university of tennessee

Hemp industry backs study of plant’s applications in automotive industry

The Hemp Alliance of Tennessee and the state Department of Agriculture are partnering on a project to study using fibers derived from the plant in the automotive industry and other sectors of the economy. The research will be conducted by the University of Tennessee.

Here’s the release from the from Hemp Alliance:

NASHVILLE, TENN. – June 1, 2022 –The Hemp Alliance of Tennessee (HAT) is leading a study on the feasibility of the production of hemp fiber in the state. The organization, comprised of hemp-industry colleagues who support, educate, and collaborate for a successful industry, partnered with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) to fund the research that will be conducted by the University of Tennessee.

The study will include an assessment of the feasibility of hemp fiber production for the Tennessee automobile industry as well as an overall assessment of hemp fiber for the development of the Tennessee economy. The research will take place from now through year’s end.

“We are proud to work with the TDA and the research team at the University of Tennessee to explore the potential hemp has to benefit our state’s economy,” said Frederick Cawthon, President of HAT.

“Our organization and its members are invested in realizing the potential of this plant, and our hope is that this study will prompt significant industry investment in Tennessee hemp and its diverse applications.”

The feasibility analysis will include developing a hemp fiber crop production budget for Tennessee farmers and an analysis regarding the costs, revenue, and profits of processing hemp fiber in Tennessee including transportation and supply chain logistics. The broad outlook portion of the study will assess the likelihood for successful Tennessee-based production and processing for the various major uses of hemp fiber.

“We are an agricultural state, and we are proud to be a hemp-producing state,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “This plant has numerous applications, and we believe fiber has potential to grow Tennessee’s industrial economy. We support this work led by the Hemp Alliance of Tennessee and look forward to reviewing the research conducted by the University of Tennessee to assess the potential scale of that growth.”

Hemp has been recognized as a valuable crop to support Tennessee’s agricultural and industrial economy. Tennessee was among the first states to create a hemp program under the 2014 Farm Bill allowing pilot programs for industrial hemp cultivation.

In 2015, the state had 49 producers licensed to grow 660 acres. In 2019, after the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the controlled substance designation of industrial hemp, the number of producers peaked at 3,957 licensed to grow 51,000 acres. As of May 2022, there are now only 1,041 producers of industrial hemp licensed to grow 5,682 acres. The shift in recent years illustrated the potential for scale and interest from the state’s farmers and cultivation experts.

“After the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, there was a gold rush of growers wanting to enter the emerging market for consumable hemp products,” said Frederick Cawthon. “Tennessee is capable of becoming a leader in this industry if we engage our innovators and the industries that can benefit from the plant – and our legislature continues to help make the right investments in the plant’s myriad applications.”

According to the USDA, the value of hemp production in the United States totaled $824 million in 2021. Industry analysts estimated the global industrial hemp market size at USD 4.13 billion in 2021 and is expect it to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.8% from 2022 to 2030.
Industrial hemp is grown for its seeds, fiber, shivs, flower, and oil. The applications for industrial hemp are varied including textiles, personal care, food and beverages, animal care, paper, automotive, construction materials, furniture, and more.

Formed in 2020, HAT aims to fortify Tennessee’s network of hemp industry players. The trade association is led by a business-minded board of directors who represent a diverse cross-section of hemp interests that operate in Tennessee and serve states across the country. The group is dedicated to increasing industry momentum and aligning industry professionals around a common understanding and guidelines for growing, processing, selling and consuming quality hemp and hemp products.

The organization prioritizes sustainable, eco-friendly agriculture and seeks collaboration regionally with the United States and Tennessee Departments of Agriculture, farmers, industry partners, elected officials, and law enforcement to continue building a safe, ethical, and long-lasting hemp economy.

UT survey: Businesses most likely to pass inflation costs on to consumers

Forty-four percent of companies plan to pass increased inflation costs on to consumers, according to a new University of Tennessee survey.

Here are the details from UT’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research:

Inflation and labor force issues top the list of concerns for Tennessee business leaders, according to the most recent survey by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Conducted in January, the Tennessee Business Leaders Survey shows that respondents are relatively pessimistic on inflation, with about half (53.8 percent) saying the recent high inflation is “here to stay.” The other half said either that the current inflation is transitory (25.8 percent) or that they were unsure about inflation’s trajectory moving forward (21.1 percent).

About half said their companies plan to increase employee wages in response to inflation. As the cost of running a business goes up, 43.5 percent of employers said they will likely increase prices for consumers. Many also are looking into reorganizing their business or will rely more on artificial intelligence and automation. Very few are considering employee layoffs or the closure of stores or offices.

