Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has touted its ability to give taxpayers more bang for their buck when it comes to economic development by leveraging increasingly smaller grants for projects that promise more jobs than deals under previous governors.
But, reports The Tennessean, the administration deviated from that pattern when it doled out $30 million to Eastman Chemical Co. in May. Eastman has promised to pump $1.6 billion of its own money into renovating and expanding its facility in Kingsport, where the publicly traded company has operated since 1920. The chemical manufacturing company is the largest employer in northeast Tennessee and one of the largest in the entire state.
But Project Inspire, as it has been dubbed by company executives and public officials, comes with relatively few predicted new jobs considering the state’s investment. Eastman has promised 300 new jobs, which comes out to $100,000 in taxpayer incentives per anticipated job.
During his first two years in office, the Haslam administration has spent an average of $3,104 in incentives per new job, a statistic the Department of Economic and Community Development has highlighted in its annual reports as evidence the program is being run more efficiently than in the past.
ECD spokesman Clint Brewer acknowledged that Commissioner Bill Hagerty used the incentives-per-job metric to track how efficiently the department is operating. But Brewer said the Eastman package compared favorably to other incentive deals when considering the state’s relatively small contribution to the overall project. The $30 million in taxpayer funds amounts to just 1.9 percent of the overall $1.6 billion project, and by that measure Brewer said taxpayers are still getting high value for their investment in Project Inspire.
Eastman Chemical employs 6,750 workers in Tennessee, plus 2,500 contract workers and has 6,200 retirees drawing pension and retirement benefits. The company, which has deep political connections, has flexed its muscle by spending significantly on state legislative campaigns in recent election cycles. It also employs Tom Ingram’s firm, The First Group, to represent its interests in Washington, D.C.
Ingram helped Haslam with his 2010 election campaign and has been personally paid by Haslam to advise him while he was governor. Last week, Haslam said he is putting Ingram back on his campaign payroll after complaints that Ingram lobbied other state officials at the same time he worked as his personal adviser.
…As is often the case in economic development packages, there were whispers of Eastman looking to move some of its operation outside Tennessee. State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, said he heard other states were trying to woo Eastman. Shipley said even losing a fraction of the workforce, or missing out on the 300 new jobs, would have seriously hurt the community.
When the incentive deal was announced last month, Haslam told local media that he didn’t want to be the governor when Eastman decided to expand somewhere else.
Asked whether moving facets of its operation out of Kingsport was an option, Eastman spokeswoman Kristin Sturgill said “it always makes sense to consider options before making a large investment.”
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has approved a grant of up to $12.5 million to support the local production of ABC’s Nashville, reports The City Paper.
Mayor Karl Dean has also agreed, on behalf of Metro, to provide a $500,000 cash grant for the production of the show, something that Dean’s office has previously referred to as advertising the city can’t buy.
There had been speculation about the possibility of the show leaving Nashville for its second season, but ABC confirmed last week that the show would remain in its title city.
“Nashville offers a valuable international platform to showcase our state’s dynamic entertainment industry, while providing a confluence of film and music that is unique only to Tennessee,” ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said in a release from the department. “Promoting and assisting this thriving business sector is an integral part of our state’s economic development efforts. From our rich musical heritage to our talented artists and crew, Tennessee’s entertainment industry is second to none. I am pleased Nashville producers recognize the value of filming in Music City, and I look forward to another great season.”
ECD noted that the grant will be based on “qualified expenditures,” defined as “those incurred in the state for goods or services purchased from a Tennessee vendor or paid to a Tennessee resident in connection with the production.”
The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. and the Event Marketing Fund will each contribute a cash grant of $125,000. The production is expected to generate more than $40 million in local spending, according to ECD.
“Small and large Nashville businesses have benefited greatly from the local filming of Nashville, not only from the direct spending related to the show but also from the worldwide attention this show has generated for our city and our state. With beautiful scenic shots of our landscape and the portrayal of our unique music scene, more people, without a doubt, are visiting our city and spending their money here because they’ve seen this hour-long commercial for Music City that airs every week during primetime,” said Dean, in a prepared statement. “The city’s investment in Nashville this season is a recognition that this show benefits our local economy and is opening doors to further grow the film and television industry here.”
The Memphis branch of Planned Parenthood received a federal grant that will help offset the loss of state funding last year, reports the Commercial Appeal. A $395,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will cover a little more than half of the $748,000 in funding that was eliminated last year by lawmakers who oppose abortion.
The federal funding brought a prompt condemnation from the Tennessee Right to Life group. (Note: News release below.)
The grant, which will be distributed annually for the next three years, will be used to provide services to low-income women, said Barry Chase, president of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region.
“The basic thing that we lost the ability to do was provide low-income women with free birth control and free annual exams. We have had to charge some small minimal amount to women,” Chase said. “We were extremely pleased to know that we will have the opportunity to provide health care for low-income women who will be able to come to us as they have in the past.”
