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Boyd Names New as Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; February 19, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd announced today the appointment of Amy New as the department’s first Assistant Commissioner for Rural Development.

New, a department veteran working with business and community development programs, most recently served as director of the department’s primary community development program ThreeStar.

Boyd said New would lead a new division within TNECD that reorganizes all community programs under her leadership. The move will allow the department to put a greater emphasis on assisting rural communities.

“While TNECD has done many good things for our rural communities, from the ThreeStar program to the Select Tennessee site development efforts, I believe we need to double down on our efforts,” Boyd said. “Many of our rural areas are still struggling, and we need to reorganize and align to serve them even better. That includes considering new programs, improving existing ones, and reallocating resources, both personnel and financial.  However, the most important first step is to put in place a great leader, and I believe Amy New is that leader. She has the experience, the passion and the leadership ability to move our state forward.”

Since 2012, as ThreeStar Director, New worked to restructure and expand Tennessee’s community development efforts by launching a more focused activity based program, with incentives and grant monies. The reconstituted ThreeStar focuses on five key areas critical to ensuring the success of Tennessee communities: Jobs & Economic Development, Fiscal Strength & Efficient Government, Public Safety, Education & Workforce Development, and Health & Welfare.

“Amy was raised in rural Tennessee and understands our challenges and opportunities,” Boyd said.  “Amy’s leadership abilities, relationships and grasp of rural policy will allow us to up our game on behalf of rural communities.”

A native of Monterey, Tenn., New worked at both the county government and chamber level, was a Business Profiles host with WCTE-TV and an account executive with MMA Creative prior to her work with TNECD.

“When our communities engage actively in community development to improve their quality of life, education, workforce and overall health they are building a foundation for economic development,” New said. “The private sector will only invest in communities that first invest in themselves.  We will use the opportunity to proactively work with partner agencies and our communities to attract investment and jobs to rural Tennessee.”

Boyd also announced the hiring of Jody Sliger as TNECD’s new ThreeStar director.

Sliger was most recently the interim president and tourism and marketing director of the Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce. Prior to that Sliger was a journalist in the Upper Cumberland region, including as lifestyles editor of The Expositer newspaper in Sparta.

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Press Releases

Phillip Fulmer to Keynote 61st Annual Governor’s ECD Conference in Nov.

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economice & Community Development; August 18, 2014:

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced today that Phillip Fulmer, former University of Tennessee football head coach, will be the keynote speaker at the Commissioner’s Luncheon Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 during the 61st Annual Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development. The conference theme will focus on “The Tennessee Story” celebrating the state’s exceptional craftsmanship, dedicated workforce and the unmatched experience of living and working in Tennessee. Hundreds of state and local officials, business leaders and economic developers will convene at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel for the event held Nov. 13-14 in Nashville.

“We look forward to this year’s conference as we highlight ‘The Tennessee Story’ and the distinguishing elements that set our state apart from the rest,” TNECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said. “As a Tennessean, I know college football is a beloved tradition that runs deep throughout the South, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have Coach Fulmer join us as a keynote speaker. Coach Fulmer will offer a unique perspective to effective leadership and teambuilding skills from which all of our conference attendees will benefit, and I look forward to hearing more from him in November.”

One of the winningest coaches in SEC history, Fulmer ranks eighth all-time among SEC coaches with 152 wins and is tied for fifth all-time with 98 SEC regular season wins. His record at the University of Tennessee as head coach is second in school history behind the legendary General Robert Neyland.

During his time at the University of Tennessee, Fulmer earned a national championship, two conference titles and seven divisional crowns while winning more than three-quarters of his games.

“I’m honored to join Gov. Haslam and Commissioner Hagerty at this year’s Governor’s Conference,” Fulmer said. “I’ve learned many lessons throughout my career that extend beyond sports and into both the business world and everyday life that have helped me become a better leader. I treasure the time I spent at the University of Tennessee and look forward to sharing my experiences both on and off the field with state leaders and the people responsible for making Tennessee the business-friendly state it is known to be.”

