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Posted on: Monday - Jul 11, 2016

It’s hard to believe, but we’re officially halfway through 2016. We’ve had an outstanding year so far and are making great strides in everything from job creation to rural development.

Now more than ever, it’s a great time to be a Tennessean. Over the last year, the state has ranked No. 1 in the Southeast and No. 2 in the nation for job growth. Our unemployment rate has declined from 5.8 percent in May 2015 to 4.1 percent in May 2016, representing the largest decline in the nation. Right now, more Tennesseans have a job than at any point in state history.

While there is still more work to do, we certainly have a lot to be proud of. I want to take a moment to share some of the highlights and accomplishments from the past three months.

RURAL ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY ACT BILL SIGNING
BERETTA USA RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY
ACADEMY SPORTS + OUTDOORS RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY

JOB CREATION
We started the year by setting quite an ambitious goal of creating 28,000 new jobs. So far this year, we have secured 9,648 job commitments from 92 companies, representing an investment of $1.92 billion. 

Several companies announced plans to locate headquarter operations to Tennessee this quarter. Hankook Tire will locate its North American headquarters in Nashville and create up to 200 new jobs. Along with its manufacturing plant in Clarksville, which is slated for completion by the end of the year, this will be Hankook’s second Tennessee facility. CKE, parent to the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains, revealed it will relocate its corporate headquarters from Carpinteria, California, to Franklin, Tennessee, creating over 100 new jobs. In West Tennessee, ServiceMaster announced it will relocate its corporate headquarters to downtown Memphis, becoming a big part of the city’s ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.

General Motors announced in April that it will invest $788.7 million and create 781 new jobs for a new high-efficiency engine program and to modernize the vehicle programs at its Spring Hill manufacturing plant.

As a result of anticipated growth over the next few years, TeamHealth, a healthcare solutions company, will expand its current Knoxville headquarters creating 250 new jobs. Across the state, General Cable announced expansion plans at its Jackson manufacturing facility that will result in the creation of 51 new jobs. 

We also celebrated some great milestones this quarter. In April, Beretta USA held an official ribbon cutting ceremony for its new state-of-the-art manufacturing and R&D facility in Gallatin. Once fully operational, the facility is expected to produce 500,000 firearms annually. Less than two weeks later, ribbon was cut once again, but this time in Cookeville for Academy Sports + Outdoors. The 1.6 million square foot facility is the company’s third distribution center, which is planned to bring approximately 700 new jobs to Putnam County. 

RURAL ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY ACT
In my last quarterly update, the Rural Economic Opportunity Act had been approved unanimously by the House and was on its way to the Senate floor. I’m happy to report that since then, the bill was also unanimously approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Haslam. I cannot stress enough how critical this legislation is for our rural communities and how it will help level the playing field for all of Tennessee’s 95 counties. The Rural Economic Opportunity Act is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to furthering our efforts to boost economic development throughout Tennessee. 

Because of the leadership of our General Assembly and its support of the Rural Economic Opportunity Act, the governor and I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to a number of communities to deliver site development grant checks. Part of the larger Rural Economic Development Fund, the site development grant program will fund $5.7 million in grants amongst 15 communities to prepare economic development sites for market. Tennessee’s rural communities are already competing for jobs and investment and are doing well. But we want to help them up their game and increase their close rate by making our rural county site inventory among the most attractive and project-ready.

HASLAM AND BRIDGESTONE CEO MASAAKI TSUYA
TN INVESTMENT RECEPTION IN SEOUL, KOREA
HASLAM AND SHANGHAI MAYOR YANG XIONG

TENNESSEE DOWNTOWNS
Last month, 12 new communities joined the Tennessee Downtowns program: Ashland City, Crossville, Dickson, Gainesboro, Hohenwald, Humboldt, Lenoir City, Livingston, Lynchburg, Manchester, Wartburg and Woodbury. While we are normally only able to choose six communities each round, we were able to providing funding to 12 communities because of the Rural Economic Opportunity Act. Congratulations to these communities for making efforts to revitalize their downtown commercial districts and create sustainable economies in throughout Tennessee. 

GOVERNOR’S TRIP TO ASIA
Our department is always looking for opportunities to increase foreign direct investment in our state. Last year alone, foreign investments totaled $2.25 billion in capital and created more than 7,800 new jobs.

In May, I traveled with Gov. Haslam to Asia where we covered three countries and eight cities in the span of 10 days. With stops in Korea, Japan and China – Gov. Haslam’s first official visit to China as governor – we tried to make the very most of our time by fitting in as many meetings as possible on each leg of the trip. At times it was exhausting, but sharing the Tennessee story with over 200 companies was extremely rewarding. One of the best parts of the story that I always got to tell was that our state is led by a governor who is a businessman and understands business. Gov. Haslam talks often about how our state is really a 33,000-person customer service organization, serving both the people and the businesses of Tennessee: a message that always resonated with our audiences. We are fortunate to have him leading our state, and my team was fortunate to have him out shaking hands and sharing the Tennessee story throughout Asia.

TRIPLE TRIPLE-A BOND RATING
In May, for the first time since 2000 and for only the second time in state history, Tennessee received a triple triple-A rating from the credit ratings agencies. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services conducted a mid-year review and upgraded Tennessee’s rating from AA+ to AAA. The other two rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Services and Fitch Ratings, have provided Tennessee with their highest ratings of Aaa and AAA since 2010. 

Tennessee now holds the highest bond ratings issued by all three major credit rating agencies. The state’s triple triple-A status reflects the extremely strong confidence the rating agencies have in the state’s capacity to meet its financial commitments.

GOLD SHOVEL AWARD
For the second consecutive year, Tennessee has received a Gold Shovel Award from Area Development in recognition of projects undertaken in 2015 creating a significant number of high-value-added new jobs as well as investment. The annual awards recognize state economic development agencies that drive significant job creation through innovative policies, infrastructure improvements, processes and promotions that attract new employers as well as investments in expanded facilities. In addition to the Gold Shovel Award received this year, Tennessee also earned Gold Shovels in 2012 and 2009, and Silver Shovels in 2011 and 2010.

SEUS-CP CONFERENCE
In May, Tennessee hosted the 9th Annual Southeast US-Canadian Provinces (SEUS) Conference in Nashville, which was attended by cabinet heads of 12 Southeastern Atlantic Canadian Provinces. The conference focused on business-to-business meetings as well as meetings for commissioners and ministers of economics and commerce from both nations. With more than 70 Canadian companies located in Tennessee, we are grateful to have such a strong partnership with Canada. The conference was a great success, and I look forward to growing our relationship with Canada in the years ahead. 

Thanks to everyone for helping to make all of these great things possible. From our General Assembly, to our companies, communities, stakeholders and partners across the state, thank you for being part of Team Tennessee and moving our state forward toward an even brighter future.

BROWNSVILLE SITE DEVELOPMENT GRANT PRESENTATION
ROANE CO. SITE DEVELOPMENT GRANT PRESENTATION
HANKOOK TIRE ANNOUNCEMENT