published Monday, August 26th, 2013

Smith: County's high rating a real bragging point

By Robin Smith

Since 2010, there have been 36 municipal bankruptcy filings in our nation -- a sign of the failing economy. Massive financial deficits due to excessive spending, declining revenue, and an ineffectiveness of many local government leaders to implement policies that reform and rescue are much too common.

Drum roll, please. There's great news for us here in Southeast Tennessee.

Hamilton County's government is the only county in the entire state of Tennessee recognized by all three major credit ratings agencies -- Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch -- as having achieved a AAA rating based on several stringent criteria.

Out of 95 Tennessee counties, one stands above the rest in meeting the high bar of distinction as having the "Extremely Strong" capacity to meet its financial commitments -- with the emphasis added by the overseeing agencies.

The second county to hold a triple A rating, only by the single agency, Moody's, is Williamson County, home to Franklin, Brentwood, and many of the state's business leaders and country music stars.

So how did our county achieve such high marks in economic times that include high unemployment, high underemployment and unprecedented uncertainties in the regulatory and policy arenas?

As explained on the website, the "Key Drivers" are:

• A strong fiscal profile -- Consistently high reserves arise from the "county's sound fiscal management practices."

• Encouraging economic prospects -- The increasing presence of health care, insurance, higher education, manufacturing and transportation increases the "employment base" and reflects "the county's regionally important economy."

• Superior debt management -- Possessing "manageable borrowing plans," a projection for population growth, underpinned by "traditionally strong financial operations" with a "below average debt burden."

As my young adult children say, "Boom!" For all of you over 40 years of age, that's a verbal exclamation point.

In speaking with Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and his staff about this stellar accomplishment, despite the dreadful headlines shouting the financial demise of the cities of Detroit and Stockton, Calif., along with Jefferson County, Ala., home to Birmingham, it's abundantly clear that this was a deliberate process that included a tremendous amount of discipline, commitment and long-range planning.

In the late 1980s, our county restructured its debt payoff from 20 to 15 years, a short-term sacrifice yielding long-term payoff and even a mention in Fitch's October 2011 report declaring a stable outlook, decades later.

Around 1998, then-Mayor Claude Ramsey and his team pursued specific answers on the missing ingredients to obtain this desired rating followed by a detailed strategy to achieve the goal.

The obstacle that prevailed for many years was the "local economy" and its "dependence upon one industry" or a limited portfolio of business options.

Finally, in February of 2010, one agency, Standard & Poor's, awarded the difficult-to-achieve triple A rating, with the other two, Moody's and Fitch, following closely behind.

Years of focus, hard work, budgetary restraint, and leadership with vision have made Hamilton County the most stable and credible environment for businesses and investment in the state of Tennessee.

The expectations of excellence of our county's residents are heard in Mayor Coppinger's response to Hamilton County's accolades as "an affirmation of the fiscally conservative way we run Hamilton County government."

Margaret Thatcher's "fundamental truth" regarding government funds should boost our trust in our local leadership: "The state has no source of money other than the money people themselves earn."

At least our county mayor, his staff and our County Commission understand accountability and basic principles of the stewardship of our hard-earned tax dollars.

For that, we say, "ThAAAnk you!"

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm.

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Facts said...

I took a few minutes to confirm this. Very impressive Hamitlon County leaders. I'm not sure how much the average person will appreciate this, but the business community should certainly view this as an assurance.

It's great to see this area competing with counties of middle Tennessee that gain the spotlight quite frequently.

August 26, 2013 at 11:02 a.m.
soakya said...

"At least our county mayor, his staff and our County Commission understand accountability and basic principles of the stewardship of our hard-earned tax dollars." You have got to be joking. government will never be good stewards of our hard-earned tax dollars. That's why they need to be doing as little as possible.

The last 6 years only cost Hamilton county 100 million. Hamilton county now has less employees and more unemployed. keep patting yourself on the back. good job. The same has happened to TN at a cost over 1 billion, again good job.

August 26, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.
TheCommander said...

