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Hagerty optimistic about state’s future

Hagerty optimistic about state’s future
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Bill Hagerty is quite certain Tennessee is uniquely positioned for significant economic growth. His enthusiasm and commitment to promoting the state are having a positive impact on the state’s business climate. (See related story, Page 12.)
Hagerty, Tennessee’s commissioner of Eco-nomic and Community Development, said he is “very optimistic” about economic development and said, “I’m particularly pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish in a very challenging overall macroeconomic environment.”
Hagerty took time out from his busy schedule recently for an exclusive one-on-one telephone interview with The Messenger to discuss some of the initiatives being used to promote economic development across the state. Hagerty also talked about what he described as a very productive visit to Lake County’s Cates Landing earlier this month.
“I had a great visit there, my staff and I. I’ll tell you, I’m very impressed with what’s going on at Cates Landing,” Hagerty said.
He described the project as being located in a “very strategic location,” adding, “It’s a terrific example of collaboration and cooperation among Lake, Obion and Dyer counties. I think it’s a model for the rest of the state.”
Hagerty praised the leadership in northwest Tennessee for the work that has already been done on the riverport project.
“What your leadership has done there is just exceptional and it has the potential to really change the business dynamics for the entire region,” Hagerty said.
Shifting his focus from northwest Tennessee, Hagerty said his marketing team is promoting Tennessee to industrial prospects across America and around the globe. Tennessee maintains four overseas offices focused on recruiting industry to the Volunteer State.
“We’re meeting with a lot of companies that could be excellent prospects for the state of Tennessee,” Hagerty said.
Earlier this year, Hagerty and Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled the state’s new Jobs4TN plan and he conducted a thorough review of his department’s strategies. Those two projects have enabled the department to prioritize the strategic recruitment of target industries. The Jobs4TN plan also includes strategies designed to promote regional and rural economic development.
In fact, Hagerty recently announced a new rural development strategy that has his department uniting with the state Department of Tourism and the state Department of Agriculture to target economic development in Tennessee.
“We also launched, on the manufacturing front, a new computer program. One aspect of it is training … the other is a certified site program that will better enable us to qualify sites and market those sites on a global basis,” Hagerty said.
He said a strategic plan for West Tennessee is also being developed by state jobs development specialist Blake Swaggart.
“We are in the process of getting that strategic plan finalized,” Hagerty said.
Considering northwest Tennessee’s business climate, it appears the state Department of Economic and Community Development is dedicated to a variety of job creation initiatives designed to boost the economy.
The recent shutdown of the local Goodyear plant continues to be a concern to Hagerty, who designated the region as a Tier III area which translates to “enhanced incentives” from the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Hagerty also discussed a new business services initiative that focuses on strategies to help customer service, technical service and support centers as well as work-at-home business models.
“We have a team right now working on that strategy, from outside our department, and we’re hoping to pull that together and we hope to have that strategy communicated to the governor in the next several weeks and have our plan out by the end of the year,” Hagerty said.
“Our job creating activities here, particularly with our enhanced focus on existing businesses, have demonstrated terrific results,” he said.
Tennessee appears to be in good hands with Hagerty at the helm of economic development.
He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in economics and took a leave from a merchant bank and private equity company he founded to join the governor’s cabinet earlier this year.
Hagerty has founded, funded and grown a number of successful business enterprises, according to his biography. He has been directly involved as a senior executive with several major U.S. companies and spent three years working in Tokyo as a senior expatriate with responsibilities throughout Asia.
Hagerty and Haslam form a bold team when it comes to promoting Tennessee to investors.
State officials remain focused on aggressive marketing efforts to recruit new industries to Tennessee while also helping existing industries expand in the state. It is a common strategy, but Tennessee’s resources, infrastructure and business climate make it uniquely positioned to attract capital investment, according to Gov. Haslam.
From his keynote address at the recent 2011 Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development, Haslam had encouraging remarks for economic development officials across the state.
“We are very well positioned in the State of Tennessee to compete,” he said.
The governor cited the state’s not having an income tax, its solid work environment and Tennessee’s geographic location as three factors that give the state an edge when it comes to economic development.
Haslam described the department of economic development’s efforts as “right on target.”
“When I am our selling Tennessee, I promise you I don’t feel like I’m selling something that is hard to do … I’m proud of what we have to sell,” Gov. Haslam said.
The governor and his commissioner of economic development are also focused on helping existing industries expand.
“We want to be a state that recognizes people who have already made a commitment to us in Tennessee,” Haslam said in his keynote address at the recent governor’s conference. “We want to reward that and help those companies to grow here.”
With all the work being done at the state, regional and local levels in the area of economic development, Tennessee is well positioned for economic development, according to a recent survey.
The state was ranked fourth in the nation for its business climate, according to Development Counsellors International’s “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” survey. The survey cited Tennessee’s low operating costs and a pro-business climate.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.20.11

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