MARTIN, Tenn. – Bobby Goode, United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development
state director for Tennessee, visited the University of Tennessee at Martin on Sept. 15 to
announce three grants totaling $130,000 in support of UT Martin initiatives and the WestStar
The first grant, in the amount of $10,000, supports the economic development study conducted
earlier this year to show UT Martin’s impact on the regional and local economies. Tennessee’s
USDA Rural Development Office served as one of six partners to fund the study, conducted by
Economic Modeling Specialists International in Moscow, Idaho.
“What this grant allowed us to do was to add a report on the economic impact (of the university)
if we had the science building. And that report is staggering,” said Dr. Bob Smith, UT Martin
interim chancellor. “The most important number in that report is that, with the construction of
this building, you add 900 jobs to the West Tennessee economy.”
The new science and engineering building will house the university’s departments of
engineering, computer science, chemistry and physics, and mathematics and statistics. The plans
include classrooms and teaching laboratories, as well as dedicated student laboratories and
project work spaces.
“Rural areas, rural communities, rural counties, they celebrate 10 jobs. We, as rural people,
celebrate 12 jobs. … For this university to have an impact of 900 jobs, that’s huge. So we’re
really happy to be a part of that,” said Goode.
The second grant provides $20,000 to support the WestStar Leadership Program, which is the
oldest and largest regional leadership program in the state, with more than 730 alumni over 27
“I’ve really learned that leadership is probably the most important economic development factor
there is,” said Goode. “People who are truly passionate about their area and about what they do
and about what they want to see become better – those people make a huge difference in
community and economic development. WestStar does that; WestStar has developed these
leaders for all these years, and it’s great to be a part of all this today.”
Finally, USDA Rural Development contributed $100,000 dollars toward the equipping of a new
conference and convention center located off Skyhawk Parkway. This center, which will include
a hotel component and a 5,000-plus- seat arena, will serve as a multipurpose conference location
for the multistate region.
“This is going to be a game-changer for the economic and tourist prosperity of this area,” said
Smith. “If the USDA had not stepped up and shown us a way, a path, that this could be achieved,
we would have this on the drawing board for the next 10 years and still not be sure how to do it.”
The facility will also house the university’s food and hospitality management concentration,
which will operate in conjunction with the conference and hotel areas. The USDA grant will be
used to provide culinary equipment for the laboratories and practical-use areas for that
“(This concentration) will be another example of what UT Martin does so well, and that is have
an academic component with a very clear, practical and applied approach to it,” said Smith.
Students operating out of this facility will have countless opportunities for hands-on, real-world
application of classroom and laboratory skills, making them competitive applicants in the job
market after graduation.
For more information on these three grants, contact the USDA Rural Development Office in
Union City at 731-885- 6480.
PHOTO ID: Pictured at the grant announcement are (l-r) Tyler Hayes, USDA area specialist;
Charley Deal, West Star executive director; Virginia Grimes, WestStar coordinator; Bobby
Goode, USDA state director; Dr. Todd Winters, dean, UT Martin College of Agriculture and
Applied Sciences; Joel Howard, USDA area director; and Matt Varino, field representative,
office of Sen. Lamar Alexander.