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The most economically vibrant cities have historically been those associated with transportation hubs where rivers, oceans, railways, highways, and skyways meet.  Jobs have been created around concentrations of valuable natural resources.  Institutions of higher learning have also proved important in drawing talent to an area and developing the latent talent that's already there.  All of these factors have been important in the growth of Northeast Tennessee to this point, with the railroad, nearby coal deposits, and ETSU and the Quillen College of Medicine playing major roles throughout time.

We now have:

  • a growing, modern airport,
  • a confluence of highways,
  • underused railroad lines,
  • a possible extension of Amtrak service to the area,
  • beautiful natural features including lakes, rivers, and mountains,
  • (mostly) nice weather,
  • outstanding medical facilities and service,
  • a major university (with a football team, even!), and
  • a bunch of sharp, hard-working people.

That's a great start.  We can speed things along by expanding the budding engineering program at ETSU with an eye toward technologies of the future, including alternative energy and new manufacturing techniques.  The continuing, impressive revitalization of downtown Johnson City is helping to create a magnet for new businesses downtown and throughout the area.

I believe we should avoid trying to bring outside businesses to the region with tax breaks and incentives; instead we should lure them with more permanent things like a great climate and enthusiastic workforce.  If they'll take a tax break to move here, they'll take a tax break to leave for somewhere else.  We've unfortunately seen this firsthand locally.

I am not a fan of H-1B visas.  The system has gotten out of control, and too often they are used to hold down pay rates in technical fields.  If a company can't find enough workers with the skills for the job, then it should invest in training the workers it has, and it should partner with the local and state educational systems to start producing more.  There's little that angers me more than the ridiculous assertion that there are jobs that American workers can't do!

Committee to Elect Murphey Johnson
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