October 10 TN News Digest

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

Hankook Breaks Ground on New Plant (Associated Press)
Hankook Tire has broken ground on an $800 million plant in Clarksville that is expected to create 1,800 jobs. Gov. Bill Haslam and Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander joined local and company officials Tuesday for the event. Hankook, the world’s seventh-largest tire maker, announced last year that it will build facility, and the Tennessee State Funding Board approved $16 million in incentives for the project Wednesday. Hankook officials plan to begin making high-end performance tires by early 2016 and hope to make 11 million tires annually.

Hankook breaks ground in Clarksville (Tennessean/Settles)
A wide-open, 469-acre dirt pad along International Boulevard – stretching from near Dunlop Lane on the north, all the way down to Rossview Road on the south – now awaits a new company, with a building and employment base so massive that it will significantly redefine the Clarksville-Montgomery County economy. But the recurring patriotic theme of Thursday morning’s groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of Hankook Tire assured a large contingent of invited guests that the old staple and foundation of this city’s economy, Fort Campbell, is a big reason why Hankook’s North American site search ultimately ended up in Clarksville.

Hankook Breaks Ground On New Plant In Clarksville (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Hankook Tire has broken ground on an $800 million plant in Clarksville that is expected to create 1,800 jobs. Governor Bill Haslam and Republican U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander joined local and company officials Tuesday for the event. Hankook, the world’s seventh-largest tire maker, announced last year that it will build facility, and the Tennessee State Funding Board approved $16 million in incentives for the project Wednesday. Hankook officials plan to begin making high-end performance tires by early 2016 and hope to make 11 million tires annually. “We had a secret weapon, and a secret weapon in recruiting Hankook that we will continue to deploy and the code name of that secret weapon is Fort Campbell,” said Commissioner Economic & Community Development Bill Hagerty.

How landing Under Armour was a come-from-behind win for Tennessee (NBJ)
The competition in South Carolina had a pad-ready site. A distribution center in Mt. Juliet, however, needed to be built from the ground up. The readiness of the location in South Carolina compared to Mt. Juliet became one of the key challenges for state officials attempting to lure Under Armour’s new Southeast regional distribution hub to Middle Tennessee. “South Carolina had a pad-ready site, which was quicker to deliver,” Bill Hagerty, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, told me in a phone interview Wednesday. “On paper, South Carolina was in the lead when [Under Armour] opened the conversation with us,” Hagerty said. “They were going to be able to acquire the land for less.”

Haslam and Bredesen Join Forces In TV Ad For Constitutional Amendment (WPLN)
The group Vote Yes on 2 is heating up its media campaign with a new TV ad urging voters to pass Amendment 2. Amendment 2 is concerned with how the state’s highest judges are selected. Right now, the governor has most of the power (through appointment) and Vote Yes on 2 advocates want to keep it that way. They argue that letting the governor appoint the judges keeps special interest groups out of the judiciary, which recent history shows is not necessarily true. They also say its passage will add another layer of accountability by giving state lawmakers the right to confirm a governor’s appointment. The existing setup has a bipartisan selection committee choose nominees before and the governor chooses among them. Amendment 2 would scrap the selection committee.

Nashville leads way in record-setting year for tourism (Tennessean/Stroud)
Visitors to Tennessee generated a record $1.3 billion in tax revenue in 2013, state tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker told industry professionals Thursday morning, with Nashville as the top destination. “Tennessee’s tourism industry experienced major growth in 2013 and is continuing to set new records across the state in 2014,” Whitaker said at the 2014 Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism in Knoxville. “Our industry generated $1.3 billion in state and local sales tax revenue. This means more dollars that can be used for education, public safety and other essential services for all the citizens of Tennessee.” Tourists spent $16.7 billion on travel to Tennessee in 2013, a 3.4 percent increase over the previous year, according to statistics provided by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Tourists add $291M to local economy (Daily News Journal)
Tennessee tourism set records in 2013 and Rutherford County was not left behind. Tourism expenditures across the state saw $16.7 billion in direct domestic and international travel expenditures in 2013, a 3.4 percent increase over last year, according to figures recently released by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “Tennessee’s tourism industry experienced major growth in 2013 and is continuing to set new records across the state in 2014,” said Susan Whitaker, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “Our industry generated $1.3 billion in state and local sales tax revenue. This means more dollars that can be used for education, public safety and other essential services for all the citizens of Tennessee.”

