Randy Boyd’s campaign platform to become the next governor of Tennessee is to make it a “state of opportunity.” Part of that opportunity may include McMinn County’s proposed Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Business Innovation.
Boyd, a Republican from Knoxville, relinquished his position as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TDECD) on Feb. 1 to focus on the gubernatorial race. If successful in his bid, he will assume the seat currently held by Gov. Bill Haslam, who appointed him to the commissioner post in 2014.
“These next 18 months that I’m campaigning, my goal is to treat it as governor training school,” he said in an interview at McMinn County High School on Tuesday. “I’m going to go to every single county and visit with as many people as possible, listen and learn. Hopefully, as a result of that, I’ll become a better governor when I’m elected.”
Prior to and during his service in the Haslam administration, Boyd was involved in several initiatives he would like to see completed. Among those programs is Drive to 55 – the goal of 55 percent of Tennesseans holding a post-secondary degree by 2025.
“I helped author that in 2013, and we have made some great strides forward,” said Boyd.
When Drive to 55 was penned, 32 percent of Tennessee residents held a post-secondary degree. That number has risen to 39 percent.
“We can’t get it all done in the next two years, so I want to succeed the governor and help make sure we complete that mission,” he said. “It’s critical to the future of our state, and to McMinn County and Athens.”
While serving as TDECD commissioner, the department set a goal to be number one in the Southeast in high-quality jobs. Tennessee is currently ranked number four, according to Boyd.
“I’d like to come back and finish that,” he said. “We managed to recruit 50,000 new jobs to our state in the last two years, which is a record. So, we’ve got a lot of positive momentum, but we’re not where we want to be.”
Boyd also headed up a rural development task force over the last two years.
“What I discovered through my public service was that a lot of parts of our state are getting left behind,” he said.
Boyd noted there are 17 Tennessee counties, including nearby Bledsoe County, that are considered distressed, which means they are in the bottom 10 percent in the United States in unemployment, income and poverty.
“I want to work to make sure we have zero distressed counties in our state,” he said. “I want to complete some of the initiatives that we’ve started to make sure nobody gets left behind.”
Boyd believes his public sector background, as well as his prior success as a Knoxville-based businessman, uniquely positions him to continue many of the workforce development initiatives that began under Haslam.
“I think the number one job of the governor is jobs,” said Boyd. “My experience in helping create jobs, hopefully, makes me the best qualified (to be the next governor).”
Boyd said he created 700 jobs in the private sector and helped recruit the aforementioned 50,000 jobs while serving under Haslam.
“The most important thing to recruiting jobs to our state is having an educated workforce,” he said.
Boyd also helped create Tennessee Promise – a scholarship and mentoring program which guarantees two years of free education for all Tennessee high school graduates at either a technical or community college.