Mike McWherter, one of the four candidates for the Democratic nomination to run for governor, campaigned in Lewisburg Wednesday afternoon, emphasizing job creation as his top priority if he's elected.
Also campaigning statewide for their party's nomination are Ward Cannack, Roy Herron and Kim McMillan. The state primary is in August when Tennessee voters go to the polls to elect sheriffs, county mayors, commissioners and other officials.
After visiting with 35-40 people in the Marshall County Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square, McWherter went to the law offices of Walter Bussart on North Ellington Parkway where he spoke with Bussart, his law partner-daughter Lee Bussart Bowles and Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods.
"I've known Walter since he first came to the legislature," McWherter said. "We talked more about old times and old friendships.'
Nearly eight years ago, Bussart was doing what McWherter is now: running for the party's nomination to campaign for governor. He and others dropped out when Phil Bredesen joined the race.
"Unemployment ... is the No. 1 issue ... across the state," McWherter said in a telephone interview as he traveled to Franklin to attend an awards ceremony honoring his father, former Gov. Ned McWherter.
"If it' not bringing In jobs, it's keeping the jobs we have," the candidate said.
Government can help business create jobs, he said: "Make sure government has a business friendly environment." The state should "work with businesses to get answers so they can act quickly," he said.
McWherter complimented Bredesen's administration for doing that and he cited three new businesses, including Volkswagen and a solar energy plant in Montgomery County.
He says his business background qualifies him to serve. He's a Anheuser-Busch distributor, the chairman of the board at a community bank, a member of the Jackson Energy Authority Board and he operates a farm in West Tennessee.
Lewisburg's mayor was impressed with McWheter's insights on employment corridors. He said supply businesses don't want to be too close to big factories because they shouldn't be competing against their customers in the same labor pool. Still, they need to be within a day's driving distance to provide parts.
Told of Lewisburg's Business Park on Mooresville highway, McWherter called that a "prime location for industry," only .7 miles from Interstate 65 - "a place located in a corridor to develop the automotive ... business.
His outlook on the American economy seems optimistic.
"I believe we hit the bottom in the fourth quarter of 2009," he said. "It may be painfully slow, but I believe it's turning.
That's not a comfort to those with out a job," he said. "But as the auto industry comes back anybody with any sense would want to be close. VW will have a whole list of suppliers coming to this state ... if we go out and recruit them.
While VW is in Chattanooga, it's close enough to Marshall County to have an effect here, he said. It's the same for the solar energy business at Clarksville.
"I'm a businessman and I well understand there's a human resource component in industry," McWherter said.
"One of the components to bring jobs in is to make sure we provide the training at the tech centers that business wants and needs," and so he supports Bredesen's education policies.
"And we need to make sure we have the broad band network out there that we need for our schools and the industries that we'll want to attract."
Marshall County Realtor Grover Collins took McWherter to the Courthouse Annex to meet people from the county and the city.
"He's coming back," Collins said, adding that he was "filling in for his son, Chris, chairman of the county's Democratic Party.
County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said McWherter "seemed very knowledgeable about what he was talking about. The top issue on his list is not any surprise - jobs without a doubt."