Paychecks for Patriots helps match military, employers (Tennessean/Humbles)
The transition from the military to the civilian workforce is a challenge 12-year Army veteran John Freeland said can be “kind of shocking” for multiple reasons. Freeland was among those who attended Paychecks for Patriots, a statewide job fair for veterans at 10 locations with more than 200 employers and 1,000 jobs available. The largest single site was Nashville’s LP Field, which had more than 60 employers. Most veterans were appreciative, though some apprehensive based on past experience. “It’s a good way for a company to get PR, to be honest,” said Army veteran Marshall LeMasters, 27. “But I talked to 10 companies and four or five seem genuinely interested in hiring veterans.”

State: Ebola test negative for North Texas deputy (Associated Press)
State health officials say the Dallas County sheriff’s deputy who exhibited symptoms of Ebola has tested negative for the disease. Michael Monnig was released from a Texas hospital Thursday, one day after he went to a health clinic complaining of illness. Monnig was among a group of deputies who days earlier went inside the Dallas apartment where an Ebola patient from Liberia, Thomas Eric Duncan, was staying. Monnig did not have contact with Duncan but did see some of Duncan’s family members who are now in isolation. Duncan died Wednesday. State officials said a specimen from Monnig provided by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital tested negative for Ebola. Hospital officials said Thursday that Monnig’s condition was good with no signs of fever or other symptoms related to the disease.

Likely more enterovirus in Tennessee than the 2 cases reported (N-S/Nelson)
Tennessee may just now have its first two lab-confirmed cases of enterovirus D68, but it’s likely the virus has been present for a while in all parts of the state, said Dr. Tim Jones, epidemiologist for the state Department of Health. The CDC notified the health department Wednesday that two specimens sent in tested positive for the specific enterovirus which has been linked to severe respiratory illnesses, most of them in children, in 45 states. The Tennessee children, both preschool age, Jones said, were hospitalized in intensive care but are now recovering at home. One was in Shelby County and was treated at Memphis’ Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the Shelby County Health Department confirmed.

I-65 closures scheduled this weekend in Franklin (Tennessean/Humbles)
Closures are scheduled this weekend for Interstate 65 in Franklin for bridge repairs on State Route 248, the Peytonsville Road/Goose Creek Bypass. They are: • I-65 northbound from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. During this time the southbound lanes will have rolling roadblocks with brief periodic closures as well. • I-65 southbound lanes will be closed 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Lengthy delays are expected. Traffic detours will be in place depending on the direction of travel and the corresponding lane closures. The interstate ramps at State Route 248 will be accessible, but motorists should plan ahead and use alternate routes if possible. The closures are weather dependent, and times could be changed or rescheduled if necessary. The closures are needed to set steel beams for a new bridge.

Lane closures planned as work continues on bridges over I-65 (WSMV-TV Nash)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is planning more road work that could impact weekend travel. There will be alternating closures on Interstate 65 at exit 61 to place steel girders as crews replace two bridges that were damaged in a fiery tanker truck crash in August. TDOT will close the northbound lanes Saturday morning. The southbound lanes will be closed Sunday morning. The closures will run from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days. There will be brief rolling roadblocks in the opposite direction.

