Posts

Haslam Announces $185M Expansion of Spring Hill GM Complex

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; August 27, 2014:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with General Motors officials announced today the company will invest $185 million to make small gas engines at its Spring Hill manufacturing complex. GM also identified the next-generation Cadillac SRX as a future mid-size vehicle to be produced at Spring Hill.

“We want to congratulate GM on this important investment in its future in Spring Hill and Middle Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Today’s announcement speaks volumes around the country and world about our state’s business-friendly climate and strengths in automotive manufacturing, bringing us another step closer to our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“Today’s announcement demonstrates how globally competitive Tennessee is in automotive production and underscores the tremendous momentum our state possesses in the automotive sector,” Hagerty said. “The quality craftsmanship and artisan strength of our workforce has proven time and again that Tennessee is the best place to invest and grow.”

The investment supports GM’s new small displacement engine, which is part of an all-new Ecotec engine family that will be used by five GM brands in 27 models by the 2017 model year, powering many of the company’s high-volume small car and compact-crossover vehicles.

Spring Hill is among six manufacturing locations around the globe that will produce the new engine, and an additional $48.4 million investment is planned for the Bedford, Indiana powertrain castings plant.

“The new Ecotec engine family represents the most advanced and efficient small displacement gasoline engines in GM’s history,” Arvin Jones, GM North America manufacturing manager, said. “It was a good business decision to produce this powertrain in Spring Hill and Bedford. Both teams have strong performance records, especially in quality.”

The new Ecotec portfolio includes 11 engines with three- and four-cylinder variants ranging from 1.0L to 1.5L – including turbocharged versions – and power ratings ranging from 75 horsepower (56 kW) to 165 horsepower (123 kW), and torque ranging from 70 lb-ft (95 Nm) to 184 lb-ft (250 Nm).

GM Spring Hill currently manufactures the award-winning Ecotec 2.0L turbocharged direct injection 4-cylinder engine, the Ecotec 2.4L direct injection 4-cylinder engine and Ecotec 2.5L direct injection engine, which powers the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu and Chevrolet Impala.

The naming of the Cadillac SRX program follows GM’s previously announced $350 million investment in Spring Hill for two future mid-size vehicles expected to create or retain approximately 1,800 jobs.

Haslam Annouces ABC Group Inc. Gallatin Expansion, Creation of 230 Jobs

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 10, 2014:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with ABC Group Inc. officials announced today the company will add an additional 180,000 square feet to its existing Gallatin facility in response to increased demand for automotive related products. ABC Group will invest $25.5 million in land, infrastructure and equipment and create 230 new jobs over the next five years in Sumner County.

“We are thankful for ABC Group’s decision to expand its operations in Gallatin and for the more than 200 jobs the company is creating in Sumner County,” Haslam said. “Existing industry expansions, along with Tennessee’s strong automotive manufacturing base, help support our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“Tennessee has ranked No. 1 state in the nation for automotive manufacturing strength, and this announcement by ABC Group underscores the continued manufacturing momentum in our state,” Hagerty said. “Incumbent Tennessee industries are an integral part of the communities they call home, and I appreciate ABC Group for reaffirming its commitment to the citizens of Sumner County.”

“ABC is not just investing in bricks and mortar in order to increase our global footprint, we believe the key to our continued competitive success is through advanced product development, continuous improvement in our facilities and the training and development of our employees,” ABC Group President and General Counsel Mary Anne Bueschkens said. “It is those employees and their dedication and hard work that have directly contributed to ABC Group’s steady growth and sustained success.”

Located at 400 ABC Blvd., ABC Group’s division, ABC Technologies, will more than double its current workforce of 196 by adding 230 new jobs consisting of 213 manufacturing positions and 17 support and management personnel.

The expansion is currently underway to increase production capacity of console, interior trim and load floors for the new GMC and Cadillac vehicles produced at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill. New equipment includes injection molding presses in the range of 100 tons to 2,300 tons and supporting assembly cells.

“I am very pleased that ABC Group chose to expand their facility in Gallatin. I know they had several options,” Gallatin Mayor Jo Ann Graves said. “Existing business is the backbone of our community and as they expand, the city benefits from their growth. I appreciate the assistance of the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Department of Economic and Community Development in making this expansion possible.”

