Haslam Signs Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act

PRESS RELEASE from the office of Governor Bill Haslam; May 16, 2017

Part of Haslam’s NextTennessee legislative agenda, #TNWeCanBe

BROWNSVILLE – Before a meeting of the Governor’s Rural Development Task Force at H&R Agri-Power, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam held a ceremonial signing of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, the governor’s legislation to increase broadband access to Tennessee’s unserved citizens.

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act permits Tennessee’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service, and it provides $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to assist in making broadband available to unserved homes and businesses. In addition, the plan makes grant funding available to the state’s local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills and maximize the benefits of broadband.

Tennessee currently ranks 29th in the U.S. for broadband access, with 34 percent of rural Tennessee residents lacking access at recognized minimum standards.

“More than 800,000 Tennesseans don’t have access to broadband, and one in three businesses identified it as essential to selecting their location. Spurring deployment in our rural, unserved areas will open them up to economic investment and growth,” Haslam said. “I want to thank the General Assembly for its overwhelming support, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) for carrying this legislation, which provides a reasonable, responsible path to improve broadband access through investment, deregulation and education.”

The House of Representatives passed HB 529/SB 1215 93-4 on April 10, and the Senate passed the legislation 31-0 on April 3. The legislation came after a year of study and stakeholder conversations by the administration.

In July 2016, the Department of Economic and Community Development released a commissioned study assessing broadband in Tennessee and options for increasing access and utilization. In addition, a report issued by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR), which completed extensive work on the subject of broadband accessibility and adoption, significantly contributed to Haslam’s broadband proposal.

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act is part of Haslam’s NextTennessee legislative plan aimed at building and sustaining economic growth and the state’s competitiveness for the next generation of Tennesseans.

See more at: https://www.tn.gov/news/50566#sthash.vrw7x2hG.dpuf

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Tennessee State Parks to Host National Trails Day Hikes

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, May 16, 2017:

All 56 Parks Will Offer Free, Guided Hikes Saturday, June 3

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks will celebrate National Trails Day with free, guided hikes at all 56 parks on Saturday, June 3.

Events will include free, ranger-led hikes through areas with waterfalls and scenic vistas as well as hikes focused on local history and trail clean-ups. With more than 1,000 miles of trails ranging from easy, paved paths to rugged backcountry trails, there’s a hike for everyone. Several Tennessee State Natural Areas are hosting offering free, guided hikes at Short Springs Natural Area, Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area and Big Cypress Tree State Natural Area.

“While Tennessee State Parks are free to enter year-round, this day is a great opportunity to get the most of your visit,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Conservation Brock Hill. “Under the skilled guidance of our rangers, visitors can enjoy the outdoors and learn more about the state parks system that we have been refining for 80 years.”

Since 1993, the American Hiking Society has set aside the first Saturday in June as National Trails Day. The goal is to bring together outdoor enthusiasts of all backgrounds to participate in educational exhibits, trail dedications, gear demonstrations, instructional workshops and trail projects.

The National Trails Day hikes represent the third in a series of statewide hiking events for 2017. Additional statewide hiking events include First Hikes in early January, Spring Hikes in March, National Public Lands Day Hikes in September and an After-Thanksgiving Day Hike in November.

A list of all National Trails Day hikes at Tennessee State Parks can be found at http://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/national-trail-day/#/?holiday=national-trails-day-hikes.

Tennessee State Parks offer diverse natural, recreational and cultural experiences for individuals, families or business and professional groups. State park features range from pristine natural areas to 18-hole championship golf courses. There is a state park within an hour’s drive of just about anywhere in the state, offering a variety of recreational, lodging and dining choices. For more information about Tennessee State Parks, visit their recently updated website at www.tnstateparks.com.

TN Tech Grads Among Tops in U.S. for Student Loan Repayment

PRESS RELEASE from Tennessee Tech University, May 12, 2017:

Some of the 1,500 students who graduated from Tennessee Tech last week will soon begin to start paying back student loans

When it comes to setting up students for successful student loan repayments, Tennessee Tech University is one of the best schools in the nation.

According to the Student Loan Report (studentloans.net), Tech was ranked 16th in the nation and first in Tennessee among public universities in a Student Debt Repayment Success Indicator (SDRSI) study. Tech placed 34th overall in the nation and second in the state when private colleges and universities were considered.

“This study reflects accurately the students that choose to attend our institution and the importance our office devotes to indebtedness,” said Lester McKenzie, Tech director of financial aid. “This doesn’t just cast a positive light on the financial aid office, but the admissions office for getting the right fit students, the faculty and staff for their devotion to the holistic student and many other offices such as career services, disability services, records, and the bursar’s office.”

The SDRSI study factored in the average student loan debt per borrower, the average early career pay and the default rate.

“The metrics it uses are good parameters for establishing a threshold that combines not only the student debt load, used by many other surveys and rankings, but also the beginning pay of graduates and our default rate,” McKenzie said. “Use of these three indicators gives students who are making a decision whether to attend, or even more implicitly whether to borrow federal loan dollars.”

The study showed Tech’s early career pay at $53,800 with the debt per borrower at $19,363 and the default rate at 6.17 percent for an SDRSI rating of 2.61.

