Jeff Woods Construction Wins Best Booth Award at UC Home & Garden Show

Press Release from the Upper Cumberland Home Builders Association, March 23, 2018:

Exhibit Winners at 2018 Upper Cumberland Home & Garden Show

COOKEVILLE, TN – At the Upper Cumberland Home & Garden Show in Cookeville, the Home Builders Association presented awards to exhibits, based on effective marketing of company and products.

Jeff Woods with Larry Suggs, HBAUC president.

The winner of “Best of Show” was Jeff Woods Construction.

Best Large Exhibit was Bath Fitter. Best Small Exhibit was Pampered Chef.

The metal awards were custom made for the event by JCL Metals. The Home & Garden Show included over 175 exhibits that featured a variety of products and services for homes and outdoor living. For more information about the Home & Garden Show, visit www.uchba.com.

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Register Now for 2018 Guided Waterfall and Wildflower Tours

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, March 20, 2018:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks is offering vacation packages that take visitors on guided tours through some of the state’s most scenic waterfalls, swimming holes and wildflower trails.

Spring, summer and fall tours will take participants through Tennessee’s Highland Rim and Cumberland Plateau, an area nationally-known for its cascades, gorges, rock houses and waterfalls. Tours include folklore and history shared by State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath and Park Ranger Cara Alexander, educational and interpretive programs unique to each location, meals and transportation.

Specific tours offered in 2018 are:

  • Waterfalls & Wildflowers Photography Workshop & Tour: April 13-15; locations include Cumberland Mountain State Park, Ozone Falls, Piney Falls and the Head of the Sequatchie; led by published Nature Photographer Byron Jorjorian.
  • Spring Waterfall Tour: April 27-29; locations include Cumberland Mountain State Park, Fall Creek Falls State Park, Ozone Falls, Piney Falls and Lost Creek Falls.
  • Summer Swimming Hole Tour: July 16-18; locations include Edgar Evins State Park, Rock Island State Park, South Cumberland State Park and Cummins Falls State Park.
  • October Waterfall Tour: October 1-3; locations include Cumberland Mountain State Park, Burgess Falls State Park, Colditz Cove State Natural Area, Cummins Falls State Park, Frozen Head State Park and Rock Island State Park.
  • November Waterfall Tour: Nov. 14-16; locations include Cumberland Mountain State Park, Fall Creek Falls State Park, Ozone Falls, Piney Falls and Lost Creek Falls.

All tours are $350/person and include meals, taxes, gratuities, interpretive programming and transportation. Onsite lodging, including camping or cabins, is available at an additional cost.

Complete itineraries and registration information can be found at https://tnstateparks.com/about/tennessee-state-parks-vacation-packages.

$9.6M for Industrial Site Preparation Sent to TN Communities

Press Release from the Office of Governor Bill Haslam, March 21, 2018:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced today that 25 communities will receive more than $9.6 million in Site Development Grants.

The Site Development Grant program is part of the larger Rural Economic Opportunity Act passed in 2016 and updated in 2017.

“By making our rural communities ready for investment and economic success, we help them attract jobs and more opportunities for citizens,” Haslam said. “I congratulate the Site Development Grant program recipients and look forward to watching as they thrive and bring new businesses to our state.”

The grants are intended to help rural communities overcome barriers to site certification and prepare them to receive an economic development project that creates jobs in their community. These funds assist communities in finalizing infrastructure and engineering improvements for project-ready certified sites.

“We want to help these rural communities up their game and increase their close rate by making our rural county site inventory among the most attractive and project-ready in the world,” Rolfe said. “We are proud to see these 25 communities taking the initiative to invest in themselves and look forward to seeing their future success.”

“Each of the recipients is taking a major step to enhance their community and with the assistance of the site development grants, they are given the opportunity to compete for jobs and business,” TNECD Assistant Commissioner for Community and Rural Development Amy New said. “The Site Development program shows great return on investment, and I am thankful that the investment from the Rural Economic Opportunity Act will continue to help many more communities in the years to come.”

The Site Development Grant program works in cooperation with the department’s Select Tennessee Site Certification program.

“Through its Site Development Grant program, TNECD has awarded $21.6 million over three years to communities throughout Tennessee,” TNECD Site Development Director Leanne Cox said. “These grants are a valuable resource for local economic development projects, demonstrating Tennessee’s proactive approach to industrial development and support for further growth and job creation.”

