As we moved out of the recession late last year, people began to talk about living in the age of the new normal, where little will be as it was before. What that meant exactly, nobody really knew, but by the New Year we began to get an idea.
Easy credit was gone for good, and jobs would be scarcer in the years ahead than we had grown accustomed to in the era after America's 1981 recession.
Call it the jobless recovery.
Indications suggest, however, that Tennesseans may be spared some of the necessary adjustment since lost jobs appear to be coming back. After losing more than 20,000 jobs in the previous decade, the Volunteer State's top economic forecaster suggests 250,000 new jobs may be created in the decade ahead.
Call it Tennessee's new normal, the state moving in a different and more distinctly positive direction than many other parts of the country.
The reason, of course, is not some fate of good fortune but the results of past pain and suffering followed by hard work and directed focus. When times were better elsewhere years before, Tennessee took some hard economic blows, seeing businesses and industries that were staples of the economy evaporate.
Instead of playing the role of a shrinking violet, accepting that new normal, the rebuilding process was put into play, targeting higher-wage manufacturing by telling the story of worker availability, land abundance and commitment to education and training.
In Chattanooga, no story illustrates this better than the arrival of Volkswagen, promising to create in time as many as several thousand direct jobs. The real story, though, is the less obvious one, the ripple effect that will cascade from Volkswagen's arrival in the years to come. Gauging the impact is difficult, but case studies of other communities that have experienced similar economic shifts from the arrival of an automaker give a good idea of what's to come.
Georgetown, Ky., once was a sleepy hamlet outside Lexington before Toyota arrived with its first North American manufacturing plant. Today, Georgetown is a vibrant, diversified community flourishing amid good jobs, good schools and excellent recreational facilities. The community benefited directly from Toyota's manufacturing jobs, but the biggest boost came over time as suppliers created more jobs, and the resulting economic activity created more jobs.
That does not mean it happens overnight. Such development takes years to deploy, with each year building upon the other once everything gets in motion. But it does happen, eventually -- which bodes well for the new normal in Tennessee and the Chattanooga area in particular.