NASHVILLE - A defense corridor ought to be developed through Marshall County, according to a congressman who says he's planning to attend the Republican Party's annual dinner here this spring.
"I'm proposing a defense corridor from Redstone in Huntsville all the way to Fort Campbell up the Interstate-65/24 corridor," U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp said Saturday, comparing the idea to a technology corridor from Oak Ridge to Huntsville.
Wamp is considered a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for governor later this year.
"We have the potential of growing a new sector of our economy in this state," the Chattanooga Republican said in an interview after a formal Change of Responsibility ceremony for the command of the Tennessee National Guard.
The technology corridor has "paid pretty big dividends in advanced manufacturing, energy and transportation," said Wamp, who's served on appropriations subcommittees for defense issues. "Manufacturing growth has taken place in East Tennessee because of it."
The Defense Department "could potentially use" the General Motors plant in Spring Hill as part of the defense corridor, Wamp said, suggesting it as a place to "back fill" with defense missions.
"We could potentially make defense vehicles there at that facility," he said of the auto factory. "If the private sector doesn't recover quick enough - and we are bold and rapid in our attempt to grow our economy - that's a potential use for a facility like that.
"That's the kind of thinking we need because I don't know when the economy will recover," the Chattanooga Republican said. "The president and the liberal Congress have developed a mountain of debt," he said while advocating a defense corridor from Redstone to Fort Campbell.
Nearly a week ago, Wamp was in Marshall County," he said Saturday. "It's a very important part of Tennessee" and industry.
No announcement has been received with regard to the Marshall County Republican Party dinner mentioned by Wamp.
"I've been talking with some our military leaders today," he said at the Tennessee National Guard Headquarters on Sidco Drive in Nashville. "We're in an era of persistent conflict, which we know has caused these unbelievable and frankly unsustainable deployments."
The tempo of operations "is so high - and we've got such stress, but our guard has stepped up ... unbelievably - that in Tennessee our military and our economy should be more in line," he continued, pointing to a "huge economic impact" from defense spending at Huntsville and Clarksville.
Federal spending at Huntsville and related housing construction prompted a Chapel Hill area cabinet shop to move south, the proprietor said here recently.
"We've got the potential of growing a defense corridor in our state by tying in missions at Middle Tennessee State University (in Murfreesboro), Arnold Engineering Development Center at Tullahoma, all the way to Fort Campbell - Vanderbilt has certain military missions now - and create a defense corridor up 65 for economic development and to make our state's economy more resilient," Wamp said in a recorded interview.
"Our military and our industry can make our economy more resilient," he said.
Other military-industrial connections in Tennessee include businesses that helped develop unmanned planes such as the Predator. A Savannah, Tenn. company's Unmanned Aero Vehicle (UAV) helped obtain "all the intelligence that ... detected the pirate ship off the shore of Somalia," Wamp said.
"People in Washington thought it was in Savannah, Ga., but it was in Tennessee," Wamp said, adding that a business in Chattanooga is working on a proposal to develop a Predator launcher.
UAVs are "the new paradigm in intelligence gathering in the mountainous area of Afghanistan and west Pakistan," the congressman said.
Marshall County can grow economically with a GOP leadership team that pursues diverse economic development including agriculture, manufacturing and defense, Wamp said.
State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), who represents Marshall County in the Tennessee Legislature was present during Wamp's interview and responded to the congressman's mention of GM's plant.
"With that plant being in my district at Spring Hill, I like what Congressman Wamp has to say," Ketron said. "It sounds very encouraging."