Press Releases

New Regional ECD Directors Named

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, June 8, 2011:

ECD Team Members to Lead Regional “Base Camps” and Recruit Companies to TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner (ECD) Bill Hagerty today announced the selection of eight new regional directors as part of the reorganization of ECD resulting from the Jobs4TN initiative. The new regional directors will serve as the primary point-of-contact for Tennessee companies seeking state assistance with expansion or with accessing state services. In addition, Haslam and Hagerty also announced members of ECD’s national project management team, the division within ECD responsible for the recruitment of new companies to the state.

“We have selected a seasoned team of business and economic development professionals to implement our Jobs4TN program,” Haslam said. “As we move to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, this team will be an important part of our success in reaching our goals.”

“I’m very excited by the caliber of people joining our team and the willingness of our top ECD staffers to take on more responsibility,” Hagerty said. “These are the ‘go-to’ people companies both inside and outside Tennessee will rely upon to make projects happen. This team, and our collaborative approach with state and federal agencies, will become a key source of competitive advantage as we advance the Governor’s aggressive job growth agenda.”

ECD’s regional directors will reside in each of the nine regions outlined in the Jobs4TN plan and will have primary responsibility for working with existing companies, aligning workforce development strategies and developing a regional strategic plan. The regional directors include:

Northeast Tennessee – Former real estate executive Allen Borden, a Tennessean relocating from Beech Mountain, NC, will represent ECD in the region. Borden is a former real estate broker who has generated more than a million dollars in annual sales in addition to founding an investment company with $165 million under management. He also served as director of economic development for the city of Knoxville under former Mayor Victor Ashe and was an executive vice president for the Blount County Chamber of Commerce.

East Tennessee – Kirk Huddleston will represent the Department in Knoxville and the surrounding region. He is the former director of corporate and community development for Blaine Construction Corporation and worked with Fortune 500 companies, as well as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee, Scripps Networks, Denso and others. Huddleston has also served as chair of the Metro Knoxville Airport Authority.

Southeast Tennessee – The director of this region will be named at a later date.

Upper Cumberland – Former ECD specialist Rebecca Hargrove Smith will represent the agency in the upper Cumberland region. A graduate of the University of Tennessee and the Nashville School of Law, Smith administered the Three-Star program in 14 counties and previously worked in a senior role within local government affairs.

Northern Middle Tennessee – The region extending from Nashville north will be represented by former Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores COO Reggie Mudd. Rising through the ranks from store manager trainee to COO, Mudd’s tenure with the company coincided with Cracker Barrel’s expansion from 28 to 320 stores. A graduate of Centre College in Kentucky, he has extensive experience managing commercial, industrial, residential and historical properties. Mudd is also a member of the Gallatin Economic Development Advisory Board and the board of Cumberland Region Tomorrow.

Southern Middle Tennessee – Current ECD Three-Star Director Jamie Stitt has been named regional director of Southern Middle Tennessee. A graduate of Illinois State University, Stitt has been responsible for the development and implementation of community development strategies in more than 90 Tennessee counties as part of the Three-Star program. Prior to joining ECD in 2007, Stitt was director of Joint Economic and Community Development for Marshall County where she focused her efforts on new business creation.

Northwest Tennessee – An ECD veteran since 1993, Blake Swaggart has been a jobs development specialist since 1996 and was previously an economic development analyst with the South Carolina Department of Commerce. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and has a master’s degree in city planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as economic development certification from the University of Oklahoma. Swaggart has experience successfully developing projects in Shelby, Lauderdale, Dyer, Lake, Obion and Tipton counties.

Southwest Tennessee – Cary Vaughn comes to ECD from his position as president and CEO of the Millington Area Chamber of Commerce. Prior to taking a leadership role at the chamber, Vaughn was president and CEO of Covenant Staffing Solutions in Memphis and was vice president of sales for a national technology company where he supervised a team of 28 managers generating more than $30 million in revenue. A graduate of Lambuth University and the Moench Center Leadership Institute at Belmont University, Vaughn led Millington’s move to the highest certification level in the Three-Star program.

