Nissan dedication has root in ‘The Tennessee Waltz’
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 8:43 pm
CHATTANOOGA (AP) — A story about a favorite Tennessee song accompanies Nissan’s dedication of its new North America headquarters 25 years after becoming the first automaker in the South.
While working almost three decades ago to recruit the Japanese company, Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander as governor used his piano talent to entertain visiting Nissan executives with a rendition of “The Tennessee Waltz.”
Alexander recalled in a telephone interview Monday that after World War II “almost all the Japanese men knew ‘The Tennessee Waltz.’” Patti Page made the song an international hit in 1950.
The two-term governor, former U.S. education secretary, University of Tennessee president and unsuccessful presidential candidate is among officials attending the Nissan headquarters dedication today in Franklin.
Last week, when Chattanooga beat out Alabama and Michigan for Volkswagen’s new assembly plant, Tennessee officials described a recent evening with VW executives during the recruitment when Alexander again took a seat at a piano after dinner.
At Sen. Bob Corker’s home in Chattanooga, Alexander’s rendition of the 1940s Glenn Miller song, “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” had the German guests singing along.
Alexander said Monday that “Chattanooga is probably one of the 10 best known American cities in Germany because of that” song.
He said that with Tennessee and Alabama offering similar financial incentives, VW’s choice for the site “obviously came down to intangible things” like environment.
“The piano playing is part of that,” he said.
Alexander said auto makers and related businesses have made Tennessee “the No. 1 state for auto jobs in the South.”
“My guess is we will see maybe one or two more assembly sites” but the state will likely become a hub of suppliers, Alexander said.
When its time to sway prospects, the senator has his piano talents ready.
Published in The Messenger 7.22.08