New THP Software Predicts Dangerous Crashes Before They Happen (WTVF-TV)
We all take steps to make sure our family is safe behind the wheel, but now a new computer program could figure out where a deadly crash was about to take place, hours before it happens The Tennessee Highway Patrol said it now has a computer program that helps do just that — the first of its kind in the country. The software takes advantage of what is called predictive analytics, a program that combines several different types of data to create a product THP said has likely saved lives. Each THP trooper is now equipped with a color coded map — updated daily — that shows the percent chance of a serious or fatal crash in the next several hours. It includes a different percentage for each six-mile block. “It’s an amazing program,” said Col. Tracy Trott with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

UM lands $10.8 million grant to be center of mobile health big data (CA/McKenzie)
The University of Memphis on Thursday vaulted into a class of the nation’s top-tier universities seeking to harness the power of “big data” in biomedical research by landing a $10.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. A computer scientist at the Memphis university, Santosh Kumar, will lead one of a dozen new collaborative “centers of excellence” established by an NIH initiative called Big Data to Knowledge, or BD2K. The four-year award is the single largest research grant ever landed by the U of M, officials said. It promises to put the university and Memphis on the map for researchers, entrepreneurs and corporations like Apple and Samsung in the field of mobile devices and wearable sensors used to collect growing oceans of data.

University of Memphis Gets ‘Big Data’ Grant (Memphis Daily News)
The University of Memphis is among a dozen universities in the nation sharing in $32 million in federal funding for research into how to analyze and use complex biomedical data, U.S. health officials announced Thursday, Oct. 9. Scientists refer to the increase in such complex data as “big data” and the University of Memphis is one of a dozen “centers of excellence” in the deep dive into big data. Officials of the National Institutes of Health in Washington announced that the university will become a Center of Excellence for Mobil Sensor Data-to-Knowledge with computer science professor Santosh Kumar as the lead scientist of the effort. The research effort will focus on the use of the sensors in health care to predict risk factors for disease in advance of medical emergencies and relapses.

Retailers gear up for 78 referendums allowing wine sales (TFP/Green, Sher)
Proponents of Tennessee grocery stores being able to sell wine say they’re gearing up for the Nov. 4 election where voters in Chattanooga, Signal Mountain and dozens of other communities will decide the issue on local referendums. The effort will include paid media and in-store displays encouraging voters to say yes, said Suzie Alcorn, campaign manager of the Red, White and Food effort. “We are in the final stage to get wine in retail food stores,” she said. “This summer, we collected more than 262,247 signatures, which led to 78 communities having the wine question on the November ballot.” Early voting begins Wednesday in the election.

Knoxville’s pension burden projected to drop (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Hernandez)
The Knoxville Pension Board received some encouraging news Thursday about the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars the city is expected to pay over the next 10 years to meet obligations. The annual taxpayer contributions could continue to be well over $20 million but not as near to the maximum $30 million from prior projections, said Alan Pennington, the pension system’s actuary. At most, the city could pay $26.3 million in 2018, according to a report submitted to the board by Pennington. “I think the plan has made progress, and we are going in the right direction, but it’s all contingent on the markets staying stable,” City Councilman Finbarr Saunders, a Pension Board member, said.

Sen. Alexander says U.S. not doing enough to fight Ebola (WSMV-TV Nashville)
U.S. government officials will begin checking the temperatures of people arriving from West African beginning this weekend, but Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that does not do enough to keep Americans safe. “We need to screen every single person coming in the United States at an airport from one of the three West African countries,” Alexander said. Those West African countries include Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They have been hit the hardest by the Ebola outbreak. Five major U.S. airports will begin the extra level of screening to try to catch travelers from those countries who may be carrying the disease.

Alexander walks a careful line on Common Core (Times Free-Press/Sher)
More than two decades before national Common Core education standards became a target for critics, then-President George H.W. Bush and his education secretary unveiled their own ambitious strategy for improving the nation’s ailing schools. Dubbed “America 2000,” the multifaceted strategy among other things called for the development of national standards in five core subjects, including math and English. And the strategy provided for the creation of tests that states could voluntarily adopt. The main pitch man for the 1991 proto-reform idea? Bush’s education secretary. That was Republican Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor and education reformer who as a U.S. senator now finds himself this election year walking a careful line over controversies related to Common Core standards and testing.

Bruce Hartmann to lead Chattanooga Times Free Press (TFP/Wiseman)
Chattanooga Publishing Co. announced the hiring of a new president, Bruce Hartmann, on Thursday. Hartmann comes to Chattanooga from Knoxville, where he was chief revenue officer and vice president of sales and marketing for the E.W. Scripps Co.’s publishing division, working with newspapers from California to Florida. Before that he spent more than 20 years at the Knoxville News Sentinel, beginning as advertising director and rising to the position of president and publisher. Hartmann will lead the company, which publishes the Times Free Press. He said he and his wife, Tami, look forward to living in the Scenic City.

