:Chattanooga; :Jul 26, 2009; :Perspective; :54

Clean power

‘Greenest state in the land of the free’ becoming reality

Phil Bredesen Governor of Tennessee

    Remember “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”? “Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, Greenest state in the land of the free.”

    We’re making that come true here in Tennessee in the 21st century, in a way that Davy couldn’t have imagined.

    We all know that since the recession began, we’ve been surrounded by a seemingly endless string of gloomy economic indicators and statistics: unemployment rates, home foreclosures, jobless claims and stock market declines, just to name a few. But one indicator stands out as a genuinely encouraging sign for Tennessee’s economic future.

    The Pew Charitable Trusts recently announced Tennessee’s top national ranking in the creation of clean energy jobs — green jobs — noting that Tennessee’s emerging clean energy economy grew more than seven times faster than the state’s overall jobs between 1998 and 2007.

    Across Tennessee, and especially in the Chattanooga area, this past year has seen a number of multibillion-dollar investments and the creation of thousands of jobs that these investments will bring to our state. Best of all,
these are indicators of a bright future for Tennessee’s economy and highlight our success in attracting leading clean energy companies.

    To capitalize on this momentum, I traveled to Switzerland, Germany and Poland in June to hold talks with the leadership of European companies with investments in Tennessee. We talked about ways we can expand investment by suppliers, customers and other companies in the clean energy sector. Joining me on the trip were Matt Kisber, economic and community development commissioner, and Commissioner of Revenue Reagan Farr. Our goal was simple: to capitalize on our recent successes by planting the seeds for further business recruitment and yet more job creation.

    Despite the current economy, or perhaps because of it, Tennessee has received a lot of attention as a good place to do business. I’ve long believed it makes sense for Tennessee to redouble its effort to recruit new business, even during the current global economic recession. Tennessee needs higher-skilled, good-paying jobs, and now is not the time to pull back or retrench in our efforts to recruit them. In business, when the going gets tough, one of the things you do is refine your products and redouble your efforts to market them. Our state should be no different.

    During the trip, we met with the leadership of European companies that have made substantial commitments to Tennessee. Wacker Chemie AG announced in February its plans to invest $1 billion in Bradley County to build a facility that will manufacture hyper-pure polycrystalline silicon, a primary component in the manufacture of photovoltaic cells for solar energy. And Alstom Power is investing more than $200 million to expand its existing Chattanooga operation to produce very large, precisionmilled turbines for the nuclear power industry.

    After visiting with these two companies, I was struck by the complexity of the technologies that are at work in their facilities and the impact these will have on Tennessee’s long-term employment picture.

    At Alstom’s plant in Germany, we observed the production of the enormous, highly precise turbines that help generate nuclear power. I was impressed by the sophistication and complexity of the operation. When I asked whether they were going to build turbines this large and complex in Chattanooga, I was told the ones that are going to be built here are even larger and more complex than the ones we saw in Germany. In other words, one of the foundations of Alstom’s future was literally being laid in Southeast Tennessee.

    I came back with a stronger belief than ever that Tennessee can and must capitalize on its position as an emerging leader in creating clean energy jobs. These companies’ decisions, like that made by Volkswagen, to choose Tennessee for significant investments is a welcome indicator of what’s in store for Tennessee’s economy — a growing number of well-paid and stable jobs for Tennesseans in one of the economic sectors of the future.

    We are once again becoming the “greenest state.”

    Phil Bredesen is governor of Tennessee.

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