Higher_Ed_News_1 Harvard Kennedy Schools Ash Institute Recognizes Kingsport Efforts to Revitalize Community through Education Kingsport, TN

The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University on Monday night (September 14) announced that Kingsport, Tennessee was a 2009 Innovations in American Government Award winner.

A delegation from the city was on hand to receive the award led by representatives of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Northeast State Community College and various business and civic leaders.

“This is absolutely amazing, and Im not sure that we realize the significance and importance of winning this”, said Mayor Dennis Phillips. “It is going to draw attention to not only Kingsport, but to the entire state of Tennessee as far as higher education goes. This really goes to show you what you can do if two things happen ‚-you don’t have to worry about who gets the credit because there is enough credit to go around, and second, this BMA has continued on the course that was set out by previous BMAs”, Phillips said. “This is not the end. This is the middle of whats going to come in higher education in Kingsport. I think we set an example for the entire state of Tennessee and the nation to follow.”

Congressman Phil Roe was on hand at the awards ceremony, held at the historic Decatur House in Washington, D.C., to present city officials with a Congressional Record entry recognizing the accomplishment. “Kingsport is fortunate to have private citizens, community organizations, and elected officials who understand that the only limitation on a community’s economic potential is the quality of the local workforce, Kingsport City Manager John Campbell said. Access to higher education not only unlocks a community’s economic potential in the short term, but ensures society’s continuing success in future generations. Instead of traditional tax incentives, Kingsport has revitalized its economy by making its workforce more competitive, said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard Kennedy School. They recognized that todays high school diploma does not adequately prepare students for the challenges of the global economy. Cities across the country can learn from Kingsport’s work in revamping curricula, building new infrastructure, and developing creative partnerships.”

Started in 1999, the program is one of six government initiatives honored at Monday nights awards reception in Washington, D.C. and will receive a grant towards sharing its innovation with other jurisdictions around the country. The event concluded with the premier of 2009 Visionaries, a PBS-produced documentary highlighting this years Innovations winners. To view this video click here.

The Ash Institute describes the Innovations in American Governance Award as “a significant force in recognizing and promoting excellence and creativity in the public sector. Through its annual awards competition, the Program provides concrete evidence that government can work to improve the quality of life for citizens and that it deserves greater public trust. By highlighting exemplary models of governments innovative performance, the Program serves as a catalyst for continued progress in addressing the nations most pressing public concerns.” To receive this award, Kingsport presented achievements in the Higher Education program and developments in educational policy over the past 10 years and emphasized the improvements in the economic and educational base since implementation of programs such as the Educate and Grow scholarship program and the creation of the Regional Center for Applied Technology.‚ These initiatives have been fundamental to the revitalization of the downtown area and have produced more jobs, higher property values, and most importantly a more educated citizenry and workforce.

Education Under the Educate and Grow plan, city of Kingsport officials collaborated with various partners to develop and finance a host of new programs to enhance academic outcomes of Kingsport students and build a more qualified workforce. K-14: A first in the nation, the citys K-14 program extends public high school by an optional two years to provide students with additional training and technical skills requested by local employers. Dual Enrollment: Through established partnerships with the areas local colleges, high school students now have the opportunity to take college-level classes and receive both college and high school credit for their work. Scholarships: Any Kingsport high school graduate is eligible for a four-semester scholarship at the citys Northeast State Technical Community College. Such funding allows students to earn a two-year associates degree or transfer credits towards a four-year bachelors degree. Curriculum: Officials have developed new areas of medical and technical study at the college level that better reflect the growing number of industries in the region along with attracting new industries.

New Infrastructure Kingsport underwent a series of infrastructure enhancements, building an academic village in close proximity to the city’s business center. Officials project the new building plans will increase the downtown student population to 2,500 over the next few years. Regional Center for Applied Technology (RCAT): Launched in 2002 as a branch of Northeast State Community College, RCAT offers high school graduates and continuing education students courses in computer science and information technology; office administration; business management; and on-demand industry-specific job training. Regional Center for Health Professionals: In addition to enhancing the technology skills of Kingsport’s labor force, the city opened the Regional Center for Health Professionals in 2008 to draw new health care opportunities to the region. Students can earn two-year degrees in medical technology and nursing. Kingsport Center for Higher Education: Opened this August, the Center offer courses towards associate up to doctoral degrees through a unique partnership with five local colleges and universities. Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing: This public-private partnership between the State of Tennessee, Northeast State, and two of Kingsport’s largest manufacturers, Eastman Chemical and Domtar Paper Mill, will offer certifications and associate of applied science programs in electrical, fabrication, and chemical process technologies. Automotive Technology Center: A fifth facility, scheduled to open in the fall of 2010, will be dedicated to state-of-the-art automotive technology training programs.

Results Kingsport’s Educate and Grow initiative cites much success in bringing new industry to the region and improving the skills of its workforce. Industry Diversification: Formerly dependent solely on the manufacturing industry, the greater Kingsport region now reports a more diversified economy including new jobs in healthcare (8,000), hospitality (5,000), construction (3,900), professional services (2,500), and information technology (600). Sales Tax Revenues: Sales tax revenues have increased by nearly $950,000 since 2005, and property values are increasing. Investment: The city cites an increase of $370 million in new construction since 2006 including 12 new restaurants and regional education buildings. Population: 2,700 families have moved to Kingsport over the last two years, and the city is experiencing an increase in young adults aged 20-24. The number of residents earning college degrees has increased by 2 percent.

Photographs by: Tony Brown

To view the video of the 2009 Award Winners click here. To view an overview of the finalists click here. To view the video of the May 27th, 2009 finalist presentation click here.