Figure 1: What companies plan to do about the rising costs associated with inflation.

In early February, about 50 survey respondents took part in a forum moderated by Don Bruce, associate director of the Boyd Center. Attendees discussed the survey results and elaborated more on how inflation affects Tennessee employers through the housing market, the supply chain, and a growing skills gap in the workforce.

“Parents are worried about the cost of buying a home in Tennessee and how unaffordable it is for a new college graduate. They say, ‘Where is the $100,000 starter home? It doesn’t exist anymore,’” Bruce said. “These business leaders also say their cost of operating has gone up and it takes longer to get something built—whether it’s due to supply chain issues or not having enough people trained to do the job.”

The concern about trained workers echoes the survey, where more than 70 percent of respondents reported an insufficient supply. About half said that increasing training opportunities and education is key in bridging the gap, and about a fourth said it would be good to reduce the government safety net in order to encourage more people to work.

Figure 2: What should Tennessee do to expand the supply of workers?

When looking at Tennessee as a whole, roughly 70 percent of survey respondents said they think the state’s economy will outpace the nation’s in 2022. Those from East and West Tennessee were much more optimistic about the state’s economy than those from Middle Tennessee. There was optimism among individual industries as well, with more than half of respondents expecting their businesses to perform better over the next 12 months and only 9 percent expecting their businesses to perform worse.

“A significant number of people are upbeat about their expectations for revenue, profitability, and employment growth in 2022,” said Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center. “Despite worries about inflation, this shows me that business leaders in Tennessee have an entrepreneurial spirit and are finding ways to make their companies succeed.”

Figure 3: How would you describe your expectations for the Tennessee economy compared with the national economy over the next 12 months?

The full set of survey responses is available on the Boyd Center website. A few other highlights:

  • When asked about the local workforce, respondents were able to identify up to three skills or attributes lacking in job candidates. Work ethic was the top concern, listed by nearly two thirds of respondents.
  • Almost 58 percent said their company struggles to retain workers. Cost and availability of housing was the primary reason listed, followed by cost and availability of child care services.
  • Only 10.2 percent said they believe that reducing fiscal and monetary stimulus would result in a recession, while almost 60 percent said it would not.
  • 35.2 percent of respondents believe the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates during the first half of 2022. A quarter think it will be later in 2022.

The Boyd Center, located in UT’s Haslam College of Business, conducted the survey between January 10 and 31, gathering responses from business leaders across Tennessee. Respondents represented a broad sample of businesses across all industries and ranging in size from fewer than 50 employees to more than 5,000.

UT report finds spending surge among Tennesseans

Tennesseans are spending more and the state’s gross domestic product is growing — even when adjusted for inflation. That’s according to a new report by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Here’s the full release from UT:

KNOXVILLE — Tennesseans are going out and spending money again—a trend signaled by a surge in the state’s inflation-adjusted gross domestic product, which grew 5.6 percent in 2021. Real GDP is projected to continue growing in 2022 at 4.2 percent, according to a report released today by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Consumers are spending more confidently due to a third round of federal stimulus checks and the distribution of effective COVID-19 vaccines, which led to the return of in-person services for many consumers.

“The economic recovery has been incredibly strong so far, and the Tennessee economy seems to be on solid footing,” said Larry Kessler, research associate professor in the Boyd Center and project director for the 2022 Economic Report to the Governor of the State of Tennessee. “Real GDP has already recovered to prepandemic levels due to a strong surge in consumer spending. Employment in the state has been a little slower to recover, but we expect job levels to recover by the first half of 2022.”

The report includes a deep dive into the employment recovery in Tennessee and examines how the recovery differs by age, race, gender, marital status, and education, as well as by industrial sectors and geographic area. The state’s labor force participation rate, which sat at 61.8 percent before the pandemic, is projected to reach only 60.9 percent in 2022 and inch up to 61.4 percent in 2023. There is no single explanation for the slower labor market recovery, but many Tennesseans have reflected on their work–life balance since the pandemic began, and some have decided to switch jobs while others may not be as quick to re-enter the labor force for various reasons.

As of October 2021, the labor force among people aged 55 or older has decreased by nearly 55 percent nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic. Only the 35–44 age group has returned to prepandemic levels. There are still about one million fewer people aged 20–34 in the labor force, and another 800,000 fewer people aged 45–54. These changes could be due to workplace safety concerns as new COVID-19 variants emerge, families opting to live on one income instead of two, childcare issues, or an acceleration in retirements.

