Delivering keynote remarks at the annual luncheon of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, Gov. Bill Haslam championed the city's hospitality and said it had "become a model" for collaboration between government and business to maintain a thriving tourism economy.
The governor offered brief comments, totaling approximately 13 minutes. During his speech, Haslam praised the $989 million generated by tourists visiting Chattanooga last year, which was able to support about 8,500 full-time, nonseasonal jobs in the area.
"People are starting to take notice," Haslam said.
The governor added his commitment to working to ensure Tennesseans be equipped with the right education and skillsets to be hired for jobs of any kind across the state—not just in tourism.
"We need a new push to raise expectations in Tennessee," he said.
In an interview with reporters, Haslam mentioned $8 million in this year's state budget marked for the Tourism Committee, which would go toward initiatives to encourage more visitors to the state, along with longer stays. The governor said he expected Tennessee to recoup more than the amount spent on tourism through tax dollars.
"Tourism really does drive a lot of employment in Tennessee, as well as a lot of revenue for local and state governments that we use to fund education and everything else," he said. "So one of the reasons that we decided to invest more this year—we put an extra $8 million in the budget this year—was to get that message out in Tennessee. We're more than confident we'll at least make that much money back in sales tax collection as people come and are able to enjoy Tennessee."
Before he spoke at the CVB luncheon, Haslam attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Global Green Lighting and toured the facility's 180,000-square-foot facility with local officials in Hixson.
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