Bill Haslam discusses business strategies with other state governors

Bill Haslam discusses business strategies with other state governors

November 15th, 2011 by Andy Sher in News

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is pictured in this file photo. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the News Sentinel)

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and colleagues from other states on Monday discussed strategies they are using to attract new businesses, help existing ones and generate jobs.

"The truth is, we all face a very, very similar situation ... both the challenges and the solutions," Haslam said at the event, sponsored by the National Governors Association.

He noted that states face a "very, very competitive world" when trying to recruit U.S. and foreign investors.

Other Republican governors attending the conference were Dave Heineman of Nebraska, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma.

All four said there is a need to limit worker compensation claims, cut business regulations and cap lawsuit damage awards.

Heineman, who is NGA chairman, described how he modernized economic incentives and cut taxes on small businesses.

Barbour, who is in his final days as governor after nearly eight years in the job, discussed how in 2004 he forced through the "most comprehensive tort reform" in the United States. His two other focuses, he said, have been in improving the quality of the state's workforce while maintaining low taxes.

Barbour also discussed his take on the 2007 recruiting war between Chattanooga and Tupelo, Miss., over a Toyota plant that eventually landed in Tupelo.

"Candidly," he said smiling, "we got the Toyota plant over Chattanooga frankly over logistics."

He later explained Mississippi was in danger of losing the plant because it had only one rail line to the proposed site while Chattanooga could offer two railroads' lines. But after Mississippi secured a second rail line, Toyota placed the plant there, Barbour said.

Haslam, who took office in January, joked that while Mississippi got Toyota, Chattanooga got Volkswagen, which began producing cars earlier this year at the Enterprise South industrial park.

Toyota, which initially put its new plant on hold when the national economy took a nose dive, is scheduled to roll its first auto off the assembly line Thursday.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfree press.com and 615-255-0550.