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Bredesen’s ‘Jobs Cabinet’ visits Weakley County

Local business leaders express concerns about job market, financial incentives

Published (Volume 76, No. 4)

Credit: Stephen Yeargin

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen (left) met with local business and government officials to hold an open discussion of what major issues face Weakley and Carroll Counties in the shadow of double-digit unemployment rates.

Credit: Stephen Yeargin

Tennesee GovernorPhil Bredesen expressed great admiration to UTM students who are getting involved with the local community and businesses, during a visit on Monday.  The Governor was in Dresden with his Jobs Cabinet, which was formed in late February of this year, for the second in a series of meetings across the state with leaders of rural communities. 

This particular Jobs Cabinet meeting focused highly on the importance of UTM and its students to the surrounding community.  The University has a partnership with many local businesses such as the MTD plant in Martin, and the Goodyear Tire plant in Union City. MTD Plant Manager Jim Schuster said that “the Martin plant exceeded all other MTD plants in the nation, based on statistics.” He attributed the partnership with the University as one of the major reason for the success. 

Schuster also said that “MTD had no problem finding good people from the university to work in their plant.”

Jim Davis, Plant Manager, was very satisfied with Goodyear’s partnership with the University.  While the plant was downsizing by 1200 employees last spring, they were still able to find and hire quality Engineers from UTM because of the partnership said Davis.

Chancellor Nick Dunagan said of the Jobs Cabinet meeting that “it was outstanding the Governor coming to Dresden sends a great message that he understands rural West Tennessee and the jobs issue.  Students at UTM are some of the best and the University needs to work hard and look for more employment opportunities for the student workforce. 

Dunagan also said one of his goals for the University was to “help bring jobs to Weakley County for the students such as was done with MTD.”

Bredesen and the Jobs Cabinet also discussed with local leaders, the potential for a prison to be built in Weakley County, the progress of Interstate 69, and what type of businesses would be most likely lured to the West Tennessee region.

Also in attendance at the meeting were Rep. Mark Maddox and Sen. Roy Herron who both urged the Governor to put an emphasis on the education of young people and the importance of training them properly to become part of the work force.

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Bredesen signed an executive order on March 6 of this year creating the Jobs Cabinet.
The cabinet calls together commissioners from seven state departments as well as representatives from higher education and business trade groups.

In all, 12 cabinet members meet on a regular basis to develop effective job-creation and workforce training strategies.
The “Hands Across Tennessee” tour is a new program that allows the committee to get out and explore situations across the state.

“Too often, government gets very insular,” Bredesen said. “By sitting down with local leaders who are on the front lines of community development we all gain better insight into what it will take to really help grow local economies.”

The Pacer will continue to take a closer look at how the state and local governments are working to improve the economic conditions in Weakley County, including student employment.