NASHVILLE, TN (WMC) - Tennessee received a large endorsement of support for its work in job growth and economics when Southern Business & Development magazine named the Volunteer State as "State of the Year" this week. However, some leaders said there is still much work to be done.
After Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd announced 1,370 job commitments within four days, the state received the news it had been placed on the magazine's list...number one in fact...of top states for the year.
"2015 was the best year in economic development in the state's history," Boyd said. "At 25,837 job commitments, Team Tennessee set an all-time job commitment record and we carried that momentum into 2016. We are honored to receive this distinction from Southern Business and Development and thank the magazine for recognizing our achievements throughout Tennessee."
The magazines listed six specific deals that catapulted the state to the top.
The top deals were Community Health Systems, Nissan North American, Aegis Sciences Corporation, Google, Advanced Munitions International (AMI), and DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee Inc.
Nashville was also ranked by the magazine as "Co-Major Market of the Year," alongside Charlotte, NC, with honorable mentions going to Knoxville and Chattanooga.
The top six projects mentioned by the magazine for the State of Tennessee were:
- The Community Health Systems is expected to bring 1,500 jobs and a $66 million investment to Antioch within the next five years.
- According to Nissan, the expansion of their company at their Smyrna vehicle assembly plant is expected to provide 1,000 jobs and will be a new $160 million supplier park project.
- Aegis Sciences Corporation announced its $31 million investment that will provide 740 jobs to Nashville.
- Google invested $600 million into a new data center at Clarksville, bringing 70 jobs to the area.
- Advanced Munitions International invested $553 million to build its global headquarters in Alcoa, providing 605 jobs to the area.
- DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee Inc brought 500 jobs to Blount County by investing $400 million into expanding its manufacturing facilities and building a new warehouse in Maryville.
However, the problem, according to some leaders, is the top six projects touted as the primary reasons Tennessee received the award and became the State of the Year do not include any in West Tennessee.
State leaders familiar with West Tennessee said the focus should be not only on bringing jobs to the entire state, but in preparing residents in the state for those jobs when they come. It's about developing a workforce ready, capable, and prepared for industry when it arrives.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) said he is a proud West Tennessean who serves on the Tennessee Labor and Workforce Development Board.
"State of the Year is a state of mind in Tennessee," Norris said. "The General Assembly takes pride in our progress. We work hard as a team to provide pathways to prosperity in employment, education, and economic opportunity. Maintaining our momentum is always important. But, culturing innovative ways to expand upon it statewide with a skilled workforce is essential."
Leaders in West Tennessee said they not only spend their time working to bring industry to their part of the state, they also work to utilize the resources available to them to prepare their citizens for job growth. They agree with Norris that it must be a statewide approach.
"It's not just one spoke on a wheel. You can't just bring a bunch of industry and jobs without a workforce that is available and ready for the industry," Bolivar Mayor Barrett Stevens said.
Stevens said his administration battles the fights of being a rural town and trying to bring jobs to their area and workforce development is essential.
"We work well with our lawmakers, but one spoke on a bicycle wheel just will not function," Stevens said. "We need more help with workforce development. We are always working to make sure our people are exactly what these industries are looking for when they come to the area. We want them to come to the area and know they don't need to look any further for people to fill the positions they have for their company. That's what brings prosperity to an area. It's more than just bringing industry to two out of three areas of the state."