Tennessee Tech News

Tech partners with region on economic development

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Tech students learn about various community businesses at this year’s Connect with Cookeville, where they had the opportunity to talk with local businesses. Tech’s impact on the economic output of the Upper Cumberland region was nearly $658 million, according to the most recent economic impact study.

Published Friday Sep 14, 2018

Tennessee Tech plays a key role in the economic development of the Upper Cumberland region through its partnership in the Highlands Economic Partnership, which has helped secure more than 3,000 new jobs for the area over the last three years.

For businesses selecting the Upper Cumberland as a new location, most cite Tennessee Tech as one of their top reasons for choosing the area.

“The overwhelming thread throughout all of the businesses is talent,” said Phil Oldham, Tech’s president. “It is the identification and development of talent that drives those job creators.”

“Every community has land, they have tax incentives, they have other similar things to entice companies to locate locally,” he added. “The real differentiator in a community like Cookeville-Putnam County and the Upper Cumberland is you have a university sitting here that’s generating a large amount of talent. That’s exactly what these businesses are looking for.”

The university views itself as part of a team effort, from the local level to the state and even federal level. Putnam County officials and those representing each of the county’s municipalities are often praised for their teamwork and dedication to securing the community and region at the top of the list presented to potential businesses and industry.

“Whether it’s the Mayor (Ricky Shelton) and the (Cookeville) City Council or (Putnam County Executive) Randy Porter and the (Putnam) County Commission, our state representatives Senator (Paul) Bailey, Representative (Ryan) Williams – we all come together with incredible teamwork to make these things happen,” Oldham said.

According to Putnam County Executive Randy Porter, one goal of this partnership is to provide job opportunities that will allow Tech graduates to stay in the area. 

“We don’t want graduates who want to stay in Putnam County having to leave because there are no job opportunities,” Porter said.

“TTU has been a great member of that team and has played an integral part in several of our projects, such as SAIC and ATC,” Porter said. “I truly believe we wouldn’t have SAIC here today if not for TTU and Dr. Oldham stepping up and working with SAIC on the building, continued education and degree requirements for the graduates the company is hiring.”

For Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton, the economic factor of the sales tax and the money that is spent here makes for a great partnership between Tech and Cookeville.

“We are happy to be a partner with Tech as we try to make Cookeville a great place to live,” Shelton said.

Tech’s new strategic plan includes principles, goals and tactics related to economic development, both for students and the community. One such goal is “Engagement for impact,” which emphasizes how the university engages with partners on a variety of issues, including economic and workforce development.

The strategic plan was developed by an 18-member, faculty-led committee, and approved by Tech’s Board of Trustees at its June meeting.

“This is a book that continues to be written,” Oldham said of the university’s future plans. “The needs of the job creators out there are going to continue to evolve extremely rapidly. That means we’ve got to evolve equally rapidly and in sync with them. 

“Ultimately, I want Tennessee Tech to become known as that university that strives to make a difference, and that we’re not here for our own purposes – we’re here to serve the needs of the students and those job creators, who help the education that is provided at Tech really pay off.”


2015-2016 Tech economic impact

Upper Cumberland

4,389 jobs

$402 million gross domestic product

$658 million economic output

$316 million personal income

$284 million real disposable income

State of Tennessee

8,476 jobs

$936 million gross domestic product

$1.7 billion economic output

$782 million personal income

$703 million real disposable income

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