Podcast: How Mayor Glenn Jacobs is driving manufacturing growth and innovation in Knox County, Tennessee

Podcast: How Mayor Glenn Jacobs is driving manufacturing growth and innovation in Knox County, Tennessee

May 23, 2024
In this episode of Great Question: A Manufacturing Podcast, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs showcases several programs that are driving manufacturing growth in the State of Tennessee.

Glenn Jacobs is the Mayor of Knox County, TN. Heavy industry in the State of Tennessee is booming, especially automotive, and Knox County has added more than 2,500 jobs and seen $217 million in capital investment under the leadership of Mayor Jacobs. In this podcast, Plant Services chief editor Thomas Wilk gets in the ring with Mayor Jacobs to talk about several projects that are growing this manufacturing and industrial base.

Below is an excerpt from the podcast:

PS: I've been looking forward to this since we connected back in March at Bill Leahy's Unturning Steel program, and that was a program specifically focused on helping U.S. veterans transition from active service to private sector industry jobs. When you and I met, you described the influence that your father's work and service experience had on you, and that really was powerful to me. Can you share some of that story with our listeners?

GJ: Sure, my dad is a 21-year military veteran. He served in the Navy for 10 years, he was in the Korean War on the USS Antietam aircraft carrier, then switched services to the Air Force. I was actually born at Torrejón Air Base in Madrid, Spain, and Dad went to Vietnam after that. 

Then we went back to the states. He retired when I was about four years old, and we moved to rural northeast Missouri. Dad's work in the military had been airplanes, I mean aircraft carrier, then Air Force. He was the load master on the C130 cargo planes. And you know, where we lived, there wasn't an airport or anything like that, so Dad kind of bounced around with factory jobs and those sort of things when I was very small. Eventually he ended up getting a job with the Postal Service, he was a Royal Mail carrier. 

On the one hand, because of his military retirement, we always did OK. But, without that kind of skilled trades that weren't transferable or translatable to a lot of things in the private sector, he was at a disadvantage, I think, just with his skills. Dad worked really hard, don’t get me wrong, it just is what it is. And that's what impressed me so much about Unturning Steel program, was the fact that you're working to give veterans the skills that are necessary for them to thrive in a modern manufacturing environment. 

And it is completely different now – if you've ever been on a modern factory floor, it's no longer an assembly line where people are putting nuts on bolts and putting parts on products they move along the line. Robots are doing all those things, so those (manufacturing) skills now have become much more high tech than they were even just a few years ago. That's something in Knox County that we're concentrating on, our Chamber calls where we're going the “imagination economy” with just how much the world's changing. And the skill set that is necessary is different. It's much more high tech than it has been in the past. All those things combined together have really had a big impact on what I see as the necessary skills that folks need to survive in the modern world in the modern economy.

PS: It's really something to have witnessed your father make that transition. As you said, he worked hard and he was skilled for jobs, but the formal part of that transition wasn't really in place, where there weren't programs easily available in place to facilitate that.

GJ: Exactly that. That's exactly right.

PS: You took office in 2018. When you took office and ran for office, what were some of the goals that you had for Knox County specifically to grow the manufacturing and industrial base?

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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