Berke will put redevelopment schemes on steroids and introduce more TIF development projects that will move Chattanooga toward bankruptcy like Stockton, Birmingham, Oakland, etc...

August 26, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.
MyGen said...

Several months back, I interviewed for a job right outside of Nashville at a new company. The pay was about what I make now but the job offered an opportunity for promotion in the future. When I drove around looking at housing, gas prices, etc, I was quickly happy for my current job and the great cost of living here in this area.

The Nashville area gets a lot of positive press but the growth in southeast Tennessee allows good wages at a definite benefit of a lower cost of living. Kudos!

Soakya, I'd encourage you and a few other commenters to travel around our state. Our area is truly heads and shoulders above others. But I suppose if there's nothing to complain about, you're not happy.

August 26, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
soakya said...

mygen, Hamilton county is not much better than TN overall. since 2007 another 1 billion in debt, higher population, less employees, more unemployed, slower growth in per capita income. yeah, just keep doing what we're doing its working so well. I guess if some people can just stick their head in the sand and ignore the consequences of government wasting of tax dollars their happy. whatever works for you. after all you have a good job and it may be one of the jobs other taxpayers are having to fund. but hey don't worry about it, those who don't have as a great paying job as you do should have to contribute their tax dollars so you can have a great job here in se tn.

August 26, 2013 at 7:11 p.m.
MyGen said...

So very glad that I remain hopeful and try to find something good in life. I also now know why so many of my friends refuse to engage in the conservative side of politics. Who wants to associate with angry people who only criticize.

I'm conservative but want no part of what your philosophy offers.

August 26, 2013 at 7:34 p.m.
soakya said...

Then you are no conservative. you are a typical republican along the lines of Haslam and Alexander. there is a difference. do you or do you not have one of the jobs that are SUBSIDIZED by OTHERS that are WORSE OFF than you? even if you don't you apparently approve of it and you have the nerve to call yourself a conservative.

August 26, 2013 at 7:48 p.m.
soakya said...

if you really want to see anger look at the post on here from the liberals. the reason your friends refuse to engage in the conservative side of politics is because like you they are not conservative.

August 26, 2013 at 8:10 p.m.
MyGen said...

Nice to meet the one who defines conservatism. Plainly, if I'm not exactly like you and in full agreement, I'm a problem to you.

Again, the reason my peers who are 25-35 years of age who are anti-tax, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage (yeah, we go to Bible study every week, too), pro-gun, and pro-American National Security and sovereignty just don't like the angry, negative that seeps out of many who are always correct. Appreciate you stereotyping me. I just think we need good government. You seem to want no government. Thanks for proving the point.

August 26, 2013 at 8:53 p.m.
TheCommander said...

mygen, soakya nor anyone else who addresses issues with hard numbers or facts ever comes across as angry to me. You are right; Chattanooga is a nice cheap place to live. However, The Chamber of Commerce with help from this paper does an excellent job of pushing the idea that everything is great here when it is not. The debt and employment trends are sure signs that government partnerships with business is not creating a financial surplus as promised but just the opposite. The result? Our schools are horrendous (especially Chattanooga city). Unemployment and underemployment is increasing while gang crime is increasing exponentially. All of the publicly financed business incentives look good at first but always lead to financial disaster because in order to maintain the growth, the incentives have to be perpetual. Sokya pointed out that it is already beginning. This article is just another example of the denial of reality that is designed to make us focus our attention in another direction. I am not from here originally but enjoy living here for the same reasons you stated. However I cannot deny the deterioration that is occurring either and that does not make me necessarily angry. It does make me very concerned for our immediate future and certainly our children's future.

August 26, 2013 at 8:59 p.m.
MyGen said...

I'm going to call the paper tomorrow and ask if Mrs. Smith wrote this article based on the Chattanoga Chamber. I also read that your problems seem directed at Mayor Andy Berke and the City.

I guess crucifying anyone with a sliver of positive news as just an idiot, a tool, out of touch, whatever you want them to be is what it means to be conservative.

Man, I wonder what you said about Hamilton County BEFORE it got this recognition? I suppose we'll watch for your leadership to solve all these problems based on your years of experience and success.