Applications were reviewed by an advisory committee made up of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Austin Consulting, Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Department of Transportation and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

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Appalachian Center for Craft Connects Kids with Art Skills

Press Release from Tennessee Tech University, March 21, 2018:

Middle schoolers learn crafts hands-on at Craft Center

Tennessee Tech University’s Appalachian Center for Craft hosted students from Janis Nunnally’s eighth grade art class from Upperman Middle School as part of its Outreach Program recently.

Students chose a medium in which to work and got hands-on experience in that craft. They made hooks in blacksmithing, enameled copper, made glass beads, learned clay hand-building and slip decorating techniques, carved wooden spoons, Shibori dyed silk, and, on the second day of outreach, a book-making class was offered.

Nunnally has been bringing her students to the Craft Center for years.

“Taking UMS eighth graders on their annual trip to the Appalachian Center for Crafts is always a wonderful experience,” Nunnally said. “The students discover a world outside of their community while finding out that they can create amazing things!”

During the more than thirty years of its existence, this outreach program has served tens of thousands of students from the Upper Cumberland and from as far away as Memphis and Chattanooga. The program allows eighth through 12th grade students to experience college-level, hands-on art activities in professionally equipped studios on the craft center campus.

“The students got the opportunity to create projects that we are not able to do at school,” Nunnally said. “They did amazing work and were so proud of their artwork. It is a joy to work with Gail Gentry on this field trip, she is always able to be calm and make it all work!”

It is funded in part by the Tennessee Arts Commission. To learn more about the Appalachian Center for Craft, visit https://www.tntech.edu/craftcenter/.

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TFA: Similarities Seen in Speaker Harwell’s Handling of Guns, Medical Pot

Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association, March 22, 2018:

Rep. Jeremy Faison expresses frustration with a “special kind of stupid” as one of Beth Harwell’s House committees continues to play games with his legislation on medical marijuana.

Tennessee Firearms Association wants to recognize with appreciation the frustration that has caused Rep. Jeremy Faison to finally share with the public the hard facts of trying to pass controversial legislation even when the law or facts might be otherwise clear.

His comments related to his efforts to enact “medical marijuana” legislation, a topic not normally addressed by TFA other than its impact under federal law on the 2nd Amendment rights of those who might be helped by such a law. However, his comments evidencing his frustrations with Beth Harwell’s committee leaders and system are strikingly similar to the problems that 2nd Amendment advocates have experienced repeatedly and consistently under a Republican “super majority” when led by the wrong kinds of leaders.

On March 21, Rep. Faison presented his medical marijuana legislation to the House Criminal Justice committee. The bill debate started but did not finish. Speaking to reporters after his bill was pushed off, Rep. Faison’s frustrations with the situation were evident in his comments as recorded by a local news station:

“You gotta be a special kind of stupid to not realize this helps Parkinson’s,” Faison said. “This whole notion that this is a schedule one drug, you are a special kind of ignorant human being if you think this is still a schedule one drug. That means there’s no value to human life. Holy smokes. Why don’t you tell that to all of the people who are illegally alive today that this plant has no value to them.”

Over the last 8 years, the super majority of Republicans in the Tennessee legislature have been under the total control of certain individuals who identify as Republicans. During this time bills to eliminate infringements on the 2nd Amendment and the Tennessee constitution have repeatedly been shut down in the committee system or in the Senate under the thumb of the Lt. Governor and Judiciary chairman Brian Kelsey.

Sadly, those conspiring in the shenanigans and stunts often rely heavily on representatives from law enforcement, Haslam’s administration, the TBI, and the Department of Safety rather than to rely on the single sentence comprising the 2nd Amendment.

What bill topics have they killed?

– constitutional carry
– permitless open carry
– permitless concealed carry
– eliminate gun free zones
– decriminalize the posting statute relative to private property
– holding businesses and government agencies that post “no guns” liable to individuals injured as a result of those policies
– prohibit 2nd Amendment based discrimination by local governments
– allow citizens to have private rights of action against government officials over 2nd Amendment violations
– exempt permit holders from the TICS/NICS system
– eliminate the TICS system (at a cost of over $5,000,000 per year to gun owners) and proceed under the NICS system
– failures to treat all “citizens” equally relative to the rights of self-defense, carrying of arms, and reciprocity
– true restoration of rights on entry of a court order of restoration or pardon
– allow school employees who want to carry to do so
– campus carry for college students
– campus carry for parents and adults
– eliminate inclusion of antique weapons as a “firearm” so that state and federal definitions are consistent; and
– enforce the 10th Amendment against federal infringements of the 2nd Amendment

… just to name a few.

