By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Rather than a single feature story today, we’re capturing some recent highlights.
Anyone who follows State of Tennessee initiatives knows that rural economic development is a top priority. A subset of the plans of the Governor’s Rural Task Force includes entrepreneurship, so we took note last week when we were introduced to a new member of the team at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC).
Stephen Jenkins, who interned last summer at KEC through the Launch Tennessee Specialist Program and more recently with Leadership Knoxville, is now focused on helping with KEC’s rural initiatives.
He’s a native of Jefferson County – Dandridge to be exact, so he knows something about the rural ecosystem. That will be particularly helpful as KEC takes on an increasing portfolio of activities in neighboring counties.
We previously reported on its role with the Sizzle TechStart facility in Roane County. The farmhouse where Sam Weaver launched Proton Power is now a center to spur rural entrepreneurship in the county.
“Stephen will be our wheels on the ground in Morristown,” O’Shell said in describing work KEC will be undertaking as a result of a recent Tennessee Main Street Entrepreneur Grant awarded to the Crossroads Downtown Partnership.
“He will be working to be a bridge between Knoxville and the rural areas we serve,” O’Shell added.
Jenkins is a graduate of Berry College with an undergraduate degree in economics.
It also helps that he has a long-term passion for the work that he is undertaking at KEC.
“I want to start my own business eventually,” Jenkins told us.
Speaking of rural areas, Launch Tennessee announced at last week’s Board of Directors meeting that it had touched nearly two-thirds of the state’s counties through one or more programs. That represents 60 of the 95 counties. Here’s the breakout.
- University Venture Challenge – Davidson, Franklin, Knox, Marion, Rutherford, Shelby and Weakley.
- Creative Communities Initiative – Benton, Campbell, Chester, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Coffee, Cumberland, Dyer, Fentress, Gibson, Grundy, Hancock, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Knox, Macon, Moore, Morgan, Obion, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, Weakley and White.
- Specialist Program – Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Putnam and Shelby.
- Entrepreneur Centers – Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Putnam, Shelby and Weakley.
- Counties Impacted by Entrepreneur Centers – Anderson, Benton, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Cumberland, Davidson, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Fentress, Franklin, Gibson, Grainger, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Knox, Loudon, Madison, Marion, McNairy, Monroe, Obion, Overton, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Sevier, Shelby. Smith, Tipton, Warren, Wayne, Weakley, White and Williamson.