State budget boosts Tech’s Rural Reimagined initiative, supports Crossville wind tunnel

Tennessee Tech's quad with Derryberry Hall at the center.

The Tennessee state budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which passed overwhelmingly last week, secured critical funding for Tennessee Tech University, including $80.5 million in routine state appropriations for the university. Additional budget amendments included $2 million for the university’s wind tunnel and supercomputer research facility in Crossville, $1 million for the university’s Rural Reimagined initiative, and $150,000 to support ongoing research at Tech’s water center. 

Consistent with last year’s funding levels, the budget again provides $1.2 million for Tech’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center (CEROC), which was established in 2015 and now serves as one of Tennessee’s primary cybersecurity resources. This is in addition to $6.5 million for capital maintenance projects at the university, such as improvements to Derryberry Hall and the Roaden University Center, as well as elevator upgrades in multiple buildings across campus. 

“Our leaders know that when they invest in Tennessee Tech students, they invest in the continued prosperity of our communities and our state,” said Tech President Phil Oldham. “This funding from our partners at the legislature allows us to continue our work that has led to a $1.52 billion annual economic impact on the Tennessee economy, more than $20 million an annual externally funded research, a near-record sized freshman class, and career-ready graduates.”

Oldham continued, “We thank Governor Bill Lee, Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, Speaker Cameron Sexton, Senator Paul Bailey, Representative Ryan Williams, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their continued support of Tennessee’s number one public university.” 

Tech launched its Rural Reimagined initiative in 2019 to leverage the full resources of the university to support the flourishing of Tennessee’s rural communities. Today, Rural Reimagined is on the ground in 65 of Tennessee’s rural counties, actively engaged in nine ongoing local tourism projects, and has helped 137 small businesses in the last year alone – always at no cost to them. Tech students involved with Rural Reimagined have logged a collective 113,000 hours of volunteer service since the initiative began. 

The wind tunnel and supercomputer that is also supported by the state budget continues to be assembled in downtown Crossville. Once complete, the facility will house a 140-foot-long tunnel with a 500-horsepower fan that will allow wind speeds of up to 140 miles per hour. Tech and its partners will primarily use this wind tunnel for aerospace, vehicle engineering, and wind energy applications; conducting hands-on, large-scale research and enhancing Tech’s footprint in Cumberland County.

As for the state budget’s funding for Tech’s water center, associate professor and research leader Tania Datta says that funds will be used “to strengthen research in the emerging field of microplastics pollution in water” as well as towards the purchase of new analytical equipment.

As part of Tech’s overall funding, the budget also includes the state’s portion of a five percent salary increase pool for employees at Tennessee’s public universities. The state funds 55 percent of the increase, with the remaining amount coming from the university. Tech’s board of trustees approved a plan earlier this year to use three percent of the pool for salary increases between one percent and seven percent based on employees’ 2022-2023 evaluations. The other two percent of the pool will be used to provide a one-time $650 bonus for permanent benefited staff and to address market equity adjustments that will be identified by a forthcoming comprehensive compensation study.

“The reputation and success of Tech’s students, faculty, and alumni sends a powerful message that reverberates from campus to the Capitol and beyond, as is evidenced by the strong funding for the university delivered in this budget,” concluded President Oldham.

The state’s fiscal year 2024 budget passed by a vote of 94 to 5 in the state House and 33 to 0 in the state Senate. It now heads to Governor Lee’s desk for his signature. 

Return to News Room