East Tennessee mountain ranges from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal employed by coal companies, including Guizhou Guochauang Energy Holding’s Tennessee-based operations.

Mountaintop removal not only kills tourism jobs, but it eliminates coal-mining jobs, too, because it requires fewer employees to blow up a mountain, Johnson said.

“It’s past time the politicians who run the legislature put the interests of everyday Tennesseans above the concerns of corporate special interests,” Rep. Johnson said. “Regardless of today’s outcome, we will carry on this fight. As long as there are mountains in Tennessee, I will be standing beside the business owners and families who are working to protect our mountains for the future.”

BACKGROUND:

“We are what you might say a Chinese company.” “Triple H’s operations manager, Alex Housley, said in a telephone interview that the family owned company is being sold (to Guizhou Guochuang Energy Holding Company, based in Guiyang, Guizhou China). [Timesfreepress.com, 3/20/13]

Guizhou Guochuang Energy Holding raised $616 million to acquire and develop Triple H Coal, which operates in Jacksboro, Tenn. According to MarketWatch, “This is the first Chinese company to invest in coal in America.”

Chinese Company Owns 30,000 Acres of Tennessee Mountaintops. With this corporate acquisition, Guizhou Guochuang Energy Holding Company now owns 30,000 acres of mineral rights. [triplehcoal.com, accessed 3/20/13]

Tennessee Launches International Export Strategy, Foreign Offices

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; February 11, 2013: 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty today announced an international strategy focused on increasing the exports of Tennessee goods to key markets around the globe. Efforts will be led by ECD’s International Division with new Export Development Offices in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany serving the entire European Union, and China. Today’s announcement marks the first time since 1997 that the state of Tennessee has had overseas offices solely dedicated to advancing Tennessee exports.

“Almost 20 percent of all Tennessee workers depend on the manufacture and sale of exported goods for their jobs,” Haslam said. “Tennessee-made goods are known the world over for their quality and dependability, and a new export strategy will continue to help us meet our goal of becoming the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“When facing an uncertain global economy, it is imperative that Tennessee businesses take steps to access both untapped markets and those exhibiting an increase in purchasing power due to fluctuating currency rates,” Hagerty said. “The state’s economy is more connected to the global economy than ever before, and we are excited to roll out new initiatives to help educate and open doors for Tennessee companies.”

During the last decade, Tennessee’s total export volume has more than tripled. More than 6,400 Tennessee businesses employing 80,000 workers sold nearly $30 billion worth of Tennessee products around the world in 2011 alone, ranking Tennessee the 14th largest exporting state in the U.S.

ECD’s export program TNTrade was announced in 2011, and two successful trade missions were led to Mexico with Tennessee automotive suppliers last July and another to China and South Korea with Tennessee medical device manufacturers and health care companies in April.

TNTrade will evolve to offer export assistance in key global markets, education and networking opportunities using resources provided by a Small Business Administration State Trade and Export Program grant. The coming year will focus on identifying and educating small and medium companies interested in exporting with an overall goal of increasing exports by 10 percent over the next three years.

“Tennessee is one of the foremost transportation hubs in the world, and this superiority in logistics gives our state an added and compelling advantage in the competition for global export markets,” Hagerty added.

Export Development Offices located in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany and China will help Tennessee small- and medium-size businesses navigate the exporting process. A variety of free services will be offered including business intelligence, market analysis, sales and marketing planning, identification of distribution partners and service providers, and company matchmaking.

“Some of the greatest barriers to exporting are lack of knowledge and fear of the unknown,” Samar Ali, ECD assistant commissioner for International Affairs, said. “Our goal is to eliminate these uncertainties and make exporting less intimidating, while fostering an export culture throughout the state.”

The TNTrade Academy will also be established to flatten the export learning curve and compress the timeline leading to a successful export sale. As part of the Academy, a select group of businesses will be given a grant to complete Belmont University’s Global Business Professional Series that includes monthly luncheons with international business experts across the state, and a new web portal will be established featuring export education resources and announcements.

Top export markets for Tennessee include Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and the United Kingdom, while top export commodities include medical equipment and supplies, motor vehicle parts, basic chemicals, computer equipment, and resin and synthetic rubber.

