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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
September 12, 2023 | Tom Ballard

New program launched to grow jobs in rural communities

"Come Home Tennessee" is the latest initiative from the Ayers Foundation Trust.

During grand opening ceremonies last week for a new co-working facility in the West Tennessee town of Parsons, the Ayers Foundation Trust joined with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to announce the launch of a new statewide initiative to grow Tennessee’s rural economies.

Called “Come Home Tennessee,” the program is designed to connect the skilled alumni of the nationally-recognized “Ayers Scholars Program” and other Tennesseans with local employers and remote work opportunities that enable them to remain or return to their hometowns to live, work, and raise their families should they so choose. The scholars program has 17,000 alumni and is in 33 high schools across 21 rural Tennessee counties including 10 East Tennessee schools.

“At the Ayers Foundation Trust, we are creating a rural revival in Tennessee,” said Janet Ayers, President of the Ayers Foundation Trust. “Over the last 24 years, we have been incredibly successful at getting our rural students to postsecondary and ensuring they have the support they need to graduate. But if there are not enough job opportunities in our hometowns, then many of those graduates are forced to leave to find a good-paying job elsewhere and they may never come back. We are determined to change that.”

“We are thrilled to see so many employers and partners already embracing the Ayers Entrepreneur Center,” said Shannon Haynes, Chief Prosperity Officer of the Ayers Foundation Trust. “We look forward to growing the economic impact of the center and hope it can be a model that can be replicated in other communities across the state.”

The new Ayers Entrepreneur Center in Parsons will be a central employment hub that offers co-working space, training, and support to rural residents in the area. It and the new program are the latest offerings from the Ayers Foundation Trust. Founded in 1999 and led by Jim and Janet Ayers, the trust’s primary focus areas include education, conservation, and social welfare.


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