“ABC Group has been a major employer in Sumner County for many years and news of this expansion is very gratifying,” Sumner County Executive Anthony Holt said. “Business retention/expansion is one of our mainstays, and we sincerely appreciate ABC’s confidence in Sumner County. We consider ABC Group to be an outstanding corporate neighbor.”

ABC Group is a world leader in vertically integrated plastic processing, supporting a global organization. Its core business as an Automotive Tier 1 supplier is in the design, development and production of plastic automotive systems and components for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) worldwide. Ranked as one of the top industrial automotive blow-molders in North America, ABC Group’s manufacturing process includes injection and blow molding, thermoforming, sheet extrusion, interior and exterior painting and material compounding.

“Advanced manufacturing is a cornerstone of Gallatin’s economy, and we welcome this continued investment in our community,” K. Clay Haynes, chair of the Gallatin Industrial Development Board, said. “The Gallatin Industrial Development Board is ready and willing to do all we can to welcome industry with open arms. Tennessee is such a great place to live and work, and we are excited about ABC Group’s deep commitment to Gallatin.”

“Gallatin appreciates ABC Group’s decision to expand here,” James Fenton, executive director of the Gallatin Economic Development Agency, said. “We are also appreciative of our partners at the state level for helping make this the best place for ABC’s expansion.”

ABC Group’s website, www.abcgroupinc.com, provides a complete overview on careers and global opportunities available to those interested in joining the ABC Group team.

Haslam Announces Expansion of WS Packaging in Knoxville

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; February 6, 2014:

NASHVILLE—Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with WS Packaging Group, Inc. officials today announced the company will expand its current operations in Knoxville by opening a new location in the PBR Building, located at 10215 Caneel Dr. In order to increase its operations to accommodate more industry market share, WS Packaging Group will also consolidate its Knoxville facilities to this more central location. The company will invest $43 million and create 231 new jobs.

“I want to thank WS Packaging Group for reinvesting in Tennessee, and I appreciate the new jobs being created in Knox County,” Haslam said. “One of the priorities in our Jobs4TN strategy is companies already doing business in Tennessee, and whenever a company already operating here decides to stay and expand, it further supports our goal of becoming the No. 1 location the southeast for high quality jobs.”

“I’m pleased WS Packaging Group can continue to benefit from Tennessee’s ideal business climate. As a state with the lowest per capita debt in the nation and our superior logistical advantages, we pride ourselves on investing in incumbent businesses,” Hagerty said. “I appreciate the new jobs WS Packaging Group is creating in our state and look forward to their continued presence in Tennessee.”

WS Packaging Group, Inc. is one of the largest label converting operations in North America with more than 45 years of experience in label printing and packaging. It operates 21 manufacturing facilities and produces high-quality packaging products. Its customers range in size from small businesses to large, high-volume manufacturers and consumer product goods companies doing business locally, nationally and in marketplaces worldwide. The company has more than 1,800 employees.

Through this consolidation of facilities and expansion, WS Packaging Group will move all of their Knoxville facilities to the new location in the PBR Building to create synergy between the different operations, and plans to complete the move to their new facility by mid-July.

“WS Packaging Group has a long-standing history as a leading provider of complex label solutions for branded consumer and business-to-business products for companies throughout North America,” WS Packaging chief executive officer Rex Lane said. “This expansion in Knoxville will allow us to meet the changing and growing needs of our customer base. It also will enable us to leverage a strong business environment, with support from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, to create additional employment opportunities.”

“I’m proud that WS Packaging chose to expand their operations into Knox County’s Westbridge Business Park,” Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said. “These 231 new manufacturing jobs to our community are very welcome news.”

“WS Packaging’s $43 million expansion represents one of the largest manufacturing capital investments by an existing industry in Knox County in the past decade,” Knoxville Chamber President & CEO Mike Edwards said. “This is precisely why we have a sharp focus on business retention and expansion programs in our Innovation Valley economic development strategies.”

“TVA congratulates WS Packaging Group in Knoxville on their major expansion announcement that will add quality jobs for area residents,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “TVA and Lenoir City Utilities Board value the partnership with the state of Tennessee, Knoxville Chamber, and city and county leaders, which assists existing businesses to invest and grow locally.”