The money eliminated from Planned Parenthood in both Memphis and Nashville last year was part of federal Title 10 funding, which covers birth control counseling, drugs and devices, and health services such as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and screenings for breast and cervical cancer.
That funding does not include abortion, nor will the new grant, Chase said.
Compounding Planned Parenthood’s recent troubles, the Shelby County Commission also voted last year to award a $397,900 contract to provide family planning services for low-income people to Christ Community Health Services. Some commissioners expressed concern over abortion, leading to their vote to bypass Planned Parenthood for the grant.
While this grant will not fully replace the money lost, Chase hopes private fundraising will help offset the difference.
“This is not good for Planned Parenthood. This is good for the women and teens in Shelby County,” Chase said.
News release from Department of Economic and Community Development:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) announced today that it has approved a grant of up to $7.5 million for the “Nashville” television show that will film in Music City and premier on ABC this fall.
The reimbursable grant will be based on the production’s actual qualified expenditures made in Tennessee. Qualified expenditures are those incurred in the state for goods or services purchased from a Tennessee vendor or paid to a Tennessee resident in connection with the production.
“We are taking a new approach to one of Tennessee’s strongest and most unique businesses, the entertainment industry,” Commissioner Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said. “Gov. Bill Haslam has made a concerted effort to fold the film and music sectors into our department and make them a part of the state’s regular economic goals and initiatives.
“The unique confluence of film and music that ‘Nashville’ offers is central to our aim of highlighting Tennessee’s great strength as a center of creative excellence in the music industry,” Hagerty added. “Additionally, the consistent employment afforded Tennesseans as a result of this multi-episode series will result in constructive training and talent development and longer term employment for Tennessee’s entertainment industry.”
Pre-production on the series, which will be filmed in and around Nashville, has already begun with principal photography slated to begin mid-July. “Nashville” is expected to employ more than 350 Tennessee residents in various crew positions. Additionally, much of the musical scoring, recording and publishing will be done in Music City.
“Nashville” stars Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights,” “American Horror Story”) as Rayna James, a country music legend, and Hayden Panettiere (“Heroes”) as Juliette Barnes, a young up-and-coming star. Also starring in the series are Powers Boothe (“MacGruber,” “24”), Eric Close (“Chaos,” “Without a Trace”) and Clare Bowen (“General Hospital”).
The series is produced by Lionsgate, ABC Studios and Gaylord Entertainment. For more information on the show, visit www.facebook.com/NashvilleABC
News release from the governor’s office:
SEVIERVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer announced today a grant for the final link in a pedestrian and bicycle route between downtown Sevierville and Pigeon Forge.
The $423,833 transportation enhancement grant to the city of Sevierville is for Phase II of the Hospital to East Gate Greenway Project, which includes a 10 foot paved multi-use trail for pedestrians and bicyclists to be constructed parallel to Middle Creek.
The project also includes ornamental lighting, shade trees and other decorative features designed to enhance the scenic character of the city’s transportation system.
“Communities across the state are creating networks of greenways, trails and walkways that offer Tennesseans additional ways to commute or exercise as well as offering visitors a new way to see our state,” Haslam said. “This project will provide an essential link in Sevierville’s alternative transportation network while also promoting healthy living and pedestrian travel.”
A variety of activities such as the restoration of historic facilities, bike and pedestrian trails, landscaping and other non-traditional transportation projects are eligible for grant funds made possible through a federally funded program administered by TDOT.
“Through Transportation Enhancement grants, TDOT has funded more than $270 million in non-traditional transportation projects,” Schroer said. “This program has assisted communities all over the state in their efforts to revitalize downtowns, highlight historic areas, provide alternative means of transportation, and increase opportunities for economic development.”
State Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), and state Reps. Richard Montgomery (R-Sevierville) and Art Swann (R-Maryville) represent Sevier County in the Tennessee General Assembly.
— Note: Overbey and Montgomery both have contested primaries as they seek re-election this year and both have been endorsed by the governor.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee is one of six states that will share in more than $181 million in federal health care grants.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the grants Wednesday, saying Tennessee will receive $4.3 million to use in establishing Affordable Health Care Insurance Exchanges. The funds are part of the Affordable Care Act.
The exchanges are designed as “one stop shops” to find and compare affordable, quality private health insurance options.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in announcing the grants that in 2014, consumers in every state will have a marketplace where they can buy affordable insurance coverage.
The other grants announced Wednesday went to Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington.
News release from U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources:
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today awarded nearly $220 million in Affordable Insurance Exchange grants to 13 states to help them create Exchanges, giving these states more flexibility and resources to implement the Affordable Care Act.
The health care reform law gives states the freedom to design Affordable Insurance Exchanges – one-stop marketplaces where consumers can choose a private health insurance plan that fits their health needs and have the same kinds of insurance choices as members of Congress.
The Department also released several Frequently Asked Questions providing answers to key questions states need to know as they work to set up these new marketplaces. Critical among these are that states that run Exchanges have more options than originally proposed when it comes to determining eligibility for tax credits and Medicaid.
And states have more time to apply for “Level One” Exchange grants.
