Every year I visit all of Tennessee’s 95 counties, and this year was no different. While Joe Biden and his cadre of bureaucrats have ignored the problems and priorities of the American people, I have spent my time on the ground with Tennesseans discussing what matters most. After meeting with hundreds of business leaders, county mayors, police officers, and other citizens, the message I came away with was clear: although Tennessee is flourishing, we still have a lot of work to do. Businesses are investing in the state, innovation is laying the groundwork for future growth, and jobs are plentiful, but Biden’s harmful policies have placed an unsustainable burden on just about everyone. Going from county to county convinced me of one thing – we need a lot less D.C. in Tennessee, and a lot more Tennessee in D.C.
The Tennessee economy is hot, and businesses are thriving. The manufacturing sector in East Tennessee is stronger than ever as businesses, including DENSO Manufacturing in Blount County and Oshkosh Corporation in Jefferson County, continue to invest in the state. I recently visited the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce where I met with representatives from canned bean manufacturer Bush Brothers & Company. I have been a vocal advocate for protecting the viability of Tennessee canned food manufacturers which rely heavily on tinplate steel.
It’s not just East Tennessee that’s growing. Manufacturing jobs are returning to West Tennessee, too. I recently saw the $425 million Dixie manufacturing plant under construction in Jackson, which is the largest single investment in the city’s history. Meanwhile, Ford and BOSK are bringing at least 6,000 jobs to Haywood County and the surrounding region with a massive new vehicle and battery manufacturing campus, and Jackson and Madison County are expanding McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport in order to accommodate the influx of people and businesses to the region.
Our farmers are the backbone of the Volunteer State. I was honored to speak at the 8th annual Tennessee State Fair Future Farmers of America (FFA) Ham Breakfast at the Fairgrounds in Wilson County in August. The event was packed with over 1,200 people including students, farmers, and business leaders. I was glad to see that $200,000 was raised for the FFA which will be critical to training future farmers and leaders in the agriculture industry.
Tennessee wouldn’t be what it is today without the small businesses that keep the state up and running. I recently stopped by Theo & Roe’s Ice Cream Parlor in Tipton County for a scoop of chocolate ice cream. The business is owned by Tara Thompson, a former engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who returned to Covington to help her aging mother. It was a heartwarming story to hear and just another example of what makes Tennesseans great.
During my tour across the state, I spoke frequently about my bipartisan Rural Health Agenda, which is essential to helping communities fulfill their need for emergency services. This past June, I was glad to attend the grand opening of the University of Tennessee Emergency Department in Jamestown. In May, I visited Bledsoe County, where rural health care providers are struggling with a staffing shortage – a key issue my Rural Health Agenda seeks to address.
We all know that Tennessee does best when the D.C. swamp leaves us alone, but the local leaders I spoke with this year expressed near-unanimous frustration with Joe Biden’s refusal to fulfill his most basic duties as president – especially when it comes to securing our southern border. With human trafficking increasing in Tennessee, I visited the Scarlet Rope Project in Madison County, a faith-based non-profit that helps survivors of sex trafficking heal and raises awareness about this critical threat. Biden’s border crisis has also led to fentanyl flooding our state, devastating rural areas. Under the Biden administration, we have seen over 45,000 pounds of fentanyl enter the United States. This fiscal year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seized 23,700 pounds of the deadly opioid – enough to kill every American. The drug is particularly affecting the Volunteer State. In 2021, of the 3,814 people who died of a drug overdose in Tennessee, fentanyl was responsible for over 70% of those deaths. This month, I hosted a roundtable in Somerville, Fayette County, to discuss how to tackle the fentanyl crisis. This community has been particularly hard hit – in May, two Fayette County High School students tragically died from fentanyl poisoning.
Inflation, which has been exacerbated by the Biden administration’s disastrous economic policies, is another issue that is hitting Tennessee hard. Tennesseans are feeling the impact of Biden’s socialist economic policies at the pump and the grocery store. In Meigs County, a water project that last year would have cost $16 million will cost $20 million this year. In the Senate, I will continue fighting for fiscal responsibility and combating Biden’s reckless spending policies that are directly harming Tennessee families.
Despite the challenges posed by Biden’s radical agenda, the Volunteer State continues to thrive. Both people and businesses are flowing into the state for a clear reason: they know Tennessee is open for business. I look forward to continuing our work toward ensuring the Volunteer State remains the best place in America to work and live.
Marsha Blackburn is the senior U.S. Senator from Tennessee.