TVA sees years-long jobs recovery

TVA sees years-long jobs recovery

March 8th, 2011 in Business Around the Region

Tom Kilgore, CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

After four years of declining job additions from new investments in the Tennessee Valley, TVA reported a gain in new jobs and investments in 2010 and continued signs of improved prospect activity.

"We're glad that it looks like the economy is beginning to turn around," TVA President Tom Kilgore said.

But the recovery may take years before all of the jobs lost in the previous three years come back in the seven-state Tennessee Valley, according to TVA's top business recruiter.

"We do have a bit of uptick, but it isn't huge," said John Bradley, TVA's senior vice president for economic development. "I do think we are beginning to see a few more projects break loose as more companies begin to move through their business plan as the economy improves. But we all wish it was even stronger."

TVA worked on $4.3 billion of projects that kept or maintained 40,899 jobs in fiscal 2010. Investment was up from $4.2 billion the previous year and the job count was up nearly 60 percent from 2009.

Much of the reported gain in jobs in 2010, however, reflects the way TVA counted its employment additions last year compared with previous years.

Last year, Bradley said TVA began counting jobs saved or added at existing businesses in the Valley through TVA's enhanced existing industry programs. TVA estimates its work with businesses already in the Valley helped to either add or preserve 12,520 jobs at existing companies in 2010.

Previously, TVA focused upon and counted primarily just jobs from new industry recruited to the Valley.

In 2007 through 2009, TVA led the nation in landing four billion-dollar-plus business investments, including the $1 billion Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga; the $1.45 billion Wacker Chemical plant near Charleston, Tenn.; the $1.2 billion Hemlock Semiconductor plant near Clarksville, Tenn.; and the $1 billion Toyota plant near Tupelo, Miss.

"We've seen fewer, but bigger deals," Bradley said.

In December 2010, Tennessee landed two of the biggest new job generators in the country: Amazon Corp. plans to add 1,476 full-time and up to another 2,500 part-time employees at distribution facilities it is building in Hamilton and Bradley counties.

Electrolux, the Swedish appliances giant, plans to relocate some of its kitchen-appliance manufacturing operations from Canada to Memphis to create more than 1,200 jobs.

Despite such gains, however, unemployment across the TVA region ended 2010 with rates above 9 percent in all seven states.

Unemployment was above 10 percent in three TVA states - Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfrepress.com or at 757-6340.