State to foster job creation by business

Friday, October 28, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Opportunities, methods and challenges while working to achieve Gov. Bill Haslam's goal - to make Tennessee the No. 1 place among southeastern states for high quality jobs - were discussed Wednesday afternoon at Columbia State Community College.

The discussion was the luncheon program for another monthly meeting of the Workforce Employer Outreach Committee, an arm of the state Labor Department. Haslam's Jobs4TN Initiative - administered by the Economic and Community Development Department - was the topic.

Jobs4TN is a program targeting industries for high quality job development, reducing business regulations and a variety of other goals.

In addition to reviewing methods such as recognizing clusters of like businesses that are already here, and other outlines posted on a state Web site, Lewisburg resident Jamie Stitt, the southern middle regional director in the Business Development Division of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, spoke with Greg Lowe, the city's economic director.

The tried and true method of focusing on businesses already here and helping them grow was substantiated when Stitt cited a statistic: 81.6 percent of new jobs come from existing businesses.

As a result, retention of those businesses is important, Stitt and Lowe said. She pointed to the danger of "reverse engineering." That's when a company figures out how to make a product that's made here and then start making it elsewhere.

"They could take your product," Lowe said.

Stitt said if a company has a supplier overseas, and it appears there's a possibility of reverse engineering, then the state would want to help a business find a supplier in the United States and especially in Tennessee.

"It's something I'd like to get into here," Stitt said.

The Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) is taking steps to help grow jobs here by consulting with businesses to see if there are regulations that are a hindrance to operations.

In Marshall County, Lowe and ECD officials are visiting factories to see how the state can make the work easier. Haslam and Bill Hagerty, the ECD commissioner, are visiting the business leaders at their headquarters, Stitt said.

Lowe said he wants to go beyond finding out that businesses want employees to arrive on time and be reliable, and advise applicants that when they go to an interview they shouldn't wear baggy pants, a ball cap on backwards or check their cell phone during an interview.

"What skills are needed from new employees?" Lowe asked rhetorically at the Workforce Employer Outreach Committee meeting to explain what developers, like him, need to know to help residents get jobs and, if necessary, to be sure educational opportunities are available for residents so they qualify for jobs.

Ultimately, Stitt's presentation was to advise members of the Workforce Employer Outreach Committee - an arm of the Labor Department - to know what ECD is doing to help workforce development.

And, just as the state's ECD has a strategy, Stitt said, a regional plan on how to achieve goals for crating jobs is to be posted on the state's ECD Web site before Thanksgiving.