“Our financial aid office ensures students are fully aware of their indebtedness and how loans can assist a student in need of last dollars to pay their tuition bill and caution students to only borrow what they need to attend class and be an active member of the campus community,” said McKenzie. “The university provides unique opportunities for students and their families to become aware of borrowing too much and try to find last dollars from other sources before a student loan is borrowed.”

For more information on the study, go to https://studentloans.net/student-debt-repayment-success-indicator-2017/#overall.

Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau Launches VisitCookeville.com

PRESS RELEASE from the Cookeville Chamber of Commerce, Mary 12, 2017:

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau announced today the launch of VisitCookevilleTN.com, a dynamic new website designed to serve as the bureau’s No. 1 marketing tool to inspire travel to Putnam County. The launch is part of several efforts of the visitors’ bureau in celebration of National Travel & Tourism Week.

VisitCookevilleTN.com, designed by WD Stone & Associates, offers captivating imagery including still photography and video to allow users to envision themselves in the experiences available in the Cookeville-Putnam County area. A direct feed from the @CookevilleTN Instagram account offers user-generated images to showcase travel to Putnam County through the lense of those experiencing area attractions. Easy navigation along with state-of-the-art GPS/mobile and itinerary capabilities create a user-friendly site to serve not only as a trip planning tool, but as a resource once guests have arrived to the area as well.

The launch of the site is a next phase in rebranding efforts that began with the introduction of a new logo, a bear on a bicycle sporting a canoe on his back, the “o’s” of Cookeville serving as the bicycle tires. Several variations of the logo have been created, e.g. a bear on a motorcycle, a bear working out, a fishing bear, and so on.

“The bear represents the adventurous traveler,” said Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development. “We don’t want people to come here expecting to see the bear; we want them to come here to ‘be the bear.’”

Additionally, with the launch of the site, is the official launch of a new merchandise partnership. The visitors’ bureau has partnered with Cookeville Reserve to build the brand through high-quality logoed merchandise. After a soft launch at strategic events and through social media sharing at @CookevilleReserve, @CookevilleTN, and via local outdoor social influencers, immediate traction has transpired. Select area retailers, such as The Outdoor Experience, will carry the shirts, hats, camping mugs, pint glasses, and more, while CookevilleReserve.com will serve as a primary source for purchase. Guests can also “Shop the Bear” from any page of VisitCookevilleTN.com.

“We feel we are finally packaging and marketing ‘who we are’ and leveraging our outdoor and fitness opportunities as well as other tourism assets,” said Ledbetter.

An example of that marketing package is apparent in the branding tagline alone. “Cookeville, A Natural Fit” represents the area’s natural attractions as well as the amenities leading it to be a sports and fitness destination.

Surrounded by state parks and natural areas, serving as host to countless sporting events as well as home to the “Fittest on Earth,” the marketing of fitcations has become a pillar to the bureau’s marketing strategies. Motorcycle tourism has become another top-level pillar in these initiatives.

The next phase of marketing and branding efforts for the visitors’ bureau will include the publishing of a new visitor guide. The guide will mirror the aesthetics of the website with inspiring content and imagery, fun “Did You Knows” along with area maps. Printing of the guide is expected in the coming weeks as partnership with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and a matching marketing co-op grant.

Most recent economic impact numbers list Cookeville-Putnam County at 16th of Tennessee’s 95 counties in direct tourism expenditures. With $122.15 million in direct visitor spending, tourism provides more than $300 per year in tax relief per household in Putnam County.

“Our selection of National Travel & Tourism Week for our official announcement was intentional as this year’s theme is the ‘faces of travel,’” said Ledbetter. “We are proud of the momentum our team is gaining. We have a county-wide team of hospitality partners, city and county stakeholders, and area volunteers that are working daily to take visitor development to a new level.”

“We continue to grow as a visitor destination because of the great work of these area team members. We hope that the new website, visitor guide and implementation of an industry newsletter will equip our ‘faces of travel’ to offer an even higher level of service to our guests.”

Kids’ Fishing Rodeo Planned for June 10 at Dale Hollow

PRESS RELEASE from Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery:

Event to be held on June 10, is Part of the National Fishing and Boating Week Celebration

In celebration of National Fishing and Boating Week, a Kids’ Fishing Rodeo will be held on Saturday, June 10, 2017, from 8:00AM to 12:00 Noon at Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery. This annual free event is open to youth under the age of 15.

If you would like to volunteer, call Andrew Currie, 931-243-2443.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with The Friends of Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery, US Army Corps of Engineers, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), and citizens of Clay County will hold one of more that 2,500 events nationwide in celebration of National Fishing and Boating Week, June 3-10, More than 500,000 people are expected to participate in these events, which are aimed at encouraging Americans to fish and to learn about natural resource stewardship.

Rainbow trout will be released into the creek below the fish hatchery on Saturday morning. Participants will receive educational packages. Those that register will be eligible to receive prizes.

The Obey River, below Dale Hollow Dam, will also be stocked on Saturday morning so that adults and children over the age of 15, and younger children not wishing to participate in the Fishing Rodeo also have an opportunity to fish during Free Fishing Day.

National Fishing and Boating Week is a program administered by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the National Fishing and Boating Week Steering Committee.

As part of National Fishing and Boating Week, several states have adopted free fishing days, when fishing license requirements are waived to encourage fishing participation. TWRA will offer a free fishing day on June 10, 2017. For more information on other Free Fishing Days, call TWRA at 615-781-6538.