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NASHVILLE -- Gov. Phil Bredesen doesn't see much mystery on why his administration's economic development efforts have paid off in Southeast Tennessee with such projects as Volkswagen's $1 billion plant in Chattanooga and Wacker Chemical's planned $1.45 billion facility near Cleveland.

"Lifestyle, work ethic and really strong local partners there to do the stuff are probably the secret," he said Tuesday in an interview in which he surveyed his nearly eight years as governor.

Bredesen, a Democrat, leaves office Jan. 15.

"I think people just like Chattanooga when they come there," Bredesen said. "I think for companies that travel a lot, Atlanta's close enough to make it really practical to live [in Chattanooga]."

Under Bredesen, the state expanded its offerings of state tax and job-training incentives to companies. He also created a "jobs cabinet" to ensure that state officials overseeing areas such economic development, tax collections and labor worked together on incentive packages.

But the governor said such measures "don't work unless you got really strong local partners. The parts of the state that are not getting things are the ones where the county mayors are all fighting each other or the county mayors are fighting the city mayors and this kind of stuff."

So Bredesen gave "full credit, too, particularly when it comes to Volkswagen, to [Hamilton County Mayor] Claude Ramsey and to [U.S. Sen.] Bob Corker."

While Ramsey and Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, are both Republicans, Bredesen noted that he got along well with both.

The Bredesen administration estimates there have been about $34 billion in investments made or announced during his tenure and an estimated 197,000 jobs created. At least 10 percent of the $34 billion has been in Hamilton and Bradley counties.

Ramsey, who has spent 16 years as Hamilton County mayor, said that "to be successful, you have to have the partnerships," citing his work with four Chattanooga mayors including current Mayor Ron Littlefield over the years on economic development issues. "It takes everybody working together to have it happen."

Bredesen has "been excellent" to work with, said Ramsey, who leaves the mayor's job in January to join Gov.-elect Bill Haslam's cabinet as deputy governor.

With regard to Volkswagen and the various supplier companies it has attracted, Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, recalled how she and other then-Hamilton County Commission members supported efforts to help transform the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant into Enterprise South industrial park, where VW is building its factory.

Favors said Ramsey "worked real hard" on economic development and Bredesen has "done a super job."

Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, credited the "vision" of a number of elected leaders ranging from former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey and Corker to Ramsey.

"There's an old cliché that says there's no end to what we can accomplish if no one cares who gets credit," Floyd said.

Bredesen said Ramsey "took heat a long time over that Enterprise South thing and stuck to his guns on it and I really admire him for it."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

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