Greater Memphis – J. Edward (Ted) Townsend III is the co-founder and former COO of arGentis Pharmaceuticals, Inc of Memphis, a privately-held bio-pharmaceutical company involved in the licensing, development and commercialization of therapies for auto-immune and ophthalmic diseases. During his tenure, the company successfully raised $2 million in capital from angel and institutional investors. A graduate of the University of Memphis, Townsend also served as executive vice president and managing partner of Agile Minds, LLC, a consulting firm in health care and life sciences and currently sits on the board of directors of arGentis and Life Science Tennessee.

Project Management

In addition to the regional directors in charge of Tennessee’s “jobs base camps,” Governor Haslam and Commissioner Hagerty also named the following members of ECD’s Project Management team, responsible for the recruitment of new industry to Tennessee:

Lori Odom will serve as the team leader of the Project Management Team. Odom has been with ECD since 2004 and was formerly director of international development. During her tenure, Tennessee successfully recruited the Office of the Consulate General of Japan and opened the Tennessee-China Development Center in Beijing. A graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Odom has led Tennessee trade missions to Canada, China, Europe and Japan.

Gina Brown currently works as a jobs development specialist at ECD with responsibility for projects in the Middle Tennessee region. She has been with ECD since 2008 and has successfully managed large scale investments such as Loews Hotels Shared Services Center, 3M and Asurion and currently manages projects representing more than $150 million in potential capital investment in Tennessee. Brown is a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

John Butler is currently an international projects specialist for ECD with responsibility for handling foreign direct investment projects in Tennessee and manages a portfolio totaling more than $500 million in potential capital investment in the state. He was formerly vice president of international development for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and managed export policy for the state of Tennessee during the mid-90’s and is a graduate of the University of Westminster-London.

Toby Compton comes to ECD from the Office of the Mayor in Nashville where he has served as legislative director since 2007. A graduate of Lipscomb University and Cumberland University, Compton advised Nashville’s mayor on legislative issues in the Tennessee General Assembly as well as a broad array of municipal boards and commissions. He gained recognition for his management of Nashville’s Emergency Operations Center during the flood of 2010.

Brenda Pfeiffer is currently a national recruitment specialist for ECD, having successfully managed more than 100 economic development projects since 2007 with capital investments totaling more than $500 million. Prior to joining ECD, she worked as economic development director for Hickman County where she successfully recruited more than 500 new jobs and $125 million in new capital investment. She is a graduate of Oakland University in Rochester, MI and in 2004 graduated from the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.

Business and Economy Featured News

Haslam Presents ‘Jobs Base Camp,’ Announces ECD Staff Cuts

Delivering on a campaign pledge from last year, Gov. Bill Haslam has unveiled a jobs initiative that calls for restructuring the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Haslam and ECD Chairman Bill Hagerty jointly announced the plan Wednesday, which is predicated on capitalizing on existing resources and concentrating staff at regional offices, which the administration calls “jobs base camps.”

Haslam said during his campaign for governor that he wanted to take a more regionalized approach the department’s work. There were immediate concerns raised by his election opponent, Mike McWherter, that such an approach would add to bureaucracy in state government. But the plan unveiled Wednesday would actually reduce the staff at the department from 203 people to 132 by the end of this year.

Haslam said the plan is the result of a “fairly intensive study about the best way we can help create jobs in Tennessee.”

He reiterated both his stated goal of making the state the best for high-quality jobs in the Southeast and that he does not believe jobs can be legislated, which has put him at odds with Democrats in the Legislature. He also reiterated his intention of reducing regulations that the administration believes impede business growth.

Hagerty said it took 45 days to complete the plan, known as “Jobs4TN.”

The jobs base camps will fall into nine separate regions, where each center’s leadership will be a one-stop shop to pull resources together in an effort to boost the job market.

