» By CHRIS COPPEDGE – ccoppedge@my.apsu.edu

Governor Bill Haslam has approved grants to several companies, one of which is in Clarksville, intended to create and retain jobs throughout the state.

Hendrickson International’s Montgomery County division recently received a $17,024 job-creation grant. Hendrickson manufactures bumpers and suspensions for tractor-trailer trucks.

According to Jeff Hentschel, communications director of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, these grants will help create new jobs in their respective counties.

“The intent of the Incumbent Worker Program is to upgrade the skills of existing workers, to avoid layoffs and remain competitive,” Hentschel said. “In the short term, it doesn’t necessarily mean there are new jobs to apply for, but rather protects existing jobs.”

He said the grants will also further assist growth of a company which has employees with up-to-date skills.

Another press release by the Tennessee government notes companies do have to meet certain criteria to receive the grants.

Employers must be in operation in Tennessee for at least one year prior to application, they must have at least five full-time employees, demonstrate financial viability and be current on all state tax obligations.

“The grant that Hendrickson received was an Incumbent Worker Training Grant funded by the Workforce Investment Act through the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development,” said Marla Rye, president of Workforce Essentials Inc., a non-profit that contracts with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “The primary purpose of the grant is to make Tennessee employers more competitive through upgrading the skills of their existing employees.”

According to Rye, WEI administers programs under a federal program known as the Workforce Investment Act.

Hendrickson was chosen through a decision made by the local workforce board’s recommendation.

“When a company applies locally, the board goes through a review process and scores the grant based on how long they’ve been in business, ability to match grant funds, layoff aversion potential, training plan and desired outcome including job creation and improving long or short term wages,” Hentschel said.

Hendrickson is pleased with the results.

“We received the grant based on training our employees have attended and will attend this year that contributes to layoff aversion,” said Lynsey Johnston of Hendrickson’s human resources department. “At Hendrickson, we commit to serving the transportation industry with innovative products that help improve productivity and profitability.”

According to the Department of Labor’s website, the training grant is meant for non-profit health care organizations and for-profit businesses to utilize in skill attainment or improving their business processes.

Incumbent workers are defined as paid, full-time employees of the applicant’s business who are at least 18 years old and a citizen of the United States (or a non-citizen whose status permits employment).

Lay-off aversion occurs when “one: a worker’s job is saved with an existing employer where, if training does not occur, may result in downsizing or closing; or two: a worker, at risk of dislocation, transitions to a different job with the same employer or a new job with a different employer, and then experiences no, or a minimal spell of unemployment,” according to the Department of Labor’s website.

R&F Communications Inc. in Dickson County received a $13,915 grant and Bath Fitter in Robertson County received $19,974 from the grant program. TAS