Now, not all gun owners may be 100% on all of these issues. That’s ok – that is how a constitutional republic works.

However, it is critical to understand that through stunts and shenanigans by leadership and the committee chairs over the last 8 years these issues are not even getting to the floors of the respective houses for consideration and debate by all legislators. That is outright disenfranchisement of the voters because probably 80%-90% of the elected legislators in the last 8 years have never had the opportunity or the duty to debate or to vote and be held accountable on these topics. Sadly, that same 80-90% have never acted in unison to demand that these issues be put before them on the floors of the House or Senate.

What can you say about 8 years of votes, stonewalling, stunts, shenanigans and dereliction in a system set up and controlled by the Legislative leadership to make sure that these bills are never openly heard and debated on the House or Senate floors by all elected representatives and senators?

Do they not understand that these issues implicate constitutionally protected rights? Do they not understand that these issues directly impact the capacity for individuals to defend themselves, their spouses, their families and friends? Do they not understand that keeping, bearing and wearing arms are not just about hunting or recreational activities?

Borrowing from Rep. Faison’s frustrations on medical marijuana should we now be asking if these legislators who are at fault for these shenanigans and abuses are a “special kind of stupid” or a “special kind of ignorant”? Is it something even worse than failing to comprehend the constitutional significance? Is it something worse than ignoring campaign promises? Is it a willingness to disenfranchise the citizens of 80-90% of the state whose elected legislators are never called upon to consider and vote on these issues?

Again, TFA applauds the enthusiasm that Rep. Faison has shown on a topic that is clearly important to him and on which he is trying get a vote. TFA applauds Rep. Faison for looking past the stonewalling and raising the important question for voters and citizens of whether such failures are special stupidity, special ignorance or something else.

If you are tired of the stonewalling, the shenanigans, the disenfranchisement that has been the standard operating procedures under Beth Harwell’s leadership – then you need to be doing something about it. Call your legislators and demand that all 2nd Amendment bills be brought to the floor this year – this election year. Go ahead – demand it because our bet is that they will simply listen but not do it. Then, after they have been given a chance we encourage you to go to the polls in August and vote to replace those who have conspired to disenfranchise you, those who have ignored the constitution and those who have stood by as mere spectators while their peers have so clearly chosen to keep these important issues from public hearings, debate and consideration by all elected legislators.

Let your voice be heard and contact your legislators. You can identify your legislators on this website tool.

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TTU Grads Tops in Loan Repayment in TN

Press Release from Tennessee Tech University, March 13, 2018:

Tech is ranked first in Tennessee among public colleges and universities, and second in the state overall once private institutions are considered, by both groups.

Nationally, Tech is ranked #83 by Student Loan Report and #121 by LendEDU.

“College is a significant investment,” said Tech President Phil Oldham. “Students and their parents need to consider the return on that investment. These rankings, along with numerous others, show that Tennessee Tech provides a strong return on that investment by providing a high-quality education at an affordable price.”

The only other public university in the top five of Student Loan Report’s rankings for the state is the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (#5/#226 nationally). Vanderbilt University is the top-ranked school in Tennessee (#1/#78 nationally). More than 1,000 schools were ranked in the report.

The annual Student Debt Repayment Success Indicator report uses a formula to determine graduates’ chances of successfully repaying student debt. The indicator includes early career salary, student loan default rate, and average student loan debt per borrower. Several datasets – including federal repayment data from the Department of Education, data from Peterson’s Financial Aid dataset, and early career data from PayScale – are used.

The study showed Tech’s early career pay at $51,000 with the debt per borrower at $19,363 and the default rate at 5.31 percent for an indicator rating of 2.49.

A similar index from LendEdu, the College Risk-Reward Indicator, also ranked Tech as the top public university in the state, second overall and #121 nationally. Tech is the only public university in LendEDU’s top five rankings for the state. Nearly 1,000 schools were ranked by LendEDU.

LendEDU compared the average student loan debt per borrower with the average early career pay, or the median salary for alumni with zero to five years of experience.

