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Northeast State Receives $843K Grant for Advanced Technology Programs

Press release from the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; October 22, 2013:

BLOUNTVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a grant award of $843,000 for Northeast State Community College to fund needed equipment for advanced technology programs at the school.

The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs. One of the most common themes he heard was the lack of capacity and equipment at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges to meet job demand, so these grants are aimed at addressing those gaps.

“This grant will provide equipment that will assist in Northeast State’s mission of training workers for the modern workplace,” Haslam said. “We will need qualified Tennesseans to fill skilled positions, and Northeast State is playing a significant role in meeting that goal.”

Currently, only 32 percent of Tennesseans have certificates or degrees beyond high school, and studies show that by 2025 that number must be 55 percent to meet workforce demands. Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative is designed to address that workforce need on several fronts, including the funds for the state’s colleges of applied technology and community colleges.

The new equipment for Northeast State Community College will allow the school to expand its robotics manufacturing training lab, add a mechatronics training lab and upgrade equipment for its welding and machine tool programs. More than 200 advanced technologies students a year will benefit from the enhanced training capabilities provided by this grant.

Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly included almost $33 million in the state budget this year toward building a technical education complex at Northeast State.

Travel Tech Group Lauds Demise of Local Tourism Tax Shift

Press release from the Travel Technology Association; March 20, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Travel Tech: The Travel Technology Association applauds the wisdom of the Tennessee Senate State and Local Government Committee for voting “no” on Senate Bill 212, which would have created new taxes on brick-and-mortar and online travel services. Online travel companies (OTCs), Tennessee travel agents, anti-tax organizations, independent Tennessee hoteliers, business travelers, internet coalitions and other groups were among those who raised concerns about the impact of the proposal.

Tennessee joins a number of other states in the last two years, including Florida, Virginia, Utah, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Mexico that have considered and rejected similar taxes as unworkable and harmful to tourism and job creation. This marks the second consecutive year that the Tennessee Senate has recognized these taxes as bad policy for Tennessee. A federal court in Goodlettsville, TN, also sided with the OTCs in 2012, holding they were already in compliance with Tennessee tax law.

“We hope the bill supporters in Tennessee now recognize that they were led astray by interest groups looking to use public policy as a competitive tactic to impose new taxes on traditional travel agents and OTCs alike,” said Simon Gros , Chairman of Travel Tech. “OTCs and traditional travel agents are in the business of encouraging travel to places like Tennessee, which creates real jobs and real tax revenue.”

The bills would have also imposed major compliance burdens for local businesses in Tennessee. Any Tennessee-based travel agent who used the fee-for-service merchant model for bookings and assembling travel packages would have had to take on the unprecedented responsibility of calculating and remitting the tax owed in multiple taxing jurisdictions. These added compliance costs would have placed particular strain on traditional brick-and-mortar travel agents, who already operate in a business climate marked by extremely low margins.

TN 1 of 6 States to Receive Grade of ‘A-‘ in 2012 Digital States Survey

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; October 8, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that the state has been recognized as one of the top in the nation for use of digital technology to better serve Tennesseans and streamline operations. Tennessee was among six states to receive a grade of A- in the 2012 Digital States Survey, which was up from a B+, the state’s grade in the 2010 survey. Michigan and Utah were the only two states to receive an A.

“Our goal is for Tennessee to be the best managed state in the country, and technology plays a significant role in accomplishing that,” Haslam said. “We are always looking to improve the way we deliver state services to Tennessee taxpayers, and will continue to enhance online options.”

The Digital States Survey is the nation’s longest running examination of technology use in state government. It is conducted every two years by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government, and it grades states based on a set of criteria including: implementations that support state priorities and policies to improve operations or services; quantifiable hard and soft-dollar savings or benefits; progress over the last two years; innovative solutions or approaches; and effective collaboration. Those states which received high marks demonstrated results across all criteria.

“The 2012 survey really focused on evaluating what policy makers and the public care about,” Todd Sander, executive director of the Center for Digital Government, said. “Survey results clearly show that it is possible, even during challenging economic times, for state government to continue to innovate and improve service delivery through the application of information technology.”

State performance was evaluated by a judges’ panel of the Center for Digital Government analysts, executives and senior fellows.

For an interactive map of Digital States grades, visit www.govtech.com/policy-management/2012-Digital-States-Survey.html. The Digital States Survey awards ceremony will be held on Oct. 21st in San Diego, CA.

