NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee leaders are trying to meet the workforce demand of new companies and expansions. According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, state leaders expect to end the year with between 18,000 and 20,000 jobs committed.

“I think there’s a lot of pent up demand coming out of the pandemic for the last two and a half years. And so as we continue to come out of the pandemic, companies that had to kind of pump their brakes a little bit during the pandemic are ready to go, and they’re moving forward very, very quickly,” said TNECD Deputy Commissioner Allen Borden. “Now, why is Tennessee having such great success, with both the recruitment of new investment as well as expansions of existing industry? There’s a lot of reasons really for that.”

He says it’s one of the lowest-cost states to do business; he feels Tennessee is one of the most fiscally sound states; and then he says location is big factor.

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“We’re bordered by more states around the state of Tennessee than any other state in the United States. And so we are in a very, very good geographic position to service the eastern seaboard of the United States. And that’s where two thirds of the population lives within our company, our country,” said Borden. “So it’s very economical from a manufacturing standpoint, to locate in Tennessee.”

Borden explained that the biggest challenge in bringing all these companies to Tennessee is providing the workforce they need.

“Workforce development is probably the greatest challenge that we are facing right now from an economic development standpoint, and that is both with attracting new investment to the state and also working with our existing companies and allowing them to continue to grow,” said Borden. “Now, Tennessee is not the only state that’s experiencing this challenge. It’s actually all throughout the southeast in other states that we compete with.”

In Montgomery County Hankook Tire plans to double production and create 1,200 new jobs. In Warren County, Bridgestone is investing half a billion dollars to expand a plant in Morrison to bring 380 new jobs.

“What we see is that as communities surrounding, for instance, the greater Nashville area with exploding growth in the last few years, like Clarksville-Montgomery County, there is a larger labor force when it comes to the sheer numbers. But it’s very busy. So it’s a more crowded space,” Borden explained. “When you go into some of these more rural areas like Warren County, the sheer numbers are smaller, but the competition for that workforce is not as great.”

He said many companies are taking advantage of rural areas.

“There are many companies now that are really thriving in our rural communities around the state by deciding to invest their dollars there, continue to grow there and look at utilizing our technical and community colleges to upskill Tennesseans for new jobs, for better jobs, for higher quality jobs,” said Borden. “Those companies are taking advantage of those of those rural markets, and we’re certainly glad to see that because it really adds a great diversity to our state and it means that we’re lifting up not only our metropolitan areas here in the state, but we’re also lifting up our rural communities in this state.”

Borden says state leaders are trying to address three legs of workforce development: recruitment, training and retention. They’re also getting started with workforce training and development at an earlier age by bringing back apprenticeships and vocational training in high schools.

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“People that live here, that have grown up here, more of those people are staying for these high-quality jobs,” said Borden. “What’s also important is that there are a lot of folks, a lot of talent, a lot of workforce that are moving here to Tennessee, and we welcome them; we’re glad to have them.”