Southeast Tennessee leads in job expansion (with video)

Southeast Tennessee leads in job expansion (with video)

March 5th, 2013 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Bill Hagerty, Tennessee's commissioner for economic and community development, takes part in an editorial board meeting at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development aided a record number of business projects last year, directly adding more than 20,000 jobs.

2008: 127 projects created 13,037 jobs

2009: 118 projects created 12,016 jobs

2010: 149 projects created 17,075 jobs

2011: 140 projects created 18,175 jobs

2012: 195 projects created 20,062 jobs

Source: Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

Southeast Tennessee led the state last year in job additions from new or expanding businesses recruited by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

In a record year for employment gains from state recruitment programs across Tennessee, the 10-county Chattanooga-area region added 3,317 jobs from 19 projects during 2012. Collectively, those projects invested $148.2 million in the region.

That was the biggest job gain among Tennessee's nine regional offices and helped lead Tennessee to a statewide record yearly gain of 20,062 jobs from 195 projects statewide during 2012.

Gov. Bill Haslam has set a goal of aiding even more businesses to create more jobs in 2013. But the state's chief economic recruiter said Monday the economy is facing strong headwinds from new federal regulations.

"We've had a great start to the year, but our expectation is that 2013 is going to be a pretty tough year as far as the economy goes," Bill Hagerty, commissioner of Tennessee's Economic and Community Development Department, told reporters and editors for the Times Free Press on Monday. "Everything we are hearing in the real economy, as distinguished from the stock market, is still positive but less positive than what we saw a year ago."

Hagerty, a former co-worker and campaign adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said ObamaCare is discouraging some small businesses from expanding beyond 50 employees if they don't want to provide employee health care coverage. Hagerty also blamed the Wall Street regulations adopted in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act for forcing the consolidation of some community banks and limiting the amount of capital being lent for many small businesses in Tennessee.

"Those regulations are creating some challenges, and with the fairly slow economic growth, meeting our targets [for more job growth] is going to require taking market share away from some other states," Hagerty said.

Tennessee is well positioned for growth with its central location, comparatively low costs of living and wages, right-to-work laws and relatively low state debt, Hagerty said. On Monday, Site Selection magazine rated Tennessee No. 8 among the 50 states in its annual Governor's Cup award for economic and business growth in the past year. Georgia ranked No. 6, behind, in order, the top states of Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois.

Tennessee was fourth among the 50 states last year in manufacturing employment growth. The Chattanooga region continued to outperform the statewide average.

"It was a really successful year for us because so many economic identities worked together," said Patsy Hazlewood, regional director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.