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Press Releases

Carr: Alexander at Odds with TN GOP Congressional Delegation on “Amnesty”

Press release from the Campaign for Joe Carr for U.S. Senate; August 4, 2014:

NASHVILLE, TN – In a shocking attack on the Tennessee Congressional Delegation, Senator Lamar Alexander accused opponents of Barack Obama’s amnesty that was written by Sen. Chuck Schumer, endorsed by Nancy Pelosi and backed by La Raza and the Chamber of Commerce (S. 744), of being “for amnesty.” The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported over the weekend that at a campaign stop in Cleveland, TN on Saturday, Alexander declared, “In 2013, I voted to end amnesty for 11 million Americans who are illegally here…I voted to double border security and I voted to create a legal immigration system. If you are opposed to that, then you’re for amnesty.”

“Reps. Blackburn, Black, Duncan, Roe, DesJarlais and Fleischmann have all called S. 744 ‘amnesty’ – is Lamar Alexander really accusing the Tennessee Congressional delegation of being ‘for amnesty’,” asked TN State Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Joe Carr. “You have to wonder what Reps. Blackburn, Black, Duncan, Roe, DesJarlais and Fleischmann would have to say if they were asked about Lamar Alexander’s belief that supporters of S. 744 ‘voted to end amnesty’ and the rest of us who opposed it are ‘for amnesty.'”

“The Senate amnesty bill is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives,” Rep. Blackburn declared at the time. “I do not believe in amnesty and if we are going to make any changes to our system we must start by securing our borders. Any other reform effort is meaningless if we don’t start with strengthening our border security.”

Rep. Black decisively said, “There is no place for amnesty in immigration reform, period…In Congress, I was proud to be a vocal opponent of S. 744, the flawed Senate immigration bill that would have granted almost immediate legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.”

“I’m not going to vote for a bill that looks to me like it’s very similar to the [1986 amnesty] bill,” Rep. Duncan said about the S. 744. “I don’t know that Ronald Reagan would do the same thing if he was facing a problem that had become four or five times worse than it was in 1986.”

“The United States has always had a generous legal immigration policy, but we simply cannot grant amnesty to those who choose to break the law,” Rep. DesJarlais said in a statement about S. 744. “The Senate immigration proposal is the ObamaCare of immigration: A broad, comprehensive bill fraught with unintended consequences and unexpected results. I will fight to make sure this bill never reaches the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Providing a pathway to citizenship before securing the border is putting the cart before the horse. Before overhauling our nation’s immigration system, we should first ensure we are enforcing the laws that are already on the books.”

Rep. Flesichmann added, “An estimated 15 to 20 million illegal immigrants currently reside in the United States. I do not support rewarding these illegal immigrants with amnesty. In 1986, when legislation was passed granting general amnesty, the illegal immigrant population quadrupled.”

“I am opposed to the Senate bill because it includes a pathway to citizenship without sufficient protections to ensure our laws won’t be broken in the future,” Rep. Roe said last year. “Congress must take a transparent, incremental approach to dealing with this important issue instead of rushing through a seriously flawed piece of legislation.”

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NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Amid Looming Budget Issues, Haslam Doubles Down on Tax Cut Rhetoric

Gov. Bill Haslam has acknowledged that decreasing state revenues will make producing a new budget more difficult this year than any other he’s faced since taking office.

But the governor, speaking to a Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Murfreesboro this week, said the tax cuts he’s supported in the past were intended to attract and retain capital in the state, and as such the right thing to do.

“Businesses do look at the taxes they pay — it’s just a fact of life. And so, we’ve worked on making certain that Tennessee stays what it’s historically been: one of the lowest tax states,” Haslam said.

The Tennessee General Assembly has cut about $160 million a year in taxes, Haslam said. The taxes cut include the Hall Income Tax, a 10 percent cut from the grocery tax, the gift tax, which Tennessee was one of only two states with a tax on, and the inheritance tax.

“Prior to this in Tennessee, if you died you paid a penalty for that – beyond the obvious one — and we just didn’t think that was right,” Haslam said.

The shortage in revenue receipts is not from the sales tax, which is “at, or just a little below projections,” but with the state’s franchise and excise tax collections, “which is a little hard for me to explain – to understand, so we’re trying to dive a little deeper with our Revenue Department to see what the miss is there,” Haslam told reporters after the event.

Haslam noted he was worried by national reports showing that holiday weekend sales after Thanksgiving were down a bit. “Obviously, when you live on the sales tax, Thanksgiving weekend is a pretty big deal,” said the governor.

Haslam also touted his administration’s other efforts to produce a more business-friendly climate in the state, despite ongoing criticism from Democratic lawmakers. “The GOP promised that if we gutted worker and consumer protections that we would become an oasis of job creation. Instead, our workers are being left behind in an economic recovery that has led to lower unemployment numbers in most other states,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said in a press release slamming the Haslam administration over the state’s lofty unemployment.