The Student Loan Report rankings are at https://studentloans.net/student-debt-repayment-success-indicator/. The LendEDU rankings are at https://lendedu.com/blog/college-risk-reward-indicator-2018.

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Comptroller’s Office Reviews TBI’s Fiscal Operations and Makes Recommendations

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, January 16, 2018:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a special report examining several aspects of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s fiscal operations, including an analysis of TBI’s budget, the procurement of its Pilatus airplane, staffing, and grants and contracts.

The special report was initiated after Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson) called for an examination of TBI’s budgeting and accounting practices.

The General Assembly included language within the 2017 Appropriations Act requiring the review to be complete by January 31, 2018.

The Comptroller’s Office found TBI’s expenditures have exceeded its budgeted estimates since 2014, and TBI has relied on its various reserve funds for its continued operations. These accounts have been greatly diminished as TBI has used these funds. The Comptroller’s Office concluded that TBI and the Department of Finance and Administration should commit to improve communication during the budget process.

The review also includes an examination of the procurement of TBI’s Pilatus Airplane. The Comptroller’s Office found that, although policies were followed, the procurement could have been more cost-effective.

Additionally, the Comptroller’s Office researched the history of TBI and performed an analysis of TBI’s independence. TBI is an operationally independent cabinet-level agency that does not clearly belong to a single branch of government. TBI’s unique role in state government requires a balance between independence and accountability.

Comptroller Justin P. Wilson will present the results of the TBI Special Report to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee on January 16, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.

The Comptroller’s Office has also released TBI’s performance audit report which found TBI’s policies surrounding the use of its aircraft were not sufficient, a failure to collect all sex offender registration fees, and the Drug Offender Registry was not always accurate or up to date.

The Comptroller’s Office will present the TBI performance audit to the Judiciary and Government Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations on January 25, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.

To view the TBI Special Report online, click here.

To view the TBI Performance Audit Report online, click here.

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Bredesen-Chaired Solar Firm Lands Multinational Oil Company Investment

Press Release from the Silicon Ranch Corp., Jan. 15, 2018:

Shell Acquires Interest in Silicon Ranch Corporation Platform

Investment aligns Shell with best-in-class U.S. developer, owner, and operator of solar facilities

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Silicon Ranch Corporation, a leading U.S. developer, owner, and operator of solar energy plants, announced today that it has signed an agreement to make Shell its largest shareholder. As part of the agreement, Shell will acquire a 43.83% interest in Silicon Ranch from Partners Group, the global private markets investment manager, for up to $217 million in cash based on Silicon Ranch performance, with the possibility to increase its position after 2021. Partners Group will continue to support Silicon Ranch through a newly issued junior debt financing simultaneous with the closing of the sale. Subject to regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in Q1 2018.

Standing left to right: Silicon Ranch board member Byron Smith; Shell GM Solar Projects, Shell New Energies, Boris Schubert; Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CFO Reagan Farr; Silicon Ranch Chief Corporate Development Officer David Vickerman; Sitting left to right: Silicon Ranch Chairman Phil Bredesen; Shell VP of Solar Marc van Gerven; Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO Matt Kisber (PRNewsfoto/Silicon Ranch Corporation)

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch will continue to operate under its existing management and the Silicon Ranch brand. The fast-growing business has doubled its operating portfolio for three consecutive years, with approximately 880 megawatts of PV systems that are contracted, under construction, or operating in 14 states from New York to California, and close to 1 gigawatt more in its development pipeline. The innovative company has been a first-mover in a number of U.S. states and has deployed a differentiated, demand-driven approach to business development across a diverse customer set, with particular emphasis on building long-term relationships with electric cooperatives, military partners, and corporate customers across the country.

The transaction will enable Silicon Ranch to accelerate its growth strategy by developing new projects, entering new markets, and expanding product offerings across its portfolio. The strategic partnership provides Shell a platform to establish a successful global solar business by aligning with a proven team in the second largest solar market in the world.

“We were impressed by Silicon Ranch’s proven track record, its market-led development strategy, and its long-term ownership model and commitment to the communities it serves,” said Marc van Gerven, Shell Vice President of Solar. “Partnering with Silicon Ranch progresses our New Energies strategy and provides our U.S. customers with additional solar renewable options. With this entry into the fast-growing solar sector, Shell is able to leverage its expertise as one of the top three wholesale power sellers in the U.S., while expanding its global New Energies footprint.”