The company plans to begin initial hiring in March and April. People interested in applying for one of these new jobs can visit www.jobs4tn.gov or inquire at the Tennessee Career Center at Knoxville. Interested parties can also visit www.wspackaging.com for more information.

Tennessee was recently selected the No. 1 state in the nation for economic development by Business Facilities Magazine. Hagerty added, “The governor and I are pleased to see the results of the new strategy we put in place when the governor took office in 2011. Being named No. 1 in the U.S. underscores the fact that the governor’s strategy is working.”

Haslam Announces UBS to Establish Shared Services Center in Nashville

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; August 28, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean along with UBS officials announced today the company will establish a shared services center in Nashville. The announcement, representing a $36.5 million investment by the company, will create 1,000 new jobs over the next five years.

“It is exciting that UBS – one of the world’s largest banking and financial services companies – is making this significant investment in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “We are grateful for the high quality Tennessee jobs the company is creating. Companies can choose to do business anywhere in the world, and it says a lot for Tennessee and Nashville that UBS wants to be here.”

“Tennessee’s No. 1 ranking for job growth in the Southeast is only further enhanced by the added momentum of today’s 1,000 job announcement,” Hagerty said. “Our internationally competitive state provides global companies like UBS with an ideal location, a skilled workforce and attractive business climate which, in turn, allows companies to offer high-wage employment opportunities to Tennesseans. I appreciate UBS’ further investment in our state’s robust business services sector and congratulate the company on its latest success.”

UBS currently provides operations support in Nashville through over 200 employees in addition to its full service Wealth Management office. The new UBS Nashville Business Solutions Center will offer expanded business services in support of their wealth management and investment banking divisions.

“Expanding our presence in Nashville is the right business decision for UBS,” Kathleen Lynch, chief operating officer, UBS Group Americas and Wealth Management Americas, said. “The new UBS Nashville Business Solutions Center is part of our global strategy to continuously improve our efficiency and effectiveness for the benefit of our clients and shareholders.”

“The decision by UBS to bring 1,000 quality jobs to Nashville speaks to the skilled workforce in our area and the high quality of life here,” Mayor Dean said. “I welcome UBS’ Shared Services Center to Nashville and am proud that our city is increasingly being recognized as the premier location for global companies to centralize their operations.”

“A $36.5 million investment and the creation of 1,000 new jobs is outstanding news for Tennessee,” U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. “I want to thank UBS and its employees for their commitment to the Nashville area and congratulate them on their latest success.” Corker, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, added, “Governor Haslam and his economic development team continue to attract high quality jobs to Tennessee, and I could not be more proud to join them in welcoming UBS to Nashville.”

“We are excited that UBS has chosen to expand in the Nashville region,” Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ralph Schulz said. “As a financial services industry leader, UBS is creating high‐quality jobs as well as making a significant investment in our region. Our team looks forward to continuing to support the company’s workforce needs as it grows.”

“Congratulations to UBS on their continuing growth and announcement to expand in Nashville,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “TVA is privileged to be an economic development partner with the State of Tennessee, Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Nashville Downtown Partnership to assist new investments and job creation by global companies like UBS.”

Jack Daniel Expanding Operations in Lynchburg

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; August 22, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Brown-Forman Corporation officials announced today expansion plans for the Jack Daniel Distillery in response to global demand for its world famous Tennessee Whiskey. The $103 million investment includes the addition of stills, barrel warehouses and related infrastructure to support the expanding operations, and will result in the creation of 94 new full-time positions over the next five years.

“I want to thank the Jack Daniel Distillery for today’s announcement and their continued investment in the people of Lynchburg and Tennessee,” Haslam said. “This company is an American brand but, more importantly, a Tennessee brand well recognized across the world, making it a global ambassador for our home state. Jack Daniel’s is one of our most historic exports, and it helps us in our efforts to bring new Tennessee products to the world marketplace.”

“Jack Daniel’s is a well-respected brand that boasts a rich history filled with Tennessee tradition,” Hagerty said. “The substantial expansion set to occur in the upcoming years is tremendous for the community and underscores Tennessee’s No. 1 ranking for job growth in the Southeast. I appreciate the company’s continued investment in the state and the jobs created from today’s impressive announcement.”

