Tennessee Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd brought his campaign to Clarksville Wednesday morning, mostly to listen and position himself potentially as the economic development candidate for the state’s highest office in 2018.
Boyd recently served as the state’s commissioner of Economic and Community Development, and, on his watch, saw the state’s private sector collect 50,000 new jobs on a combined investment of $11 billion. He stopped by the Montgomery County Courthouse Wednesday to visit with County Mayor Jim Durrett and his chief of staff, Jeff Truitt, and Sheriff John Fuson.
Boyd called attention to some of the key industrial investments Montgomery County has seen announced in recent history: $250 million LG Electronics, $800 million Hankook Tire and a $600 million Google data center.
“When LG starts breaking ground, I’m going to show up for it, whether I’m governor, or the ex-ECD commissioner,” he said. “I want to be the most active economic development governor in our state’s history.
“I also want to work to help our veterans stay in Tennessee.”
Boyd said many global companies are attracted to Montgomery County, especially South Korean interests after the LG and Hankook scores.
Durrett told Boyd that the community welcomes state-level support to help it build momentum and create more global jobs, locally. “We have, what I consider to be, a great relationship with the folks at Hankook Tire and LG,” Durrett said in casual conversation with Boyd. “In the case of LG, I know they looked at about 80 different sites in North America for locating their plant.
“They told us it came down to the people of Montgomery County, and the state of Tennessee, for their honesty, and their good working relationship,” Durrett said.
Boyd asked Durrett how the next governor could assist Montgomery County in its growth, and the challenges that come with it. “I think education funding is huge for us,” Durrett responded.
“The (Clarksville-Montgomery County School System) represents about 72 percent of our total county budget. I do think the Improve Act is going to help us with our transportation infrastructure. We want to continue to grow in a smart way,” he told Boyd.
Fuson, speaking from the perspective of a key figurehead in local public safety, agreed with Durrett that moving long-awaited state highway projects forward in Montgomery County is vital. “These road projects have got to get done,” Fuson said, specifically citing the state Highway 374 project connecting Dover Road to state Highway 149 as one that has met with too many delays. Fuson said it would take a lot of traffic pressure off other key thoroughfares in and around Clarksville.
“The Improve Act is one of the biggest economic development initiatives in the state’s history, for its infrastructure component which is critical … plus tax reductions for manufacturers. It’s an incredible windfall and a huge recruiting tool,” Boyd said.
“If I got to be governor, one of the things I think we’re doing maybe a little too much at the state level, is imposing unfunded mandates and usurping local control from communities, and I’d like to focus on giving back more of that local control and helping where state government can be more of an asset,” he said.
Boyd was raised in south Knoxville and says he has deep roots in West Tennessee.
Reach Business Editor Jimmy Settle at 931-245-0247 and on Twitter @settle_leaf.