The governor unveiled a series of charts that show the organizational structure of the plan, but he is expected to introduce on May 5 at the Tennessee Next Conference in Nashville a detailed blueprint meant to improve coordination among innovative programs across the state.

“We’re going to be leveraging R&D assets we have here in the state of Tennessee,” Hagerty said. “Think Oak Ridge National Labs, the University of Tennessee, St. Jude’s in Memphis, Vanderbilt.

“We have tremendous research assets here in the state. We’re going to be focused more on commercializing, on transferring technology from those assets, on early-stage capital, and on entrepreneurial activity here in the state.”

The plan also puts priorities on six industries it calls “clusters” where Tennessee is already considered to have assets. Those include automotive; chemicals and plastics; transportation; logistics and distribution services; business services; health care; and advanced manufacturing and energy technologies.

Haslam said the review of the Department of Economic and Community Development will be similar in other departments, focusing on strategy and structure.

Haslam said most of the new jobs in Tennessee are coming from existing businesses.

“We’re not going to quit recruiting outside our borders, but we are going to make certain we put the right focus and energy and dollars where the results are,” Haslam said.

Hagerty said it’s important to let existing businesses in the state know they’re wanted here, as opposed to having other states lure them away.

The state has made headlines in recent years by landing huge deals such as the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, the Hemlock Semiconductor site in Clarksville and the Wacker Chemie plant in Bradley County. A megasite in Haywood County is geared for a similar big-ticket project, although there have been disagreements recently between the administration and Democrats in the Legislature on when and how to apply funding to the site.

Haslam said Wednesday his administration will continue attracting large relocation projects but he wanted to keep in perspective the importance of growth of the existing business base.

“The market has gotten so competitive, and what states are willing to do in terms of incentives makes it to where I think it’s incumbent upon us to say, ‘It’s one thing to go out and recruit that business, but is that a good investment for our citizens?’” he said.

As for the reductions in the Department of Economic and Community Development, Haslam said the state has been assisting with local planning for local governments.

“We just asked the question: Is that the right function for state government, to be helping with subdivision planning for local government?” Haslam said.

That approach also squares with what Haslam said repeatedly on the campaign trail, that the first question should be whether the state should be doing something in order to evaluate its performance.

Press Releases

Kisber Sees Washington Co. Koyo Expansion as Sign of Improving Economy

State of Tennessee Press Release, Nov 19, 2010:

Japanese Automotive Supplier Announces $30 Million Expansion in East Tennessee

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber today congratulated the employees of Japanese automotive supplier Koyo Corporation USA in the wake of the company’s announced expansion of its manufacturing facility in Washington County, Tennessee. Koyo Corporation Vice President Steve McCullough announced the company’s plan to invest $30 million to add 61,000 square feet of space to its Tennessee-based manufacturing facility and to expand the facility’s workforce to 125 employees.

“Koyo has been an important part of Tennessee’s leadership position in the automotive industry and a great example of our state’s strong economic ties to Japan,” said Commissioner Kisber. “In an industry that’s beginning to recover from the recession, Koyo’s success is a cause for optimism and a tribute to the productivity and quality of the Tennessee workforce.

Commissioner Kisber said with its investment, Koyo will qualify for statutory incentives like the FastTrack Infrastructure Development Program and the FastTrack Job Training Assistance Program.

“Our continued growth in the USA automotive market is a testament to the quality and dedication of all of our associates,” said Koyo Vice President Steve McCullough. “2009 was a tough year for everyone but Koyo has positioned itself to take full advantage as the auto industry starts to rebound. Koyo’s Washington County plant is an integral part of Koyo’s Long Term Strategy and Growth.”

Koyo Corporation USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of JTEKT Corporation, a world leader in the production of steering systems, drivelines, bearings and machine tools. JTEKT is one of the world’s largest automotive component suppliers and the company’s Koyo USA subsidiary is a Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier to Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM, Daimler Chrysler, and BMW

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to create higher skilled, better paying jobs for all Tennesseans. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. To find out more, go to or