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UT-Led Automotive Industry Enhancement Group Shares Successes with U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary in Nashville

Category: Outreach

Auto leaders around conference table

NASHVILLE — A University of Tennessee-led consortium focused on growing the automotive manufacturing and supply-chain economy in a four-state region hosted a roundtable discussion with U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez in Nashville on Wednesday.

Consortium members are partners in the “DRIVE!” initiative, 14 organizations with research and innovation assets covering Middle and East Tennessee, South Central Kentucky, North Alabama and North Georgia. DRIVE! is a product of the federal government’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership program, and is one of the first 24 such partnerships in the nation and is led by UT’s Institute for Public Service.

Mendez updated the group on the status of federal funding to support transportation infrastructure throughout the United States and on new research and development opportunities in the transportation industry. Following the roundtable discussion, Mendez visited Pathway Women’s Business Center in Nashville to hear from officials there about how federal support is enabling a greater presence of women entrepreneurs in the automotive supply-chain economy.

“Drive partners identified new ways to leverage federal Department of Transportation funding opportunities to further improve area infrastructure and grow new business opportunities in the automotive sector of the Tennessee Valley economy,” said Chuck Shoopman, UT Institute for Public Service assistant vice president and chairman of the DRIVE! executive committee.

“The opportunity to be joined face-to-face by Secretary Mendez helps us understand, firsthand, the priorities and needs of the U.S. Department of Transportation and helps a key leader in the federal government hear directly from people involved about the community and business needs.”

Participants updated Mendez on the growing automotive industry presence in the Tennessee Valley and about progress achieved to date by the year-old collaboration.

Among highlights shared:

  • Automotive manufacturing accounts for more than a third of advanced industry employment in Tennessee.
  • The Tennessee Valley region is the nation’s fifth-largest for automotive industry employment, where six major automotive manufacturers and 582 automotive supply-chain manufacturers employ more than 90,000 people.
  • 151 manufacturers have announced expansions or new locations in the DRIVE! Region in the last 24 months.
  • The DRIVE! consortium provides resources and technical assistance to expand the role of automotive associations as advocates, conveners, and connectors across the automotive supply chain.

DRIVE! partners also are engaged in workforce development and education, and in facilitating operational improvements, supply chain enhancement, and infrastructure and site development.

From June 2014 to May 2015, the automotive cluster within the DRIVE! region has produced economic and jobs impacts of:

  • $1,846,868,233 new automotive capital investments in the DRIVE! region
  • $1,444,172,482 foreign direct investment by non-US automotive firms
  • $24,930,502 economic impact from outreach and technical assistance projects
  • 9,129 new automotive and advanced industry jobs created
  • $2,821,124 federal investments in DRIVE! region
  • $39,003,813 non-federal funds leveraged to support DRIVE! strategy
  • 77% Increase in Automotive Exports with $5.9 Billion Combined Value

The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative was developed by the U.S. Commerce Department to revolutionize how federal agencies leverage economic development funds. The DRIVE! IMCP partnership was designated in June 2014 and continues its work on behalf of the automotive cluster within a combined 69 counties in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia.

For more information about the Tennessee AIA chapter, visit


Gina Stafford
(865) 974-0741

Category: Outreach