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TVC Partnership Event focuses on manufacturing, innovation and jobs

Nearly 200 people gathered in Kingsport Sunday afternoon and Monday morning for the Tennessee Valley Corridor’s (TVC) Fall Partnership Event.

The conversation focused on “Manufacturing: Innovation and New Job Creation in the Corridor” and was launched with a keynote speech by Jim Rogers, Chief Executive Officer of Eastman Chemical Company.

The self-described advocate for manufacturing noted the importance of “an environment where you can create good jobs.” Citing Eastman, which ranks number 28 on the list of containers shipped from the U.S., Rogers said that “you can still be successful manufacturing here and sending it there.” Eastman has 40 locations around the world.

Rogers spoke positively about the support that Eastman enjoys in Tennessee and the region, but he did say that “we expect a level playing field,” something that is challenging in countries where governmental involvement in companies poses challenges.

“Government has a role to play,” he said, adding that the role is to make it possible for companies to be competitive and succeed.

Rogers briefly addressed the importance of a qualified, prepared workforce. “I need people that have self-confidence in science and math,” he explained.

Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe, who represents the Kingsport area, served as host for the event. He was joined by three other Members of Congress from the TVC region – Chuck Fleischmann (Tennessee’s Third District), Morgan Griffith (Virginia’s Ninth District) and Mark Meadows (just elected for his first term from North Carolina’s Eleventh District).

Congressman Roe asked the attendees to provide him answers to the question, “What do we (Congress) have to do to make you successful in creating jobs?”

The TVC was established in 1995 with its inaugural Summit held in Oak Ridge. Since then, full-fledged Summits and more limited Partnership Events have been held throughout the group’s footprint that includes parts of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

After Rogers’ Sunday afternoon keynote speech, the balance of the program was devoted to three sessions devoted to some aspect of the manufacturing innovation and workforce topic.

  • One panel focused on challenges and opportunities that manufacturers in the region faced.  Panelists included Mike Davidson, Plant President for JTekt North America’s Morristown plant, one of three facilities the company operates in East Tennessee; Charlie Floyd, Vice President and Mill Manager of Domtar Paper Company in Kingsport; Nancy Johnson, Vice President for Business Services and Performance Assurance for the Y-12 National Security Complex, and Jeff McCord, Vice President of Northeast State Community College at Kingsport and Director of the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Northeast Tennessee.
  • The first panel on Monday morning focused on best practices in workforce development and included Paul Jennings, Executive Director of the University of Tennessee’s statewide Center for Industrial Services; Lou Rabinowitz, Executive Director of Workforce, Economic Development and Technology Programs at Roane State Community College, and Ben Ubamadu, Vice President for Economic and Community Development at Chattanooga State Community College.
  • The final session focused on the future and featured a keynote speech by East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland followed by a panel that included Jamie Woodson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tennessee’s State Collaborative for Reforming Education (SCORE), and Krissy DeAlejandro, Executive Director of Knoxville-based tnAchieves..

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