Aaaannnnd, again, I am delighted to be sent to my room of optimism because nothing good ever happens. Thanks for the inspiration.

August 26, 2013 at 9:06 p.m.
soakya said...

mygen, there you go doing what you are accusing me of, stereotyping and to boot you are echoing exactly what the left says. I want the smallest government possible. I want business's to risk their capital not taxpayer's. if it's viable they will invest. I don't want to fund Wacker, VW, Electrolux and the likes mainly because it doesn't work as I have already shown. I don't think the person making 10 dollars per hour should be contributing his tax dollars so another person can make 19 dollars per hour at VW. Do you.

What you call optimism I call putting your head in the sand and ignoring cold hard facts.

August 26, 2013 at 9:19 p.m.
TheCommander said...

Good things do happen; They happen when men and women of their own free will act in their own interests to build a life and wealth for themselves without government aid or interference. Better things happen when those same people voluntarily share their wealth and time in service to others. When these things do in fact happen, I do not need a newspaper telling me how good I have it. All I am saying is make sure your optimism is grounded in firm sources. A politician from either party is not who needs to be telling you how good things are.

Please call her. I would be very interested to know her connection to the Chamber of Commerce. Ask her about the work the Chamber is doing in brokering new incentive deals with our tax revenue with VW and others. Ask her about Alstom's layoffs while receiving a Payment in Lieu tax agreement. While you are at it, ask her about the work of the Hamilton County Industrial Development Board and about all the business property that has been taken off the tax rolls which reduces our tax base while those same businesses consume public resources. I write and call a lot. They don't seem to want to answer me. Maybe you will have better luck. I want more people like you to call, research and find out for yourself.

August 26, 2013 at 9:46 p.m.
TheCommander said...

mygen, notice where Corker spoke at today by the way? I believe it was the Chamber. just saying...

August 26, 2013 at 9:47 p.m.
soakya said...

good post commander.

August 26, 2013 at 10:17 p.m.
soakya said...

mygen, did you make your call to the chamber? Did you ask her about the IDB? Did you ask her about the new incentive package that is being offered to VW? Did you ask her about Alstom's recent layoffs and how that affected their PILOT agreement? Please post her optimistic responses so we can put on a happy face.

I'll take your refusal to answer my question as a indication you are okay with workers who are making 10 dollars per hour contributing their tax dollars so a VW employee can make 19 dollars per hour. I bet if those 10 dollars per hour workers understood their tax dollars were funneled to VW so their employees could make almost double what they are making they wouldn't be so optimistic.

August 27, 2013 at 9:51 p.m.
MyGen said...

On Tuesday, I called the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. After being transferred to 2 different offices, no one had ever spoken to Robin Smith about writing any articles and couldn't find anyone who had ever met with her.

By the way, I don't sit at my computer drooling to insult anyone. Yesterday after work, I went rock climbing and enjoyed the nature that God gave this area.

If soakya and commander represent the GOP, the conservatives or those who support the Constitution, I don't want to be associated in any way. I hope and pray that my attitude and spirit reflects some type of hope that exists in this world.

Politics and activism aren't the answer to our problems. But these two along with the angry left and the others on the angry right will sure let us know they're RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!! ALWAYS!!!!!!!!!!!


August 28, 2013 at 7:42 p.m.
soakya said...


Good I'm glad you enjoyed your day. While you enjoyed your rock climbing I was enjoying a 11 mile bike ride like I do most days. But while we were doing that folks were losing their jobs because of this public-private partnership that has infected TN. It doesn't work and it needs to stop.

The facts are what they are. The July employment numbers for TN show the labor force lost 5600 workers, 7500 are no longer employed, and 1900 joined the unemployment lines. And this cost Hamilton County 100 million in debt and TN 1 billion in debt. I don't believe your optimism will spread to those who just lost their jobs and the families they have to support.

By the way you seem just as angry as those you criticize.

August 29, 2013 at 10:54 a.m.
chet123 said...



August 31, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.
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