Construction will begin this fall and is expected to be completed within two years. The distillery expansion will be located on distillery property in the Lynchburg area and tied to the same source of cave spring water.

“The demand for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey worldwide speaks volumes for the craftsmanship and specialness of a spirit distilled from a small cave spring hollow in Tennessee,” Jeff Arnett, master distiller of the Jack Daniel Distillery, said. “The expansion will help Jack Daniel’s continue to bring our distinctive, charcoal-mellowed whiskey to the world and to follow Mr. Jack’s belief when he said, ‘Every day we make it, we’ll make it the best we can.’”

“Lynchburg is proud to be home to America’s oldest distillery and a world class tourist destination,” Metropolitan Lynchburg-Moore County Mayor Sloan Stewart said. “As an outstanding corporate citizen, we’ve built a strong relationship over the years, and we appreciate all that Jack Daniel’s has done to give back to the community. We look forward to many years of continued success.”

“TVA and Duck River Electric Membership Corporation congratulate the Jack Daniel Distillery as it expands operations and warehousing capabilities,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “It is exciting to see existing companies prosper. We are pleased to be partners with the state of Tennessee and local leaders as they help existing business and industry invest and add jobs within their community.”

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey has grown volume for 21 consecutive years, underscoring the brand’s premium and iconic image. The Jack Daniel’s family of brands grew global net sales by 9 percent in the last fiscal year.

Haslam Announces 170 Position Expansion at Taylor Farms in Smyrna

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; July 3, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Taylor Farms officials announced today the company will expand operations at its Smyrna, Tenn. facility, resulting in a $5.9 million investment and the creation of 170 new positions in Rutherford County.

“It is especially exciting when existing Tennessee businesses are growing and expanding here,” Haslam said. “I am grateful to Taylor Farms for the company’s continued investment in and commitment to Tennessee. Projects like these fuel job creation in our state and bring us one step closer toward our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“Tennessee remains a solid choice for incumbent industries to grow and expand with our central location, business-friendly environment and skilled workforce,” Hagerty said. “When companies like Taylor Farms continue to find success in our state, it underscores the significant job creation resulting from industry expansions, and I appreciate the company choosing to further invest in Smyrna and Rutherford County.”

“We are extremely excited for our continued growth in Rutherford County and Tennessee,” Taylor Farms Tennessee President Brian Thure said. “We pride ourselves on delivering the highest quality fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, and Tennessee’s centralized location in the Southeast gives us the ability to service 17 states within a day’s drive. This expansion will allow us to continue offering new and innovative products in all three lines of our business: retail, foodservice and deli.”

Taylor Farms is North America’s largest supplier of value-added fresh produce to the foodservice industry, offering a full product line of fresh-cut vegetables and salads. In addition to the Smyrna operations, located at 199 Sam Ridley Parkway East, the company has 10 processing plants in the U.S. and one in Mexico.

The high increase in sales and overall growth of the company has driven the need to expand and will also account for the addition of new product lines.

“The added growth of Taylor Farms is another example of the positive business environment in Smyrna,” Smyrna Mayor Tony Dover said. “We applaud their efforts, congratulate them on adding 170 jobs to our community and wish them many years of continued success.”

Interested persons can contact Taylor Farms Human Resources Manager Gena Shearon at gshearon@taylorfarms.com to learn more about available positions.

About Taylor Farms
Taylor Farms is an American-based producer of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. Founded in 1994 with the goal of becoming “America’s Favorite Salad Maker,” Taylor Farms currently ranks as the world’s largest producer of fresh-cut vegetables. With products that range from bagged salads to freshly prepared meals, Taylor Farms supplies many of the largest supermarket chains and foodservice restaurants in the United States. Taylor Farms headquarters are located in Salinas, California with regional processing plants in the following locations: Salinas, California; Tracy, California; Gonzales, California; Yuma, Arizona; Dallas, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Smyrna, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Annapolis, Maryland; Swedesboro, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. For more information on Taylor Farms, visit our website at www.taylorfarms.com.

