Tennessee governor says China trip has green focus

HONG KONG, CHINA - The renewable energy sector has been among the most promising areas of discussion while on a trade mission to China, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said.

Bredesen said in a conference call from Hong Kong that the trip has been highlighted by visits to Shaanxi and Zhejiang provinces and meetings with their governors and business officials. Both provinces are larger than California, Bredesen said.

"There is a lot of interest it the renewable energy sector and of course we have a great story to tell in that area," Bredesen said. "I'm absolutely confident there's going to be some business done on that basis."

Tennessee has recently attracted two industrial investments worth more than $1 billion each by companies that make polysilicon, a material used to make solar cells.

The state has also received $62 million in federal stimulus money to launch a solar research facility at the University of Tennessee and a 5-megawatt solar generation plant next to a 6-square-mile megasite in Haywood County that is being developed to market to large industrial investors.

The West Tennessee megasite has been the subject of several conversations in China, Bredesen said.

"We're continuing to push forward with that, it's very much on my mind," Bredesen said. "That is a terrific site, we are going to get a terrific business into it sooner or later."

The governor said the trip included a visit to a 400,000-square-foot factory dedicated to researching ways to improve manufacturing techniques and reduce the costs of solar products.

"I would say they are very serious players," he said.

That visit led to discussions about working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the possibility of locating Chinese manufacturing facilities in Tennessee.

Oak Ridge offers expertise in material science and computational capability that could serve as a "nice partnership" with the Chinese manufacturing expertise, Bredesen said.

Bredesen said officials on the trade mission have also discussed opportunities in the health care and distribution and logistics fields in Tennessee. China is Tennessee's third-largest export market after Canada and Mexico.

"China is a unique opportunity at this point in that it represents both investment and job creation potential in Tennessee and it also represents significant export potential in not just goods but services to China," said Matt Kisber, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Bredesen made an earlier stop in Japan, where he said he met with executives of Bridgestone Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Sharp Electronics Corp. about their operations in Tennessee.


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