However, Haslam stood by the reforms to tort law and workers compensation that his administration had pushed as helping to make the state “a much more attractive work environment.” The governor suggested that the political source of any economic sluggishness can be traced back to Congress and the president — in particular, the government shutdown and the questions surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

“People invest capital into a market that they have confidence in,” said Haslam, adding that confidence in Washington is low right now.

“So, what we’re trying to do in Tennessee is to provide that predictable environment that people know what they’re investing into. Unfortunately, the situation in Washington makes that very difficult to do, but we honestly think we can do that in Tennessee, and create that environment,” Haslam said.

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Business and Economy Education Featured NewsTracker

Haslam: Improving Higher Ed Access a 2014 Priority

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that while he hasn’t finalized the particulars of his legislative agenda for 2014, higher education will clearly be a focus.

Haslam spent Tuesday in Murfreesboro talking up his administration’s efforts to encourage more Tennesseans to pursue an education beyond high school, emphasizing the importance of “higher ed” to economic development for the state.

“Government has a real role. One of the roles is to prepare the workers for the workforce,” Haslam told reporters after his announcement of an equipment grant of $625,007 to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro.

The grant is a portion of the $16.5 million in equipment and technology grants approved by the General Assembly last session for “workforce development programs” at Tennessee higher education institutions, a part of the governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative to “increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials,” according to a press release.

Haslam said he views these grants as a “great investment” for the state that “will mean even more jobs coming to Tennessee in the future.”

Although the general unemployment in the state is still fairly high, the governor said “we have an impending shortage of skilled laborers in Middle Tennessee.”

In order to address that, and entice more businesses to relocate to the state, Haslam said that one of his administration’s top legislative priorities in the upcoming session will be improving access to higher education. “I think you’ll see a real focus on higher ed; both making certain that we have the job preparation programs, as well as we have to have a way that we can encourage more Tennesseans to attend school after high school, and so I think you’ll see some things around making that more affordable as well,” Haslam said after the grant announcement.

The governor also touted the importance of an increased number of degree-holding Tennesseans as necessary to continue job creation and economic development across the state at a luncheon event with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce later that day.

The governor went down the list of programs enacted and laws passed in the name of enhancing the state’s economic status, and praised efforts to improve education – both K-12 and post-secondary – along with recently passed tax cuts, workers comp and civil service reform and his administration’s push for more exports.

Although the state’s business climate is one generally approved of by companies looking to relocate, a common complaint has been that Tennessee lacks in workforce development and has consistently ranked somewhere in the “40s” in education nationwide, Haslam said.

But the state has been working to improve that statistic, and with the release of the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress scores last month showing Tennessee as the “fastest growing state in the country,” it appears that the educational improvement efforts have been paying off, the governor said at the luncheon.

“It’s a really big deal when the commissioner of education in New York says, ‘If we work really hard we can be like Tennessee,’” Haslam said. “That’s a big deal, and that hasn’t been said a lot.”

Categories
Press Releases

TN Urban Chambers Support Economic-Impact Studies of Proposed State Legislation

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 31, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 31, 2013) – Today, the regional chambers of commerce in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville announced their support for a measure that would require the Tennessee General Assembly to consider, as part of the analysis of proposed legislation, the financial impact of each bill on businesses and jobs within Tennessee.

“Tennessee already has a mechanism in place to measure the fiscal impact of proposed legislation on government,” said Ron Harr, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, referring to the production of fiscal notes produced by the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee. “This bill takes the Fiscal Review Committee’s analysis one step further.”

SB 116/HB 220, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and Rep. Mark White of Memphis, directs the Fiscal Review Committee to include an “impact-to-commerce statement” in its fiscal note for bills and resolutions referred to certain committees.

“This bill is about making better-informed decisions by ensuring that our elected officials understand the effect new laws will have on our state’s employment and economic well-being,” said Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber.

If this legislation becomes law, certain fiscal notes would include a statement about the net immediate and long-term effect each bill would have on commerce and jobs in the state. The impact to commerce statement would include, if possible, an estimate in dollars of the anticipated change in costs or savings to commerce.

“Our elected officials want to play a key role in creating jobs and economic prosperity,” said John Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber. “An analysis of a bill’s impact on business will give our legislators another tool to help accomplish that goal.”

The new analysis would only apply to bills that have a direct impact on commerce and would be limited to the following committees: House business and utilities committee; House finance, ways and means committee; House state government committee; House local government committee; House insurance and banking committee; House consumer and human resources committee; Senate commerce, labor and agriculture committee; Senate finance, ways and means committee; and Senate state and local government committee. If a piece of legislation impacted multiple industries in different ways, the analysis would focus on the overall net impact to commerce in the state.