Haslam, Hagerty Announce New 100-job Festiva Call Center in Johnson City

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; February 26, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Festiva Hospitality Group representatives today announced the company has opened a call center in Johnson City. The announcement represents an investment of $1.1 million and will create 100 jobs in Carter County.

“We are thankful for Festiva Hospitality Group’s decision to locate in Johnson City and the investment in our state and its citizens,” Haslam said. “I’m certain the company will find a welcoming home in Tennessee and the Tri-Cities area as we continue our work to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“Festiva Hospitality Group is another great addition to the state,” Hagerty said. “In this globally competitive economic environment, Tennessee’s business-friendly reputation continues to be an attractive choice for companies. I am pleased Festiva recognizes this and has chosen to include our state in its path to success.”

The Asheville, N.C.-based vacation ownership company is owned by Festiva Adventure Group and employs approximately 900 people worldwide. The new inbound/outbound call center is housed in the Borla facility at 500 Borla Drive in south Johnson City. Festiva manages and operates a wide array of resorts throughout the United States and Caribbean, as well as a fleet of luxury yachts.

Festiva cites the metro area’s strong labor pool and the willingness of state and local officials to help establish operations successfully as primary keys to its decision to locate in Johnson City.

“This community has long embraced call centers,” Mike Ross, director of marketing, Festiva, said. “So when the opportunity came to find a home that would support growth, Johnson City was an easy decision.”

“It has been wonderful to work with Mr. Ross and Festiva Hospitality Group in bringing new jobs to our region,” Tom Anderson, president, Carter County Tomorrow, said. “Through collaborative efforts and multi-jurisdictional cooperation, Mitch Miller of Washington County Economic Development Council, Alicia Summers with the state of Tennessee, and Carter County Tomorrow have worked together for a common solution for job creation.”

“This project has many positives,” Mitch Miller, executive vice president, Washington County Economic Development Council, said. “A company with growth potential is bringing jobs to the area. They’ve settled in a facility, Borla, that could become a hub for data centers and light manufacturing. And part of the reason they’re here is because of the cooperative approach taken by multiple local governments who had the best interests of the metro area’s economy in mind without respect to city or county lines.”

“I’m pleased to see these jobs being created in Johnson City,” Johnson City Mayor Dr. Jeff Banyas said. “It’s particularly gratifying to see an existing building become a site of new job creation, and to see the cooperative spirit that multiple local governments, economic development officials and the State of Tennessee took in helping make sure this project succeeded.”

“Carter County welcomes Festiva. We are excited to have this new company and the employment opportunities it provides for our citizens. I am impressed with Mr. Ross’s drive, as well as, his commitment to a rapid expansion of the operation. Both of us look forward to a very lengthy and prosperous community partnership”, said Leon Humphrey, Carter County Mayor.

Festiva is currently seeking qualified candidates to help expand their Johnson City operations. Interested candidates should contact Mike Ross at mross@festiva.travel.

Smucker Co. to Convert Existing Facility, Keep 125 Jobs in Memphis

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; February 19, 2013:

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with The J.M. Smucker Company announced today the company’s decision to convert its existing Memphis production facility to a peanut butter manufacturing plant, resulting in the investment of $55.6 million by the company. Smucker expects to have a workforce of 125 employees in Memphis upon completion of the project in 2014.

“I want to thank Smucker for this investment in the Memphis community,” Haslam said. “With our Jobs4TN strategy, we have placed special emphasis on helping existing Tennessee businesses in their efforts to grow, and this announcement is another step toward our goal of becoming No. 1 in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“The J.M. Smucker Company has played a key role in the corporate landscape of Memphis since 1969, and we are happy to hear the company will refit its existing facility to meet its evolving needs in an ever-changing world economy,” Hagerty said. “As a renowned transportation and logistics hub, Memphis offers global companies like Smucker the ability to manufacture and distribute its products efficiently and effectively. We are pleased to know that Tennessee and its workforce will continue to play an important role in the company’s future plans and successes.”

“We considered a number of strategic alternatives for how best to support the long-term growth of our peanut butter business,” said Maribeth Badertscher, vice president of Corporate Communications for The J.M. Smucker Company. “By investing in Memphis, we can leverage our existing facilities, infrastructure and highly skilled workforce to operate a state-of-the-art peanut butter facility in support of our peanut butter brands.”