Fulmer spent more than 30 years at his alma mater as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

Fulmer currently serves as a consultant and special assistant to Richard Sander, athletic director at East Tennessee State University. He is also a partner with BPV Capital Management in Knoxville, Tennessee.

For more information or to register for the 61st Annual Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development, please visit http://www.govcon.tnecd.com/.

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Press Releases

Haslam: Tyson Foods Expanding Goodlettsville Operations

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; May 20, 2014:

Food Processor to Invest $15.5 Million, Create 157 New Jobs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Tyson Foods, Inc. officials today announced the food processor will invest $15.5 million to expand its current operations in Goodlettsville and hire and train 157 new workers.

“I want to thank Tyson Foods for investing in our state and creating these high quality jobs for Middle Tennessee,” Haslam said. “When well-established companies like Tyson Foods choose to expand and reinvest in our state, it sends a strong message that Tennessee is one of the best places to do business and supports our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“One of the reasons why Tennessee remains competitive when it comes to job creation is our emphasis on supporting incumbent industries’ sustained growth. Incumbent industry is the lifeblood of Tennessee’s economy,” Hagerty said. “Tyson Foods already employs a significant amount of Tennesseans at its facilities in our state, and I appreciate their continued support and investment.”

Tyson Foods will invest $15.5 million to add four production lines and expand cold storage capabilities at its Tyson Fresh Meats facility at 201 Cartwright Dr. in Goodlettsville. The nation’s second-largest food processor produces case-ready beef and pork products for grocery stores and other retailers at the plant, which already employs roughly 1,600 workers.

“We’re very appreciative to the state of Tennessee and our local partners for their support on this expansion, which will help us build up our capabilities locally,” Jeff Rowen, Goodlettsville complex manager for Tyson Fresh Meats, said. “We are continuing to grow our business and adding these lines will help us better meet the needs of our customers.”

“Having called Goodlettsville home for several years now, it is great to see Tyson’s proven success by this expansion,” Goodlettsville City Manager Tim Ellis said. “They are definitely a cornerstone of our city’s industrial success.”

Work has already begun to install the new equipment. Hiring is expected to begin in June for the newly created production jobs, all of which are full-time. Applications for employment should be filed with a Tennessee Workforce Development office.

Tyson Foods and its subsidiaries employ more than 4,300 Tennesseans at company facilities in Goodlettsville, Shelbyville and Union City. They also support roughly 335 Tennessee farmers who raise chickens for the company’s poultry operations or supply the beef and pork operations with cattle and hogs.

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Press Releases

Haslam Announces Expansion of W Squared Operations in Brentwood

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; November 13, 2013:

NASHVILLE—Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, along with W Squared officials today announced the company will expand its operations in Brentwood, Tenn. W Squared will invest $4 million in infrastructure, including the addition of nearly 30,000 square feet to its location at 5500 Maryland Way, which is expected to open in late spring of 2014. Through this expansion, W Squared will create 115 new jobs in Williamson County in order to support a rapidly expanding client base and an increase in business nationwide.

“I want to thank W Squared for reinvesting and expanding in Tennessee, creating these valuable jobs in Brentwood and Williamson County,” Haslam said. “W Squared has experienced rapid growth since it opened eight years ago, and these new positions reinforce our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the southeast for high quality jobs.”

“Tennessee’s business-friendly environment allows companies like W Squared to thrive and become invaluable members of the community,” Hagerty said. “I appreciate the company’s continued commitment to the state and its confidence in our workforce. I welcome this important investment W Squared is making in our state.”

W Squared’s outsourced solutions allow its clients to focus on their core competencies. By providing technology-managed services, healthcare information technology, finance and accounting, human resources, procurement and information security solutions, W Squared removes scale as an obstacle for clients and offers a complete corporate back office. Selected individually, each solution provides resolutions to barriers inhibiting growth. A step beyond traditional business process outsourcing, W Squared provides not only process expertise, but also business expertise creating a business process partner relationship.

“We are very excited about the continued expansion of W Squared. Over the years we have built an impressive client base, which includes many premier healthcare companies in Middle Tennessee,” W Squared President Tammy Howell said. “Thank you to the state of Tennessee and TVA for recognizing our growth. Their contributions will go towards continued investment in infrastructure as well as additional training and professional development for our highly skilled workforce. This will enable us to continue attracting top talent to service our clients.”