“A recent survey of our members found that 88 percent of respondents believe that new legislation should be evaluated for its financial impact on business,” said Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “Every year the Tennessee General Assembly considers proposals that have a bottom-line impact on our businesses. We believe every Tennessee business will benefit from a more-informed legislative process.”

In the area of K-12 public education, the four urban chambers’ 2013 joint legislative agenda also includes proposals to ensure student test results are in the hands of principals, teachers and administrators more quickly, and that each high school’s ACT scores are more easily accessible to the public. The four urban chambers’ full 2013 legislative agenda is attached.

About the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce:
Founded in 1887, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce is the region’s leading business association with more than 1,600 member companies employing more than 10,000 people. The Chattanooga Chamber is the spearhead of the business community, acting as the catalyst, convener, representative and resource for ensuring that the Chattanooga area achieves its outstanding business potential. We provide the focal point for the business community to fulfill its leadership role in making the Chattanooga area vibrant, prosperous and forward-looking. The Chattanooga Chamber has earned 4-Star Accreditation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a distinction that places us among the top 10 percent of Chambers nationwide. For more information, visit www.chattanoogachamber.com.

About the Knoxville Chamber:
The Knoxville Chamber is the region’s leading business organization with more than 2,000 members that employ more than 276,000 individuals. More than 80 percent of Chamber members are small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. It fulfills its mission of Driving Regional Economic Prosperity by recruiting new businesses and supporting existing companies, and serves as the lead economic development agency in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley. The organization has an active government advocacy program and supports pro-business policies. Members receive marketing, networking, professional development benefits, and many other cost-effective services. For more information, visit www.knoxvillechamber.com.

About the Greater Memphis Chamber:
The Greater Memphis Chamber is the lead economic development agency for Memphis/Shelby County, and is a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of 2,300 business enterprises, civic organizations, educational institutions and individuals. For more information, visit www.memphischamber.com.

About the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce:
The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is Middle Tennessee’s largest business federation, representing more than 2,000 member companies. Belong, engage, lead, prosper embodies the Chamber’s focus on facilitating community leadership to create economic prosperity for Middle Tennessee. The work of the Nashville Area Chamber is supported by membership and sponsors; the Chamber’s Pivotal Partners (a partnership at the highest level for all Chamber programs and events) are BlueCross/BlueShield of Middle Tennessee, Community Health Systems and Delek US Holdings. Together with its affiliates, the Nashville Chamber works to strengthen the region’s business climate and to enhance Nashville’s position as a desirable place to live, work and visit. For more information, visit www.nashvillechamber.com.

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Press Releases

Amazon.com Considers Opening Tennessee Shipping Centers

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Nov. 29, 2010:

Negotiations Underway for Fulfillment Centers in Chattanooga and Bradley Co., TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber today confirmed the state of Tennessee is in discussions with Seattle, Washington-based Amazon.com, Inc about locating two fulfillment centers in Tennessee, one at the Enterprise South Industrial Park in Chattanooga and the other along State Route 308 in Bradley County, Tennessee. If negotiations are successful, the two projects would represent a combined investment of more than $164 million dollars to create more than two million square feet of distribution space and up to 1,400 new jobs over a period of years.

We are working diligently with Amazon.com officials to work through outstanding issues on this project, said Governor Bredesen. It is my hope that we can bring these discussions to a successful resolution and create a large number of jobs for the people of Tennessee.

There has been lots of speculation in the media in recent weeks about who we might be working with on this project, said Commissioner Kisber. Because of the need to move forward at the local level on PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of tax) agreements in multiple communities, we felt it was important at this time for policy makers at the state and local level to know who were in discussions with.

Commissioner Kisber has been leading a team which includes Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, Gary Farlow, president and CEO, Chamber of Commerce of Cleveland and Bradley County and Trevor Hamilton, vice president, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce in discussions with Amazon.com, Inc. All parties have pointed out a number of procedural steps must be completed involving the state, the county commissions and the local city councils before the project is a go.

This is not a done deal, Mayor Littlefield said. In addition to the PILOT agreements, there are a number of other issues to work through at the state and local level, but we have high hopes of firming up Amazons investment in the next few weeks.

Amazon would make a great addition to our local economy, said Mayor Ramsey. This is a complex project. We couldn’t have gotten this far without Hamilton County, Bradley County, the city of Chattanooga and the respective chambers from both communities working together to make this much progress in a short period of time. Well keep working together to make sure the opportunity becomes a reality for our citizens.

