By the BF Staff
From the November/December 2022 Issue
Business Facilities: Please tell us about the status of economic development in Tennessee. How’s it going?
McWhorter: The state of economic development in Tennessee is strong. Tennessee is facing historic levels of growth in its economy as well as its population. Through Governor Bill Lee’s leadership and his thoughtful and business-focused response to the pandemic, our state was one of the last states to shut down and one of the first to reopen. Because of that, Tennessee companies were able to bounce back relatively quickly and were eager to resume projects in 2021. Earlier this year, Tennessee was fortunate to be named the #1 Recovery Leader by Business Facilities, which demonstrated the strength of our economy in 2021, and we carried that momentum into this year.
In 2022, Tennessee has landed 97 projects representing more than 14,000 job commitments and more than $5 billion in capital investment. Our project pipeline and our pipeline of qualified workers remain robust, and our state is well-positioned to attract and land additional projects in the future.
BF: Why should companies consider Tennessee for relocation or expansion? What does the state offer? What are target industries?
McWhorter: Tennessee is led by a governor who is a former businessman, which is an enormous advantage when we talk to companies that are interested in doing business in our state. He understands what it’s like to run a business, specifically what it’s like to run a business in Tennessee, and can speak to the state’s business climate, central location, and skilled workforce.
In addition, Tennessee has the lowest debt of any state, and our economy grew 8.6% last year, leading all states. When companies are thinking about their next project, they are thinking long-term, and Tennessee has a business-friendly climate that supports future growth and success.
BF: What is a recent project relocation or expansion you’d like to tell us about?
McWhorter: At Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (TNECD), one of the best parts of our job is getting to announce new investment and job creation across the state. A recent project that stands out is Sinova Global.
Sinova, a Canadian silicon metal producer, announced in December 2021 that it had selected Tiptonville, TN, for its first manufacturing operations. The project represents an investment of $150 million and the creation of 140 new jobs in Lake County, Tennessee’s most distressed county. Sinova broke ground on its state-of-the-art facility in October.
What Sinova is doing is likely the most innovative technology in mining for silicon in the world, and they’re going to be doing it in Lake County. I was talking with the CEO, Jayson Tymko, and had to ask, “Why Lake County? What drew you to Tennessee’s most distressed community?” And he said that’s exactly why they picked it. They knew they could make a difference in the community by hiring locally and giving back. These 140 jobs are high-paying and will be dealing with cutting-edge technology. Sinova will make an impact on Tiptonville, and the entire Northwest Tennessee region, for years to come, and we are fortunate they chose Tennessee for this project.
BF: What is a program or incentive making a difference for business in Tennessee?
McWhorter: The strength of Tennessee’s business climate is due in large part to the strength of our workforce. We know that when companies do business here, they need a skilled, exceptional workforce to make their products. Tennessee has made groundbreaking investments in education to ensure that the workforce of tomorrow is equipped with the skills companies are looking for.
Through the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs, we are building a pipeline of qualified candidates. Tennessee was the first state in the country to create a tuition-free program aimed to boost the pipeline of educated candidates for the jobs of tomorrow.
In addition, the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) initiative is a two-pronged approach to expand access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee high school students. The GIVE initiative invests in competitively awarded community grants that fund regional partnerships between high schools, industry, and Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) to build work-based learning/apprenticeship programs and market-driven dual-credit opportunities.
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BF: What does the future hold for Tennessee’s business climate? And for quality of life?
McWhorter: Tennessee’s business climate and quality of life are two of our biggest selling points. They go hand in hand because you want to enjoy where you work as much as where you live. You want your kids to go to good schools, you want to have access to music, sports, entertainment, outdoor recreation, the pace of a big city and the charm of a small town, and Tennessee has it all. It’s no secret that companies in other states are seeing the advantages of doing business in Tennessee, and they’re choosing to relocate or grow here because of that.