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KNOXVILLE — Business and government leaders, educators, economic developers and community members will meet this month to discuss ways for Tennessee to build a competitive workforce for the future.

Community forums will be hosted by UT’s Institute for Public Service (IPS), the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee Tomorrow, UT’s Institute of Agriculture, and local and regional organizations, in partnership with the Southern Growth Policies Board (SGPB). The forums are free.

Each year, SGPB engages communities throughout the South in discussions on issues related to economic development. This year, the two-hour community forums will focus on ways to build a competitive, entrepreneurial workforce.

“It’s important that we take a comprehensive look at economic development issues statewide. UT is pleased to join with leading academic institutions, state agencies and economic development organizations to host these forums in communities across Tennessee,” said Mary Jinks, assistant vice president of IPS.

One of those partners is Tennessee Tomorrow, a non-profit organization established to promote community development across Tennessee.

“Tennessee Tomorrow is excited to be a partner in the upcoming statewide workforce development forums. A trained, educated workforce is the foundation of sustainable economic development in Tennessee,” said Joe Barker, executive director of Tennessee Tomorrow.

IPS will sponsor the following forums in February:

• Nashville -– Feb. 12, 2-4 p.m., Bellsouth Economic Development Center, 333 Commerce St.
• Oak Ridge -– Feb. 13, 2-4 p.m., UT Outreach Center, 1201 Oak Ridge Turnpike
• Blountville -– Feb. 26., 9-11 a.m., Wayne G. Basler Library, Room L106, Northeast State Technical Community College, 2425 Highway 75
• Cookeville — Feb. 27, 2-4 p.m., Cookeville Area-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, Town Centre, 1 W. First St.
• Jackson — Feb. 22, 2-4 p.m., Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, 197 Auditorium St.

IPS and its partners will summarize the discussions from each forum and share the results with SGPB and economic development organizations in Tennessee. SGPB will publish the findings in its 2007 Annual Report. The non-partisan SGPB was formed by Southern governors in 1971 to unite governors, legislators and business and academic leaders in discussions that encourage economic development in the South.

“These community forums are imperative to learn more about the needs of local communities in attracting and retaining good jobs,” said Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner James Neeley. “As a member of Gov. Bredesen’s Jobs Cabinet, I’ve attended many discussions at numerous round table meetings across the state. Time and again it’s been brought up that we need to better educate our workers to remain competitive and attract new industry.”

To register for a forum, visit or contact Beth Phillips at 865-974-0268 for more information.

Queena Jones, (865) 974-1533,
Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,