Today’s awards bring to 29 the number of states that are making significant progress in creating Affordable Insurance Exchanges. States receiving funding today include: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont.
“We are committed to giving states the flexibility to implement the Affordable Care Act in the way that works for them,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “Exchanges will give consumers more choices and make it easy to compare and shop for insurance plans.”
In the new Exchanges, insurers will provide new information such as an easy-to-understand summary of benefits and costs to consumers. The level of detail will sharpen competition between carriers which will drive costs down.
HHS also released today a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in anticipation of state legislative sessions beginning in January. Answers will help advance state policy development for Exchanges.
For example, they clarify that Exchange grants can be used to build a state Exchange that is operational after 2014; that state-based Exchanges will not be charged for accessing Federal data needed to run Exchanges in 2014; and that state insurance rules and operations will continue even if the Federal government is facilitating an Exchange in the state. HHS will also allow greater flexibility in eligibility determinations, allowing, for example, a state-based Exchange to permit the Federal government to determine eligibility for premium tax credits.
Of the 13 states awarded grants today, 12 are receiving Level One grants, which provide one year of funding to states that have already made progress using their Exchange planning grant. The 13th state, Rhode Island, is receiving the first Level Two grant, which provides multi-year funding to states further along in the planning process.
Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have already received planning grants, and 45 states have consulted with consumer advocates and insurance companies. Thirteen states have passed legislation to create an Exchange.
States have many opportunities to apply for funding. To accommodate state legislative sessions and to give states more time to apply, HHS also announced a six-month extension for Level One establishment grant applications. Applications now will be accepted until June 29, 2012 (the original deadline was December 30, 2011).
For the FAQs, visit http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/regulations/index.html#hie.
For more information on Affordable Insurance Exchanges, visit http://www.HealthCare.gov/law/features/choices/exchanges/index.html
For more information on the states receiving grants, visithttp://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/05/exchanges05232011a.html
News release from TBI:
Nashville, Tenn. – The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Tennessee is one of fifteen (15) states that has substantially complied with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection Act. This designation ensures that Byrne Grant funding to the state will not be reduced by 10%, the penalty for non-compliance. The Justice Department’s Office of Sex Offender Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART) reviewed compliance packet submitted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and determined that the state’s law, policies and procedures substantially complied with the Walsh Act.
Tennessee’s quest for compliance, which started following the Act’s passage in 2006, concluded with the submission of a compliance packet on July 6, 2011. The compliance packet included relevant state statutes along with state policies and procedures. TBI’s Sex Offender Registry Attorney and the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Registry answered follow up questions from the SMART office and provided additional requested information during the two month review process.
“The TBI is proud to have helped Tennessee reach the federal standards of the Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act. We have worked very hard to meet this goal,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. TBI would also like to commend the state legislators, law enforcement agencies, the SMART office, and all of the other agencies that supported this effort. Tennessee is a safer place because of the Sex Offender Registry.”
Tennessee’s Sex Offender Registry, which currently contains information about close to 18,000 sex offenders, has been in existence since 1995.
Although Tennessee received approval for substantial implementation, there are still some areas that may require further progress, including offenses included in the registry, the tiering of certain offenses, and the accumulation of required registration information. TBI will continue to work with fellow law enforcement agencies and the General Assembly to incorporate any needed changes to the registry.
News release from Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam joined state and local officials today to announce the award of a $818,880 transportation enhancement grant to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development for Phase III of the Civil War Driving Trail.
The Civil War Driving Trail is a multi-phased program that has established a statewide network of directional and historical signage to be used in conjunction with the Tennessee Civil War map/guide and applicable map/guides developed by individual localities.
“This program has created a more easily accessible, user friendly system for travelers to follow as they explore sites and transportation corridors associated with the American Civil War in Tennessee,” said Governor Haslam. “It also encourages partnerships between state agencies and local communities. I’m proud the State of Tennessee can make investments like this to enhance local communities for the benefit of citizens and visitors alike.”
The grant is made possible through a federally funded program administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
“Through Transportation Enhancement grants, TDOT has funded more than $259 million in non-traditional transportation projects,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “Established by Congress in the early 1990’s, the program supports activities designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation’s transportation system.”
The Tennessee Civil War Trails program is both a freestanding, statewide program and a part of the existing 700-site, three-state Civil War Trails program which has been developed through similar grant funding. The project will encourage and reward local governments and private sector participants that establish, promote and maintain the program in their areas.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam says a new project completes a “monumental effort” to preserve the Gray Fossil Site in Washington County.
In a statement released in Nashville, Haslam said a recent $145,000 enhancement grant for the site helps create a unique educational opportunity for those who visit it.
The site was unearthed in 2000 by a state crew cutting a road through the property. It has since produced a rich supply of animal fossils, including dozens of tapirs.
Haslam said the site’s visitor center in its three years of operation has welcomed more than 250,000 visitors from all 50 states and several foreign countries.
The latest project represents the completion of the grounds and visitor amenities for the visitor center.
East Tennessee State University operates the site.