NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee Extension, the UT Institute for Public Service and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development have announced the names of eight test communities for a statewide pilot program – Creating a Rural Entrepreneurial System in Tennessee (CREST). The CREST program will assist rural communities in Tennessee in transforming their local economies through the development of key components required for entrepreneurship and small business development.
While the U.S. continues to battle high unemployment rates and a recession, many community leaders are looking for innovative ways to create jobs and economic activity. To do so, leaders are now embracing a growing trend in the economic development world – entrepreneurship and small business development. According to a 2008 University of Tennessee report, Tennessee entrepreneurs generated more than $23 billion of the state’s total personal income and represented 84 percent of all Tennessee employer firms in 2006, demonstrating strong economic potential.
Dr. Tim Cross, dean of UT Extension, welcomes the opportunity to collaborate in the program. “UT Extension is uniquely positioned to help with this pilot program. We have offices and personnel located in the participating communities and our campus-based rural development experts are well qualified to help the communities launch local efforts to improve entrepreneurship and business development,” he said. Dr. Michael Wilcox, a rural development specialist with the UT Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, will lead the project.
The selected pilot communities for the CREST program include:
- Crossville/Cumberland Co.;
- McMinn Co.;
- Hohenwald/Lewis Co.;
- Perry Co.;
- Pulaski/Giles Co.;
- Dyersburg/Dyer Co.;
- Paris/Henry Co.;
- and Weakley Co.
Each was selected based on economic need, demonstrated success in developing public-private partnerships; commitment to small business and entrepreneurship development; and willingness to participate in an eighteen-month process that includes training, strategic planning and technical assistance.
At the culmination of the planning process, each community will develop a locally-based project meant to foster local entrepreneurship and small business. A $2,000 grant will be provided to each community to help offset the project costs. The development of the pilot program and its participating communities will be documented by University staff and compiled into a manual for community leaders considering new strategies to foster entrepreneurship and small business strategies in their local economies.
“Small business and entrepreneurship provide a solid foundation for economic development in all communities,” said Dr. Mary Jinks, vice president of public service for UT. “We believe the Creating a Rural Entrepreneurial System in Tennessee program will provide a tremendous boost to these eight areas, and go a long way in helping them develop positive and long-lasting business options.”
The launch of the pilot program was made possible through a partnership between the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
“The launch of the Creating a Rural Entrepreneurial System in Tennessee program signifies a turning point in economic development for rural communities,” said Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber. “We are honored to play a role in the creation and development of a program that will spark economic development in many Tennessee communities and, consequentially, bring better jobs to the area.”
In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture and Delta Regional Authority awarded the University of Tennessee’s Extension Service with a $23,750 grant in support of the program. The Tennessee Valley Authority is working with University Extension staff in the development of community statistical databases and will share its research on the retail industry. The Tennessee Departments of Tourism and Tourist Development and Agriculture have also pledged to assist communities that identify tourism and agricultural-related projects.
To learn more about the CREST program, please visit the official website: http://trend.ag.utk.edu/crest.html.
About UT Extension
Through UT Extension offices in every county in the state, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and resource development to the people of Tennessee where they live and work. For more information, including free publications and educational materials, visit UT Extension online at http://utextension.tennessee.edu/.
About the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
The University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service brings the expertise of a statewide university to the communities of Tennessee by helping leaders in government, industry and law enforcement solve real-world problems every day. Consultants and trainers bring the highest level of skills, knowledge and technical assistance to help develop practical, individual solutions. Online at www.ips.tennessee.edu/.
About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to create higher skilled, better paying jobs for all Tennesseans. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. To find out more, go to www.tn.gov/ecd.