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Electrolux Wins Backing For Tax Breaks, Honored By Industry Mag

It was a good day for Electrolux, winning approval in the Senate Finance Committee of the $90 million state package for its planned Memphis factory and landing on a real estate insiders’ magazine’s list of notable deals.

The kitchen appliance maker’s manufacturing plant was named one of the top economic-development deals in the country in 2010 by Site Selection magazine, several outlets reported today. Internet retailer Amazon’s planned distribution centers in East Tennessee garnered an honorable mention.

The $190 million Electrolux plant will reportedly create 1,200 jobs.

Haslam Formally Announces Legislative Agenda

Press Release from the Office of Gov. Bill Haslam, Feb. 17, 2011:

Legislation Focuses on Educating Workforce, Identifying Best Teachers, Revising Civil Justice System

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today introduced his administration’s legislative package for the 2011 session, focusing on educating the workforce, identifying the best teachers and revising the state’s civil justice system.

Haslam’s legislative package is a single piece of his jobs agenda to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.

The legislation seeks to:

  • Make tenure tied to classroom performance; extend probationary time from three to five years
  • Lift the cap on charter schools and allow open enrollment
  • Allow the state’s Achievement School District (part of First to the Top) to authorize charter schools
  • Extend use of the lottery scholarship for summer courses and cap the total number of hours based on required degree completion
  • Limits non-economic damages for both healthcare liability action and other personal injury actions
  • Limits and clarifies standards for assessing punitive damages
  • Limits appeal bond amounts

“Our legislation being filed with the Tennessee General Assembly is tightly focused on opportunities to enhance job creation and is one piece of our agenda to make Tennessee more competitive in the Southeast,” Haslam said.

Other pieces of Haslam’s jobs agenda include streamlining state government and aggressively examining rules and regulations to assure this three-part test is met: will they make a difference, are they performance-based, and what the expected outcomes are.

Also, the Department of Economic and Community Development is focused on a top-to-bottom approach that aligns state efforts with returns on investment.

“These initial steps in transforming state government will lead to more efficiency and effectiveness and deliver excellent customer service,” Haslam said.

As Amazon Heads to TN, Retailer Shuns Texas’ ‘Unfavorable Regulatory Climate’

Amazon is pulling out of Texas because of that state’s hard line on collecting sales tax from the Internet retail giant’s sales. Some of those Lone Star State workers could relocate to Tennessee, where the company has been received with open arms by the Haslam administration, which has taken a much softer line on online tax collections. Amazon is building two massive distribution centers in East Tennessee.

KPRC Channel 2 in Houston reports that Amazon is closing its Dallas-area distribution center and won’t expand in Texas after a dispute stemming from the Texas state comptroller’s demand the company fork over $269 million in uncollected taxes.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s vice president of operations, writes in the e-mail that the center will close April 12 due to Texas’ “unfavorable regulatory climate.” Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako would not say Thursday how many employees work at the Irving distribution center.

…(A state official) said Texas loses an estimated $600 million in Internet sales taxes every year.

Amazon has been the target of numerous lawsuits filed by states seeking sales taxes on online purchases made from within their borders.

Clark also said in his e-mail that the company was “previously planning to build additional facilities and expand in Texas, bringing more than 1,000 new jobs and tens of millions of investment dollars to the state, and we regret the need to reverse course.” Texas employees who are willing to relocate will be offered positions in other states, Clark said.

Gov. Bill Haslam has said his priority is making sure Amazon comes to Tennessee, and has shied away from the tax issue, but both he and Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told the Tennessee Press Association Thursday they are committed to maintaining and enhancing the state’s reputation of having one of the business-friendliest political climates in the United States.

“I’m a small-business man myself, and you know what I want out of state government? Absolutely nothing,” Ramsey said. “Leave me alone. Get out of the way, and I’ll create jobs. All I want for government is to get out of the way.”

Late last year, Haslam said the issue of untaxed online sales was something “to look at long term, but I do not think it needs to interfere with our recruiting of Amazon to Tennessee. That’s a huge priority for us,” according to the Chattanooga Times Free-Press. The Chattanooga-area centers will reportedly be up and running in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Amazon Wants Tennessee Sales To Stay Tax-Free

Tennessee customers of Amazon.com won’t be charged sales tax, even though the Internet retail giant is building two 1-million-square-foot distribution centers in the state, if the company has its way.

