Regional legislative agenda includes emphasis on start-ups

Three area chambers – Blount, Knoxville and Oak Ridge – recently adopted their regional legislative agenda for the 2012 session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

The latest version of the strategy, which has been developed annually for more than 25 years, focuses on two primary items, both of which have economic development implications. One is the completion of the remaining 4.4 miles of the Pellissippi Parkway. The other is a topic of great interest to start-up companies that do not meet the existing threshold for state economic development incentives.

In the case of the latter, the regional plan urges the General Assembly “to pass legislation allowing high paying employers locating in Tennessee and hiring less than the current minimum threshold (25 employees) to qualify for the Jobs Tax Credit if the annual average wage for all employees is more than twice the annual average wage in the locating county. Furthermore, the jobs tax credit should be available to other classes of employers including service providers.”

Completion of Pellissippi Parkway is viewed as important “to open critical highway access and economic development opportunities to property that is available and has been identified for industrial, manufacturing, and R&D business development, which is in short supply in the hilly Innovation Valley.” The plan says completion of the highway would benefit both ends of the region’s technology corridor.

On the Blount County side, completion would contribute to the success of Pellissippi Place, a development initially funded by investments from the cities of Alcoa and Maryville as well as Blount and Knox counties. In the case of the northern end, it would better connect the region to the Department of Energy assets in Oak Ridge, UT and the local airport.

The regional plan also contains statements of principle that are deemed to be “key to economic development and job growth in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley.” They cover education, healthcare, transportation and legal immigration.

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