By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2016 Issue

Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd likes to call the state’s top development agency Team Tennessee. According to a recent summary Boyd posted on the TNECD website, Team Tennessee shows no signs of any slowdown in the impressive track record of growth we’ve seen in the Volunteer State for several years.

Randy_Boyd-Staying-on-Top-in-TennesseeBoyd noted that Tennessee was BF’s State of the Year in 2013 and 2014, the first time we’ve ever bestowed back-to-back top honors to a state. In 2014, Boyd says, Tennessee set an all-time job commitment record of 24,221 new jobs, and 2015 turned out to be the most successful year for economic development in the state’s history.

In 2015, TN’s business development team landed 161 company commitments, which represented 25,837 new job commitments. Those companies are investing $5.5 billion in capital, also a new record. Foreign direct investments totaled $2.25 billion in capital and created 7,815 new job commitments. Investments by Japanese-based companies alone totaled $1.02 billion, followed by Canadian-based companies with investments of $478.8 million and Chinese-based companies of $298 million. TNECD’s 2015 projects have a forecasted direct economic output of $4.71 billion over the next ten years and a total economic output of $9.86 billion.

“We were both effective and efficient with our state’s investments in recruiting these businesses,” Boyd says. “When we forecast net new revenues the projects will return back to the state treasury, our return on investment is projected to be 40.3 percent annually, providing a pay-back in 2.4 years.”

Boyd credits TN’s General Assembly for making Tennessee such an easy state to sell: TN has the lowest state debt per capita in the country and an exceptionally strong balance sheet, he notes, and an unmatched commitment to workforce training.

“Because of programs like the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect that our legislature passed in 2014, we can guarantee the skilled workers companies need now and decades into the future,” Boyd says.

To ensure that Tennessee’s burgeoning growth benefits all areas of the state, Gov. Bill Haslam created a Rural Task Force including representatives from the Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the TN Departments of Education, Tourist Development and Labor and Workforce Development. TNECD appointed its first Assistant Commissioner for Rural Development, Amy New.

Our goal is to have zero distressed counties by 2025, but we can’t wait until then to begin taking significant action, Boyd says.

At the Governor’s Conference hosted by Gov. Haslam in October, TN announced a $6-million grant program to develop new and existing industrial sites across the state. The TN Department of Tourist Development has created a $1-million grant program to develop tourism assets. The Volunteer State also has initiated a program to support entrepreneurs in rural parts of the state. TN also has expanded resources to support its Main Street, Downtowns and ThreeStar programs.

This past year saw the creation of the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee (CERT), which is undertaking studies on economic policy, returns on investment and competitive positioning.

TNECD has set a target for 2016 of 28,000 new job commitments; the state also is aiming to designate at least 10 new Select Tennessee Certified Sites and is opening five new international offices to expand foreign direct investment opportunities. To attract a major OEM to the Memphis Regional Megasite, TN is conducting more than 30 overseas sales presentations.

TENN-TOM: GROWTH KEEPS FLOWING ON THE WATERWAY

The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (or commonly referred to as the Tenn-Tom) is a 234-mile Waterway that connects seventeen states to the Gulf of Mexico and the world. It provides access to more than 16,000 miles of navigable, inland waterways in the United States. It is a slack water route and the shortest distance from mid-America to the Port of Mobile in the heart of the Gulf of Mexico. It is a shortcut. For example, the boating distance from Knoxville, Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico is reduced by more than 665 miles. The Tenn-Tom has available capacity and it is open for business.

The Tenn-Tom has certified industrial sites available and several local economic development organizations that will be happy to show them to you. These communities along the waterway are business friendly. Recent announcements have credited this attitude and willingness to work with the developers-along with the location on the Tenn-Tom-as the key factors that persuaded them to choose the site. It is home to some of the nation’s largest steel manufacturers including Steel Dynamics and U.S. Steel.

