Press Releases

Haslam Announces Unipres Expanding Portland Facility

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; March 5, 2015:

Global Automotive Parts Manufacturer to Create 435 New Jobs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd along with Unipres USA Inc. officials announced today the company will expand its Portland facilities by adding new presses and building space to house the additional presses. The expansion will create 435 new jobs over the next five years in Sumner County.

“We want to congratulate Unipres USA on its expansion and thank the company for its plans to create more than 400 new jobs in Portland,” Haslam said. “The momentum of our automotive sector is a direct result of the success of the many manufacturers, suppliers and other thriving automotive-related companies that call our state home, and today’s announcement supports our goal to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“Unipres USA has not only been an outstanding corporate citizen in Portland, it has also made a significant difference in the community with its contributions to local schools, parks, and fire and police departments,” Boyd said. “I would like to thank Unipres USA for its continued investment in Sumner County and look forward to the company’s future growth and success in Middle Tennessee.”

“Unipres USA would like to thank Governor Haslam, Commissioner Boyd, Tennessee Economic and Community Development, Mayor Wilber, City of Portland Economic Development, Portland Industrial Development Board, and County Executive Holt for the generous support with our business growth,” Unipres USA President Takeo Sato said. “Unipres has been fortunate with new opportunities in Portland. Unipres is committed to being a good community partner and will, as much as possible, use local companies and contractors for construction and expansion activities.  Also, we look forward to being a part of the growth in the community.”

The expansion includes significant capital investment in the renovation and retrofitting of a storage warehouse to house assembly equipment and materials. The ongoing expansion plans also include an addition to the existing manufacturing facilities of approximately 32,000 square feet to house two new 2,500-ton transfer presses and one 600-ton blanking press.

“We are very fortunate to have Unipres USA as a leader in our industrial community,” Portland Mayor Ken Wilber said. “Though the years, they have been consistent with participation in projects that enhance the quality of life for the citizens of our community. We are proud to be a part of their growth and hope to support them for many more years.”

“I would like to thank Unipres USA for expanding not only in Portland but also in Sumner County,” Sumner County Executive Anthony Holt said. “I am excited about their investment and creation of high paying jobs. I look forward to working with them and in making their investment a success not only for the company, but for our community as well.”

“TVA and Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation congratulate Unipres USA on its announced plans to expand and add new jobs at its Portland operations,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “We are pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee, city of Portland and Sumner County officials to assist the growth of existing industries.”

Unipres USA, a premium automotive parts manufacturer, focuses primarily on stamping, machining and assembly of metal parts for the main portions of automotive body structures, in addition to pressing molded components and precision automatic transmission parts. The company has been in Portland since 1987 and currently employs a workforce of more than 1,000.

Press Releases

Haslam Announces Gruppo Opening First U.S. Facility in Maury Co

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; March 5, 2015:

NASHVILLE—Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd along with Gruppo Concorde officials announced today the company plans to build its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Mt. Pleasant, where it will produce porcelain tiles. Gruppo Concorde, through its North American subsidiary UST Inc., will invest approximately $80 million to construct a new 600,000 square foot facility on 96 acres in Maury County, creating 180 new jobs.

“We want to thank Gruppo Concorde for its investment in Tennessee and the 180 new jobs they are creating in Maury County,” Haslam said. “Having this global company locate its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Tennessee says something—that we compete with anyone as we continue our work to become the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

Gruppo Concorde was founded in 1968, and with over 2,200 employees worldwide, the company has expanded to become one of the largest producers of high-end ceramic tile, operating production sites in Italy, France and Russia and exporting its products to more than 130 countries around the globe.

“Tennessee continues to build upon its reputation as the North American location choice for the international tile manufacturing industry,” Boyd said. “Since 2011, five ceramics companies have committed a total of 630 new jobs to our state. Gruppo Concorde, and the jobs they are creating, is a valuable addition to the community, and I look forward to their continued growth and success in Tennessee.”

“We have chosen Tennessee for a number of reasons, including the state’s vibrant and business-friendly environment and the warm and proactive welcome we have received from the local community in Maury County,” Gruppo Concorde Executive and UST Inc. President and CEO Federico Curioni said. “Tennessee is also very close to some of the most important raw material used in the tile industry, such as plastic clay and feldspar, which greatly benefits our production capabilities.”

