Legislator tours Hardwick Clothes
From the Cleveland Dailey Banner / January 25, 2017
By BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) paid a trip to Bradley County Tuesday as he monitors the success of the Labor Education Alignment Program.
The program, sponsored in the state Legislature by Norris, provides for cooperative efforts between government, education and business to fill the gaps in the local workforce pool while increasing the number of Tennesseeans with post-secondary skills.
During his daylong visit, Norris was able to observe classes at both Cleveland and Walker Valley high schools, were he interacted with the students and staff.
The senator also paid a visit to Hardwick Clothes, where he was able to see how the nation’s oldest tailored clothing manufacturer has been able to rebound after being at the brink of bankruptcy.
Norris ended his day with a reception sponsored by Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland.
During the event, Norris talked about some of the key issues that he and his colleagues in Nashville will be tackling during the current session of the state Legislature.
“The LEAP program here, which we created in 2013, has had two years of funding with $10 million, “ Norris said. “The latest LEAP report was issued a week ago and higher education is going to be asking for another $20 million.”
He said he enjoys getting out and “visiting the programs that are working so well.”
“It just warms my heart not just to visit the programs, but to see the equipment the LEAP grants have helped to purchase,” Norris said. “These young people are having experienced-based learning where they are learning robotics and advanced manufacturing.”
He added his enjoyment in talking to employers where some of these students will eventually intern and do apprenticeships.
“Under LEAP, they can work and learn, get on the job training, get credit towards their degree and get paid at the same time without it interfering with any of their financial assistance,” Norris said. “It’s a win-win-win situation.”
Norris also said Cleveland and Bradley County has “this astronomical growth in employment with manufacturing and industrial manufacturing.”
“You’re over 8 percent — the highest in the nation right here,” he said. “You’ve really got it going on. I sort of feel like this is God’s vest pocket — concentrated success.”
Norris also said later this week Gov. Bill Haslam will begin talking about his vision for broadband.
“I have asked state Sen. Mike Bell to be my co-prime sponsor on that and I’m hopeful we will begin to roll this out,” he said. “I think you will like what you see.”
Norris said he believes the Haslam administration has been convinced that “we need some more flexibility.”
“We want to provide better access without bloating government,” he said. “There are a lot of components to it. Working with the electric cooperatives is going to open some new horizons for a lot of people — be they municipalities or others.”
Norris said there have been found places within Tennessee “where the fiber is in the ground and goes into a neighborhood where people aren’t using it.”
“We want to leverage with the resources that already exist and provide some incentives to provide better access,” Norris said. I think you’ll be excited about that.”
Norris also touched on the governor’s transportation plan.
“I jokingly tell the media I’m going to sponsor the tax cuts in that bill,” he said. “I have been privileged to sponsor more tax cuts than any individual legislator in state history, and a lot of that is as leader, I carry the governor’s bills — probably $550 million in tax cuts over time.”
He said the governor is proposing additional tax cuts such as the franchise and excise tax.
“That will help the Hardwicks and others,” Norris said.
Norris said a proposed reduction in food taxes “will help everybody.”
“We talked about accelerating the repeal of the Hall Tax and holding local governments harmless,” he said.
Norris said the governor wants to reallocate resources by “tweaking the gas tax, and he’s proposing 7 cents.”
“If you’re a banker, you look at it and say it’s revenue neutral. There are more cuts than increases,” he said. “If you are Joe Sixpack, it’s what does it mean to us and, to me, it’s public safety.”
He said keeping Tennesseans safe “is of critical importance.”
“There are a lot of bridges in this state that are not safe,” Norris said. “There are a lot of narrow roads — like Highway 60 — that is a big deal.”
“We are in a fortunate position with the resources we have to reallocate some of this and still return more to the Tennessee taxpayers,” Norris said. “We think it’s a win-win proposition.”