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Steve Ahillen
By Steve Ahillen March 22, 2012

Regional development programs off and running

In the course of his campaign then-Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam presented a brochure titled "Bill Haslam: The Right Experience.” Not surprisingly considering the poor economic times, most of the governor's platform focused on job creation and restarting the state economy.

As part of his plan, Haslam said regional workforce development assessments were needed "so that we can quickly begin to help employers, postsecondary institutions and local officials develop strategies for helping businesses grow and local workers receive the training necessary to fill new jobs.”

Once in office, the new governor got  to work on the plan. On Dec. 16, Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner  Bill Hagerty announced the release of nine regional strategic plans.

In making the announcement, Haslam said: "The strategic plans will be a guide for economic development growth as we continue working to become the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

The regional breakdown is as follows: Northwest, Greater Memphis, Southwest, Northern Middle, Southern Middle, Upper Cumberland, East, Northeast and Southeast.

A look into one of the regional plans, the Southeast, explains the governor's four strategies for economic growth: prioritizing business development efforts in six key clusters in which the state has a competitive advantage, reducing business regulations, investing in innovation and establishing regional "jobs base camps” in each of the nine regions across the state.

From there, the plan has a county-by-county breakdown of the economic picture, paying close attention to ongoing business initiatives. It also includes economic and demographic data and then lists action plans.

It's too early to judge what effect all of this effort is having on economy and jobs growth. The state's employment rate has been steadily improving in the last few months, based mainly on the improving national economic picture overall. So, we'll keep an eye on how much success can be attributed to the strategic jobs plan in the coming months.

For now we can rule that the governor certainly fulfilled his promise to establish this regional game plan so we give him a  Promise Kept.

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