The steel industry is only one example of those taking advantage of the Tenn-Tom and its regional resources. Located in the “wood basket of the nation,” the Tenn-Tom provides access to over 34 million acres of commercial forests, and approximately two-thirds of all recoverable coal reserves are found in the region. These industries have and are realizing the benefits of waterborne transportation.

tenn-tom-300x250By using the waterway, manufacturers take advantage of the most energy-efficient, safest and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. They can ship more cargo with less energy and the corresponding fewer emissions. By using the waterways instead of the highways, it is much safer for you on the roads and to the environment from accidents and spills. By using less energy, these shippers on the waterways save money. These cost saving advantages are not only important to you as an investor but also your global customers and to everyone as consumers of these products.

The Tenn-Tom serves a full range of public ports and terminals throughout the region. Many of these terminals can provide a full range of intermodal services and warehousing. The Tenn-Tom has a standing Memorandum of Understanding with Panama and is uniquely positioned to serve an increasing trade market with the world’s foreign markets. Once the expanded Panama Canal is completed in 2016, more trade is expected in the Gulf and the Eastern Seaboard. This Port of Mobile has a world class 850,000 TEU container ports already in operation and, this along with the Tenn-Tom’s designation as a Marine Corridor (M-65) by the United States Department of Transportation, makes the waterway “shovel ready” for Containers-on-Barge. Once established, containers on barge can go up the connecting Tennessee River to Paducah, Kentucky and markets beyond.

The Tenn-Tom is also home to prime waterfront industrial sites in the region. These sites are ideal locations for manufacturers that need, or at least have the option to use, multiple modes of transportation for their raw materials and finished products.

In addition, with unlimited recreational opportunities, the waterway has become a way of life. Boating, sport fishing, hunting and camping are some of the ways that people use the Tenn-Tom. The “Loopers” use it for their sojourns thru mid-America across to the Eastern Seaboard, around Florida and back to the Gulf. Bass and crappie tournaments have drawn worldwide attention. With the mandated Wildlife Mitigation established in Alabama and Mississippi, hunting along the Tenn-Tom is prime territory. With 9 campgrounds/parks, with most equipped with all the necessary hook-ups, allows one to enjoy the outdoors while still having the conveniences that we have grown accustomed to.

With all this available as a draw to the region, it is not surprising that an eager and ample work force is available in an enviable business climate.

Billions of dollars have been invested in the Tenn-Tom corridor and much more is on the way. For more information, please contact the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority at 888-Tenn-Tom or visit www.tenntom.org.

CLARKSVILLE-MONTGOMERY: INFRASTRUCTURE AND ACCESSIBILITY

Strategic location and valuable assets are the foundation of Clarksville-Montgomery County, Tennessee’s appeal as a premier destination for industrial relocation and expansion. Already an established economic powerhouse within the Middle Tennessee region of the United States, concentrated efforts to deliver world class infrastructure and business support have made a name for the area as an international hub of development activity—right in the heart of Auto Alley. Clarksville-Montgomery County’s total package, from a skilled and available workforce to affordable metropolitan living, places this historic locale at the top of site selectors’ lists time and again.

When a company or client is ready to move forward in relocation, Clarksville-Montgomery County has options including acreage and existing buildings. Today, there are more than 1,166 acres available in the Corporate Business Park North adjacent to the recently announced Google data center facility. Existing buildings range from 2,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet and are available in both commercial and industrial settings. Situated just two miles off I-24 and otherwise serviceable by water, rail and air the Corporate Business Park is an attractive transportation solution.

The Clarksville-Montgomery County Corporate Business Park is zoned M-2 Industrial and is under full ownership of the Industrial Development Board. The master plan for the park is to transition from heavy to light manufacturing as well as incorporate more office and distribution space on the South end. Enhanced first responder capacity, located across from the Hankook Tire Plant, includes a brand new $3 million EMS and Fire Station.

All businesses throughout the park benefit from significant savings in both time and expense from site selection to start up with industrial grade gas, water, power and sewer infrastructure already in place. Utilities are attractively priced and highly reliable with Due Diligence and Environmental Phase I reports complete.

‘Service after the sale’ is one of the greatest strengths among the economic development team and prospects are encouraged to explore the many reasons so many national and international companies have chosen to settle in Clarksville-Montgomery County. While the economic development team in Clarksville-Montgomery County works aggressively to recruit new industry, existing businesses are the backbone of the community.