UST Inc. is building this new facility, to be located at 1433 North Main St. in Mt. Pleasant, in order to increase Gruppo Concorde presence on the U.S. market. Through this expansion, Gruppo Concorde will be able to improve its services and products portfolio.

“We are ecstatic to have an internationally recognized company such as Gruppo Concorde locating to Maury County,” Maury County Mayor Charlie Norman said. ”Over the last two years, The Maury Alliance, The Industrial Development Board of Maury County, Maury County Government, and the City of Mount Pleasant have been working hard to ensure this project came to fruition. This is a prime example of what community teamwork can accomplish and I am proud of all of those involved.”

“TVA and Mount Pleasant Power System congratulate Gruppo Concorde on its decision to start new operations and create quality jobs in Mount Pleasant,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “We are pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee, the Maury Alliance, South Central Tennessee Development District, City of Mount Pleasant and Maury County officials to facilitate Gruppo Concorde’s finding its optimum location.”

Approximately 1,260 Tennesseans are employed in the ceramics industry, representing an increase of more than 14 percent from 2010-2014.

UST Inc. expects construction to begin this month and plans to have the facility operational by the second half of 2016.

The company will begin hiring for these new positions sometime in the second half of 2015, and will later communicate the details for the application process.

Press Releases

Boyd: Parkdale Mills Expanding Mountain City Facility

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; February 23, 2015:

Global Spun Yarn Producer to Invest $120 Million, Create 80 New Jobs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd along with Parkdale Mills officials announced today the company will invest $120 million to expand its Mountain City operations making it the company’s largest ring spinning installation. In order to accommodate the expansion, Parkdale Mills will increase its existing footprint to include an additional 222,158 square feet and create 80 new jobs in Johnson County.

“Parkdale Mills is the largest manufacturer in Johnson County, and today’s announcement is a tremendous uplift for the area’s citizens and its outstanding workforce,” Boyd said. “This is great news for Mountain City, and we’re thankful to Parkdale Mills for choosing to further invest in our state and create more jobs for Tennesseans.”

“Parkdale Mills is grateful for the opportunity that has been provided by the state of Tennessee and Johnson County to further invest in our future,” Parkdale Mills President Charles Heilig said. “Our associates deserve this opportunity to create another world class operation that fits within Parkdale’s manufacturing footprint. This project will near its completion on our company’s hundredth birthday, and we could not imagine a better community to celebrate this milestone with.”

Parkdale Mills’ Mountain City location primarily produces yarn used for outerwear, innerwear and t-shirts. The expansion will include replacing all existing manufacturing equipment and increasing the facility size. Construction will begin immediately with plans for new technology and equipment to be installed in July 2015.

“This is outstanding news. Tennessee continues to prove it is the best state in the nation to own and operate a business,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said. “I am proud that Parkdale recognizes the excellence of the workforce in Johnson County and has chosen to expand and grow in Mountain City.”

“This is a very exciting announcement for Johnson County. In today’s competitive business environment, it really protects the more than 300 jobs Parkdale currently provides for our citizens,” Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter said. “An investment of this size means so much to the community and is a true reflection of the work ethic displayed by Parkdale’s current workforce. I’m thankful to the company and look forward to its continued growth in Johnson County.”

“TVA and Mountain Electric Cooperative congratulate Parkdale Mills on its decision to make a major expansion that will create additional jobs in Johnson County,” John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of Economic Development, said. “We are pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee, Mountain City and Johnson County officials to help facilitate Parkdale’s growth and continued success.”

A leader in the spun yarn industry, Parkdale Mills has 28 plants and more than 5,000 employees in North, Central and South America. The company is one of the largest single consumers of U.S. cotton using 360,000 tons each year.

Hiring will begin in late May, and interested persons can apply at the facility located at 3916 Highway 421 South in Mountain City. To learn more about Parkdale Mills, visit

Press Releases

Boyd Names New as Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; February 19, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd announced today the appointment of Amy New as the department’s first Assistant Commissioner for Rural Development.

New, a department veteran working with business and community development programs, most recently served as director of the department’s primary community development program ThreeStar.

Boyd said New would lead a new division within TNECD that reorganizes all community programs under her leadership. The move will allow the department to put a greater emphasis on assisting rural communities.

