June 2009

A Sweet Spot in the Valley

In today’s economy, TVA’s frontline forces for economic development help bring jobs to the region and keep them here.

An investment of $12.6 million makes for a lot of Goo Goo Clusters, and a lot of jobs. TVA’s Jerome Terrell knew that when he started work on a possible industrial-expansion project, and he wanted those jobs for the Tennessee Valley.

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TVA’s Jerome Terrell (left) and Dennis Adcock, Standard Candy Company vice president of Administration, with a heated holding tank that contains energy bar mixture for processing.

Terrell, an economic-development specialist in the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area, and his co-workers in TVA’s Economic Development organization can trace their work straight back to the TVA Act and TVA’s charge to make the Valley region a better place to live and work.

That’s where the Goo Goo Clusters come in.

Nashville had been the Standard Candy Co.’s headquarters for 70 years or so, and Standard already had 300 employees there. But Terrell says the company had to make a strategic business decision about consolidating its Nashville operation with another site outside the Valley.

“We went through the entire scenario with them on all of the numbers,” he says. “The state of Tennessee, city of Nashville, Nashville Electric Service, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce – all of us – were at the table to see what we could do to help them stay here.”

Ultimately, the joint effort succeeded, and Standard Candy is adding 250 jobs to its Nashville payroll while closing another facility. It isn’t all chocolate and marshmallow, however. Standard Candy is an example of a company that has changed with the times.

“We all know Standard Candy for their Goo Goo Clusters,” says Terrell. “But over the past six or seven years, they’ve modified their mix to meet the new demands of the marketplace. Now 90 percent of their products are protein bars – sold under brand names such as Kashi and Nature Valley.”

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An automated roller applies coating to energy bars.

Likewise, TVA’s ED forces have adapted to changing business conditions over the years. They focus on working with power distributors and other state and community partners. They also use some new tools, including an award-winning Web site that helps businesses connect with the region and the Megasites program that certifies industrial sites as ready for big industry.

Since last July, major companies locating in the region include Volkswagen, Wacker Chemie AG of Germany and Dow Corning/Hemlock Semiconductor, based in Hemlock, Mich.

• Volkswagen is building a $1 billion plant near Chattanooga that will create 2,000 jobs at the plant, along with supporting jobs in the regional economy.

• Wacker is building a $1-billion plant in Charleston, Tenn., that will employ 500 and manufacture polycrystalline silicon, a material used to make electronics and solar panels.

• HSC is building a $1.2-billion semiconductor plant on a 1,215-acre site in Clarksville to serve the needs of the emerging solar-technology industry. The plant will bring 500 or more initial jobs and about 1,000 construction jobs.

Overall, TVA’s 2008 economic-development efforts helped attract or keep some 42,000 jobs for the region and leveraged some $5.5 billion in capital investment.

But job-creation numbers are lower this year, and the nation’s unemployment rate is at 9.4 percent, a 25-year high. With these challenges, TVA Economic Development is adjusting its strategies.

For example, ED works in partnership with the Economic Development Committee of the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association, which represents TVA power distributors. The committee, chaired by Greg Fay, general manager of Clinton, Tenn., Utilities Board, brought together distributors and TVA staff to develop the Valley Investment Initiative. Approved by the TVA Board in October 2008, the program will offer incentive awards to existing industries that remain in the Tennessee Valley, increase their capital investment, add quality jobs and use energy efficiently.

“In challenging times, it’s more vital than ever to have multiple strategic programs in place to help keep and grow the companies already located here,” says John Bradley, TVA ED senior vice president. “When the consolidation choice comes up, we want to give companies every possible reason to stay here.”