Sanderson takes floor of state House, notes far-reaching impact of closure
Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 9:02 pm
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
Bill Sanderson drove home a message he says legislators at every level of government need to remember.
The freshman representative from District 77, encompassing Obion, Lake and a portion of Dyer counties, stood on the floor of the legislative chamber in Nashville Thursday morning and informed his fellow elected public servants that Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. would be closing its doors within the year. Few legislators in West Tennessee could accept the disturbing news with equanimity, since the local plant’s work force is drawn from a large geographical circle whose radius sweeps many of the northern Tennessee counties between the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers.
“I told them we had lost the factory and what an impact that was going to have — not just on Obion County — but on the whole area and even the state. And I reminded them that the laws we pass do affect folks,” Sanderson said.
Following his announcement, the Kenton businessman who began serving his first term in January, said many other representatives approached him to express their concern. State Rep. Beth Harwell, the Speaker of the House, and State Rep. Debra Maggart, the GOP caucus chairman, urged Sanderson to make contact with Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, which he says he did immediately.
Noting there had been a recent cabinet meeting when it became apparent in Nashville that the Goodyear plant was in serious trouble, Sanderson said a representative of Bridgestone-Firestone had said in that session that there was nothing that could be done to “get them back.”
In the face of the finality attached to this week’s official announcement, Sanderson said a pledge did come out of the session to expedite unemployment claims and job retraining opportunities. He added, however, he had been forced to point out such promises were “too little, too late” and he wished there had been involvement from those with some power to assist five or six years ago before the plant’s problems became too big to be solved.
“I reminded them that our whole community revolves around Goodyear and it will take us a generation to recover. This will add to the state’s unemployment woes because there simply are no jobs for these workers to turn to.”
With a background in business, the freshman legislator says he knows first hand about the type of government intervention that helps grow business and the kind of government interference that impedes it. Thus, his warning about the nature of the laws that must be passed by him and others in Nashville.
Before leaving Nashville Thursday, Sanderson spoke directly to Hagerty and reminded him that District 77, in particular, will be counting on the proposed Cates Landing riverport project in Lake County now more than ever before. The undertaking is touted as a potential boon for all of northwest Tennessee and beyond, with several hundred jobs probable directly and many more coming from other industries that would be attracted by the transportation possibilities available locally.
In November, The Messenger announced that, according to Jimmy Williamson of Dyersburg, chairman of the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority, Gov. Phil Bredesen had agreed that the State of Tennessee would put $3 million into the upcoming budget. Williamson says it is traditional for the outgoing governor to “recommend” a budget to his predecessor and that Tennessee’s new governor, Bill Haslam, has agreed to keep the funding in his new fiscal plan, which is supposed to be revealed this summer. Congressman Stephen Fincher, the new 8th Congressional District representative in Washington, has also spoken to Haslam, according to Williamson. He said Fincher has received assurances that the money, in addition to $4 million previously pledged by Tennessee to help meet the matching funds provision in this year’s $13 million TIGER II grant received for the project from the federal government, will be available.
But until the budget is officially passed, nothing is absolutely certain.
Sanderson says the state’s Department of Transportation is not pleased at the prospect that the funding might come out of its budget; and so he informed Hagerty Thursday morning. He further urged Hagerty to pledge the funds from his budget and reminded the newly-appointed ECD commissioner that the money must be appropriated on the front end of the budget and people in northwest Tennessee would be counting on him.
“I suppose I’ll be the squeaky wheel in this, but I can do that,” Sanderson told The Messenger Thursday afternoon.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.11.11