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VOL. 42 | NO. 37 | Friday, September 14, 2018

UT Law attracts 124 first-year students

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The University of Tennessee College of Law announces its largest class of first-year students in more than five years.

The class of 124 students includes 66 males and 58 females, Director of Admissions Sarah Busse reports.

Diversity enrollment also remains high with 22 percent of students identifying themselves as belonging to minority populations.

“This year we traveled to more than 50 law school fairs and schools to meet with and attract the best applicants to the College of Law,” Busse says. “The class is diverse, not only by socio-economic and racial standards, but also in life and work experiences.”

In addition, employment rates for 2017 law graduates reached 94 percent overall. Ten months after graduation, 91 percent of that class was employed in full-time jobs for which a J.D. is required or an advantage. That success is far above the national average of 75 percent, according to information released in April by the American Bar Association.

Tourism thrives in Blount County

Blount County officials have announced the county ranked eighth among Tennessee’s 95 counties in visitor expenditures with $378 million in 2017, according to the Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee Counties report.

Blount County’s visitor spending represents an increase of more than $20 million from 2016 and over $120 million from 2009.

“We are thrilled to see the largest increase in visitor spending in Blount County since prior to the recession 10 years ago,” says Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority Director Kim Mitchell. “We see these results as a success of our focused and strategic regional and national marking efforts to promote Blount County as place for outdoor tourism and a meeting destination.”

Davidson County/Metro Nashville topped all county indices with $6.5 billion in tourism economic impact.

Tourism jobs in Blount County were at an all-time high of 3,510 which also led to an all-time high payroll of $100.48 million. Local tax receipts of $13.03 million were the sixth-highest total in the state, while state tax receipts totaled $20.98 million, both county records.

Among Tennessee’s top eight counties in tourist spending, Blount County’s 5.8 percent increase in visitor expenditures trailed only the Nashville area in growth which was 8.5 percent.

For the 12th consecutive year, Tennessee tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.83 billion. That marks a 7.6 percent increase over 2016 (national growth, 4.6 percent). Tourism generated 184,300 jobs for Tennesseans, a 3.1 percent growth year over year (national growth, 2.5 percent).

All 95 counties saw an increase in economic impact with each having more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures, and 20 counties saw more than $100 million.

City unveils elliptical steel sculpture

A new piece of public art has been installed in Knoxville recently, a work by sculptor and medalsmith John Medwedeff.

The elliptical steel sculpture is in front of the State Street Garage.

The Public Arts Committee selected Medwedeff’s proposal for “Stoke” and purchased it for $70,000. The 3,500-pound formed, fabricated and painted steel sculpture measures approximately 14 feet wide and 7 feet deep with a spire that reaches just over 22 feet into the air, making it the largest piece of public art the city has purchased to date.

“‘Stoke’ refers to the role of iron foundries in Knoxville’s history,” Medwedeff says. “And this work is unique in that it can be observed from many angles – from inside the parking garage and the walkway above.’’

“Stoke” is the final installation of public art in a series that included a metal sculpture on Gay Street, a staircase mural in the Old City and Art Deco-inspired painted steps on 11th Street.

Long-term garage construction begins

Preliminary construction on Knoxville’s $11 million expansion of the State Street Garage begins this month and will be underway through June 2019.

The major work of adding two parking decks and 570 new parking spaces begins in October.

A crane will be set up on Central Street to hoist and secure in place pre-fabricated concrete slab decks, shutting down the road east of the garage.

In January, Central Street will reopen, and the crane will be relocated to the west side of the garage, closing at least one lane of State Street.

Starting the first week of October, construction will take slightly more than half the garage’s current 1,082 spaces out of use; 528 spaces will be available.

The number of available spaces will fluctuate throughout the project, based on safety precautions and where work is being done. For example, at year’s end, the number of available parking spaces will increase to 741. But starting Jan. 7, 2019, the number of available spaces will drop to 573.

