A sector Tennessee should try to expand to create a "more resilient" economy is the defense industry, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said Friday.

"The world is in what's called geopolitical conflict, and what's called persistent conflict," he told members of the Southeast Tennessee Political Action Committee at their luncheon meeting. "There is a defense sector need, and our state is pretty small in that area."

Rep. Wamp said he envisions a defense corridor that stretches from Huntsville, Ala., to Fort Campbell in Clarksville, Tenn.

"We've got the potential for this defense corridor up the middle of our state that could give our state resilience and diversity and new investments during an economic downturn," he said.

Bonny Kinney, a spokeswoman for Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons, said defense could be "one piece of the puzzle."

"However, instead of focusing on one area, General Gibbons wants to identify the growth industries of the future, and work on recruiting them to Tennessee, industries related to solar energy and biomedical research," Ms. Kinney said.

Likewise, Mark Cate, campaign manager for Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, said there are lots of areas for growth.

"As far as economic development, we need to build our existing assets in the state," he said.

Brad Todd, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said it's not surprising Rep. Wamp would discuss areas such as defense with his federal government experience.

Joe Kirkpatrick, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, said Rep. Wamp should take those ideas to an office such as economic development commissioner.

"I don't think he's going to be governor," he said.


Rep. Wamp told the SETPAC crowd that he believes his gubernatorial campaign is "winning in every metric except one," that being fundraising.

Spokesmen from other GOP gubernatorial campaigns had differing opinions:

* Brad Todd, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey: "(Lt. Gov. Ramsey) has been the favorite in (straw polls and caucuses)."

* Josh Thomas, campaign manager for Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons: "The math of this race favors General Gibbons. We have an outstanding grass-roots operation across the state, and I am very pleased with the progress we've made and are continuing to make."

* Mark Cate, campaign manager for Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, said the Haslam campaign is the only one so far to have grass-roots organization in all 95 counties.

* Joe Kirkpatrick: Said if Rep. Wamp has poll data showing him as the leader, he should make it available. Otherwise it's "gut instinct."