Industrial recruitment is a tricky business. It is strategic, depends not only being smart enough to recognize business trends but also has a social component where there is a dance, for lack of a better word. For people in development, it might seem the stars must be aligned and luck on the side of those in economic development of all the areas in Tennessee.
Needless to say, econ and development professionals have had an interesting, and debilitating, couple of years in the state of Tennessee.
In the last few years, we’ve seen a political party here in the state (hint: GOP) call the man who would be elected president used in a PR trick by using his middle name, dressed in Kenyan dress (which is no big deal as his dad is Kenyan) and mock Michelle Obama during the campaign. Our state was on every network on television with these political power plays each and every time. We have seen a woman, Sherri Goforth who is the executive assistant of Rep. Diane Black, send out the president’s face with every other president where his was in blackface with only eyes showing. This was not Black’s mistake, it was Goforth who sent out the email. While some argue that she was a private citizen, I return to the discussion to that the email was sent out on a computer that taxpayers purchased, during her day job which, once again, taxpayers were covering the bill on. Everyone has had diversity training that works for the state. Has Goforth had the training yet?
I’ve already written what I think of CEO Walt Baker, head of the Tennessee Hospitality Association here, so I won’t rehash that. But I do have a few observations on how Baker, and his ilk, needs to understand that the world is paying attention to our state because even though we know we aren’t a bunch of morons, there are some that are making it very hard to convince people not from here that we aren’t. People who are supposed to know we need to be inclusive and not fragmenting to people who may be different than us. That not all of us think these silly games and emails are funny. I don’t think they are funny in the least. You don’t like the Obamas, fine. Attack their politics and not their skin color.
Amazing. Utterly and disgustingly amazing.
It is Baker’s job to bring in business, to cultivate and nurture a potential ability to bring in needed potential taxes and job growth, and necessary money to this state. It is his job to understand building business relationships. He’s not upset about the email or he wouldn’t have sent it.
He was upset that he got caught being racist.
This isn’t a game.
On one hand, it’s good that most people that received the email were offended, except this guy. It’s good to see Butch Spyridon of the Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Center condemn it (he actually received the email where Michelle Obama was compared to a monkey) and that Nashville Mayor Karl Dean was rightfully outraged when he said “The e-mail was extremely offensive,” Nashville’s He said in a statement. “It does not reflect who we are as a city and our values.”
They know that right now, to rebuild we are going to have to go out of the state and most likely, off of the continent.
We need leaders that understand this. That understand that, sure, they have the right to say what they want to but that doesn’t mean that when they won’t suffer the consequences of their actions and that they need to have a better understanding of things, especially why this was racist? I don’t think Baker still understands. Our unemployment is high and we are looking at some lean years. Governments, local and statewide, are out of money but roads still need to be built, schools maintained and options available.
This man has a leadership position that comes with great responsibility and he is sending out emails? What? Baker didn’t help this situation. Google is a recruitment tool now so when our state is searched on the Internet, these things pop up. At this point, it’s on the front page of Google news when you search Tennessee. And if you go to the comments on some of the stories on Baker’s actions, there are dozens of responses about people NOT wanting to come to Tennessee. Our tourism money keeps us going and we need for leaders to recognize that they need to act like leaders for the entire state and not just for the office they work in. That there is more outside of their apparently cloaked bubbles be it in the legislature, in a partisan office or in a lobbying firm, these folks actions affect the entire state long-term.
They don’t blow over.
It’s quite simple actually, just do your job and walk away from the computer, because apparently giving you guys a key to one was a bad idea in the first place.
If you don’t want to listen to me, ask the folks in economic development who are having to answer very sensitive and racially charged questions right now.
I’m sure they will have some excellent feedback for you, Mr. Baker.