Urban Wilderness to update Gateway plan

An Urban Wilderness Gateway Park public meeting will be held at the South-Doyle Middle School library at 6 p.m. Sept. 18.

The gateway project is a $10 million investment to create a linear park connection from downtown’s Morningside Park to South Knoxville, serving as an adventure portal into the Urban Wilderness. The project was made possible by Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Transportation deeding the state property to the city for public use.

The design team for the project will present revised concepts based on feedback gathered through online surveys, a series of small group meetings with neighborhoods and community members, and input from a block party held in June.

Like other projects throughout the 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness, the gateway park will reflect the community and its natural, historic, recreational and environmental assets.

#VolsVote in action for midterm elections

A coalition of nearly 40 student groups and academic units at the University of Tennessee has launched a voter registration campaign on campus, #VolsVote.

The campaign is to encourage more students to participate in the upcoming midterm elections and will include classroom registrations throughout September and a series of events, lectures and debates.

One of the highlights of the program is a Senate debate scheduled for October 10 at UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. Both former Gov. Phil Bredesen, the Democratic nominee and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican nominee, have confirmed their participation in the debate.

Other events include a lecture with Ambassador Ira Shapiro and a screening of the documentary “One Vote” with director Christine Doeg.

Tennessee ranks last in the country in voter turnout and No. 40 in voter registration, according to a Pew Charitable Trust analysis of 2014 midterm election data. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 9. Election day is Nov. 6.

State kicks off student ‘leadership’ essay contest

The state’s third annual student essay contest, with a theme on leadership, is underway.

The project, sponsored by the Secretary of State’s office, is part of a larger civics engagement initiative to encourage students to be actively engaged citizens.

Schools may submit two essays for kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade and ninth through 12th grade.

All submissions can be submitted online beginning in September through Friday, Nov. 16.

Winners will receive a TNStars 529 College Savings Program scholarship and a trip to the State Capitol next spring. First place winners receive a $500 scholarship, with second and third place winners receiving $250 and $100 respectively.

Study: UT generates $1.7B in annual income

The Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research reports that the University of Tennessee generates $1.7 billion in annual income and supports more than 35,000 jobs in the state.

That’s up $100 million since the last report was produced in 2015 and up more than $785 million over the past 10 years.

The study was conducted by Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center, and Lawrence Kessler, research assistant professor, who used detailed revenue and expenditure data from 2017 to determine how much income, how many jobs and how much state and local tax revenue are generated as a result of UT-related spending in the state.

The university employs more than 10,000 people, including faculty, staff and students. In 2017, UT paid $575 million in salaries and benefits.

Each dollar spent by employees causes more than one dollar in economic activity, according to the principle of economics known as the multiplier effect. The report shows that UT spending supports 35,232 full-time jobs in Tennessee.

Other highlights from the report:

Non-payroll spending such as construction, utilities, equipment, supplies and maintenance repairs totals $636 million and accounts for 42 percent of in-state university spending. Campus projects worth more than $1 billion are currently undergoing design, planning, or construction.

Student and visitor spending – by those attending sporting events, special events and conferences who also visit downtown Knoxville or engage in other off-campus activities – accounts for $288 million.

UT’s economic activity also generates more than $166 million in state and local tax revenue.

State seeks proposals to improve water quality

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is now accepting grant proposals for projects that will help improve water quality and reduce or eliminate nonpoint source pollution.

“Keeping Tennessee’s waterways clean and healthy will benefit our citizens for years to come,” Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton says.

“The Nonpoint Source Program is a significant tool at our disposal in the fight to reduce the amount of pollutants that enter our state’s waters. We encourage those who are eligible to submit project proposals for funding.”

Nonpoint source pollution is soil, urban runoff, fertilizers, chemicals and other contaminants that degrade surface and groundwater quality.

Local governments, regional and state agencies, public institutions and private nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply, Highest priority is given to projects that seek to make measurable improvements to waters impaired by nonpoint source pollution.

The deadline for submitting grant proposals is Dec. 1.