Two UT Agencies Honored for Economic Development Projects

KNOXVILLE — Two agencies within the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service (IPS) have been recognized by the University Economic Development Association, a nationwide organization, for two economic development projects.

UT Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) received top honors for Excellence in Community Development for its comprehensive management report for the Gallatin Economic Development Agency. In the Excellence in Public Policy category, UT County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) was honored for a project about the regional importance of Reelfoot Lake that was done in collaboration with the UT Knoxville Center for Transportation Research (CTR), U.S. Rep. John Tanner and state Rep. Phillip Pinion.

The University Economic Development Association (UEDA), an organization of higher education institutions and their economic development affiliates from across the U.S., honored projects done nationwide for business assistance, technology commercialization, community development and economic development. The awards were presented at UEDA’s annual summit on higher education and economic development in November.

In the Gallatin Economic Development Agency project, Don Darden, MTAS municipal management consultant, and Beth Phillips, IPS economic development specialist, studied Gallatin’s demographics and resources and worked with the Gallatin EDA to identify what was needed to ensure the agency had the staff, resources, organization and relationships necessary to build a foundation for job creation.

Darden and Phillips advised the Gallatin EDA to develop a formal marketing plan and to promote greater use of alternative financing plans. Their review also validated Gallatin’s efforts to redesign its Web site (http://www.gallatintn-eda.com), negotiate the purchase of an expansion of the industrial park, study the long-term effects of retiree relocations and launch a pilot program to provide local incentives to businesses interested in relocating to Gallatin.

IPS Assistant Vice President Chuck Shoopman presented the Gallatin Economic Development Agency project at the summit.

In the Reelfoot Lake project, CTAS financed an economic impact study of the Reelfoot Lake area and studied the contributions recreation activities make to the regional economy. Reelfoot Lake is a shallow natural lake located in the northwest corner of Tennessee in Lake and Obion counties. The spillway is difficult to operate and is leaking badly. A spillway failure would turn Reelfoot Lake into a mud flat and destroy the bridge on State Route 21, the most convenient route from the east into Tiptonville in Lake County. Research by CTR showed that loss of the spillway would result in lost visitation, income, jobs and tax revenue associated with recreational activity. Property values in both Lake and Obion counties also would decline.

The findings raised the awareness about the spillway’s need for repair and, and by March 2008, $13 million in federal funding was appropriated to begin the work.

Larry Bray of UT Knoxville Center for Transportation Research presented the project at the summit. Bray, along with Mark Burton, CTR director of transportation economics, and Luke Jones, graduate research associate, compiled the data for the research.

Lynne Holliday, CTAS finance consultant and author of the UEDA award submission, said the Reelfoot Lake project combined the strengths of CTAS and the Center for Transportation Research.

“Together, we were able to provide an accurate regional economic analysis and forecast of the environmental impacts of the potential spillway failure, and to translate those impacts into the potential service losses for residents of Obion and Lake counties,” she said.

Mary Jinks, UT vice president of public service, said both projects point to IPS’ impact in the state.

“The university’s work in economic development makes a real difference, especially when we connect with cities like Gallatin or county and state leaders to pool our resources, research a problem, and recommend tailored solutions that can sustain a community,” she said.

UEDA has 134 member institutions and represents university-based economic development teachers and practitioners in a range of organizations.


Contacts:

Queena Jones, (865) 974-1533, queena.jones@tennessee.edu