Summit is a key priority for the university’s Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge

Cookeville – Tennessee Tech University’s Center for Rural Innovation will host the second annual Upper Cumberland Economic Development Summit Thursday, Aug. 3 at Stonecipher Lecture Hall.

The summit is a key priority for the university’s Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge and is held in collaboration with Tech’s College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Upper Cumberland Development District, the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, the Highlands Economic Partnership, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Office of U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty.

“Tennessee Tech is committed to leveraging the talent, resources, and partnerships of this university to support the continued economic growth of our home base here in the Upper Cumberland. This summit will be an opportunity for attendees to learn from real-life success stories and gain strategic insights into workforce development, industry and tourism,” said Michael Aikens, Ph.D., director of Tech’s Center for Rural Innovation and a speaker at the summit.

The daylong event will feature a who’s who of state and community leaders, including Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Deniece Thomas, Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham, Upper Cumberland Development District Executive Director Mark Farley, Cookeville Community Development Director Jon Ward, Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Crossville President Cliff Wrightman, Jackson County Mayor Randy Heady and Middle Tennessee Industrial Development Association Assistant Executive Director Kendrick Curtis, among other names. 

Sessions include topics such as, “Tourism without borders: collaborating across lines,” “Empower UC: transforming poverty in the region,” “Future-proofing the workforce: embracing technological advancements,” “Do’s and don’ts of marketing industrial product,” “Measuring the economic impact of your tourism initiatives” and others. 

“This summit has something to offer for everyone – small-business owners, students, faculty and community members who simply want to know more about getting involved in rural transformation and how public and private entities are working together to improve the economic outlook for our region,” added Aikens.

The Upper Cumberland Economic Development Summit is one of many ways Tech’s Center for Rural Innovation enhances the local economy. The university’s Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge recently celebrated its role in bringing the number of economically distressed counties in Tennessee to an all-time low.

Additional event speakers include Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ryan Egly, Monterey Cultural Administrator Rafferty Cleary, Putnam County Schools Career and Technical education director Jackie Vester and others. 

Summit programming kicks off at 8 a.m. with registration and networking. Registration is $35 and includes lunch. Tickets may be purchased at

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

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