Bredesen nemesis commissions study of state economy

Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 11:45pm

Aides to Gov. Phil Bredesen are dismissing a new study commissioned by one of his political enemies that purports to show Tennessee is failing to keep pace with poorer Southern states economically.

The study paid for by Nashville developer Bill Freeman claims that Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky — all states with smaller economies — have gained on Tennessee over the past decade by various measures of growth.

The average income in Alabama grew from 83 percent of Tennessee’s in 1997 to 87 percent 10 years later, the study says. In '97, Tennessee's average gross domestic product was 89 percent of Virginia's, but a decade later, it had fallen to 81 percent.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next five years, the per capita income for Alabama begins to be the same as it is for Tennessee,” said J. David Woodward, the author of the report and a Clemson University political scientist who doubles as a strategist for conservative Republican candidates.

But aides to Bredesen point out the study does not take into account the two signature achievements of the governor’s economic recruitment efforts: Chattanooga’s Volkswagen and Clarksville’s Hemlock Semiconductor plants, both billion-dollar investments.

“You could spend days thumbing through one of these home-cooked reports trying to verify the facts,” said Will Pinkston, a senior aide to Bredesen. “But the bottom line is, anyone with a calculator can cut economic data 10 different ways and come up with just about any result they want. In the meantime, the governor and his team are going to stay focused on recruiting jobs.”

Freeman, a Democrat, has feuded with the governor since the beginning of Bredesen’s political career. Freeman sided with Bill Boner and Bob Clement against Bredesen in the governor’s first political races.

Most recently, Bredesen torpedoed Freeman’s fund-raising efforts as state Democratic Party treasurer, forcing Freeman to resign. In retaliation, Freeman says he phoned White House officials to bad-mouth Bredesen when he reportedly was under consideration for an Obama Cabinet appointment.

Freeman freely acknowledges he'd like to make Bredesen look bad, but he insists his economic study is objective and factual. He says he paid about $15,000 for the report, well worth the money he says if it creates negative publicity for his nemesis in the governor’s office.

“This study really shows what’s been going on under Phil’s leadership,” Freeman says. “I think he’s accomplished very little. I don’t know why he doesn’t like me. I’ve reached out to him and he’s refused to meet with me. I don’t know what I’ve done.

“[The study] is all just factual stuff. I’m not trying to do anything other than report what’s gone on under his tenure. I think the report speaks for itself.”


4 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 10/19/09 at 5:13

Hopeful the study took in the Governor's greatest accomplishment,
the economically affect BUNKER which we haven't seen
the full effect of just yet! Once it starts being used by the
lobbyist and other organization it may produce more
revenue than the proposed MCC. Just saying-------

By: artsmart on 10/19/09 at 7:09

I'm sure we will be able to name it the Conte- Bredesen bunker, that should help pull in business. Then Dean convention center we should be rolling in dough.

By: idgaf on 10/19/09 at 7:17

Recruiting jobs is fine but paying them to move here is insanity. We are one of only four no income tax states which is a huge plus, but if you give them tax breaks / insentives you give away the very money you need to support the services they need so it is a net loss to the taxpayers.

Any fool can get all the businesses here you have room for if you bribe them with enough.

We should care that other states are approaching our leval WHY?

By: dnewton on 10/19/09 at 8:31

I don't think Bredesen is as much to blame as the legislature. Putnam County Tennessee lost 2223 industrial jobs from 2001 to 2007. This is about the same number of VW jobs that the state paid over half a billion for at the main plant VW plant in Hamilton County. We are losing industrial jobs faster than they can be replaced by subsidies and have been since about 1984. The average wage per job in the industrial category is rising at below the background inflation rate but the governor, his sidekick Matt Kisber and the legislature are more mesmerized by their own economic development propaganda than the clients that they are trying to attract. Tennessee industrial policy has not worked since 1984 and we are still doing all of the monkey-see-monkey-do stuff that comes in Site Selection Magazine.
This summer, the governor and the legislature forced counties that did not want building inspection to take on that additional burden even though some of the remaining counties that did not have building construction laws were losing population. One of the counties that is losing population is Haywood County and that county is the one that the Governor worked so hard to get a solar farm. These are the new green Jobs of the Future…government jobs. Haywood County is the perfect industrial mega site. It is on the interstate and there are at least three properties available at just one exit. According to economic development legend, this is the perfect set up and clients should be falling all over themselves to sign up for incentives.
The governor and his friend Matt Kisber have taken the art of counting the hits and ignoring the misses to the next level. They love to take credit no matter how bad things are. No one dares to hold them responsible for this failure because they mean well. Sometimes you get what you deserve.