W Squared began operating in Brentwood in 2005 and employs about 170 people at its Maryland Way location.

“W Squared is a great example of a management company, one of our fastest growing sectors, that continues to hire very high-level paying jobs,” Williamson County Chamber of Commerce Interim-Director for Economic Development Jeremiah Pyron said. “This expansion not only benefits W Squared, but Williamson County and the surrounding region as a whole. I want to thank W Squared for their investment and for their work as a valued corporate citizen in our community.”

“TVA congratulates W Squared on their announced plans to expand and add new jobs in the Brentwood area,” TVA senior vice president of Economic Development John Bradley said. “TVA and NES are glad to be economic development partners with the state of Tennessee, Williamson County, and other community leaders to help existing companies like W Squared grow in our region.”

In 2012 and 2013, Inc. Magazine named W Squared among America’s fastest-growing private companies in its Inc. 5000, recognizing W Squared for their three-year sales growth of 250%. Inc. Magazine also featured W Squared in the ranking of Inc.’s 2012 and 2013 Hire Power Awards, recognizing the private businesses that have generated the most jobs in the past three years. W Squared is also a finalist for the 2013 NEXT Awards recognizing excellence in business and entrepreneurship in Middle Tennessee.

W Squared is accepting applications for highly skilled professionals in the IT, HR and accounting fields now. Interested candidates can apply by emailing jobs@wsquared.com.

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Press Releases

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.

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VIDEO: Governor ‘Grateful’ To Have Ali on Staff

Gov. Bill Haslam says he never spoken to Samar Ali, the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development employee whose hiring has drawn ire from some county GOP chapters.

“This is somebody that’s very Tennessee,” Haslam told reporters in Dickson Wednesday. “This is somebody who could have a lot of great jobs a lot of places and could quite frankly make a lot more money than she’s making working for the state. But she cared enough about her home state to come back here and I’m grateful that she’s part of our team.”

At least eight county Republican party chapters have passed resolutions condemning the governor for, among other things, allowing his administration to hire a Muslim.

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House OKs Expansion of Business Grants

The Tennessee House of Representatives unanimously endorsed Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to dramatically expand economic development grants Wednesday. But lawmakers are still uncertain if and how they’ll publicly identify the owners behind companies taking home those taxpayer dollars.

Department of Economic Development officials and legislative leaders are shy on details about out how they’ll require private businesses seeking state grants to reveal who owns their companies without scaring away organizations looking to open up shop in Tennessee.

“This is necessary information for the ECD to make good decisions, so we need to figure out a way to get this information. That’s why we keep pounding at it,” said the Senate sponsor of the bill, Bo Watson, a Republican from Hixon.

Lawmakers voted 96-0 to expand the state’s taxpayer-funded FastTrack development grant program to the tune of $80 million Wednesday, $10 million more than original estimates.

HB2344 would offer businesses grants or loans for expenses like “retrofitting, relocating equipment, purchasing equipment, building repairs and improvements, temporary office space or other temporary equipment related to relocation or expansion.”

All money would be funneled through local governments or their economic development branches to issue to companies. The FastTrack program already offers grants in the form of reimbursements for job training and infrastructure improvement, at a state tax-funded cost of about $38.5 million annually in recent years.

With the expansion, the Haslam administration wants to more thoroughly examine businesses seeking grants by requiring businesses to hand over internal records like cash flow reports and budgets, along with the names of the companies’ owners.

Lawmakers from both parties are OK with shielding most of that information from public view, saying it’s proprietary. Many are arguing, however, that the names of people who own companies accepting state money should be out in the open.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where that money’s being spent. I just think that’s a no-brainer,” said House Democratic Caucus Leader Mike Turner. “It makes you wonder who they’re trying to attract to come in here.”

The measure to add those reporting requirements but keep them private, HB2345, has idled on Capitol Hill since legislative leaders last month said business ownership shouldn’t be kept secret. Lawmakers have since remained silent on the progress of negotiations.