In addition to export initiatives, the ECD International Division will proactively identify and recruit new foreign direct investment into the state. Four Investment Recruitment Offices have been established in Japan, Germany serving the entire European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom. Tennessee is home to 834 foreign-owned companies, investing $24 billion and employing almost 110,000 Tennesseans.

MTSU to Help Train Chinese Airline Pilots

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 25, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With MTSU’s nationally recognized aerospace program as a focal point, five groups announced the establishment of an agreement in principle today to work together to help train Chinese pilots on their new Beechcraft King Air 350 Extended Range airplane currently housed in Smyrna, Tenn.

Along with state Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, officials from MTSU, the Civil Aviation Authority in China, China-based Flying Dragon General Aviation Co. Ltd., Franklin, Tenn.-based PacUS LLC and Smyrna-based Corporate Flight Management announced the agreement during a morning meeting in the new Student Union Building.

Civil Aviation Authority in China officials discussed their interest in helping MTSU and Corporate Flight Management gain approval for training pilots on the new plane.

“We are spreading our wings internationally,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “We’ve had this national reputation. Now we’re moving on the international front. And what a country to partner with. The aviation industry in China is about to explode. The airspace is going to fully open. And major companies like FedEx and UPS, they’re just waiting in the wings for this explosion, and MTSU will be in the forefront. “

Mike Vaughn, president of PacUS LLC, orchestrated all parties coming together on the agreement.

“Today, the success is realized,” Vaughn said, sharing that it all began two years ago when MTSU held a general aviation conference with the China National Aerospace University (Beihang University) at the MTSU’s flight center at Murfreesboro Airport.

“Since then, our business has grown,” he added. “We are comfortable doing business with China as Tennesseans. Trade is part of our heritage and we are proud to represent our state through commerce. Today is a milestone for us and we look forward to more sales and visits from China in the future.”

The Beechcraft King Air will be based in Qinghai, in the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau. The airplane will fly with a rear-tail, boom-mounted magnetometer used for geophysical and geochemical exploration in the Tibetan Plateau. Valued at more than $10 million, the U.S. export deal was arranged by the Franklin, Tenn.-based international business management company, PacUS LLC, and its Hong Kong affiliate, CFM China Ltd.

Vaughn added that wheels will be turning in all the application processes “in the next 30 days or so.”

Speaking through interpreter Jenny Wei, an MTSU aerospace graduate student who interns for Corporate Flight Management and PacUS and who will graduate in May, Chinese team leader Renhao Zhang said he “is excited to be here for the acceptance of the aircraft (King Air),” and “glad to see the cooperation” between all parties.

Zhang represented the Civil Aviation Authority in China Northeast Division. He was joined by fellow CAAC Northeast Division associates Bo Liang and Bin Yang, and Guowei Wang of China Flying Dragon during both today’s announcement and their week-long visit to Middle Tennessee.

Ketron, representing Gov. Bill Haslam, spoke of how this alliance means “the opening of doors and creation of jobs, helping the economy.”

The Civil Aviation Authority in China is the equivalent to the U.S.’s Federal Aviation Administration.

Dr. Ron Ferrara, interim chair of the MTSU aerospace department, said students would benefit from “more exposure to international students and it might open opportunities for them overseas.”

The airplane is housed at Corporate Flight Management’s hangar at the Smyrna Airport. Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China also is interested in purchasing maintenance services here.

Negotiations for selling the planes began in 2011 when Chinese Aero Geophysical Survey Remote officials visited Tennessee. The plane, which is the first of its type in China, will be delivered to Harbin, China, for their Aero Geophysical Survey Remote Sensing Center for Land and Resources, a division of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources. Company officials are in Rutherford County for the final on-site inspection before the plane is shipped to China.

Tennessee Seeking to Bolster Business Ties with China, South Korea

A trade mission to China and South Korea, underway this week by state economic development officials and nearly a dozen health care-related companies in Tennessee, looks to build on the state’s already productive trade relationships with east Asian countries.

Through the mission, which will be led by Bill Hagerty, commissioner for the Department of Economic and Community Development, the state intends to help increase exports by small- and mid-level businesses in Tennessee.

The participants will attend business meetings arranged by the U.S. Commercial Service, a component of the Department of Commerce, as well as an exhibition of health care-related products and services in the Asia-Pacific Region, the China International Medical Equipment Fair.

