Gov. Bill Haslam's annual spending proposal includes a $150 million bond issue designed to spur an expansion of up to $3.5 billion at the Hemlock Semiconductor plant in Clarksville.
Video | Video: Haslam Budget Includes Money To Expand Hemlock
Budget Director Bill Bradley told a Senate committee Monday that the expansion of the solar technology plant would also create 900 new jobs.
"What a lot of people see is a billion-dollar plant being built here in Clarksville, and they see the construction site," said Kevin Collins, and Austin Peay State University graduate and Hemlock employee. "But what they may not realize is that the production team is already being hired a year and a half in advance just so we can bring up that plant safely."
Lola Potter, a spokeswoman for the state Finance Department, stressed that the expansion is "not a done deal," but that the Haslam administration wants to pass the legislation so the money would be available if an agreement is reached.
"We are in discussions about potential future growth. Market conditions will determine those time lines," said Liana Wallace of Hemlock. "What I can tell you is that we're working very hard right now to hire the 500 full-time employees that will help get this facility up and running in 2012."
Channel 4 spoke with state Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Clarksville, Monday afternoon about the possible growth.
"This new expansion just gives us more reason to be excited about the future of Montgomery County and really that whole region," said Barnes.
For Collins, it's a far cry from his business background.
"I actually have a bachelor's degree in marketing. I was working in sales for a few years, and in 2008, when the recession hit and companies starting falling by the wayside, I started realizing it wasn't the right fit for me," he said.
Collins is a graduate of Austin Peay's chemical engineering technology associate degree program -- a set of courses providing specialized training for a job at the Clarksville Hemlock Semiconductor facility.
Michigan-based Hemlock Semiconductor Group in 2008 announced an initial investment of $1.2 billion to build the Clarksville plant. It produces materials used to make solar cells and semiconductors.
Reporter Forrest Sanders contributed to this story.