By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – If you are under the impression that area industry has been busy lately, you are correct. In the Knoxville – Oak Ridge region alone, nearly 1,500 new jobs were announced between January and the end of March.

It’s the latest in a glowing report card for manufacturing in Tennessee, and what it means for you is not just a potential job, but a career.

Gov. Bill Haslam made a recent visit to the Mahle plant in Morristown as the company announced a $156 million expansion which will bring 100 new jobs.

“It represents how critical the automotive industry is in Tennessee. It’s become one of our largest industries,” said Haslam.

For those lucky enough to get a job, it represents a step up from other work.

“I tried for a long time to get on here and finally got hired..My history is in manufacturing, and this is the best place so far,” said Roger Buttry, a Mahle employee.

Manufacturing is making a comeback in the state. Automotive plants like VW in Chattanooga are leading the way, but so are the manufacturers which supply those plants.

Protomet in Anderson County recently celebrated its $6.5 million expansion.  This automotive parts plant has plans for future growth too.

“We’re strong believers in this area so it is exciting to be able to hire people from East Tennessee.” said Protomet President Jeff Bohanan.

Companies like Protomet are adding to the 4,200 jobs created between 2012 and 2013 in the state.

“We’re close to being, in manufacturing, at 100 percent capacity. Many are third and second shifts,” said Mike Edwards, president of Knoxville Chamber Partnership.

Edwards says a business-friendly environment and proximity to Interstates 40 and 75 makes East Tennessee a good fit for many companies. There is a catch.

“Our Achilles heel, if any, is that we are looking for skilled workforce to fill those shifts,” said Edwards.

WS Packaging Vice President of Operations Brian Rhoades gave us a tour of the new Hardin Valley facility. It’s a $43 million expansion, with the opportunity for hundreds of skilled workers. (Read Complete Story)