“Last year, Tennessee exported roughly $30 billion dollars in goods; however, fewer than two percent of all Tennessee companies are exporters,” Hagerty said in a press release released in late January by ECD. “This trade mission will allow participants to be introduced to potential distributors and customers in the rapidly growing Asian market and explore new sources of revenue.”

The state already enjoys a good trade relationship with Japan, considering that the Land of the Rising Sun has invested around $15 billion in Tennessee over the years, Gov. Bill Haslam said at the opening of a VICAM plant in Manchester in early March. The Japanese company recycles plastics to make automobile upholstery and carpet.

A press release from ECD details the companies participating in the trade mission to eastern Asia:

The companies participating in the trade mission are:

  • ABT Molecular Imaging, Knoxville, a molecular imaging company and manufacturer of the “Dose on Demand” Biomarker Generator which provides researchers and clinicians access to PET biomarkers on demand.
  • Christie Medical Holdings, Memphis, is the developer of the revolutionary VeinViewer imaging system, designed to see a patient’s veins through their skin for assistance in IV placement and blood draws.
  • Dream Systems, Nashville, develops and implements telehealth solutions for local, regional, national and international healthcare organizations.
  • E-Spin Technologies, Chattanooga, a global leader in nanofiber manufacturing and nanofiber-based air filtration products providing cleaner air for healthcare, commercial, industrial and residential markets.
  • Fillauer, Chattanooga, a leading manufacturer and distributor of orthotic and prosthetic products both domestically and internationally.
  • Gryphus Diagnostics, Knoxville, develops and manufactures products primarily for women’s health, including in vitro diagnostics tests for the diagnosis of bacterial vaginosis.
  • Hollywog, Chattanooga, is the developer of WiTouch™, the first wireless remote controlled pain relief device incorporating TENS technology to specifically target back pain.
  • iScreen Vision, Cordova, provides fast, easy, and portable pediatric vision-screening equipment and analysis for infants, pre-school children and school-age children.
  • Silicone Arts Laboratories, Memphis, combines Hollywood special effects and plastic surgery techniques to manufacture scar and wrinkle concealment products called Dermaflage.
  • Stinger Medical, Murfreesboro, manufactures cordless mobile workstations used by nurses at the bedside for patient documentation and medication administration, and Mobius Power®, a swappable battery system that keeps mobile carts powered 24/7.
  • VenX Medical, Nashville, is the developer of a disposable, hand actuated proprietary device for the treatment of small- and medium-sized veins.

Bredesen’s Trade Trip Surprise Is Vietnam

Gov. Phil Bredesen has returned from his most recent business venture to China, and he said some of the potential new economic ties he found on his trip to Asia are, believe it or not, with Vietnam.

“It was surprising to me, I’ll be honest. When it was first suggested to me that we do this, my first reaction was how exactly are Americans viewed there,” Bredesen said Tuesday night. “Because I’m of an age where my colleagues were going over there and shooting guns. What I was told was they love Americans.”

Bredesen headed a small group on his visit to Asia, a trip that included an appearance at the Shanghai Expo where Tennessee was a contributor to the U.S. pavilion. He met with Chinese officials there, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, former governor of Washington, was there at the same time.

“I know we developed some serious good will,” Bredesen said.

He said there is potential for more trade with China, and his trip was to build on strides Tennessee has already made there. He attended a seminar in Hong Kong, and the trip touched briefly in Vietnam, where Bredesen said some interesting new opportunities lie.

“Vietnam is a very rapidly developing market. That’s actually going to be something for the next governor to consider, if they want to pursue it,” he said.

“It’s a country of 80 million people that’s growing very rapidly. Vietnam is really trying to position itself as the plus-one of China, to move along kind of in China’s wake. They’re not nearly as big as China, but they’re really trying to do business. They’re aggressively promoting U.S. investment there.”

Bredesen’s surprise would certainly be shared by millions of Americans who remember the Vietnam War so vividly, and broader trade ties with Vietnam is a concept that for many Americans is probably difficult to grasp. Yet Bredesen seems convinced that attitudes there are quite favorable toward the United States, and a lot of that has to do with the Vietnamese people. He said the U.S. embassy there briefed his party and told him a survey is done every year where America is most popular in the world.