That would be in line with the company’s practice in six of the nine states where it operates distribution centers, the Seattle Times reports:

The company argues that, because the facilities are separate legal entities, they do not give the e-tailer a physical presence. …

Officials for Tennessee’s revenue and economic-development departments declined to comment, citing a long-standing policy of not divulging tax information about a particular business. Amazon, which rarely talks about behind-the-scenes business practices, did not answer questions about its sales-tax plan for Tennessee.

Amazon will employ 1,400 full-time and another 2,000 people seasonally “once the centers are fully ramped up in three years,” the Chattanooga Times Free-Press reported last month. The centers amount to a $139 million investment.

The newspaper has also reported on Gov. Bill Haslam’s friendly stance toward Amazon:

(Haslam said) that untaxed online sales are a growing problem for states such as Tennessee.

“I do think this is something we need to look at long term, but I do not think it needs to interfere with our recruiting of Amazon to Tennessee,” he said. “That’s a huge priority for us.”

Amazon is getting the Hamilton County site free and is getting significant tax breaks on both the Hamilton and Bradley sites, the Chattanooga Times Free-Press reported. The state is offering job tax credits and employee training assistance.

Bredesen Announces Job Recruitment Trip to Germany, Spain

State of Tennessee Press Release; June 4, 2010:

Governor, Commissioner to Meet with Volkswagen, Potential Suppliers, Clean Energy Experts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Governor Phil Bredesen and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber today announced they will travel to Germany and Spain June 13-19 to meet with officials from Volkswagen and potential Volkswagen suppliers who may have an interest in developing manufacturing or distribution facilities in Tennessee. The Governor and Commissioner will hold discussions in Berlin and Wolfsburg, Germany, then travel to Barcelona, Spain.

“Since Volkswagen’s announcement in 2008, we’ve focused our job creation efforts on maximizing the jobs created by that $1 billion investment,” said Governor Bredesen. “We’re working to expand the ripple effect of that ‘anchor project’ across Tennessee’s economy.”

In addition to the focus on Volkswagen and its suppliers, the Governor and Commissioner will also be meeting with trade and business development officials in Spain, especially those focusing on the clean energy economy. The trip comes after Spanish Consul General Miguel Angel Fernandez de Mazarambroz met with Commissioner Kisber to discuss potential trade openings between Tennessee and Spain in April. While visiting Spain, Governor Bredesen will hold high level talks with senior government officials from the Spanish state of Catalonia and from the Spanish Energy Ministry.

“Tennessee has developed a strong reputation in the development of solar and other renewable technologies,” said Commissioner Kisber. “The Pew Center for the States has called Tennessee ‘one of the three fastest growing states in the U.S.’ for clean energy jobs and we want Spanish companies to know that if they plan to enter the growing American clean energy market, Tennessee is the best place to locate.”

Germany is Tennessee’s 6th largest trading partner, having purchased more than $620 million in goods and services from Tennessee companies in 2009. Spain is Tennessee’s 18th largest trading partner, purchasing more than $200 million in Tennessee goods and services.

Accompanying the Governor and Commissioner Kisber will be Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr and Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz. In the early part of the last decade, Spain established tax and governmental policies which generated explosive growth in the Spanish solar industry, followed by retrenchment as government subsidies shrank. The Tennessee delegation hopes to learn from Spain’s experience in solar 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 www.tnecd.gov or www.investtennessee.org.

Bredesen, Kisber & Farr Departing for Asia

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, May 6, 2010:

Shanghai Expo Hosting 70 Million Visitors, State Leaders to Promote Trade with Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber today announced plans to attend the 2010 Shanghai World Expo to promote trade, investment and tourism between the state of Tennessee and China. The state of Tennessee is a sponsor of the U.S. Pavilion for the event, which is expected to host 5-6 million of the more than 70 million visitors to the Expo which opened May 1, 2010 with the theme “Better City, Better Life.” Tennessee Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr and International Investment Director Lori Odom will also accompany the delegation.

