Bill Haslam

Governor, Tennessee (R)

Tennessee led the South in new manufacturing jobs created last year, and we’re fourth or fifth in the country, which for a state our size isn’t bad.

A couple of other things in terms of [what is] new: maybe on the very new end of things, taking that automotive expertise and background, carbon-fiber technology is one of the things that is going to be where the automotive industry is pushing. It all makes sense. If you’re a bicycle rider and you have a carbon-fiber bike, the amount that people will pay extra to save that two pounds so that they can get up that hill quicker is amazing. But obviously, once you start talking about cars, now you’re talking about fuel efficiency and that lower weight with added strength makes a big deal. So the technology already works, the question is: Can they make it work in a $25,000 family sedan? And due to some work at Oak Ridge National Lab in partnership with some of our automotive manufacturers, we think we can be on the leading edge of that carbon-fiber-technology manufacturing.

In a business, the most important thing that you do is you decide how you’re going to allocate capital. We can do the same thing in state government. So we’re looking and saying: What is the market telling us they need? Well, they’re telling us they need more engineers, more welders and more truck drivers, among other things. I’ll pick those three out. So are we putting the physical capacity in place to train enough?

If you go to any of those plants, there’s a real pride in that product. Whether it’s a chemical in upper Northeast Tennessee with Eastman Chemical that’s going to go into carpet fibers around the world or it’s Jack Daniels or it’s a new, lighter walking boot that people use, we think there’s a certain pride associated with that.