economic development

New ECD initiative: Build a call center, hoping jobs will come to TN’s most economically-distressed county

News release from Department of Economic and Community Development

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced today the launch of an open search for a company to establish operations in Hancock County as part of Project 95, a new initiative designed to bring resources from multiple state agencies to bear on Tennessee’s most economically distressed county.

Beginning with Hancock County, Project 95 is part of TNECD’s long-term strategy to eliminate all federally designated distressed counties across Tennessee by 2025.

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Haslam headed to Europe for a week

News release from Department of Economic and Community Development

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe will travel to Europe from June 26 to June 30 for an economic development trip designed to strengthen ties with European businesses and increase foreign direct investment (FDI) in Tennessee.

During the weeklong trip, Haslam and Rolfe will pitch Tennessee’s advantages to a number of European businesses interested in establishing operations in the Southeast U.S. The trip will include stops in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Germany.

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Commission Trump wants to abolish announces $15.7M in grants to help coal miners losing jobs

The Appalachian Regional Commission, which would be abolished under President Trump’s proposed federal budget for the coming year, announced almost $16 million in grants intended to help communities losing jobs in the coal industry in seven states, including Tennessee.
The only Tennessee grant is $500,000 for Knoxville-based LaunchTN for its Entrepreneurial Education and Workforce Development project. The Tennessee startup support initiative will target the coal-impacted counties of Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Cumberland, Fentress, Grundy, Marion, Morgan, Scott and Sequatchie. A list of the projects is HERE. The ARC press release is below.
 

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Developer suspends $100M Cumberland County wind turbine project (‘Welcome news,’ says Alexander)

Apex Clean Energy Inc. has suspended plans for developing a controversial wind turbine project in eastern Cumberland County, reports the Crossville Chronicle. The move comes three months after the legislature declared a moratorium until July, 2018 on such projects while a study committee meets to consider drafting state regulations for electricity-generating wind turbines. has been suspended by the developer.

“Based on current market conditions and the project’s fundamental qualities, we have decided not to make this significant investment at this time,” Harry Snyder, development manager, wrote. “Our work on the Crab Orchard Wind project will be therefore suspended until market conditions change to make the project more competitive.”

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New law bans condemning land through eminent domain for industrial parks

Legislation originated by a Jefferson County commissioner last year and signed by the governor last week will eliminate the use of eminent domain proceedings to take land for industrial parks.

The bill (SB1184) is the subject of a report in the Standard Banner of Jefferson City and a column in the News Sentinel by Frank Cagle. Excerpt from the latter:

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Hagerty breezes through first Senate step in becoming ambassador to Japan

Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty, former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development,  diplomatically deflected a few potentially dangerous questions as he breezed through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, reports The Tennessean, bringing him one step closer to becoming the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Most of the questions Hagerty, 57, faced were about how to open up Japan for more U.S. exports and how to deal with a nuclear North Korea and a China looking to expand its influence.

For Sen. John Barasso, R-Wy., it was how to get more Wyoming beef into Japan while Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., asked about removing barriers to the sale of the state’s chicken in Japan and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, lamented that few American cars are sold in Japan.

“It’s a very complicated issue,” Hagerty told Portman in what was a typical response during the hearing.

The hearing lasted only about an hour but the hearing room was packed, mostly with Japanese media and members of the diplomatic corps, including Kenichiro Sasae, Japanese ambassador to the U.S.

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Legislature approves subsidies for rural broadband service

The House has joined the Senate in approving Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act,” sending it to the governor for his signature.

From WBIR’s report:

The bill (SB1215) provides $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to help make broadband available to unserved homes and businesses. It also allows Tennessee’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service.

The third part of the bill makes grant funding available to local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills.

About 34 percent of rural Tennesseans don’t currently have broadband access at recognized minimum standards, according to the state.

Here’s the Haslam administration press release praising passage:

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‘Nashville,’ taxpayer-supported TV show, gets another season

CMT announced on Monday there will be a sixth season of the TV show Nashville, which has now received about $57 million in subsidies from state government and Nashville, reports WSMV.

Last year, the show was canceled by ABC and picked up by CMT. It’s now CMT’s top-rated show, and taxpayer money has helped keep it alive.

“I can tell you unequivocally the show Nashville is not a good investment for taxpayers,” said Mark Cunningham with the Beacon Center of Tennessee.

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TN business incentive tally: $2.5B per year (double national average)

 

A study by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research indicates Tennessee state and local governments provide more than $2.5 billion in business incentives annually. That’s nearly 1 percent of the state’s private-sector gross domestic product and makes Tennessee fourth highest in the nation, the study’s author, Timothy Bartik, tells The Tennessean.

In exchange for taxpayer support, businesses are expected to generate jobs and spur economic growth. State and local leaders point to success stories — new companies attracted by economic development packages. But there’s an inherent trade-off for the taxpayer. Grants and tax revenue could instead be directed to improve schools, fix crumbling highways and other key government functions.

The analysis, “A New Panel Database on Business Incentives…in the United States” leads to some key questions: how much is enough? And are the incentives designed to attract well-paying jobs, or dead-end work with little or no benefits? (Note: You can download a copy HERE.)

Bartik, a senior economist at the Michigan-based think tank, found that states with high levels of incentives don’t have significantly better economic performance than their neighbors.

“If incentives have an effect, it’s at best relatively modest,” he said.

Compared with neighboring states, Tennessee leads the way. Incentive levels are 91 percent lower in Virginia, for instance, and 82 percent lower in Georgia. As of 2015, Tennessee’s incentives are 105 percent higher than the national average.

The state stands out for its property tax abatements, the analysis found. In these deals, local governments typically agree to forgo property taxes if a company commits to creating a certain number of jobs and investing a certain about in capital. Because companies make annual payments in lieu of taxes, the arrangements are called “PILOTs.”

Haslam appoints Bob Rolfe as ECD commissioner

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Nashville business executive Bob Rolfe as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD). An innovative business leader, Rolfe, 56, has more than three decades of experience in business and investment banking in Tennessee.

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