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VOL. 132 | NO. 54 | Thursday, March 16, 2017

Boyd Opens Memphis Campaign for Governor

By Bill Dries

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Former Tennessee Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd brought his newly launched campaign for governor to Memphis Wednesday, March 15, with a pledge to continue the economic development policies of Gov. Bill Haslam – policies, particularly in workforce training, that Boyd played a key role in shaping.

Former state Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd launched the Memphis part of his bid for governor Wednesday, March 15, with a call to continue workforce development and economic gains realized during the term of outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“I’m not a professional politician,” Boyd told the group of 25 supporters at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Downtown, one of various stops across the state to kick-off his campaign. “But I’m now running for governor of the state of Tennessee.”

And Boyd is running essentially as a successor to Haslam, who is term limited with his second term ending in 2019.

“I think consistency is critical – to be able to keep up the momentum we have,” Boyd said before addressing the Memphis group. “Our state is on an incredible roll right now. We don’t want to take our eye off the goals our state has set.”

Boyd is a business owner from Knoxville who began with a small business selling dog fences and built it into a pet products company. He also founded Radio Systems Corp. and owns a minor league baseball team and a rookie baseball team.

He went to work in the Haslam administration founding the “Drive to 55” program. Its goal is to have 55 percent of the state’s population obtain an associate’s degree or higher from a college or school of technology, and he was the driving force behind “Tennessee Promise” – the state’s pledge of at least two years of free community college for every Tennessee high school graduate.

He succeeded Bill Hagerty as ECD commissioner in 2014.

Continuing the state’s drive to more workforce training as a way to grow and sustain economic health in Tennessee is the dominant theme of Boyd’s bid.

“We’re running out of time in this administration,” he said. “The governor only has two more years. I want to make sure we have an additional eight years to make sure we can finish what we started.”

Boyd has told supporters the state’s economic recovery isn’t guaranteed and hasn’t touched every part of the state – a reference to double-digit unemployment rates in some rural counties.

Boyd’s next stop was the tiny unincorporated community of Fruitvale in Crockett County, where Boyd’s family goes back seven generations. Fruitvale is a community of less than 100 people.

Seventeen Tennessee counties are considered “distressed” by federal standards, meaning their unemployment rates and other economic factors put them in the bottom 2 percent of counties nationwide.

“While it’s true that this is the best time in Tennessee history economically, we are leaving a lot of people behind,” Boyd said. “We’ve got a lot of neighbors that are struggling.”

Boyd recalls turning down Haslam’s offer of a full-time job in state government twice because of the government culture is so different from business. He said Wednesday that Haslam acknowledged that getting anything done takes “at least three times longer and probably 10 times as many stakeholders.”

“But if you can get something done, it can be transformative,” he recalls Haslam telling him.

Like Boyd, Haslam comes from a family business. But Haslam was mayor of Knoxville before becoming governor.

Like Haslam, Boyd says some business practices, but not all, are adaptable to government service.

“When I started my company, I had 12 competitors. You just go out and sell the features of your company and hope people buy,” he said. “I’ll just do that here. If people are buying education and jobs and helping out our rural neighbors, our inter-state neighbors, then I’ll hopefully get elected.”

Boyd has spent a lot of time in Memphis in the last three years with the Tennessee Promise and Drive to 55 programs and their launching here.

Other potential Republican contenders for governor are state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, Nashville businessman Bill Lee and state Sen. Dr. Mark Green of Clarksville.

Norris is expected to base his candidacy on his leadership in the Senate and specifically on workforce training legislation he has passed and his role in promoting it as well.

Green has already declared his candidacy, but there were reports out of Washington Wednesday that Green is being considered by President Donald Trump for appointment as Secretary of the Army.

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. Ripley state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh is considering a bid in the Democratic primary as well.

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