Unemployment exceeds 10 percent in all six of the rural Middle Tennessee counties that now make up the 28th state Senate District, observes the Tennessean.
So it comes as no surprise that in the race to occupy the newly drawn state Senate seat, state Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and former state Rep. Ty Cobb, D-Columbia, are squabbling over their job records as they traverse the rural district south of Nashville.
Cobb took partial credit for creating the Northfield Workforce, Development and Conference Center, a job re-training facility that was funded when he served Maury County for two years in the state Capitol.
Hensley, a 57-year-old Lewis County doctor, disputed Cobb’s role and said he’d done more to bring jobs to his three-county district, including 100 jobs in Lawrence County in the past year.
And despite calls by Cobb and Hensley for a clean campaign, both sides were willing to question how effectively their opponent could bring work to the region, which acquired the 28th after Republicans moved it east from Memphis earlier this year.
News release from Ty Cobb campaign (slightly edited):
Columbia firefighter and former state Rep. Tyler “Ty” Cobb announced today he is seeking the new state Senate seat encompassing Maury, Lawrence, Lewis, Giles, Wayne and Perry counties.
“I’m excited to have this opportunity to ask hard-working folks like you to let me represent District 28 in the state Senate,” Cobb said. “I want to represent your best interests in the Legislature because I understand many of us are hurting financially as jobs have disappeared during one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression.
“Neighbors, family, friends and co-workers have urged me to serve in the Senate so we can get the Legislature back to doing what it’s supposed to do, which is govern with common sense and efficiency. We now have too many politicians in Nashville who are more worried about being big-shots than being advocates for the regular Joe.
“They fuss and fight up there in Nashville about things that have nothing to do with getting people back to work. Most of us worry about paying our bills, feeding our children and having a good life. It seems the Legislature, though, is more concerned about political pay-back and petty rivalries. I promise you, if elected, I will do everything in my power to bring good jobs back,” he said.
The Tennessee General Assembly last week created the new District 28 Senate seat after Census numbers forced the state to redraw new legislative districts. A mandatory Census count is done every 10 years to examine population growth. The general election will be held this fall on, Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Cobb pointed to the Northfield Workforce and Development Conference Center in Spring Hill as an example of his ability to get results for the people of Middle Tennessee. The Northfield facility is used by local and state officials to train workers vital technical skills needed in today’s industries and businesses.
“Because I know how to work with people to get things done, I was able to get former Gov. Bredesen to allocate $5 million for Northfield,” said Cobb, who served in the state House as a fiscally conservative Democrat, as well as on the Maury County Commission.
“We were then able to use that money to buy the facility from General Motors and transform an otherwise empty building into a state-of-the-art technical training center. Northfield is also being used as a call center where hundreds of people work in technical services. It should be a prime example of what our communities can do with the resources we have available to us.
“We have a lot to offer top-notch companies and industries looking for communities in which to locate. But it takes leaders with vision, commitment and dedication to make sure we have a well-trained workforce and the infrastructure needed to support employers,” he explained.
TRG Customer Solutions, a leading global provider of customer management solutions and technologies, operates a 50,000-square-foot technical service center from the Northfield facility. Cobb also points to the vital role Columbia State Community College and Martin Methodist College play in keeping the region desirable for employers.
“Providing our children with second-to-none educational opportunities is vital,” said Cobb, whose parents are educators. “But it seems lately that the Legislature has a vendetta against our teachers. Just look at how the General Assembly tried to destroy the Teachers Education Association last year.
“The TEA’s primary purpose is to ensure educators have the resources they need to teach our children how to read, write and solve the kinds of problems everyone faces in an ever-changing world. I will support unequivocally our teachers and our children while serving in the state Senate, unlike some of our elected officials serving there now,” he added.
News release from Tennessee Democratic Caucus:
SMYRNA – House and Senate Democrats continued their statewide jobs tour Wednesday with stops in Columbia and Smyrna, as officials discussed technical jobs training and the expansion of one of Middle Tennessee’s largest employers.
“Today’s events were a great reminder that when different groups within the public and private sector come together, we can put people to work faster and more efficiently,” said State Representative Gary Moore.
The morning began with a roundtable at Columbia State Community College, where former State Rep. Ty Cobb updated everyone with the latest news on the reopening of the General Motors plant in Spring Hill. National labor and management officials with GM have reported they are close to a new contract that would create 600 new jobs next year at the former Saturn plant, and another 1,100 by 2013.
Public officials then met with Marvin Sandrell of Sandrell Heating and Air Conditioning and several members of the Columbia State faculty and staff to discuss how Tennessee educational institutions can best prepare students for the workforce – especially nontraditional students training for a new career.
The tour then traveled to Smyrna to visit the Nissan plant, where the all-electric LEAF is expected to go into mass production next year. Nissan executives and directors told the group that the plant’s expansion is a direct result of Tennessee’s economic incentives and infrastructure support.
“I watched the first Nissans roll off the assembly line in 1983, and since Day One our state government has had a great relationship with Nissan,” said Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh. “Our cooperation has benefited not only Middle Tennessee, but the entire state.”
Nissan officials also told the tour of the need for increased emphasis on science and technology education and a recommitment to trade schools that prepare Tennesseans for well-paying manufacturing careers.
The jobs tour continues tomorrow morning in McMinnville before heading to Chattanooga for the East Tennessee portion of the tour.