Despite the slower labor market recovery, employment in Tennessee is projected to reach prepandemic levels by the second quarter of 2022—a quarter ahead of the nation’s projected labor market recovery. The unemployment rate is projected to settle around 4.7 percent for 2021 and fall to 3.9 percent in 2022.

“Following a record-breaking year in terms of both job commitments and capital investment, the state economy continues its strong recovery,” said Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “Tennesseans are resilient and the state is open for business, as evidenced by the unemployment rate falling closer to prepandemic levels. This is good news for our businesses, our recruitment efforts, and the Tennessee economy as a whole.”

Nonfarm employment is projected to increase by 2.8 percent for 2021 and 3.1 percent in 2022, recovering to prepandemic levels by the second quarter of 2022. State payrolls will get a boost from the manufacturing sector, which is expected to see an employment increase of 3.8 percent for 2021. The hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector is projected see employment expand by 5.9 percent in 2021 and sharply increase by 10.2 percent in 2022 as consumers continue to get more comfortable with in-person services and rising wages attract more workers. Worker burnout is likely driving a labor force contraction in the education and health services sector, with employment falling by 0.6 percent in 2021, but it should see an uptick of 2.2 percent growth in 2022.

“There are still a number of downside risks to economic growth, including supply chain issues, higher prices, and new COVID-19 cases and variants,” Kessler said. “But the state economy has proven to be very resilient, and we project strong economic growth in the near term.”

The report examines the long-term economic outlook for Tennessee as well as the results of the 2020 census. The state grew faster than the US overall, with the population increasing by 8.9 percent versus the national rate of 7.4 percent. Rising death rates and declining birth rates have led to slower growth over the past three decades, but a strong rate of migration into the state has helped keep population growth from slowing even further. Tennessee added 565,000 people between 2010 and 2020, largely in Middle Tennessee’s Davidson County and the counties surrounding it. Rural areas are experiencing slower or even negative growth across the state.

Since 1975, the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, housed within UT’s Haslam College of Business, has provided Tennessee’s governor with an annual economic report that includes an in-depth analysis of state and national trends and forecasts.

Boyd pulls out of Pody fundraiser

Randy Boyd speaks to reporters in Nashville on July 25, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd won’t be hosting that fundraiser for firebrand state Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) after all.

The Tennessee Journal noted the odd political alliance in Friday’s print edition, leading to follow-up reporting by the Knoxville News Sentinel and Knoxville Compass. Pody was heavily involved in the “Stop the Steal” movement following last year’s presidential election and has been a main sponsor of legislation seeking to exempt the state from the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision and to allow men to block their female sexual partners’ decisions to get an abortion.

“Senator Pody has been a long-time friend,” Boyd said in statement Friday. “We do not agree on all issues. But he called and asked for my help, and I said, yes, in my role as a private citizen and not in any official capacity.”

By Saturday, Boyd was singing a different tune, the Knox News reports. In an email to faculty members, Boyd said his offer to pay for the breakfast was mistakenly interpreted as agreeing to host the event.

“I have not solicited nor did I intend to solicit any contributions for him,” Boyd wrote. “I have not made a contribution to him either personally or through a PAC. I am also not attending the event and have decided not to pay for the breakfast.”

Alexander lauds coronavirus testing in Tennessee

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) speaks at a Tennessee Titans event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is presiding over health committee hearings while in self-quarantine in Tennessee, is lauding his home state’s COVID-19 testing regimen. But the Maryville Republican is warning that more needs to be done before college campuses can reopen this fall.

“Tennessee has tested 4 percent of its population. The governor hopes to increase that to 7 percent by the end of May,” Alexander said. “That impressive level of testing is sufficient to begin Phase I of going back to work in Tennessee, but as I said last week, it is not nearly enough to provide confidence to 31,000 students and faculty that it is safe to return to the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus in August.”

Here’s the full release from Alexander’s office:

MARYVILLE, Tennessee, May 12, 2020 — Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that COVID-19 testing in the United States is “impressive” and “enough to begin going back to work.”

“But millions more rapid tests created by new technologies are needed to give the rest of America enough confidence to go back to work and back to school,” Alexander added.

Alexander made his remarks today during the Senate health committee hearing — “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School” — which featured testimony from Administration officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about what federal, state and local governments are doing to help Americans go back to work and back to school as rapidly and safely as possible. 