Even though this is not yet a done deal, Bradley County is taking the necessary steps to finalize its local commitment to the company, said Gary Davis, mayor, Bradley County. I am very pleased the county commission decided in workshop session to place the proposed PILOT agreement, industrial access authorization and the FastTrack grant authorization on the consent agenda for next Mondays meeting. To my knowledge, this is the first PILOT agreement ever placed on the consent portion of the agenda and it clearly reflects the level of cooperation, understanding, and trust we have all worked hard to establish between the Administration, the Bradley County Commission, and the Industrial Development Board.

Amazons presence will mean important opportunities for good jobs, said Ross Tarver, chairman, Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Board. A project this far-reaching has many components and takes time to finalize. We could not have gotten to this point without a dedicated and focused regional team working together and our city, county, chamber and state are to be commended.

The Amazon project has come together very rapidly over the past couple of months, said Trevor Hamilton, vice president, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. The company has a very ambitious construction timeline, so reaching resolution on the remaining issues is very important if were to be successful in winning this project.

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Press Releases

Bredesen: ‘Raise the Bar for Student Achievement’

“Open Letter to Tennesseans” from Gov. Phil Bredesen, Sept. 22, 2010:

Tennessee is raising the bar for student achievement with higher academic standards in the classroom. These new higher standards will help us make sure students are ready for college or career when they graduate high school. That means not only mastering the basics like reading and math, but also developing skills that colleges and employers value – like communications, problem solving and teamwork.

But higher standards also mean harder tests, and may result in lower test scores and grades for students in the near term. This is where our education reform efforts get hard and where students, parents, educators and communities need our full support to press forward.

In 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing America’s top employers, gave Tennessee a failing grade for a lack of high standards in the classroom. We were giving graduates diplomas that implied they were ready for employment or college when many of them weren’t adequately prepared.

Rather than shy away from this report or contest its findings, we responded with a full-court press to raise the bar so a high school diploma means what it should: that graduates are ready for the job or college they’ll enter and their options aren’t limited because they weren’t provided the tools they need to succeed.

This effort is called the Tennessee Diploma Project. As part of this effort, Tennessee is one of 35 states working together with Achieve, an independent, bipartisan, non-profit organization that I co-chair that helps states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments and strengthen accountability. Achieve and its national American Diploma Project network are dedicated to not just graduating students, but to ensuring they graduate college- and career-ready.

Early in our process we involved business and community leaders, educators, lawmakers and other stakeholders from across the state to build support for increasing the rigor of standards, graduation requirements, and developing tests that more accurately measure how well prepared students are for life after high school.

Last school year, Tennessee students in grades three through eight completed their first round of learning and testing under the state’s new and higher standards. Parents will begin to see the results of setting the bar higher when they begin to receive Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) scores based on this new proficiency levels this fall.

Again, this is where our reform efforts get hard, but we must not get discouraged. It’s important that students, parents, teachers and community members understand we must expect more to achieve more. Test scores sometimes dip when schools put in place higher standards. That doesn’t mean your child is going backward in knowledge. Reassure your child they’re capable of doing the hard work that’s needed to succeed.

In July, former U.S. Senator Bill Frist and I launched a campaign called “Expect More, Achieve More” to help prepare parents and communities about what to expect when student test results begin arriving in mailboxes across the state this fall. A project of the First to the Top Coalition, the Expect More, Achieve More coalition is a statewide alliance of more than 30 business, community and education groups committed to reform. Together, we’re working hard to arm parents with the knowledge they need to understand the results and then to engage their child and seek assistance in increasing their academic performance. You can learn more about this effort at www.ExpectMoreTN.org.

TCAP scores will be sent home in mid-to-late September and early October, notifying parents of their child’s knowledge in reading, language arts, math, science and social studies based on these higher standards. If your child is rated “Basic” or “Below Basic” in any subject, or if you find your child’s test scores or grades appear to be slipping, consider these steps:

• Don’t get discouraged. Remember all our students need the knowledge and skills that will equip them for the future, and we have to focus now to make sure Tennessee students are ready to succeed.

• Ask for help. Call your child’s teacher or school and work together with them to put together a plan for helping your child succeed. Parental involvement is critical to helping a child achieve more. Your child needs your encouragement and support.

• Know the facts. Understand why higher standards are important to your child’s future. Life is no longer about competing with just the people in the same hometown. Today, Tennessee students are competing with their peers across the globe. Thirty-five years ago, just 28 percent of U.S. jobs required training or education after high school. Today, 90 percent of jobs require some sort of training beyond high school.

A dip in test results in the near term may cause some people to question the merits of our efforts to raise the bar, but Tennessee is on the right path and the alternative – telling students that aren’t prepared for the demands of the real world that they are – is not a viable option for a state like Tennessee that is committed to the success of its citizens.

If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other, please email me at phil.bredesen@tn.gov.

Categories
Business and Economy Transparency and Elections

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.