“Commissioner (Bill) Hagerty and the department’s legislative team continue to have productive conversations with leadership about the bill,” ECD spokesman Clint Brewer said in an emailed statement.

The Senate versions of both the expansion to the program and its reporting requirements are in committee.

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Business and Economy Featured

Congeniality for Which TN is Famous Could Attract Jobs

One of Tennessee’s most valuable assets — its friendliness — could play a role in a solution to one of the state’s most perplexing problems, which is how to create jobs in rural areas.

And it could involve providers of what is widely regarded as one of the most unfriendly customer service experiences — call centers.

State economic development officials are looking at a pilot project that would tap into one of the prime examples of jobs the United States has been losing to other countries like India.

The idea is that rural areas are extremely hard to sell to prospective businesses in the traditional site selection process. But with technology making the strides it has in recent years, and with aspects of the foreign workforce working against other countries, Tennessee officials see a chance to go after one of the most contemporary of job markets, which is having trained workers help people handle issues by phone.

Like any new business, there are infrastructure needs to consider. However, in this case, the infrastructure would not be the classic road or bridge or railway spur, state authorities say. It would be broadband Internet access.

Commissioner Bill Hagerty of the Department of Economic and Community Development informed a conference on business development in Nashville last week of plans to look closely at call centers as potential job generators.

“We’re bringing 21st-century jobs into areas that otherwise would be very hard to reach,” Hagerty said. “The pitch we make to employers is that the jobs we’re talking about, with the weak dollar and lower wages that prevail in rural areas, are very competitive with India or Manila or some of the other places they’ve been offshoring.”

Hagerty said the turnover rate for such jobs in foreign countries is high.

“These people just jump from one place to another over there,” Hagerty said. “I think employers are beginning to realize we can be competitive here in the United States. So our hope is to get ahead of that curve.”

State economic development officials have met with several large businesses, which Hagerty called “outsource providers,” about putting their operations in Tennessee.

“Our hope is we can set up a new program, properly incentivize that, and begin to put these new types of jobs into more rural areas,” Hagerty said.

Hagerty did not talk about specific pay ranges in the call center initiative, so that would presumably be a key factor in both attracting businesses to the state and workers to the jobs. But he characterized the potential for call centers as one possible answer to the extremely difficult task of employing people in rural areas.

“The first thing that comes up to us is how we get a workforce ready, trained and appropriate to that task, and to see what kind of mistakes we might want to avoid,” Hagerty said. “Our hope is we can see new opportunities evolve.”

Amid all the discussion of Tennessee’s attributes cited by government officials, the friendly nature of Tennesseans increasingly comes up in discussions of the assets of the workforce. Friendliness and a good work ethic frequently are cited in business roundtable discussions as strengths, while politicians more often list items like having no income tax or the fact Tennessee is a right-to-work state.

The good nature of the state’s workers is an intangible asset and difficult to quantify. But Hagerty got some unexpected support at the conference from Lillian Hartgrove, vice president of economic development for the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce.

Hartgrove described her previous experience with a call center in Cookeville for Suntrust Bank. She said the Cookeville call center, which opened several years ago, also included hiring some employees to work from home.

“It’s been very successful,” she said. “We had call centers in Miami, Atlanta, Orlando and Richmond. And Cookeville became our state-of-the-art call center.

“What we found in Tennessee is something we take for granted. We do have a great workforce that has excellent customer service skills. We hear that all the time. We have the friendliest people just about in the United States.”

Hartgrove had her own measure of proof about that reputation.

“When I was living in Miami, we would call customers in Tennessee, and customers in Tennessee were the nicest. We had people in Miami who wanted to call people in Tennessee. They didn’t want to talk to people in Florida or other parts of the country,” she said.

“So we have to capitalize on our southern charm. The thing we bring to the table with our workforce is centered around customer service skills.”

Hartgrove said typically there would be six weeks of classroom training, then a two-week period of putting the worker with a representative for support, then help-desk support after that. She said before staff would deploy workers at home, they would make sure their skill set was solid and that the home would be conducive to the work, with no children in the background crying, for example. It would involve a home inspection, she said.