Smucker previously announced it would cease all operations of its existing fruit spreads manufacturing facility. The new operation, also located at 4740 Burbank Road, will be fitted with new equipment to produce peanut butter and include a rail spur and customized manufacturing lines.

Smucker is a leading marketer and manufacturer of fruit spreads, retail packaged coffee, peanut butter, shortening and oils, ice cream toppings, sweetened condensed milk, and health and natural foods beverages in North America.

“For more than a year the City, County, State and EDGE have been working with Smucker to find an alternative to closing the plant,” City of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. said. “We appreciate the company’s confidence in Memphis and the jobs, income and tax revenues that will now flow as a result of our collective effort.”

“Having a Fortune 500 firm with the reputation of Smucker recommit to our community is testimony not only to our strengths in manufacturing and distribution, but also to our tenacity in the face of adversity,” Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. said. “We appreciate the company’s willingness to work with us to find a new life for its Memphis plant.”

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.

ECD Drafting ‘Clawback’ Clauses for Subsidy Agreements

A state agency that doles out millions in taxpayer dollars to businesses promising to make work for struggling Tennesseans is formulating procedures to take money back from companies that don’t deliver the good jobs.

The Department of Economic and Community Development is working out details of a “clawback” provision it plans to insert into FastTrack grant agreements, according to the agency’s communications director, Clint Brewer.

“It’s not the issue that businesses haven’t done what they said they’re going to do. The issue is we want to be following the best practices we can,” said Brewer, assistant ECD commissioner. “To do that, we have to be the best stewards of public money we can be.”

Most ECD contracts currently don’t include a clawback provision, said Brewer. The lack of such recourse was at one time a particularly frustrating state of affairs to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican. Ramsey criticized the administration of Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen for making deals like $101 million in handouts to Electrolux for hinting at the creation of 1,250 jobs, even though the formal arrangement explicitly disallowed state officials from trying to recoup taxpayer resources if the company failed to produce.

Brewer said the department is now “on the brink of beginning to use that language in a new standard FastTrack contract,” but wouldn’t say specifically when the agency would start.

“It has taken us the better part of the last 18 months – obviously with a lot of other things going on – to work through the process of determining what legal precedent and black letter law would allow,” he said.

Making businesses promise to give taxpayers back some of their money should not only be required, but be publicly disclosed, said Dick Williams, with Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, a pro-income tax coalition of progressive activists and public-sector union groups.

“If something doesn’t work out, then the taxpayers ought to get back some, if not all, of the money they gave them,” Williams said. “Certainly, we shouldn’t assume they’ll all be successful.”

This year, lawmakers agreed to more than double the FastTrack program to $80 million. Since 2006, the state has allotted an average of $38.5 million in tax dollars annually to the FastTrack program.

The program offers businesses grants or loans for expenses like job training, infrastructure improvement, equipment, and temporary office space related to relocation or expansion. The taxpayer money is funneled through local governments or their economic development branches to issue to companies.

Changing how grant contracts are written is one of a handful of changes economic development officials are talking about making this year.

Last week, the department loaded agency statistics and records online in an attempt to increase accessibility to government documents, with plans to add a searchable database and other features by the time legislators are back on Capitol Hill next year.

The new “Open ECD” website lists business and incentives information for state-issued FastTrack grants, tax incentives, TNInvestco projects and community block grants — and how many jobs the money has reportedly created.

None of the information is new, says Brewer, but it’s now accessible without having to file open records requests to look at them, “so you can see on the back end how those jobs have stood up.”

Open government advocates generally applaud the effort to make information easier for the public to get to, but warn that the website shouldn’t be a substitute for agencies filling specific open records requests.

“That’s commendable as long as that does not become a substitute for normal, routine public records requests,” said Frank Gibson, director of public policy for the Tennessee Press Association.

“My big concern about them is at some point (when) you make a public records request, they’ll say it’s on their website. But is all the information you’re asking about on their website?” he said.

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government Executive Director Kent Flanagan calls the site “a great starting point,” but says he’s waiting to see how good the department is at updating people who sign up for alerts when ECD documents are posted.

“It’s not about what happened three months ago. It’s about what happened this morning,” he said.