“While TNECD has done many good things for our rural communities, from the ThreeStar program to the Select Tennessee site development efforts, I believe we need to double down on our efforts,” Boyd said. “Many of our rural areas are still struggling, and we need to reorganize and align to serve them even better. That includes considering new programs, improving existing ones, and reallocating resources, both personnel and financial.  However, the most important first step is to put in place a great leader, and I believe Amy New is that leader. She has the experience, the passion and the leadership ability to move our state forward.”

Since 2012, as ThreeStar Director, New worked to restructure and expand Tennessee’s community development efforts by launching a more focused activity based program, with incentives and grant monies. The reconstituted ThreeStar focuses on five key areas critical to ensuring the success of Tennessee communities: Jobs & Economic Development, Fiscal Strength & Efficient Government, Public Safety, Education & Workforce Development, and Health & Welfare.

“Amy was raised in rural Tennessee and understands our challenges and opportunities,” Boyd said.  “Amy’s leadership abilities, relationships and grasp of rural policy will allow us to up our game on behalf of rural communities.”

A native of Monterey, Tenn., New worked at both the county government and chamber level, was a Business Profiles host with WCTE-TV and an account executive with MMA Creative prior to her work with TNECD.

“When our communities engage actively in community development to improve their quality of life, education, workforce and overall health they are building a foundation for economic development,” New said. “The private sector will only invest in communities that first invest in themselves.  We will use the opportunity to proactively work with partner agencies and our communities to attract investment and jobs to rural Tennessee.”

Boyd also announced the hiring of Jody Sliger as TNECD’s new ThreeStar director.

Sliger was most recently the interim president and tourism and marketing director of the Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce. Prior to that Sliger was a journalist in the Upper Cumberland region, including as lifestyles editor of The Expositer newspaper in Sparta.

Press Releases

Haslam: TeamHealth Expanding East TN Operations

Press release from the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; January 28, 2015:

NASHVILLE—Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd along with TeamHealth officials announced today the company is expanding its current operations in East Tennessee. TeamHealth, whose home office is located in Knoxville, will invest $16.8 million to construct additional space next to its second location at Base Pointe Business Park in Louisville. This expansion will create 450 new jobs in Blount County.

“It always says a lot to businesses around the country and world when a company like TeamHealth, with a great history in our state, chooses to continue growing here,” Haslam said. “We want to thank TeamHealth for this significant investment and creating 450 new jobs in Blount County. Today’s announcement is great news for our East Tennessee communities and brings us another step closer toward our goal to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“TeamHealth is a valued organization in Tennessee and I’m pleased they can take advantage of our business-friendly environment to continue expanding in our state,” Boyd said. “These jobs will make a big difference in our communities, paving the way for additional long-term growth. I want to thank TeamHealth for their investment, and I look forward to their ongoing presence in Tennessee.”

TeamHealth—one of the largest providers of outsourced physician staffing solutions for hospitals in the United States—is expanding due to significant growth in their anesthesia service line.

“We are pleased to expand our presence in Blount County,” Michael D. Snow, president and CEO of TeamHealth, said. “TeamHealth continues to experience significant growth, particularly within our anesthesia service line. Our new location will be solely dedicated to Healthcare Financial Services (HCFS) anesthesia operations and will allow us to strengthen our coding and billing functions to support future growth.”

The new building will be located at 3231 North Star Circle in Louisville. HCFS provides comprehensive coding and billing for patients seen in TeamHealth’s client hospitals. TeamHealth’s approximately 11,000 affiliated healthcare professionals provide emergency medicine, hospital medicine, anesthesia, urgent care, and pediatric staffing and management services for civilian and military hospitals, clinics and physician groups.

The Louisville location will initially provide 40,000 square feet but is expandable to 70,000 square feet. TeamHealth plans to relocate its HCFS anesthesia operations to the new facility by August 2015. TeamHealth currently occupies 52,500 square feet at its Base Pointe location.

“This is another substantial investment by TeamHealth and we are happy that it has decided to continue to make Blount County its home,” Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said. “This new facility, coupled with its existing building in Base Pointe, only lends credence to the knowledge that this community is a solid place for continued development.”

“Having an organization like TeamHealth choosing to expand in this area really speaks to the quality of life for its employees and our solid business community,” City of Alcoa Mayor Don Mull said. “We appreciate the hard work of the Blount Partnership to pull all the parts together to make this expansion occur.”