“According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States has tested over 9 million Americans for COVID-19. That is twice as many as any other country — we don’t know what China has done — and more per capita than most countries including South Korea, which several committee members have cited as an example of a country doing testing well.”

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University of Tennessee courses to remain online-only through summer

Interim President Randy Boyd gives the State of the University Address at the Nashville Public Library in 2019. (Photo credit: University of Tennessee)

The University of Tennessee’s courses will remain online-only through the summer in response to the coronavirus pandemic, system President Randy Boyd announced Wednesday.

Here’s the full release from UT:

KNOXVILLE – University of Tennessee System President Randy Boyd – in consultation with chancellors at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center – has announced that summer session classes at all campuses will be delivered online in response to COVID-19.  At UTHSC, clinical rotations in hospitals will continue with students following COVID-19 protocol.
“Our faculty and staff have done an incredible job of moving to an entirely digital platform for the spring semester,” Boyd said.  “I am confident they will continue to provide an inspired learning experience for our students who are enrolled in summer classes.”
Since moving to an online platform, UT campuses have provided an estimated 9,300 classes online.
Each campus will be sending out specific communications to their faculty, students and staff regarding the impact to its respective campuses.

The UT System has a comprehensive resource guide that provides information and resources surrounding COVID-19:

In December 2019, the global health care community identified a new respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and has since been labeled 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization—previously it was referred to as 2019-nCoV). Spread of coronavirus is correlated with circumstances of close and sustained contact with others who are infected.

The University of Tennessee System has campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 387,000 alumni around the world.

Boyd recommends Nebraska’s Plowman as UT-Knoxville chancellor

Randy Boyd speaks to reporters in Nashville on July 25, 2018. The former Republican gubernatorial candidate was nominated to serve as interim president of the University of Tennessee on Sept. 19, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Interim University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd is recommending Donde Plowman to become the ninth chancellor of the system’s flagship campus in Knoxville.

Plowman is the executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Under Donde’s leadership, I am looking forward to an exciting, successful and transformational future,”  Boyd said in a release. “Her student-first approach, her reputation as a dynamic leader and collaborator and her great love for the UT Knoxville will be great assets as we work together to advance the university and the state of Tennessee for many years to come.”

If approved by the board, Plowman will succeed Beverly Davenport, school’s first female chancellor who was fired last year amid criticism of her handling of UT’s botched football coaching search, her rejection of then-Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing initiatives, and (especially among lawmakers) for the ongoing student-led Sex Week activities on campus.

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Four finalists named for UT-Knoxville chancellor

Four finalists have been named to become the next chancellor at the University of Tennessee’s flagship campus in Knoxville. They will visit the school and participate in public forums between April 16 and April 18.

Here are the finalists and times they will be on campus:

  • Donde Plowman, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. April 16, from 2:30-3:30 p.m at the Student Union Auditorium.
  • Brian Noland, president of East Tennessee State University. Wednesday, April 17, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at the Student Union Auditorium.
  • William Tate, dean of the graduate school and vice provost for graduate education at Washington University in St. Louis. Thursday, April 18 from 9:45-10:45 a.m. at the Student Union Auditorium.
  • Bill Hardgrave, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Auburn University
    Thursday, April 18 from 3-4 p.m. in Room 101 of Strong Hall.

The forums will be live-streamed.


Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station show biggest population growth in state

The communities of Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station are experiencing the fastest population growth in the state, according to new Census tract data analyzed by the University of Tennessee. Nearly 6,200 people moved to the area between 2013 and 2017, a 19% increase.

Click on the map for a look at the top 20 population increases.

The statistics for the state’s nearly 1,500 census tracts show that 268, or 18%, showed significant population growth, while 90 tracts, or 6%, showed decreases.


Of the 20 fastest-growing tracts, 12 were in the Nashville metropolitan area. And the state capital region accounted for 46% of the tracts with population increases. The Memphis area accounted for 28 of the 90 tracts with decreases. Another 29 tracts posting population declines were located in rural areas.



Haslam names advisory boards for UT campuses

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Amazon will locate its East Coast logistics hub in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal )

A release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed 20 members to the new advisory boards for each of the four campuses within the University of Tennessee system: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; The University of Tennessee at Martin; and The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The advisory boards were created under the UT FOCUS Act passed by the General Assembly last session.

“These board members will positively impact the multiple and diverse campuses that comprise the UT system,” Haslam said. “We wanted members who could focus their attention on the individual campuses and respond nimbly to the specific needs of each institution.”

The UT advisory board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. Each board is comprised of five public members, one faculty member and one student member.

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