“For years, it’s been the Philippines. It’s now Vietnam,” Bredesen said. “Beyond all belief, Vietnam is apparently the country in the world in which Americans are held in the highest regard.

“A lot of it is that it’s a very young country, and a huge portion of the population doesn’t even remember the war. They were born after the war or were very young during it. But Vietnam since the late 1990s has been coming out of its shell. It’s very aggressive in business, like China is. I think it’s going to present some very interesting opportunities over the next decade.”

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited Washington in April and said his country wants more trade with the United States. Reuters reports that trade between the two countries, which were bitter enemies in 1960s and early 1970s, has increased more than 700 percent under a trade agreement in 2001. U.S. trade with Vietnam was almost $16 billion last year, and the United States is already Vietnam’s biggest trade partner other than China.

Bredesen said Vietnam would probably not be so much an investor abroad but is a country where the per capita income is rapidly growing.

“They’re very interested in all things American consumer goods,” Bredesen said. “So I think there are some real opportunities for exporting various kinds of things to Vietnam, and that probably is the largest sort of potential area right now. We already have a lot of U.S. companies who are having work done there.”

He said Vietnam is a big textile manufacturer.

“The shirt somebody has here tonight, I’m sure, was made there,” said Bredesen, who was speaking at an event held by first lady Andrea Conte at the Tennessee Residence. “Right now, Vietnam is growing, particularly in the big cities. They’re becoming more wealthy. They want to buy consumer goods. They love American consumer goods, and we certainly have a bunch of them right here in Tennessee.”

The biggest player in Asia for Tennessee, however, remains China.

“We’ve been looking at a lot of different connections. We’re very interested in Chinese investment in Tennessee and creating jobs here,” Bredesen said. “China is obviously accumulating a lot of money, and it is now the world’s largest car manufacturer.

“I hope the next governor will continue this process of building these bridges. China is going to be important in the economy in the world for a long time to come.”

Candidates Back Bredesen’s Asia Trip

Gov. Phil Bredesen is scheduled to leave Friday for Asia on an economic development mission, and he can be sure he has the support of all four of the major contenders who want his job.

The three Republican candidates for governor — U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey — expressed their support this week for Bredesen’s travels. Democrat Mike McWherter, who has wrapped up the Democratic primary, also backs the venture.

It’s no secret why they like what the governor is doing. They all want to produce more business and more jobs for Tennessee. Bredesen can help build relationships that will help the next governor, who will need all the economic help he can get.

Bredesen is completing his second term and cannot run again.

Bredesen, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr and International Investment Director Lori Odom will represent the state on the nine-day trip.

They will participate in the Shanghai World Expo where they will help host an investment roundtable for Chinese businesses. They will meet with Tennessee companies in Hong Kong and visit the American Chamber of Commerce in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The Asia trip is part of a long-term effort under Bredesen to build trade relationships on the continent. Tennessee opened an office in Beijing, China, in 2007.

Haslam and Ramsey have traveled on China trips before with Bredesen. Wamp is very supportive, although he makes the point that such trips always need transparency so taxpayers know what is being done on their behalf. McWherter says he would like to see the concept extended to India.

Wamp points to concrete examples of the kind of fruits that can emerge from foreign relations, and they’re not just from Asia.

“We’ve attracted significant outside investment. I know, because the Germans are all over East Tennessee, and I love it. I helped bring ’em here,” Wamp said.

Wamp, the 3rd District congressman from Chattanooga, was referring to the major investments of Volkswagen, the car maker, and Wacker Chemie, which manufactures polycrystalline silicon, used for solar panel construction.

Haslam often says he can sell Tennessee to businesses looking for a place to set up shop.

“The governor is the chief salesperson for the state,” Haslam said. “And the best way I know to sell something is to do it face to face, and so when there’s a chance to have a real reward because of that, yeah, I think the governor himself does need to go there. That’s true whether it’s for an existing business in the state who’s looking at expanding here, and it could be true if you go halfway around the globe.”

Haslam traveled with the governor to China two years ago and said the state has made some solid steps there. Haslam also noted the impact from Europe by Germany.

