Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Aug/Sep 08)
"Tennessee is fortunate to have such diversity in our economy and the institutions of learning that support the economy," says Matthew Kisber, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
Active technology sectors run the gamut from energy and alternative fuels to drug discoveries, pediatric cancer research, and transportation logistics. Development strategy also focuses on manufacturing with a concentration on automotive-related industries. "We have about 1,000 automotive-related manufacturers in the state, plus other types of advanced manufacturing jobs - everything from food processing to chemicals to turbines for power plants - creating sustainable jobs that will stay here because of the attractive business climate and skilled work force," says Kisber.
In addition to manufacturing, "Forty corporate headquarters have located here in recent years," says Kisber, citing International Paper, ServiceMaster, Louisiana Pacific, and Asurion, as well as the high-profile Nissan North America relocation from Los Angeles to Franklin. According to sting that over the last five years, according to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, Tennessee experienced the largest organic growth in tax collections in the Southeast. "That means, the new investment taking place and economic activity generated from all of these efforts grew our corporate tax collections faster than any other state in the Southeast. We did not raise our tax rates; it's all organic growth," he says.
In addition, "we have completely overhauled our incentives, linking them to market-based changes to increase competitiveness," says Kisber, pointing out the Headquarters Relocation Incentive, based on the number of employees and the project's size; the Industrial Machinery Credit, which was expanded from one percent of the value of industrial machinery to a benefit tiered between 1 and 10 percent, and the Data Center Incentive, which allows firms to benefit from technology equipment purchases much as manufacturers benefit from equipment purchases.
New deals are nurtured by the "Jobs Cabinet approach," created by the governor. Kisber explains, "We meet potential clients together with the Commissioner of Revenue and Commissioner of Economic Development and work together to insure all benefits available under the law are explained and compliance is understood before any decision is made. That is a key differentiator for us."