After that, the nature of the work would depend on the call center, the company behind it and how complex the work is, Hartgrove said.

Hagerty said the state has already begun a partnership with a BlueCross BlueShield representative on the program.

“Our thought process would probably have both satellite call centers and work-at-home models,” Hagerty said. “We’ll depend on the workforce available and the specific client population available, too, but the governor and I have called on several large host organizations who said they would be willing to help us.

“I think if we put the right formula together, we’ve got a shot at making something really meaningful happen here.”

Hagerty heard other comments at the conference about the importance of broadband Internet access to rural communities and how it would become even more of a factor when work is extended to a work-at-home basis.

A conference participant also pointed out that similar challenges can apply in urban areas where unemployment is a difficult issue. Hagerty noted it would be easier to deal with broadband issues in an urban area.

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Business and Economy NewsTracker

Haslam’s Three New ‘R’s

Gov. Bill Haslam can be found emphasizing new fundamentals of education in a video from the Southern Governors’ Association, which met over the weekend in Asheville, N.C.

“They used to say that education was the ‘three R’s’ — reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic,” Haslam says in a video on workforce development. “But now it’s changed.”

Haslam applies three new “R”s.

“It’s about Relevance — making certain what you’re learning really does apply to what you need further in life,” he begins.

“Rigor — raising the standards.

“And Relationships — having the right, caring adults in front of students.”

Haslam has made the placement of the right teachers and principals in schools one of the cornerstones of his education reform agenda.

In a separate video from the SGA, Haslam addresses the governor’s role in innovation.

“Sometimes the role of governor is all about connecting,” Haslam says. “It’s about connecting somebody that has a great idea that can be taken to the marketplace maybe with other folks who have capital or have people who can provide exposure.”

Haslam has a $50 million program called INCITE in the Department of Economic and Community Development, where the goal is to help innovative ideas reach the market and enhance their visibility. INCITE is an acronym for innovation, commercialization, investment, technology and entrepreneurship.

Haslam also has a program in ECD called Startup Tennessee, where the idea is to match new businesses with capital and mentors from business to help the start-up businesses to grow.

Both the INCITE program and Startup Tennessee are part of the governor’s overall jobs program called JOBS4TN. The Haslam administration will host the 58th annual Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development in Nashville Sept. 22-23.

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Press Releases

Veteran Journalist, Former Think Tank Director Tapped to Speak for State Economic Development Agency

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, July 19, 2011:

Award-Winning Reporter, Editor and Publisher to Lead ECD’s Communications and Marking Efforts

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty today named veteran journalist Clint Brewer as Assistant Commissioner, Communications and Creative Services.

“I’m pleased to have someone with Clint Brewer’s depth of experience joining our economic development leadership team,” said Commissioner Hagerty. “As a former business owner and media executive, Clint Brewer will effectively lead our department’s communications and marketing efforts.”

“I’m grateful to Governor Haslam and Commissioner Hagerty for this opportunity,” said Brewer. “Tennessee is one of the very best places in this country to do business, and I am excited to help spread that message.”

Brewer comes to ECD with more than 15 years experience in the Tennessee media as an award-winning reporter, editor and publisher. He was previously at The Tennessean in Nashville as the newspaper’s political editor. He has also previously served as editor of the daily Lebanon Democrat and of Nashville’s City Paper. Brewer started his own company in 2000 where he owned the Mt. Juliet News, a weekly newspaper in Wilson County.

Prior to his tenure at the Tennessean, Brewer was executive director of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a non-profit, free market think tank.

Brewer is a native of Knoxville, Tenn. and a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He was national president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2007-08, where he led a lobbying effort in the U.S. House and Senate to see a national reporter shield law passed. He is a former board member of the Tennessee Press Association, and served as the co-chair of TPA’s Government Affairs committee during the last legislative session.

In his current role, Brewer will lead all communications and marketing efforts for ECD, including oversight of the department’s press and creative services teams. ECD’s Communications and Creative Services division keeps staff, legislators, other state and city departments, local agencies, the media and the general public informed of ECD services, programs and activities. The division also provides strategic communications planning for the department and the coordination and execution of all ECD public events.