WBIR 10News anchor Robin Wilhoit will be in Nashville for the President's visit. You can see her reports starting Thursday at 4 pm. We will also stream President Obama's remarks live on WBIR.com.
When President Barack Obama visits Nashville on Thursday to talk about jobs, he'll be visiting a city that is making significant strides in terms of adding new jobs, even though those same economic fortunes have not spread evenly throughout the rest of the state.
Nashville's unemployment stood at 5.7 percent in December, below the 7 percent level from two years earlier, and also well below the national unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.
While Tennessee has seen slight improvement in the unemployment rate over the past two months, the rate stood at 7.8 percent in December -- still worse than the national average by a sizable margin, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
As part of his post-State of the Union tour, Obama will give a speech from McGavock High School addressing issues such as economic inequality and helping the long-term unemployed.
His visit will come on the heels of another jobs-related announcement for Nashville. State and city officials are expected to announce another new employer moving to Nashville this morning in the state Supreme Court Chambers, although state officials wouldn't provide further details.
In recent months, the Nashville area has had a number of major announcements, including:
* Nissan adding more than 1,400 new jobs in Tennessee, including hundreds at its Smyrna plant to ramp up production of the Nissan Rogue;
* Aramark, which provides food and facility management services, building a facility in Davidson County that is expected to add 1,500 jobs;
* and banking giant UBS bringing 1,000 jobs to the area.
The Nashville skyline has been altered in recent months by construction cranes building apartments and creating or renovating office space, such as the downtown office tower that UBS will move into later this year.
"I think it's a perfect spot for the president to visit and look at the success the state of Tennessee and Nashville, in particular, is having as it relates to attracting new businesses and expanding businesses," UBS managing director Jerry Johnson said.
The national and state unemployment rates stood at 8.5 percent in January 2011. But since that time, job growth nationally has picked up steam and states across the country have seen their unemployed numbers decline.
But outside Middle Tennessee, job growth has been modest across the state.
Some parts, such as Morristown, have unemployment approaching 9 percent. And more workers are leaving the workforce altogether. In December 2011, Tennessee's civilian labor force stood at 3.14 million people. But last month, that number fell to 3.04 million people -- representing a population nearly the size of Murfreesboro.
"The measure I would use is employment growth," University of Tennessee economics professor Bill Fox said. "If you look at the Nashville-Metro area, it's had 3.4 percent year-over-year growth. The state averaged about 1.2 percent. The second-highest was Cleveland/Knoxville, 1.9 percent. So (Nashville is) growing much faster than other places."
Fox said Nashville boasted many of the leading industries -- tourism and health care -- that have led the way in job creation in recent years.
Gov. Bill Haslam's spokesman, Dave Smith, however, said there has been some momentum in Tennessee on the jobs front.
"Businesses are making decisions to risk capital and invest here, creating thousands of jobs," Smith said. "Tennessee was recently named state of the year for economic development and leads the nation in automotive manufacturing for the fourth year in a row."
In Memphis, for instance, Electrolux recently opened a manufacturing plant that hired more than 550 employees in recent months. If growth projections hold, the plant will grow to 1,200 people as it reaches full production within five years.
That's welcome news for Memphis, which has one of the highest unemployment rates among the nation's largest metro areas.
Fox said he agreed with the opinion espoused by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, earlier this week that the private sector, and not the government, is responsible for job growth. But Fox said a state can create a climate where economic growth can flourish, and that applies to Tennessee.
Another UBS managing director, Wanda Lyle, said the company, which has branch offices across the country, chose to expand in Nashville because of the city's low cost of living, high quality of life, tax-friendly environment and access to qualified workers.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean cited those same four qualities as spurring job growth locally. He said mayors in other cities would "kill for the entrepreneurial and creative workforce" that Nashville has.
"Those strengths existed before I was mayor, and I think we need to continue to do a good job of touting them," Dean said.
Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce President Ralph Schulz said the city's business advocacy group has 88 companies on its "relocation pipeline list." He said Nashville has historically been ahead of the rest of the state and other major cities in recovering from a recession, and that has been true again since the economy crashed in 2008.
"I think Nashville is always honored when a president of the United States notices good things happening in the community," he said. "We should be very pleased to be noticed in this way."