“TeamHealth has lived up to its promise of four years ago to continue to choose Blount County for its employment needs,” Blount Partnership President/CEO Bryan Daniels said. “This announcement of new Headquarter operations jobs continues the upward trend Blount County has seen over the past five years with more than 2,700 jobs and $447 million of capital investment.”

“TVA congratulates TeamHealth on its announcement to expand and create hundreds of new jobs in Blount County,” TVA senior vice president of Economic Development John Bradley said. “TVA and Alcoa Electric Department are pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee, Blount Partnership and Blount County officials to facilitate TeamHealth’s growth.”

TeamHealth’s Healthcare Financial Services (HCFS) has been part of Blount County for 18 years. In addition to its new anesthesia-specific location, TeamHealth operates two HCFS locations in Blount County, the current Base Pointe facility supporting its national Hospital Medicine and Clinic operations and a Regal Drive location serving regional Emergency Medicine operations.

People can apply for positions in management, accounting, medical coding and billing by visiting and looking under the Careers section for the Base Pointe location.

About TeamHealth
TeamHealth (NYSE: TMH) is one of the largest providers of outsourced physician staffing solutions for hospitals in the United States. Through its 21 regional locations and multiple service lines, TeamHealth’s approximately 11,000 affiliated healthcare professionals provide emergency medicine, hospital medicine, anesthesia, urgent care, and pediatric staffing and management services to approximately 990 civilian and military hospitals, clinics, and physician groups in 47 states. TeamHealth was recently named one of “America’s 100 Most Trustworthy Companies” for 2014 by Forbes magazine. The term “TeamHealth” as used throughout this release includes Team Health, Inc., and all of its related entities, divisions, subsidiaries and affiliated physicians and physician groups. For more information about TeamHealth, visit

Press Releases

Haslam Announces DENSO Manufacturing to Expand Athens Operations

Press release from the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; January 28, 2015:

Leading Global Automotive Supplier to Invest More Than $85 Million, Create 400 Jobs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd along with DENSO Manufacturing Athens Tennessee (DMAT) officials announced today the company will expand production of its gasoline direct injection (GDI) capability in Athens by building a new 224,000 square foot facility at its existing location.  DENSO, a leading global automotive supplier of advanced technology, systems and components, will invest more than $85 million and create 400 new jobs over the next three years in McMinn County.

The announcement marks DMAT’s third major investment in an 18-month period. The overall expansion effort will represent a total investment of approximately $190 million and more than 700 new jobs. Production at the new facility will begin in July 2016.

“We want to thank DENSO for its third big investment in the last year and a half, creating 400 new jobs in McMinn County,” Haslam said. “In Tennessee, we’re focused on a business environment that not only makes companies confident to locate here but also gives them the support to grow and expand. Today’s announcement is great news for Athens and brings us another step closer toward our goal to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“I’m pleased to see the progress DENSO has made in Athens and the jobs that have been created from the company’s third major announcement in less than two years,” Boyd said. “Tennessee’s automotive strength is reinforced by companies, like DENSO, that make quality products for suppliers throughout the United States. I appreciate DENSO for the new jobs that will be offered to McMinn County’s skilled workforce and look forward to seeing the company’s continued growth and success.”

“This project is critical to support the growing need of gasoline direct injection in North America as automakers are turning to this technology to help meet fuel-efficiency and emissions regulations,” Brian Nolen, General Manager of DMAT’s Gasoline Products Manufacturing Division, said. “The localization of gasoline direct injection technology is resulting in new jobs, new production lines, new approaches to training and new growth among our supply partners in North America.”

DMAT currently employs a workforce of more than 1,450 and has been producing fuel injectors since 1998 for the North American region. DENSO’s latest generation of GDI technology is geared to deliver more power and lower emissions while being more compact.

“Athens is delighted with the announcement of the expansion of DENSO Manufacturing,” Athens Mayor Ann Davis said. “The trust and confidence that the company has shown in our city and county has meant many new jobs for our citizens which, in turn, encourages us to continue our efforts and programs developed to ensure a skilled and trained workforce. We are grateful to have such a widely known and respected industry in Athens, Tennessee.”

