By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The old advertising slogan, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” came to mind during the opening session of yesterday’s 62nd annual “Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development” in Nashville.
I have probably attended more than three dozen of these yearly events, but I do not recall seeing a Commissioner of Economic and Community Development (ECD’s) speak so passionately and extemporaneously for more than 60 minutes, outlining his new strategy in as many details as Knoxville native Randy Boyd did.
“Today is the greatest moment in the history of Tennessee,” the always upbeat and charismatic Commissioner told a packed ballroom at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. The reference was not about the specific day, but rather about this time in Tennessee’s history.
Boyd, the very successful business executive, ticked-off a series of metrics to underscore his point – more Tennesseans working today than ever before, the highest level of educational attainment in the state’s history, the highest per capita income ever, and 44,000 new potential jobs in the pipeline.
“The most important point is our momentum,” Boyd said, quickly adding that continued success will depend on working as a team. This was a direct reference to the conference theme – “Team Tennessee.”
Those who know the Commissioner are aware of his commitment to goals and metrics. Those were on full display as he unveiled without any notes ECD’s new strategic plan, using only a Power Point presentation as back-up. One could clearly feel his true commitment to the strategy.
Since mission and vision mean different things to different people, it is probably worth noting that Boyd defined mission as the “why” and vision as the “what.”
ECD’s refined mission is as follows: “We are passionate about developing dynamic, diverse economies and thriving communities for generations of Tennesseans.” The bold words and phrases were carefully emphasized by Boyd who noted, for example, that Tennessee is “doing great in the automotive sector,” but we don’t want to rely on just one industry.
ECD’s vision is as follows: “We will be #1 in the Southeast for high quality jobs.” That’s the theme that Boyd and Governor Bill Haslam have been advocating.
So, how does the Commissioner believe the state will achieve its vision? The shorthand answer is 55, 2, 1, 1 and 0. Here’s what that means.
- Fifty-five percent of new job commitments will be above the county median wage. (Today, that number is 50.5 percent.)
- Tennessee will be in the top two states in the Southeast in terms of per capita income. (Why not number one? Boyd explained that Virginia, with its large percentage of high-paying federal jobs, is considered to be in the Southeast, so that’s a pretty high hurdle to overcome. Today, Tennessee ranks fourth among its peers.)
- Tennessee will have the highest capital investment per capita in the Southeast. (Today, the state ranks fourth.)
- Tennessee will have the lowest unemployment rate among Southeastern states. (We currently rank fifth.)
- No Tennessee county will be classified as distressed. (Today, the state has 21 of its 95 counties in that category.)
Three of the strategies to achieve these lofty goals involve new business development of which entrepreneurship was a key component.
Boyd, arguably one of Knoxville’s most successful entrepreneurs, described entrepreneurship as “near and dear to my heart.” He called out Launch Tennessee’s efforts and pointed to a later presentation focused more on rural start-up activity.
Another new initiative is something called “TN Swift Start,” aimed at helping new businesses.”It’s important that we make it easy to start a business in Tennessee,” Boyd said. ECD plans to partner with the Secretary of State on this project.
And, the person who championed Knoxville’s Promise, then Tennessee’s Promise, concluded his remarks with an emphasis on education and workforce.
TOMORROW: Rural economic development was front and center at the Conference, with a strong focus on entrepreneurship.