Three more county schools earn Blue Ribbon status (Tennessean/Walters)
Three of Tennessee’s top six schools call Williamson County home. National and state education leaders recently honored Franklin’s Hillsboro Elementary and Middle School, as well as Trinity Elementary School and Brentwood’s Kenrose Elementary School, as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. The three schools were among only six Tennessee schools recognized by the program for 2013. The selections cap months of work by the schools’ administrators, teachers and parents. The process includes interviews with education officials, sharing school demographics and compiling years of student performance data to make a case why the schools should be named among the nation’s best.



Guest columnist: Prescription abuse is Tennessee’s top challenge (Tennessean)
When we hear the word addiction, we typically think of alcohol, cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine. However, none of these — or even several of them combined — are anywhere near the most significant substance abuse challenge we face in Tennessee: prescription drugs. The most prevalent addiction problem in our state is abuse of prescription opioids — pain relievers. In the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vital Signs report, Tennessee, along with two other Southern states, has the highest rates of prescriptions for these medications written per person. This appears to be taking a toll. According to recently released numbers from the Tennessee Substance Abuse Data Task Force, treatment admissions for abuse of prescription drugs have increased 500 percent in the past decade. And the number of admissions for opioid abuse has exceeded admissions for alcohol abuse.

Editorial: Paychecks for Patriots deserves commendation (Daily News Journal)
Paychecks for Patriots is an excellent example of a public-private partnership in which everyone benefits. Scheduled today at 10 locations across the state, the program’s intent is to help veterans of the armed forces find gainful employment. Cooperating in developing the program has been the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the state Military Department and private businesses led by Dollar General. Other state departments and agencies also are supporting Paychecks for Patriots. More than 170 companies will be participating in the job fairs across the state today, and the closest event to Rutherford County will be at LP Field in Nashville. More than 50 companies will be participating in the Nashville event. All hiring events will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and organizers indicate that the events will be more streamlined than the usually hiring process.

Times Editorial: Let’s uncork wine sales in grocery stores (Times Free-Press)
If voters on Nov. 4 give wine in grocery stores a majority “yes” vote, then grocers in up to 78 municipalities across Tennessee will for the first time be able to sell all of the major food groups of today’s society under one roof. With a majority of votes in each community, wine will go on the shelves of Bi-Lo, Food City, Food Lion, Kroger, Publix, Superlo Foods and Walmart beginning July 1, 2016, in Chattanooga, Collegedale, East Ridge, Lakesite, Red Bank, Signal Mountain, Cleveland, Monteagle, Oak Ridge, Tullahoma, Lenoir City, Athens and Etowah in this region of Tennessee. Last year, the grocery store industry began planning another run at legislation to allow local governments to hold referendums on wine in food stores, and Gov. Bill Haslam signed the so-called “wine in grocery stores” bill in March.

Free-Press Editorial: People Get To Decide Wine In Groceries (Times Free-Press)
The decision to allow grocery stores to sell wine is where it should be — with voters — in six Hamilton County municipalities. Signatures of at least 10 percent of voters who cast ballots in the 2010 gubernatorial election in Chattanooga, Collegedale, East Ridge, Lakesite, Red Bank and Signal Mountain, along with 72 other cities or counties, were collected by the Aug. 21 deadline to place the issue on the ballot for the Nov. 4 election. Voters now will give their approval or disapproval of the measure that will allow grocery stores to start selling wine on July 1, 2016. If the store is within 500 feet of a liquor store (or unless the liquor retailer gives written permission), it will be a year later before wine can be sold there. Not enough signatures were gathered in Lookout Mountain, Soddy-Daisy and Walden, plus the unincorporated areas of Hamilton County, so folks there will have to start the process over again in time for the next municipal election if they want the opportunity to have wine sold in their grocery stores.