“DENSO Manufacturing’s latest announced expansion further reinforces the positive relationship McMinn County has enjoyed with the company for the past 17 years,” McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said. “This is exciting news for the entire region, and we appreciate DENSO’s continued faith in the McMinn County workforce. I would like to thank the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, McMinn County EDA and the city of Athens for their diligent efforts in making this expansion a reality. McMinn County remains committed to providing an environment where companies can flourish and looks forward to working with DENSO to enable future growth.”

“TVA and Athens Utilities Board congratulate DENSO Manufacturing on its announcement to expand in Athens, Tennessee,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “We are pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee, city of Athens and the McMinn County Economic Development Authority to support DENSO’s expansion and major investment that will create hundreds of new jobs.”

“We are so pleased with DENSO’s decision and their continued success,” Frank Snyder, chairman of the McMinn County Industrial Development Board, said. “DENSO is a wonderful corporate citizen and this expansion is a big boost for McMinn County and our surrounding communities given the great jobs that DENSO provides. The expansion also says a lot about DENSO’s commitment to this area and their optimism for our combined future.”

Interested persons can submit their resumes online at, by emailing, or mailing a copy directed to DENSO Staffing to 2400 Denso Drive, Athens, Tennessee 37303.

DENSO Corporation, headquartered in Kariya, Aichi prefecture, Japan, is a leading global automotive supplier of advanced technology, systems and components in the areas of thermal, powertrain control, electronics and information and safety. Its customers include all the world’s major carmakers. Worldwide, the company has more than 200 subsidiaries and affiliates in 38 countries and regions and employs nearly 140,000 people. Consolidated global sales for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014, totaled US$39.8 billion. Last fiscal year, DENSO spent 9 percent of its global consolidated sales on research and development. DENSO common stock is traded on the Tokyo and Nagoya stock exchanges.

About DENSO in North America
Currently in North America, DENSO employs more than 17,000 people at 32 consolidated companies and affiliates. Of these, 28 are manufacturing facilities located in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In the U.S. alone, DENSO employs more than 14,000 people in California, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Alabama and Arkansas. DENSO’s North American consolidated sales totaled US$7.9 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014. Connect with us on Facebook:

Education Featured NewsTracker

Quality of State’s Workforce Questioned

One of the messages that came out of Gov. Bill Haslam’s education summit last week was a complaint from employers that’s not entirely new: It’s hard to find good help these days.

Amid discussion about the state’s education system, a few attendees said issues preventing a labor-ready workforce ran a little deeper than what the reforms of the past few years have been getting at. In a nutshell, there’s a significant element of Volunteer State’s workforce, especially at the entry levels, that can’t do basic high school math, don’t communicate or take directions very well, have trouble passing drug tests and oftentimes exhibit a general aversion to hard work.

Greg Martz, a Tennessee Chamber of Commerce board member and plant manager at DuPont, said the problems facing employers are fairly straightforward. The younger generation, in particular, lacks “interpersonal skills,” which he in part blames on their overuse of texting and other modern phone technology. And they also tend to have trouble solving real-world problems, which he theorized might have something to do with an overemphasis in public-school classrooms on rote memorization rather than critical thinking.

Ken Gough of Accurate Machine Products in Johnson City agreed.

“Math skills are very weak, analytical skills are very weak, the ability to solve problems, very weak. Drug testing? It’s a real problem with the entire workforce,” said Gough, a voice for Tennessee’s small business community at the governor’s “Progress of the Past Present an Future” conference. “Just the understanding that they have to show up every day for work, on time and ready to go to work, those are things that quite literally have to be taught.”

He added that while some of these problems are “not primarily a school problem,” schools could help provide solutions.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, a Chattanooga Republican, said he’s heard it all before. A year ago, Gardenhire told the crowd of conference attendees, he made inquiries among representatives of Japanese-owned companies doing business in the Southeast as to what could be done to encourage the hiring of more Tennesseans.

While he had expected to hear issues with infrastructure and taxes, Gardenhire said it came to a “unanimous three things” that weren’t those at all.

“Number 1 was your workforce can’t do ninth grade math. Second, your workforce can’t pass drug tests. And third, your workforce won’t work. They don’t have a work ethic,” Gardenhire said he was told.

Gardenhire said all those are components of what he’s telling kids around Chattanooga when he goes on local motivational-speaking tours. He said he informs students that what they need to do to achieve success in life is “learn math, stay off drugs and show up on time for work.”

