Helping Rural Communities Realize Untapped Assets

aerial view of Chase Pharmacy in Downtown Harriman

When searching for a solution, sometimes all that’s needed is a fresh perspective—which was the case for the 54 rural Tennessee counties that participated in a UT-led initiative to help community leaders identify untapped assets with the potential to create jobs and increase wages.

Led by the Center for Industrial Services (CIS), an agency of the UT Institute for Public Service, and in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TDECD), the initiative spanned three years and included goal-setting forums in more than half of the state’s counties. The UT Institute of Agriculture assisted by developing a facilitator guide for the forums and delivering training.

From better promoting tourism assets to enhancing local broadband and improving industrial sites, state parks and historic attractions—every forum pointed to projects that were practical and feasible.

UT Center for Industrial Services

Forums and follow-up sessions concluded in spring 2019, and more than $3.6 million in grant funding was awarded to counties by TNECD to support implementation plans.

Success stories include Claiborne County, where leaders received a grant to finance a public kayak launch and improvements along the Powell River, and Jackson County where leaders identified an opportunity to bring a Tennessee College of Applied Technology satellite campus to Gainesboro, which enabled them to attract new businesses by promoting the area’s skilled workforce.

Everywhere you look, UT is serving Tennessee.