Testament to the favorable environment and support provided, more than 40 manufacturing facilities call Clarksville-Montgomery County home, from one of the oldest is American Snuff LLC, established in 1907, and the newest members of our community—Google and Hankook Tire.

Google recently announced plans to repurpose an 883-acre site in the Corporate Business Park North to serve as home for the tech giant’s 15th data center. Likewise, in 2013, Hankook selected a prime location in the Clarksville-Montgomery County Business Park South as home for its first North American manufacturing site.

The city and county work closely with the State of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Tennessee Valley Authority and other regional partners to effectively market the industrial vitality of the region and local incentives are available based on capital investment and job creation, while a skilled and available workforce simplify staffing and recruitment.

Home to Ft. Campbell, one of the nation’s largest military installations, Clarksville-Montgomery County proudly welcomes retiring Soldiers to bring their technical skillsets into the local workforce. The local skilled and available workforce is also supported by ready access to higher education and multiple career training facilities in a Right to Work environment. Residents enjoy a high quality of life with metropolitan amenities, abundant schools and no personal state income tax. With a convenient location and an excellent business climate and it’s clear why many new and current industries choose to build or grow in the Clarksville-Montgomery County, Tenn.

Contact Mike Evans, Executive Director of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board, to learn more about available property, relocation options and incentives at [email protected]

WILSON COUNTY: ALL THE INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESS

As is the case in all successful recipes, both ingredients and processes must be kept in both correct order and in balance. Communities which use these guidelines for the development and implementation of their economic programs have a greater opportunity for success. Such was the case when a local entrepreneur and small group of investors in Wilson County, TN combined these concepts to form Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. And while many might think their success comes from their recipes for “biscuits” and “homemade meals” it included so much more than that. Today the 600 plus national restaurants/stores and their 700 plus corporate employees in Lebanon, Tennessee continue to combine the right ingredients, processes and community for success.

Tennessee
Cracker Barrel Distribution Center in Lebanon, TN. (Source: crackerbarrel.com)

Communities that are continually successful in the economic arena are so because they are not totally dependent upon one key additive or process. While Wilson County and its cities of Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown are located just east of downtown Nashville and the Nashville International, the community’s location is not its only element for success. The Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County (JECDB), who serves as the lead economic agency, strives to balance the community’s economic supplements which include its strong leadership teams, competitive economic development programs and supportive elected officials and governments.

Because of the community’s commitment and partnerships with entrepreneurs, developers and project managers, the community was able to expand its list of manufacturers during 2015. One of the new industries joining the “Wilson County Kitchen” included Maplehurst Bakeries, a division of Weston Foods with their $102M, 173,000 square foot bakery facility in Lebanon, Tennessee. Wilson County was also able to welcome Tennessee’s largest Chinese investment of $150M by world leader Wonder Porcelain. The initial 500,000 square foot ceramics center will include both training and housing centers. Detroit Stamping Company (DESTACO), one of the oldest work holding equipment industries, combined multiple facilities into its Mt. Juliet, Tennessee facility. Both fulfillment and ecommerce leaders DENSO Logistics and Optoro also made substantial announcements in 2015.

A balanced community is comprised of more than new growth. They should also be judged upon the success of its local businesses and industries. In 2015 the community saw the expansions by Tennessee Cheesecake, a family owned commercial bakery, into its 40,000 square facility. Other investments included KHS America, a leading band instrument manufacture and distributor $3.7M commitment, Famous Footwear/Caleres $38M expansion and Communications Test Design leasing of an additional 403,750 square feet for its expanding service operations.

Successful communities cannot however attempt to coordinate the balance of development activities; they must also contribute. Both cities and county government saw tremendous contributions in 2015. These included the construction of major roadways such as Mt Juliet’s “Eastern Connector”, the city of Lebanon’s commitment to the new regional airport “GateWay Terminal” and development of both general/corporate hangars. Wilson County government also moved forward with its commitment to improve its quality of life and economic stimulus with the announcement and construction of its new $12M, 78,000 square foot Expo Center.

The phrase “the proof is in the pudding” can also be used to detail a community’s true “economic numbers”. In 2015 the community saw the initial construction of over 2600 single and/or multi development units. Combined with previous year’s growth have allowed the locations of medical, retail and commercial developments which have included Starbucks, Bargain Hunt and others.