“Our state’s participation in the Shanghai World Expo is a unique opportunity to educate visitors from around the world about Tennessee, its quality of life and its business climate,” said Governor Bredesen. “Our state’s relationship with Chinese business and government leaders continues to grow and Tennessee’s participation is an important signal that our state is ready to expand business ties.”

Tennessee’s participation in the Shanghai World Expo is an important bookend to the Chinese government’s decision to participate in the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair, the first time following the Cultural Revolution the Chinese government agreed to participate in a world event. The purpose of Tennessee’s participation in the Shanghai World Expo is to build relationships and expose Expo visitors to the Tennessee “brand,” eventually leading to additional investment, job creation and tourism.

“Since 2007, when Tennessee opened its office in Beijing, business opportunities between Tennessee and China have grown steadily,” said Commissioner Kisber. “We believe there are important opportunities for Tennessee companies to sell to Chinese customers, creating new job opportunities for Tennesseans and greater profits for companies.”

Governor Bredesen and Commissioner Kisber will depart for Shanghai on May 14, 2010 and return on May 22, 2010. During their visit, the Tennessee delegation will tour the U.S. and Chinese pavilions at the invitation of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and co-host an investment roundtable for Chinese business leaders interested in entering the U.S. market with the China Investment Promotion Agency.

Following the Shanghai portion of the trip, the Governor and Commissioner will meet with Tennessee companies operating in Hong Kong and then meet with members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to explore business opportunities for Tennessee companies there, primarily in infrastructure development, I/T and telecommunications, consumer goods, industrial machinery and energy.

Tennessee Named ‘State of the Year’ by Business Magazine

State of Tennessee press release, 6 Jan. 2010:

Hemlock Semiconductor Earns Silver Award for 2009 Economic Development Deal of the Year

NASHVILLE – The editors of Business Facilities magazine, a national economic development publication, have named Tennessee the magazine’s 2009 State of the Year for the number of new jobs created and amount of capital investments made during the calendar year. New Jersey-based Business Facilities also named the Hemlock Semiconductor project in Clarksville, Tennessee its 2009 Silver Award winner for Economic Development Deal of the Year, citing the company’s announced investment of $1.2 billion dollars and the creation of 500-900 new jobs.

“With our strong and productive workforce, low taxes and nationally recognized business climate, Tennessee continues to distinguish itself as one of the most business-friendly states in the nation,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “I appreciate this recognition of our success in securing corporate investment and creating higher skilled, better paying jobs for the people of our state.”

“Despite the economic downturn, Tennessee welcomed more than 16,700 new jobs and $3.1 billion in new capital investments in 2009,” said Commissioner Matt Kisber, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “Job creation continues to be our top priority, and we are grateful to Business Facilities for recognizing the efforts to generate economic growth in our state.”

Business Facilities editors noted Tennessee won the honor “due to an aggressive and creative development effort that defied the economic downturn with a series of multi-billion-dollar projects.” Cementing Tennessee’s position on top were back-to-back announcements that the world’s two largest polysilicon manufacturers, Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie AG, would both locate major production facilities in the state.

“In a difficult economic year, Tennessee has set a proactive example of successful development that should serve as a model for all states charting their path to recovery. Governor Bredesen and his team have consistently impressed us with a strategy that has put in place a solid foundation for future growth for years to come, moving Tennessee into a leadership position in emerging and established industries,” said Jack Rogers, Editor in Chief of Business Facilities magazine. “Business Facilities congratulates Tennessee for a well-deserved honor as our 2009 State of the Year.”

The magazine also recognized Tennessee’s commitment to the creation of clean energy jobs with its innovative Green Energy Tax Credit for certified green energy supply chain manufacturers. The Green Energy Tax Credit was also expanded last year to include integrated customers and suppliers and qualified affiliates of green energy manufacturers.

The Business Facilities awards are added to a collection of honors Tennessee has received for its economic development efforts in 2009. Tennessee was ranked among the top five states in the U.S. for best business climates by Site Selection magazine. Southern Business & Development magazine named Tennessee a co-state of the year and Governor Phil Bredesen, Commissioner Kisber and Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr were named to the publication’s Ten People Who Made a difference list.

Tennessee also won Area Development magazine’s prestigious Gold Shovel Award, which is presented annually to the state achieving the most success in terms of job creation and economic impact.

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.