(Originally appeared on The Knoxville News Sentinel)
By Cortney Piper, Executive Director, Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council
By almost any metric, Tennessee had a strong 2020 in advanced energy, a robust sector with 18,000 businesses contributing nearly $40 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. And the year’s growth in the state’s electric vehicle landscape received national and international headlines. As that happened, more elected officials realized that advanced energy means job creation, which stretches beyond political lines and helps Tennesseans directly in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has tightened other areas of employment.
Among the 2020 victories are General Motors’ $2 billion plan for its electric vehicle plant in Spring Hill that will build Cadillac’s SUV. Volkswagen announced its own EV SUV at its Chattanooga plant. Last January, VW, the University of Tennessee, the UT Research Foundation and Oak Ridge National Laboratory partnered on VW’s first innovation hub in North America at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. And in the fall, VW broke ground on a $22 million Chattanooga lab to test EV batteries.
With leadership from Gov. Bill Lee, Tennesseans can anticipate more growth in advanced energy and job creation. Electric vehicles are a primary focus for state resources, which included incentives for the GM plant. Nissan and VW have also worked closely with state and local government over the years.
Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said that Lee’s goal is to make Tennessee the country’s most business-friendly state and praised the EV progress in a December Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) webinar. Electric vehicle jobs are advanced energy jobs. And transportation electrification can pull us through this pandemic-induced economic downturn just like energy has done countless times before, starting in 1933 with the Tennessee Valley Authority.
To continue reading this article, follow this link. For more information about how the advanced energy sector creates high-quality jobs and fuels growth for existing businesses, read Piper’s earlier guest column, “Transportation electrification can recharge Tennessee’s economy.”