The invitation-only education forum was called by Haslam and the Republican speakers of the General Assembly, and featured several presentations on the reforms enacted over the past several years and discussion of the state’s education system by all of the major stakeholders in education, including lawmakers, teachers, administrators, parents and business leaders.

Haslam said that the plan was not to come out with some statement from the group at the summit, but that this was just the “beginning of a discussion” about what issues face Tennessee, how we got to where we are and what some “potential paths” are for the future of the state’s education system.

During one of the summit’s discussion periods, Randy Boyd, chairman of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, emphasized the need to focus on “talking about K to J, not K to 12,” in order to “be at the point where high school graduation equals college readiness.”

“Our alignment needs to be aligned with the workforce needs, not necessarily with anything else,” Boyd said.

Press Releases

Haslam Amps Up ‘Drive to 55’ Initiative to Improve TN Higher Ed Numbers

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; September 4, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today convened key stakeholders including members of the General Assembly and leaders from Tennessee’s four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, colleges of applied technology, chambers of commerce, the business community, and the state board of education to discuss the challenges Tennessee faces in building a strong workforce for today and in the future.

“We want Tennesseans working in Tennessee jobs. We want Tennesseans to have an opportunity to get a good job and for those in the workplace to be able to advance and get an even better job,” Haslam said. “Currently in Tennessee, only 32 percent of us have a certificate or degree beyond high school, and studies show that by the year 2025 that number needs to be at least 55 percent for us to keep up with job demand. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

The governor outlined Tennessee’s current situation including:

  • Nearly 70 percent of Tennessee students entering community college need remedial classes before they can take college level courses;
  • More than 20,000 Tennessee high school graduates choose not to continue their education each year.
  • There are approximately 940,000 adult Tennesseans who have some college credit but haven’t earned an associate or four-year degree.
  • On the state’s current path, Tennessee is projected to reach 39 percent of citizens with a certificate or degree beyond high school by the year 2025. To reach 55 percent would be 494,000 more people.

Two national experts participated in the event, held at the Music City Center in Nashville, to give global perspectives on workforce trends, the importance of workforce readiness, and innovations in post-secondary education.

Jeff Strohl, the director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, leads a team that researches how education impacts the workforce and focuses on how to quantify skills and better understand competencies in the context of an evolving workplace.

Anant Agarwal serves as president of edX, a worldwide, online learning initiative of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. He is also a professor in MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department.

The governor’s special advisor for Higher Education, Randy Boyd, also gave an update on the progress made to date on the “Drive to 55” initiative including:

  • $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, which institutions will begin receiving in the coming weeks.
  • Launch of WGU Tennessee – an online, competency-based university aimed at the 940,000 adult Tennesseans that have some college credit but didn’t graduate with an associate or four-year degree.
  • Newly created endowment of $47 million using operational reserve funds from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) to provide nearly $2 million each year to support scholarships for “last dollar” scholarship programs such as tnAchieves. These scholarships fill the gaps between students’ financial aid and the real costs of college including books, supplies, room and board.
  • Launching the SAILS program, Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support, to give students who need extra support in math attention during their senior year in high school so they can avoid remediation when they enter college.
  • Legislation sponsored by Majority Leaders Mark Norris and Gerald McCormick to create the Labor Education Alignment Program – or LEAP – to better coordinate key stakeholders on the state and local level to address workforce readiness.
  • And new online learning innovations in Tennessee through partnerships with edX and Coursera.

Haslam appointed Boyd to the position in January, and he has consulted with a formal working group made up of the governor, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and president of the University of Tennessee. Although Boyd’s position is full-time, he is working for the state on a voluntary, unpaid basis.

The governor will be traveling the state in the coming weeks making the case for a stronger emphasis on workforce readiness in Tennessee – equipping more Tennesseans with the skills and training they need beyond high school for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

For more information on the ‘Drive to 55’ initiative, visit

Education Featured NewsTracker

Haslam, Dean Tout Free Community College for Nashville Grads

Both Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean were on hand Monday morning at Nashville State’s southeast campus for the announcement of a new program offering free community college and technical school tuition to all Metro public school graduates.

The initiative, called “nashvilleAchieves,” makes Davidson County the twenty-sixth in the state to offer high school seniors such a deal under a larger umbrella organization called tnAchieves. That organization was started five years ago by Randy Boyd, a Knoxville pet supply mogul and higher-ed adviser to Gov. Haslam.