Matt Kisber, Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO, said: “Our goal at Silicon Ranch has always been to ensure that Americans have access to a reliable, affordable, and clean energy supply, and we are honored to welcome Shell as our newest business partner. By pairing our solar expertise and trusted brand with the scale, resources, and brand equity of Shell, we are well-equipped to collaborate with our utility partners to provide comprehensive, win-win energy solutions for them and their customers. As we welcome Shell to our team, Silicon Ranch also wants to thank Partners Group for the financial and commercial support that enabled us to surpass our ambitious growth targets over the last two years.”

Reagan Farr, Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CFO, said: “Shell shares our steadfast commitment to long-term partnership, and together we will unlock tremendous value in the U.S. solar market. This significant and strategic investment by Shell is in the best interest not only of our company and our employees, but also of our customers and the communities we serve, because it will allow us to capture synergies with Shell’s businesses and benefit from its long heritage in providing energy services around the world.”

About Silicon Ranch Corporation
Silicon Ranch, based in Nashville, Tenn., is a leading U.S. developer, owner, and operator of solar energy plants. Silicon Ranch develops to own all of its projects for the long-term and brings the economic, environmental, and community benefits of commercial and utility-scale solar energy together in a full-service model that requires no capital investment from its stakeholders. The company’s operating portfolio includes more than 100 facilities across 14 states from New York to California, including the first large-scale solar projects in Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi. To learn more, please visit www.siliconranchcorp.com and follow on Twitter @SiliconRanchCo.

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Acclaimed Percussion Group Coming to TTU

PRESS RELEASE from Tennessee Tech University:

The Sandbox Percussion quartet will perform in the Wattenbarger Auditorium of Tennessee Tech University’s Bryan Fine Arts Building Friday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Sandbox Percussion has established themselves as a leading proponent in this generation of contemporary percussion chamber music. Brought together by their love of chamber music and the joy of playing together, Jonathan Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney seek to engage a wider audience for classical music through collaborations with composers and performers.

In addition to their concert schedule, Sandbox has also participated in various masterclasses and coachings at schools such as the Peabody Conservatory, Curtis Institute, Cornell University and Furman University.

This is a Center Stage Event made possible by the university’s general education fund. It is free and open to the public.

Wattenbarger Auditorium is in the Bryan Fine Arts Building located at 1150 N. Dixie Ave.

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TWRA’s Phone App Updated

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, Oct. 11, 2017:

Goal to Help Users Easily Discover Outdoors Opportunities

NASHVILLE — For nearly a quarter-million users of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s ‘On The Go 2.0’ smartphone app, finding a place in Tennessee to hunt, fish, boat, and view wildlife has become easier than ever. “We have put a lot of time into improving our app and we are happy to announce it is now available and free to all who enjoy our outdoors and want to learn more,” said Michael May, a TWRA assistant director.

“If you want to find a boat ramp, public land to hunt on, a convenient way to check-in big game, places where you can view birds and other wildlife, or keep up with news that pertains to the outdoors, this updated version of our app offers unlimited sources of information,” said May.

The upgrade is easier to navigate. Users can buy licenses, check big game while afield, view interactive maps, apply for quota hunts, and visit the TWRA website. One new feature includes a “Stay Connected Page.” It provides easy access to TWRA’s social media, Tennessee WildCast podcast, newsroom, outdoors and event calendar, and more.

Smartphone users should visit TWRA’s website by clicking here. If the current version is already installed, Apple users can easily upgrade via their app, while Android users will need to uninstall their current app before uploading the new one.

Hunters will have the opportunity to report big game harvests while in the field. There is also an interactive map to find TWRA wildlife management areas (WMAs), physical check station locations, and duck blind locations.

Another special feature is the “Hunter’s Backpack” where hunter education courses, a summary of hunting seasons, and full versions of the agency hunting guides are available.

For anglers, “Fisherman’s Tacklebox” includes, fish identification, interactive maps to find boat ramp and fish access information, fish attractor locations, trout stocking locations, and trout stocking schedules.

On the app’s boating page, the “Boating Locker” includes boat regulations, safety checklists, boating education information, navigational aids, and recommended boating equipment.

For wildlife watchers, there is information about where to view watchable wildlife across the state.