Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, Sept. 24, 2011:
Officials discuss STEM education, agribusiness
PORTLAND – Tennessee House and Senate Democrats finished their weeklong jobs tour Saturday with stops in Putnam, Smith and Sumner Counties to discuss engineering and agricultural careers.
“The number one goal of this tour was to refocus our statewide conversation on jobs, and I think we succeeded tremendously,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “Everywhere the tour went, people wanted to talk about how they could grow jobs and how state government can play a role in helping them.”
Tour members met Saturday morning with Tennessee Tech University President Bob Bell and other administration and faculty officials at their STEM Center to discuss how to get children interested early in science and math.
Officials also visited the school’s state-of-the-art nursing facilities and learned about a new Regional Economic Development Institute at TTU designed to partner with rural counties to grow industry and attract jobs.
The tour then traveled to Catesa Farms in Smith County, where farmer George McDonald showed state and local officials the power of technology in agribusiness. McDonald showed members how practicing “precision agriculture” through tools like GPS and sonar has helped him increase yields for crops like soybeans, corn and strawberries.
“The technology found on this farm would rival that of any high-tech business,” said State Senator Tim Barnes. “It’s a long way from the farm I grew up on, but it’s also a powerful sign of how technology can help feed Tennessee families and benefit our local farmers.”
Tour members ended the day in Portland at the city’s industrial park, where they met officials with solar components manufacturer Shoals Technologies Group.
House and Senate Democrats will begin organizing the ideas and notes they have compiled from the past week in order to follow up with state departments and government officials, as well as to study potential legislation for the upcoming session.