Boyd spoke at Monday’s event, urging Metro businesses and community members to donate time and money to the program.

The tuition subsidies, which will be especially geared toward low-income and first-generation college goers but open to all graduates, will be paid for with a mixture of public funding and private donations.

According to a press release from Mayor Dean’s office, nashvilleAchieves has already tallied up $1 million in donations from corporate and nonprofit sources while the city plans to commit $750,000 over the next two years.

Speaking to reporters following the announcement, Dean described the programs as “especially meaningful” because it allows the county to “make it possible for every graduating high school senior to go to community college.”

“The city’s future is dependent upon us being a city that produces and attracts college graduates,” he added.

Increasing access to higher education statewide has been a top priority for Gov. Haslam’s administration. During his remarks Monday, Haslam said that only about a third of Tennesseans currently hold an advanced degree and he hailed tnAchieves as a valuable way to raise that number.

“tnAchieves has a proven record of providing the support that ultimately leads to increased post-secondary access, retention and completion,” Haslam said in prepared remarks, adding during a post-event press conference, “The better graduates we produce, then the more businesses are going to want to say ‘we want to be here.’”

Haslam has announced a goal, the so-called “Drive to 55,” to raise the number of state residents with an advanced to degree to 55 percent by 2025. Right the number number is around 32 percent, the governor has said.

Press Releases

Haslam Higher Ed Initiative: Affordability, Access, Quality

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam; January 15, 2013: 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Randy Boyd will join his administration as special advisor to the governor for Higher Education to focus on affordability, access and quality of state programs.

Boyd will consult with a formal working group appointed by Haslam made up of the governor, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and president of the University of Tennessee. Although Boyd’s position will be full-time, he will be working for the state on a voluntary, unpaid basis.

“Over the past six months, I’ve spent a lot of time learning from experts in our state and across the country about the challenges we face in higher education,” Haslam said. “Only 32 percent of our state’s adult population has a post-secondary degree, but if we are going to a have a workforce that’s job-ready, we need to be at 55 percent by 2025. The conversation needs to be about K to J with the ‘J’ meaning jobs.

“It is clear to me that unlike K-12 education where there is general consensus about how to improve education. That isn’t the case when it comes to tackling the ‘iron triangle’ of affordability, access and quality in post-secondary education. I am grateful that Randy has agreed to join our team to head up this crucial effort. He will bring a business, workforce alignment perspective and a demonstrated passion for improving access to higher education to this issue. I believe it says a lot about the importance of this issue to the future of our state when someone of Randy’s caliber is willing to come from the private sector and serve in this way.”

In 2009, Boyd helped start tnAchieves, a non-profit organization that has sent over 3,200 high school graduates to community college free of charge with mentors. Of those students, 68 percent are the first in their families to attend college, and more than 65 percent have family incomes below $50,000. The organization serves 26 counties providing universal college access to those high school graduates.

“I am passionate about improving educational opportunity for all our citizens,” Boyd said. “To achieve the governor’s mission, we will need to broaden the net and to provide greater access. I’m excited about this opportunity because Gov. Haslam is determined to make a material impact. I believe our state has a rare opportunity, and I am honored to be able to assist.”

Boyd, 53, is chairman of Radio Systems Corporation, which he started in 1991. Radio Systems is headquartered in Knoxville and has more than 600 associates worldwide with offices in seven countries. The company produces over 4,000 technology-based pet products under brand names such as Invisible Fence, PetSafe, SportDOG, and Premier. It is a private company with sales over $300 million.

Boyd received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in industrial management in 1979 and a master’s in liberal studies from Oklahoma University in 1988.

Boyd also currently serves on the board of a number of organizations including the University of Tennessee College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council, the University of Tennessee Alumni Association, and Knox County’s Great Schools Partnership. He also established the PetSafe Chair of Companion Animal Behavior within the Small Animal Clinical Sciences department of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.

He has received several awards including Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southeast in 2008, Tennessee Business Magazine’s CEO of the Year in 2009, UT’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009, and was inducted into Junior Achievement’s East Tennessee Hall of Fame in 2008.

He and his wife, Jenny, have two sons. Boyd begins his role in Nashville today, January 15.