Tennessee's job recruitment grows despite economy

Tennessee's job recruitment grows despite economy

October 6th, 2011 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

BUSINESS EXPANSIONS

In the past two months, Tennessee has recruited more than $525 million of new business investments, which collectively are projected to add more than 2,500 jobs across the state:

* Kruger, a $316 million expansion of its Memphis mill to add 100 jobs

* TeamHealth, $18 million facility with 160 jobs initially and plans to grow to 550 jobs

* C&F Group, a $12.5 million auto exterior trim plant to create 450 jobs in Kingsport, Tenn.

* NYX Inc., a $23 million automotive parts facility in Perry County, to add 400 jobs.

* MedSolutions, $16 million expansion of headquarters, adding 263 jobs.

* TRG Customer Solutions, call center in Spring Hill, Tenn., expected to create 300 jobs

* Quaprotek USA, a $22 million parts plant to create 126 jobs

* ABC Group Fuel Systems, $5 million facility in Gallatin, Tenn., to add 114 jobs

* MetriCan, $6.3 million expansion in Dickson, Tenn., 60 jobs

* Marathon Heater Inc., $1 million expansion in Brownsville, Tenn., adding 60 jobs

* Bridgestone Metalpha U.S.A., $75 million expansion in Clarksville, Tenn., 45 more jobs

* Triad Packaging, $1 million expansion in Bristol, Tenn., adding 35 jobs

* Meritor Inc., a $26.6 million expansion of precision forging plant in Morristown, Tenn., to add 29 jobs

* Sekisu Plastics, $3 million plant in Mount Pleasant, Tenn., to add 25 jobs

Source: Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

Tennessee's chief economic recruiter says the state's pipeline is full of business prospects despite the sluggish recovery.

But Bill Hagerty, the state's commissioner of Economic and Community Development, told the Hamilton County Rotary Club on Wednesday that staying ahead of business and staff cutbacks "is very challenging," and Tennessee still trails the U.S. average in unemployment.

Tennessee's jobless rate in August dipped slightly to 9.7 percent, but remained above the national average of 9.1 percent. Nonetheless, Hagerty's office has announced more than a dozen business expansions or locations in the past two months that are expected to collectively add more than 2,500 jobs.

"I'm very optimistic about the way things look in spite of a very dour economic outlook on the national level," Hagerty said. "Especially here in Hamilton and Bradley counties with Volkswagen, Amazon and Wacker Chemical additions, there really are a lot of wonderful things happening in this part of the state."

Hagerty said he still expects the state's biggest job generator this year - the new Amazon distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties - will go forth despite an attorney general's opinion that the company might be subject to sales taxes. Hagerty said former Gov. Phil Bredesen pledged not to require Amazon to collect sales taxes for goods it ships in Tennessee from the company's 1 million-square-foot warehouses being finished in Chattanooga and near Charleston, Tenn.

Amazon has offered jobs to 1,500 local workers and the first of those hires could be seen Wednesday receiving orientation in Amazon's Chattanooga distribution facility near the Volkswagen plant.

Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osalo declined Wednesday to discuss the pace of staff additions in Chattanooga or the ruling from Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper that Amazon should collect sales taxes on Tennessee sales because of its new presence in the state.

Hagerty said "we have to wait and see" how the Department of Revenue ultimately rules on whether Amazon must collect sales taxes on Tennessee sales. Amazon has threatened not to invest in other states that have required the Internet giant to collect sales taxes on its shipments.

"I think we'll know very soon how that plays out," Hagerty said. "We're doing everything we can to make sure that the employees who have been picked will keep their jobs. Hiring is under way and ongoing, and until I hear differently, we're moving ahead on the Amazon project."

Hagerty said he traveled to Detroit recently to work with General Motors on restarting the former Saturn plant in Spring Hill, which the new UAW contract requires the auto giant to reopen.

"We are fully prepared to work through what GM is entitled to in terms of incentives in Tennessee," he said. "I am optimistic about it, but we have a lot more ground to cover."