Haslam says workforce training has long way to go

photo Gov. Bill Haslam speaks during the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Chattanooga Convention Center.


Review live coverage of Gov. Bill Haslam's first major address to Chattanooga here.

Saying he has talked with more than 1,000 business chiefs in his first eight months in office, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told Chattanooga leaders Wednesday the state's workforce is too shallow in engineering and technical skills.

Haslam said many company CEOs have told him the state needs to bolster its education achievement for its workforce.

"Workforce development and training, while we think it's better, still has a long way to go," he said to about 50 business and political leaders, especially citing the science, math and engineering areas.

Haslam, later speaking to about 1,300 people at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting, said the state needs to raise education expectations.

"If Chattanooga is going to continue to be in that position of strength ... we really have to raise our expectations around education," he said.

Haslam said Chattanooga is on "the buzz list" of top cities concerning economic development, citing the recruitment of companies such as Volkswagen and Amazon.

But cities that provide a better talent pool of workers are "going to win," he said.

"It's all about human capital," Haslam said.

The governor also noted that Chattanooga has become a location where people want to come and live.

"The lifestyle changes ... have really changed the face of Chattanooga," he said.

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Jobs efforts

During the annual Chamber meeting, leaders of the "Chattanooga Can Do" campaign said the 4-year-old effort exceeded its goals for job generation and business investment since 2007 and the Chamber has launched a new four-year effort. The new $9.25 million campaign aims to bring another 15,000 jobs to the region.

"Chattanooga is a great place to do business," said Ron Harr, who ended a yearlong stint as Chamber of Commerce chairman.

Mike St. Charles, the Chamber's new chairman, said the jobs campaign that started mid-year will focus heavily on growing existing businesses. He said that about $6 million will be allocated toward supporting local companies.

Tom Edd Wilson, the Chamber's chief executive, said the business group has reached its $9.25 million fundraising goal for its new job-growth campaign.

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