Friday, March 20, 2015

Job creation in Tennessee set new records last year

Job creation in Tennessee set new records last year, according to Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd, who appeared before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee to present his department’s budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.  The presentation was made just hours before Boyd, Governor Bill Haslam, legislators and county officials joined Nissan North America to make a major job announcement that the company will invest $160 million to build a new supplier park at their Smyrna vehicle assembly plant. The project will support more than 1,000 newly created supplier jobs.

Over the past several years, the General Assembly has made great strides in preparing students for the 21st century marketplace and in creating a business-friendly climate which draws new and better paying jobs to Tennessee.  Nissan’s Smyrna plant has been noted as being the most productive automotive manufacturing plant in North America, as it produces almost 650,000 vehicles each year, including the Maxima, Rogue and Altima.

Boyd said Tennessee finished first in the Southeast in new manufacturing jobs created since 2011.  The state was also second in the Southeast for manufacturing jobs growth, which is something he said Tennessee has been targeting.  Other job creation accolades cited by Boyd include being first in the nation for jobs created from foreign direct investment, first for certified sites, first for overall infrastructure, and first in the education “Race to the Top” leaders.  Tennessee was also named 2014 and 2013 “State of the Year” for economic development by Business Facilities magazine.

“We have got a great base to build on,” said Boyd.  He said the state has 31 “shovel ready” sites in their “Select Tennessee Certified Sites” program.  The program sets a consistent and rigorous standard upon which companies can rely in making critical location decisions.   

Expansion of Tennessee companies is another key reason for the state’s economic development success, with 75 percent of jobs created by existing businesses.  Boyd said the department will continue its emphasis in partnering with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth.

An area where the department plans to put more emphasis is rural economic development.  “We are developing a more robust strategy for our rural communities.  That is a key area of focus,” Boyd added.

Finally, Boyd said the department will continue its efforts to align higher education with economic development.  “Too long we have had kids graduating from college with degrees that they can’t get jobs in,” he said.  “At the same time, we are talking to our businesses, and they can’t find the skills they need to fill the jobs they have.  The way that happens is that people just aren’t talking.  One of the things we are going to put a real emphasis on is making sure that economic development is in line with higher education, and we are going to work very, very closely with them.”

In 2013, the General Assembly passed model legislation that laid the foundation for the cooperative effort of government, higher education and businesses looking for skilled workers by providing on-the-job training.  The Labor Education Alignment Program  (LEAP) works with the state’s Complete College Tennessee Act and the “Drive to 55” initiative to raise the percentage of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees from 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025.  The goal is to bring new industry to the state and give students the skills they need to compete for jobs in an increasingly global economy. 

The above is reposted from Senator Jack Johnson's newsletter. Rod

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