TN Opens 3 New STEM Schools

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Education; August 6, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Amid a national movement in education to better prepare students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), the Tennessee Department of Education announces the opening of three new STEM-focused schools this year. The new programs are part of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, a collaboration between the department and the Battelle Memorial Institute.

“STEM is an important part of our statewide effort to increase the rigor and relevance of our students’ education,” said Kathleen Airhart, Tennessee’s deputy commissioner of education. “Additionally, these schools will help to fill STEM jobs across the state, while improving the growth and sustainability of our local communities.”

Classes begin today at Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, with 80 students in each sixth and seventh grades. The academy operates as a joint venture between Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools, with the support of Eastern Tennessee State University. The school plans to expand to eighth grade in 2013-14.

“The Kingsport City Schools are proud to be a partner in the creation of the region’s first STEM middle school,” said Superintendent Dr. Lyle Ailshie. “It is an exciting time for Kingsport and Sullivan County.”

The Southeast Tennessee STEM School, located on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College in Hamilton County, will open to students the following week, with 75 ninth-grade students. The high school will add an additional 75 students for its first three years.

The first class of students will get to name the school, design the logo and choose the mascot, a process that began in a summer STEM camp convened to introduce the students to each other and to the STEM style of learning.

“The Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub has helped us create strong partnerships with our regional businesses,” said Rick Smith, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “Business leaders are working with our teachers to create curriculum projects that reflect real-world business situations. This collaboration will not only enhance the students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills, but it will also expose them to STEM career opportunities.”

The Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative kicked off the school year in July at Prescott South Elementary School and Prescott South Middle School in Putnam County. As they transition to become the region’s first STEM program, teachers will be collaborating with the hub at the Millard Oakley STEM Center at Tennessee Tech University.

They will lead students on virtual field trips through the schools’ distance learning lab, and all students will receive iPads to access course materials and take notes.

“Our purpose is to provide our students with the opportunity to invent, discover, and develop themselves so they can move into the 21st-century workforce with the skills they need to be successful,” said Jerry Boyd, director of schools in Putnam County. “The Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative is more than science, technology, engineering, and math. It is the integration of those skills and the development of critical thinking, both of which are required for students to achieve. We are excited to be working with the TSIN and all of our regional partners in this endeavor.”

About the TSIN

The initial TSIN funding for these schools was announced by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman in March. The TSIN, created by an Executive Order of the Governor and funded through First to the Top, comprises five Regional STEM Innovation Hubs and five STEM Platform Schools. A sixth hub and school are slated to open in West Tennessee in 2013.

Two TSIN hubs and schools have been operational for one year already: In Knoxville, the Karst STEM Innovation Hub and L&N STEM Academy; in Nashville, the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub and Stratford STEM Magnet High School.

The hubs are the nucleus of regional STEM activity, representing a formal partnership among school districts, post-secondary institutions, STEM businesses and community organizations, all committed to amplifying and accelerating the impact of STEM programs in their region.

About Battelle

Battelle is a research and development organization and one of the nation’s leading charitable trusts, focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting STEM education.

For more information, contact Kelli Gauthier at (615) 532-7817 or Kelli.Gauthier@tn.gov.

Slow Gov’t Services an Extra Burden on Taxpayers: Haslam

Whether it’s inefficient state workers or lagging technology at driver’s license centers, the public essentially pays an additional “tax” any time government services are slow, Gov. Bill Haslam said this week.

“I think there’s two kinds of taxes. There’s a tax that people pay, sales tax, income tax or whatever tax you’re paying. And then there’s the tax that you pay when you don’t get full value for government service,” he told the Tennessee Digital Government Summit in Nashville Tuesday.

“When we don’t give you full value, that’s another tax. We just don’t call it that,” he said.

The governor didn’t wager a guess as to how much the public is paying in that tax each year when speaking to the information-technology experts. But he announced that the state is now trying to reduce the cost with technology upgrades at driver service centers.

“I think there’s some what I would call just basic customer service issues about how committed we are to making certain that customer gets in and out quick,” he told reporters after speaking to the summit. The Department of Safety is also tackling changes to how driver’s license centers manage information and working to put the “right number of employees in the right places,” he said.

