Tennessee Gov. Haslam to decide on Senate bid, head to Asia on economic recruiting trip

Tennessee Gov. Haslam to decide on Senate bid, head to Asia on economic recruiting trip

October 4th, 2017 by Andy Sher in Breaking News

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks during the Chattanooga Rotary Club meeting Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, at the Chattanooga Convention Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. Haslam will address a Senate health committee next month looking into health care reform.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Top countries for Tennessee investments

› 1. Japan — 186 companies with 50,134 jobs

› 2. Germany — 106 companies with 14,457 jobs

› 3. Canada — 74 companies with 7,716 jobs

› 4. United Kingdom — 110 companies with 9,844 jobs

› 5. South Korea — 10 companies with 1,710 jobs

Source: Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

NASHVILLE — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who plans to reveal by week's end whether he'll run for U.S. Senate, will depart for Japan and South Korea next week on an economic recruiting trip.

With the five-day overseas trip beginning Monday, there is speculation in Haslam circles the governor could announce as early as Thursday whether he'll launch an effort to succeed U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who announced he won't seek re-election in 2018.

During the week-long trip, Haslam and Rolfe will pitch Tennessee's advantages to a number of Asian businesses interested in establishing operations in the Southeast U.S. The trip will include stops in both Japan and South Korea.

"We've worked hard to bring more foreign direct investment to Tennessee, and it's helped create both high quality jobs and a thriving economy," Haslam said in a statement Wednesday.

According to the 2016 IBM Global Locations Trends report, Tennessee ranked No. 1 among U.S. states with $33.8 billion of foreign direct investment last year. More than 127,000 Tennessseans work for foreign-based companies with Japanese companies accounting for more than 50,000 of those jobs in the Volunteer State, including thousands of workers at Nissan, Denso, Komatsu and Bridgestone Tire.

The governor said he is "looking forward to sharing Tennessee's story with more Asian businesses and strengthening ties with existing companies who already know that our business-friendly environment and ready-to-work workforce make Tennessee a great choice to locate operations."

While not mentioning the Asia trip, state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe told Memphis Rotary Club members Monday that locating a major tenant for the 4,000-acre Memphis Megasite in Haywood County near Memphis is a major priority for Haslam before he leaves office in January 2019, WMC reported.

One Haslam friend said the governor is virtually under siege to run for the Senate seat held by Corker, a long-time friend with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell among others encouraging him to run.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is seen as almost certain to run. Former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., is among those weighing bids.

There is one declared GOP candidate already: Andy Ogles, former state director of the Tennessee chapter of the billionaire Koch brothers-supported Americans for Prosperity.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com.

This story was updated Oct. 4 at 11:59 p.m. with more information.