Site Selectors Agree: Best States for Doing Business Are Located in the Valley

TVA’s Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley explains why Tennessee Valley states consistently offers the best environment for doing business. Hint: It's all about cooperation.

Area Development magazine recently published it’s sixth annual Top States for Doing Business issue, in which site selectors ranked the states on business environment, labor pool, infrastructure, certified sites, intermodal capabilities and energy costs. Five of them are in the Valley: Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Kentucky.

We caught up with TVA’s Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley to get his insights on how TVA has worked with its state, regional and local partners to create such a positive business environment—one that garnered $7.8 billion in direct investment in the Tennessee Valley in fiscal year 2015. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: You’ve obviously achieved so much last year. How does your process work?

A: We are out there recruiting. States are out there recruiting, and so are communities. When somebody gets a deal, we all connect—it's just a natural cooperation. We will identify a site or building that work within the TVA footprint. Then the state agencies step in with funding and incentives and things of that nature. Then, at the end of the day, it’s up to the locals—the real experts—to sell their community. It’s amazing how much coordination goes on. Believe it or not, it’s a very seamless cooperative effort. And that’s because we’ve got some very good economic development teams out there.

Q. Does the Valley’s location play into its strength as an attractive place to do business?

A: This region is an attractive draw for a lot of reasons—and some of it is just  natural. We are centrally located within the U.S. Within our footprint you can reach 60 percent of the U.S. population overnight. That is huge. We also have the river, the railroads, the interstate system, and some major airports. Logistically, we are very strong—businesses that locate here can get to their markets very quickly.

Q: How do the people of the Valley benefit from TVA’s economic development efforts?

A: Our mission in life is to serve the people of the Valley, and to improve the quality of life here. And we really focus on doing that in three ways. First, it’s going after industry and making sure we are competitive. We have reliable power, we are cost competitive and we have a diverse portfolio. That makes us very attractive.

The second piece is keeping what we have—and that’s where a lot of economic development agencies miss it. What does that mean? It means you’ve got to work with companies to continually help make them competitive within their own industry. I think TVA frankly does a lot of this through its programs and its rates.

The third piece is working with the communities day in and day out, making sure they have the tools they need to be as successful as they can be. And making sure they have the product—the buildings and sites needed to actually locate new companies in the area.

Q: Can you measure your success?

We had our best year ever with job creation. We hit a little over 76,000 new jobs created, and $7.6 billion in capital investment—and yes, that is with a “B.” I would like to stress that those are real numbers—sometimes you hear these numbers and there are multipliers. These are direct jobs and real capital investment. We are very blessed we have so many advantages in the Tennessee Valley.