What Haslam Is Hearing From Biz Leaders

We will have more detail on this in the Monday edition of The Daily News, but during his two day campaign stop in Memphis this week Republican candidate for governor Bill Haslam met with executives of Wright Medical Technology in Arlington. Haslam was emphasizing the county’s medical device and technology sector during the swing through town.

In Arlington, he met with Bill Griffin, the senior vice president of operations, and Dean Morgan, the vice president of Wright’s tax section. Normally these kind of talks about taxes and politics between business and political leaders are private. But we sat in on the session to get a feel for not only what Haslam is saying but what business leaders are saying to him and probably to Democratic candidate Mike McWherter as well.

Morgan and Griffin gave the outgoing Bredesen administration high marks for officials who understand business needs. They urged Haslam to consider a business background in his appointments if elected governor.

“We’ve had some experience before in state government where there have been some appointees that don’t have a lot of experience and background,” Morgan told Haslam. “It just hasn’t worked out very well.”

A state grant will help Wright some as the company prepares to four lane the section of Airline Road that divides the company’s growing Arlington campus.

Morgan and Griffin wanted to know if there were additional incentives Haslam might commit to now.

“Due to the budget challenges that we face it’s hard to say,” Haslam said. “To do it right now is probably just not realistic.”

Haslam and McWherter differ significantly on the fiscal challenge the next governor will face. At their first debate of the general election campaign Wednesday in Cookeville, McWherter said the impact of federal stimulus money running out would be less dramatic than Haslam has said because it was spent on one time expenses. Haslam flatly contradicted that saying it has been spent on ongoing expenses.

“I’m not trying to portray gloom and doom. But one of your jobs as a leader is to define reality,” Haslam said in Memphis the day after the exchange. “It’s a difference between talking about running for office and actually being in office.”

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