“Those efforts we’re making, I would not pull back on,” Haslam said. “We’ve had conversations with the governor and others in the administration on, if I’m fortunate enough to be elected, how we could have a smooth handoff on all those important relationships.”

Ramsey made the China trip in October 2007 and said he saw the benefits of having a presence there.

“It’s two things. I wouldn’t mind Chinese companies coming here and locating here, but even more important, making sure we have that export market into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey, from Blountville, noted that his Senate district includes Eastman Chemical Co., which has a large presence in China. He also noted that Tennessee company FedEx has a huge China presence.

“Both of those are Tennessee-based companies, so obviously everything we do affects jobs in Tennessee, and I’ll continue that,” he said.

McWherter, son of former governor Ned McWherter, pointed to past efforts that have paid off in Tennessee.

“There are 40,000 jobs in Tennessee right now as a result of the initiatives that Gov. Lamar Alexander made and my father followed through on in Tennessee,” McWherter said. “They built a foundation in Japan, and we got 40,000 jobs out of that.

“That is something we need to be doing now, and frankly I think we need to be looking at India as well. I think those are all areas that are very fertile for recruiting industry into this state. So as governor, I assure you I will have a major focus in following up with the foundation Governor Bredesen is laying over there.”

Wamp said Bredesen can certainly make the case to Tennesseans that what he’s doing in foreign markets has been worth the effort. He also points to the value of relationships built by other prominent Tennesseans, including former Sen. Howard Baker, who was ambassador to Japan in 2001-2005. Another is former Sen. Jim Sasser, who was ambassador to China in 1995-99. But Wamp says the principle of transparency will always be important.

“You need to be real specific as to what, why, how much, and what the benefits are,” Wamp said. “Be as transparent as possible before you ever commit those resources.

“The governor has an obligation to taxpayers and the public, through the media, to say what the connections are, how much this is, and what the returns are. Just lay it all out. We live in a global economy. If you want our state to be the most dynamic economy in America, and I do, and I will make it that way, foreign markets are very important.”

Wamp said some competitive elements of attracting business, such as not revealing too much information to a competing state, would have to be considered.

Bredesen, Kisber & Farr Departing for Asia

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, May 6, 2010:

Shanghai Expo Hosting 70 Million Visitors, State Leaders to Promote Trade with Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber today announced plans to attend the 2010 Shanghai World Expo to promote trade, investment and tourism between the state of Tennessee and China. The state of Tennessee is a sponsor of the U.S. Pavilion for the event, which is expected to host 5-6 million of the more than 70 million visitors to the Expo which opened May 1, 2010 with the theme “Better City, Better Life.” Tennessee Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr and International Investment Director Lori Odom will also accompany the delegation.

“Our state’s participation in the Shanghai World Expo is a unique opportunity to educate visitors from around the world about Tennessee, its quality of life and its business climate,” said Governor Bredesen. “Our state’s relationship with Chinese business and government leaders continues to grow and Tennessee’s participation is an important signal that our state is ready to expand business ties.”

Tennessee’s participation in the Shanghai World Expo is an important bookend to the Chinese government’s decision to participate in the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair, the first time following the Cultural Revolution the Chinese government agreed to participate in a world event. The purpose of Tennessee’s participation in the Shanghai World Expo is to build relationships and expose Expo visitors to the Tennessee “brand,” eventually leading to additional investment, job creation and tourism.

“Since 2007, when Tennessee opened its office in Beijing, business opportunities between Tennessee and China have grown steadily,” said Commissioner Kisber. “We believe there are important opportunities for Tennessee companies to sell to Chinese customers, creating new job opportunities for Tennesseans and greater profits for companies.”

Governor Bredesen and Commissioner Kisber will depart for Shanghai on May 14, 2010 and return on May 22, 2010. During their visit, the Tennessee delegation will tour the U.S. and Chinese pavilions at the invitation of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and co-host an investment roundtable for Chinese business leaders interested in entering the U.S. market with the China Investment Promotion Agency.

Following the Shanghai portion of the trip, the Governor and Commissioner will meet with Tennessee companies operating in Hong Kong and then meet with members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to explore business opportunities for Tennessee companies there, primarily in infrastructure development, I/T and telecommunications, consumer goods, industrial machinery and energy.