(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), February 20, 2014 – It was a short, but busy week on Capitol Hill as lawmakers returned from observing the President’s Day holiday to act on a wide variety of issues. Meanwhile, Senate Committees concentrated on reviewing the budget requests of several departments and agencies of state government this week. Among departments presenting their budget to committees was the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development where Commissioner Bill Hagerty told members of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee that 155,000 net new private sector jobs have been created in the state since January 2011. The department worked on 187 projects which yielded commitments for over 23,000 new jobs, breaking a 2012 record for growth. As a result, Tennessee now ranks 6th in the nation in terms of job growth and Hagerty believes those numbers will continue to grow.
“There are commitments that we generate that are on a delayed basis because ground has to be often purchased, cleared, buildings have to be built, factories erected, people have to be hired and trained,” said Hagerty. “So there’s a lag effect to the numbers that I’m sharing with you on this 23,000. Since Governor Haslam took office, our department has received commitments for over 60,000 new jobs. That is what our pipeline looks like and we are in the process now of putting those jobs into play.”
Hagerty said the department has been very focused on the quality of jobs in the state. He said the measure for determining the number of quality jobs coming into the state is through personal income growth. Tennessee is 2nd in the Southeast and 14th in the nation in personal income growth, with an increase of 10% since 2011.
Job growth in rural Tennessee communities is also a key priority for the department. Last year, the “Select Tennessee” program was launched to help counties across the state inventory their industrial properties and bring them up to international site standards certification. Since that time, 26 sites have been certified. This certification helps new or expanding companies have the certainty that these sites meet special standards and are ready to be operational in the shortest possible timeframe.
Another rural economic development tool is the state’s new certification for “Adventure Tourism” under the state’s Adventure Tourism and Rural Development Act. Adventure Tourism is an industry gaining popularity throughout the world. These outdoor recreational opportunities include equine and motorized trail riding, white water rafting and kayaking, rappelling, road biking, rock climbing, hang-gliding, spelunking, shooting sports, mountain biking, canoeing, paragliding, zip lining and other such tourist and recreational activities. Last week the department announced that applications are available for communities seeking to become certified as adventure tourism districts pursuant to that act. This allows certain tourism-related businesses within adventure tourism districts to qualify for a jobs tax credit.
Tennessee earned a number of accolades in 2013, including being named No. 1 in the nation by Business Facilities for automotive manufacturing strength for an unprecedented four years in a row Business Facilities. Tennessee was also ranked in the top five states with the best business climate by Site Selection. CEO respondents voted Tennessee the fourth best state in the U.S. for business in Chief Executive Magazine’s Annual Best & Worst States for Business Survey.