Governor Haslam Promotes Business Growth in Tennessee

“There has never been a better time to be a Tennessean,” noted Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam at a speech yesterday to Pinnacle Financial Partners 2017 Forum Series, where I was a guest.
Based on the statistics and data, I agree our state is in great shape and setting the bar for the nation. The governor is focused on key issues that affect the business climate, such as education, economic development and job growth.

Education

Tennessee students for the first time are in the top half of states in fourth-grade math, according to the results of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment. NAEP measures public school 4th, 8th, and 12th graders in math, science, reading, civics, U.S. history, geography and writing. The governor noted, since 2011, we are the fastest improving state on this exam in the country. TN.gov says, “Students showed more growth over time than those in any other state.” SCORE’s website reports scores rose to 25th in the nation after ranking 46th just four years ago.

Science is a particular area of strength. Governor Haslam mentioned Tennessee completely eliminated the score gap between boys and girls in science, which has been difficult to do historically. The state also narrowed the achievement gap among white, Hispanic and black students. U.S. News & World Report states, “Tennessee was the only state whose fourth- and eighth-grade science scores grew faster than the national average, according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress.”

Education: Drive to 55 Progress

This year, the Drive to 55 program will graduate its first class. This is Governor Haslam’s initiative aiming to equip 55% of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025. As part of this program, Tennessee Promise provides two years of tuition-free community or technical college to high school graduates in Tennessee. The governor explained the program is encouraging people who never considered pursuing a college degree or certificate to get educated in technical fields crucial to the state’s economic growth.

Economic Development

More and more companies are choosing to make Tennessee their home. Brookings Institution found that Tennessee is the top state for advanced industry job growth since 2013. In addition, the report found Tennessee’s advanced industry jobs grew 4.6% annually from 2013 to 2015. The TNECD reports, “The governor’s goal is to make Tennessee the number one location in the southeast for high-quality jobs,” and this recent report indicates we are on the right track. Haslam highlighted that investments in programs such as Drive to 55 and Tennessee Promise help inspire companies to want to do business in the state.

Governor Haslam pointed out Tennessee has the most productive automotive manufacturing plant in North America. The Nissan Smyrna plant produces almost 650,000 vehicles each year. He also joked that those with a sweet tooth may be excited to know we are lucky enough to be the home of the largest ice cream manufacturing plant and also have an M&M plant in Tennessee.

The growth in the state resulted in a decrease in unemployment and raised Tennesseans’ median income. The Department of Numbers reports real median household income in Tennessee was up 6.45% in 2015 and showed a +7.09% three-year change. The governor noted that this means we are not only bringing in more jobs, but they are high-quality jobs that increase wages.

Transportation and Infrastructure

In order to pay for needed roads, maintain our 20,000 bridges and provide other infrastructure improvements, the governor explained his gas tax proposal. The gas tax has not increased since 1989, and since automobiles are more efficient, the tax will have less impact than in the past. In addition, he proposes to lower sales tax on groceries by half a cent, which will save Tennesseans about $55 million a year. He is suggesting tax breaks that will save manufacturers $113 million per year, which will help make the state more competitive with neighboring states. Finally, the state is in the process of eliminating the Hall Income Tax on “interest from bonds and notes and dividends from stock.”

Summary

The governor attributed growth in Tennessee to the business community and stated that the government’s job is to provide those things that people cannot individually provide for themselves, such as roadways, schools and infrastructure. He thanked businesses owners for investing capital and taking risks that continue to fuel our strengthening economy.

Governor Haslam has run the state with a proven track record, has been deliberate about shoring up our foundation and strategic and calculated about growth. He and former Commissioner of Economic Development, Randy Boyd, are cautious to offer recruitment incentives that will provide a strong return on investment. They have focused on recruiting companies for quality, not quantity. Soon, we will prepare to elect a new state leader. The successor must be of the same mindset and continue to execute on Governor Haslam’s footing and progress. As a business leader, a constituent and a parent, I take great pride in being a Tennessean led by Governor Haslam.

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