Tech Group: Hidden TN Subsidies Threaten Competition, Broadband Development

Press Release from Citizens for a Digital Future, March 9, 2011:

White Paper Finds Further Telecom Reform is Needed in Tennessee Current System Could Be Hindering Investment

(Nashville, Tennessee) – Yesterday, Hance Haney, Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, released a white paper that looks at hidden subsidies in the current telecommunications structure in Tennessee. The report, “Further Telecom Reform Needed in Tennessee: Hidden Subsidies Threaten Competition and Broadband,” analyzes the issue and what it can mean for broadband growth and Tennessee consumers. The report was realeased at an event hosted by Citizens for a Digital Future (CDF) and co-hosted with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“Public policies like reforming access fees systems can lead to further innovation in technology and job growth,” said John Watson, CDF Chairman. “At a time when broadband is becoming a necessity for economic growth, it is more important now than ever to be creating environments where broadband investment is encouraged and can thrive.”

The paper also examines the effect that access charges have on broadband availability and notes that current Tennessee telecom laws are slowing the flow of private investment dollars that can benefit the state’s rural and low-income businesses and communities.

“At the end of the day the question is whether or not Tennessee consumers want to continue subsidizing outdated voice only telephone service instead of newer technologies like broadband which can provide voice, video, and data service at a lower cost,” said Haney. “The bottom line is that current intrastate access charges divert private investment to traditional voice service instead of broadband technologies that economic growth increasingly depends on.”

Bradley Jackson, Vice President for Government Affairs, of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry said, “The Chamber is pleased to be a part of this discussion about policies that will help attract investment, benefit consumers and help business grow here in Tennessee and we will continue promoting ideas and policies that make a real impact on economic development in the state.”

The full paper can be viewed at www.CitizensForADigitalFuture.org.

About Citizens for a Digital Future

Citizens for a Digital Future is a coalition of non-profit organizations and industry members that recognizes that adoption of and access to broadband technology — and its enhancements — has become increasingly critical to the environment, education, economic development and health care, among others. Its members support and advance public policies that encourage transparency, broad deployment and robust enhancement of broadband and digital technologies.

Candidates Riding New Waves of Advertising

They’ve been noted for red umbrellas, a black boot and a special book that displays special effects.

No more do political junkies have to sit around watching television all day just to catch a glimpse of a gubernatorial candidate’s latest commercial: All you have to do is surf on over to their website or Facebook page and click away to your heart’s content.

Still, the candidates know — for the time being, at least — the people they need to reach are those sitting at home watching television, who will react to whatever happens to show up on the screen, not what they might go looking for on a computer.

The availability of quality, professional advertising on television has become so important that campaigns are now making news when they launch an ad. They announce advertising the way movies and television companies announce their productions. You won’t see a candidate show up on a television talk show to discuss his new ad that’s opening — not yet, anyway — but it has become a measure of a campaign’s viability if the candidate can afford to hit the airwaves with ads. The ads themselves are being analyzed for their effectiveness and for fact-checking purposes. Sometimes candidates make hay off another candidate’s ads.

But given recent strides in the role new media plays, the major contenders were asked about the wave of the future of campaign ads. Could the day come when campaigns can save a lot of money by advertising more directly to audiences rather than buy pricey time on local television stations?

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp says technology has changed campaigns and that ways to reach voters are constantly evolving. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says it’s possible that shifts may come. Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam says conventional television advertising is still the way to reach voters needed to win. Democratic candidate Mike McWherter, who has already wrapped up his primary race, has not gone up with ads on television yet, but he is certainly using the other tools of the Internet to connect with voters.

“I’ve been involved in politics 28 years, and it has evolved in every cycle like you wouldn’t believe,” Wamp said. “I was asked, ‘What about print?’ I said print has changed. Print is electronic. If you’re asking me if we’re communicating very effectively off of television, the answer is absolutely.”

Wamp said to go check out more than 14,000 Facebook friends for his campaign, or over 4,000 people who follow Wamp on Twitter.

“We’re communicating literally with hundreds of thousands of people not on television now,” Wamp said. “Yes, it’s changing rapidly. Everything is wireless.”

Wamp notes how new media communications played a key role in the last presidential campaign, which boosted Barack Obama’s bid for the White House. With each election cycle, technologies are playing a fascinating role. But it’s still questionable as to whether statewide campaigns will ever be able to work without conventional television advertising.

“It’s possible,” Ramsey said. “The Internet will be part of that, but cable television will be part of that, too.

