What would you say if a government department cut its staff by 42 percent, established nine new regional offices to increase its efforts beyond the big cities, and gained commitments from companies to create 29,000 more jobs through expansion and relocation, while spending 50 percent less on corporate welfare than the previous administration?
The responses would probably include "Wow!", "Really?" and even "Hooray!".
These impressive feats were performed by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) since January 2011.
ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty, working with Governor Bill Haslam, is achieving these commendable results by combining a focus on jobs and economic development with conservative fiscal leadership.
The unemployment rate in Tennessee was a lousy 9.5 percent in January 2011, but improved considerably, to 7.9 percent, by May 2012. The national unemployment rate during that same period improved only 0.8 of a percent -- from 9.0 percent to 8.2 percent.
Tennessee's strong increase in employment during this period put the Volunteer State eighth in the nation in job growth. Only nine states are creating jobs faster than Tennessee, which boasts the net creation of more than 67,000 new jobs since Hagerty took the helm at ECD.
The state's economy naturally benefits from the lack of an income tax and lawmakers' firm commitment to preserving Tennessee's status as a right to work state, both of which serve as beacons to investment and entrepreneurship. No matter how business-friendly a state appears, however, wise and responsible leadership is needed to steer policy in the right direction when necessary and get government out of the way of business whenever possible. Eighteen months in, Hagerty has proven to be just the kind of leader ECD needs.
Tennessee has long promoted tourism with the slogan "Tennessee Sounds Good to Me!". As a result of a commitment to efficient government and fiscally conservative leadership, more and more businesses are beginning to say, "Tennessee sounds good to us!".
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