First Word: Ahead Of The Curve

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers
Editor in Chief
Business Facilities

By Jack Rogers
From the January/February 2015 issue

Our choice for Business Facilities’ 2014 State of the Year may seem like a step backward, since it’s identical to the selection we made in 2013.

But Tennessee is our first back-to-back SOTY champ not just because the folks down there delivered more of the same—and they did, with one mega-deal after another—but because the Volunteer State is striking out in a bold new direction that looks like the surest path to a sustainable, high-growth future.

TN already had the most improved education system in the nation (according to the U.S. Department of Education) when we began the calculations for our annual SOTY contest. If you think that’s hard to top, consider this: in 2014, Gov. Bill Haslam and his team succeeded in making TN the first state in the U.S. to guarantee two free years of Community College or Technical School to all eligible students.

They’re not stopping there. A revolutionary workforce training initiative now underway in western TN is channeling high school students into customized vocational/technical programs that earn them college credits while still in grade school. The goal is to build a homegrown army of skilled workers ready to meet the needs of advanced manufacturers the minute TN’s students get their diplomas. The potential pool is vast: there are 120,000 high schoolers in Shelby County alone.

For an inside look at Tennessee’s bold effort to stay ahead of the curve, check out our exclusive interview with Gov. Haslam.