While these announcements were being driven in part by a central location and easy access to the middle Tennessee amenities, they were also steered by Wilson County being the 2nd fastest growing county in Tennessee and its high median income levels. The community’s commitment to educational facilities continued to provide impressive results with ACT scores and a system wide graduation rate of 95.7 percent, which are among the highest in the state of Tennessee. In 2015 the Wilson County School System also received more “Reward Schools” distinctions than any K-12 district by the Tennessee Department of Education.

Wilson County and its cities of Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown have exhibited and will continue to provide the right ingredients for success. A great location, existing infrastructure, strong leadership, skilled workforce and a good business plan. Weather a new enterprise or an existing partner, it offers the opportunity to succeed.

For additional details of the events of 2015 or further information on Wilson County and its cities of Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown please visit the JECDB website at www.doingbiz.org.

SKILLED WORKFORCE READY FOR NEW BUSINESS IN BLOUNT COUNTY

There are many things that make a community prosperous like openness, diversity, good governance, partnerships, programming and a solid education system. But one key characteristic that keeps Blount County atop the list of relocation sites for businesses and industry is the availability of a quality workforce.

Building a workforce that is capable of servicing the many industries we have in the county and those prospective companies is quite a challenge. In fact, organizations not only compete regionally for scarce technical skills, but the reach is now global. So, in order for Blount County to continue to grow, we need to make sure that our future workforce has the necessary skills to make this community a leader for the next 50 years.

In order to facilitate this initiative, the Blount Partnership is working with Pellissippi State and all three school systems in the county to better educate students, parents, instructors and school administrators on the many good paying vocational jobs. At press time, we’ve collaborated with Alcoa Inc., Boatmate Trailers and Cherokee Millwright with video interviews of employees who have taken an advanced manufacturing career path.

Yes, we said vocational. For many years, vocational has received a bad rap and has a bad connotation among rising young workers. But in fact, the vocational work of today is quite different than the work our parents and grandparents endured in the manufacturing industry. Today, computers and robots are handling a huge majority of the laborious, monotonous work. As a result, those working in these industries must have computer skills and the knowledge of how electrical systems work.

“We sit down with computers and troubleshoot the issue first. We don’t start swinging tools and put all kinds of parts on the problem,” said Travis Tipton, a 1998 William Blount High School graduate and an electrician at Alcoa Inc. “There’s a lot more thinking and mental approach involved than just physical work all the time.”

Businesses are constantly looking to recruit and acquire more talent to compete in a global economy that is shaped by social media and defined by a company’s brand. Many are faced with a scarcity of key skills and rapidly evolving demands on talent. This is where the Blount Partnership is stepping in to work with businesses to define what the labor force of the future looks like as well as working on a plan to make those positions attractive to middle and high school students. We continue to push the story of what manufacturing is really like in today’s world.

“Originally, I wanted to be an auto mechanic, but those close to me influenced me to look into the metal field because there are more opportunities,” said Khalil Whitehead, a quality control inspector in the steel manufacturing shop at Cherokee Millwright.

We should understand that not everyone is going to be college ready by the end of the 12th grade. As a result, we should demonstrate that there are other pathways that offer greater chances of success and a real payoff at the end besides attending a four-year college. We need to make sure that the young people in this community understand there are real options out there—options that include a high-quality career and technical education.

Whitehead, who graduated from Heritage High School in 2013, also had a message for students who are unsure of what their future may hold.

“I strongly encourage everyone to continue to work hard in school, pay attention and make sure you are on time, because all that applies when you leave high school. It’s important when you have a job and you work hard and you show them you can be a successful person. That’s when the opportunities start to come to you. They will show you which way your career can go and the path to get you there.”

In short, we are always looking for creative ways to reach out to young people who have not decided on a career path or know that a four-year college is not in their future. We aren’t discouraging anyone from attending college, but want to show how many great and life-fulfilling jobs with great insurance and retirement benefits are available by developing a skilled trade.

For more information on economic development in Blount County, contact Bryan Daniels, president/CEO of the Blount Partnership, at (865) 983-2241.

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