“When you have Fox getting the highest rating show on television news right now and the three major networks at the bottom of the heap, suddenly you can start reversing that. So it will be a combination of the networks just falling off a cliff and scratching their heads wondering why — but I can figure it out — and you’ve got the networks like Fox News of the world coming on. So I would like to think that would be the case, probably the next election cycle.”

Haslam is not so sure. The Haslam campaign has used modern techniques like most campaigns. But any move away from conventional televison advertising sounds remote for now to Haslam. He doesn’t think the landscape will change anytime soon.

“I would like to think that, but the reality is the difference in advertising on broadcast and not is phenomenal, in terms of the scope of awareness,” Haslam said. “So could that day be coming? Maybe.

“Nobody 10 years ago would have thought we’d be where we are. I’ll put it this way. Those of us who play the inside game of politics and look at everything on the Internet, we’re still the distinct minority. Most voters aren’t seeing that.”

Haslam’s campaign recently announced two new television advertisements, one of which addresses civility and shows Haslam alone in a studio setting, saying the governor’s race should stick to the issues.

Haslam said that ad was not in response to anything that had been said recently in the campaign.

“We filmed that weeks ago, so it’s not a response,” Haslam said. “It’s only a response to what I hear from people when I’m out there campaigning. That’s what we want to talk about. This is important stuff. Let’s talk about the important stuff.”

Ramsey has chosen the image of a boot, saying Tennessee should give Washington “the boot” on how the nation’s capital is treating the states. When Haslam’s first ad showed the candidate and supporters walking in the rain with red umbrellas, the umbrellas got a lot of the attention. Wamp has said he doesn’t have an umbrella or a boot but a plan, and his first ad showed him standing in front of an industrial site emphasizing the need to attract jobs to the state. He opens a book that shows a video of Wamp talking to people at a work site. Subsequent Wamp ads are aimed at different regions of the state, and he holds up his 20/20 Vision book, although he doesn’t open the book in the latest ads.

Most people can distinguish between a quality production ad and simple video of a campaign event, but then again some people who don’t study such things might not see the difference, which leads again to the question of whether traditional campaign methods are going the way of the black-and-white TV.

“I am the most savvy candidate in this race from either party on using the new medium of communication through the Internet,” Wamp said. “That’s why I have the most Facebook friends, the most Twitter followers. We’ve been at it a long time.

“It’s nice. You can do a lot of things with a little money. That’s one of the ways this past presidential campaign took on a new dimension, and so now you can do it at the state level and at the local level. And we’re doing it. I’m not going to tell you how we’re doing it, because I don’t want them doing it as well as we do it, but we’re doing it.”

Wamp said the majority of a campaign’s spending is on television. Some of the new ways of campaigning don’t cost as much.

“Yes, you can do it a lot less expensively. This is not about ‘Who has the most money wins,'” he said. “It’s about ‘Who has the most votes wins.’ You can get votes without a lot of money, and actually that’s the governor you need — a person who knows how to do more with less.”

Wamp said most of the money is spent on network affiliated television in a statewide campaign, whether it’s for the U.S. Senate or for governor.

TCPR: An Idea a Day to Keep Big Government at Bay

Press release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, 12 Jan. 2010:

Forty-five legislative ideas for a prosperous Tennessee

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Center for Policy Research today made available in electronic version its most recent publication, An Idea a Day: 45 Ideas for a Prosperous Tennessee. The pamphlet offers one innovative free market idea for each remaining legislative day of the 106th General Assembly. Each idea is surmised in one brief sentence, followed by a link to original work published by TCPR on the issue.

Hardcopies of the pamphlet were provided to each member of the General Assembly last week. The electronic is now available to members and their staff as the Legislature embarks on the second session of the 106th General Assembly.

“When lawmakers look for solutions that will expand individual liberty, return taxpayers’ hard-earned money to their pockets, and reduce the size and scope of government, they now have a place to turn,” said Justin Owen, Director of Policy at TCPR. “We hope members of the General Assembly utilize this simple, concise resource as they conduct the people’s business.”

The pamphlet offers solutions in each of the following policy areas:

  • Budget
  • Education
  • Government Reform
  • Government Waste
  • Healthcare
  • Property Rights
  • Regulation
  • Taxation
  • Technology
  • Transparency
  • Transportation

The electronic version of An Idea a Day, complete with links to original TCPR work on the ideas offered, can be viewed by clicking here.