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VOL. 42 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 5, 2018

Clayton rebrands affordable home line

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Maryville’s Clayton home building group is unveiling the rebranding of its TRU Homes line in response to the lack of affordable housing in U.S. communities.

Previously known as TRUmh, TRU Homes is focusing on educating and empowering potential home buyers on the value of homeownership.

The company’s website has been updated to feature a variety of home buyer resources, including “learn” sections, virtual tours and retail locators.

In 2017, the average cost of a new-single family constructed home with land in America is nearing $385,0001, according to the U.S. Census.

TRU Homes provides many people a chance at homeownership with home models starting at an estimate of below $40,000 (without land) plus required delivery and installation, taxes and sales fees. Through the innovative, lean building processes designed to construct simple, space efficient homes, TRU Homes is able to drive down housing prices.

Clayton is a Berkshire Hathaway company.

Knoxville College moves to re-enroll students

Knoxville College, a historically black college that lost accreditation and was forced to evacuate, has filed paperwork to begin re-enrolling and teaching students.

The school has applied for authorization with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The school lost state accreditation in 2015 after enrollment decreased to 11. In February, officials were forced to leave the last occupied campus buildings after the City of Knoxville found it didn’t meeting codes.

President Keith Lindsey says the school has been granted a conditional authorization to operate in 2018, but awaits the ability to recruit and instruct.

Julie Woodruff, commission assistant executive director and lead attorney, says the application was filed in March and is under review, but there’s no deadline for when or if it’s approved.

Obed River national park adds 161 acres

WARTBURG (AP) — The Obed Wild and Scenic River has added 161 acres (65 hectares) within the national park’s boundaries through a donation.

According to a park news release, the land donated by former East Tennessee resident Mary Ann Gibbons contains 2 miles (3 kilometers) of river frontage along the heart of the Obed River, which includes some of the park’s most notable rapids.

It also contains some of highest cliffs in the park, riverside cascades, major waterfalls, sandstone arches and chimneys, mature hardwood and hemlock forests, and diverse plant and animal species.

Park Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas says it’s the largest addition to the park in 30 years.

Tennessee board to review 8 historic places for register

A Tennessee board is scheduled to review proposed nominations to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Tennessee State Review Board said Wednesday it is scheduled to meet Jan. 10 in Nashville to vote on eight nominations to the register, which lists cultural resources worthy of preservation.

Nominated locations are Sanda Hosiery Mills in Cleveland; Travellers Rest in Nashville, Bethel Methodist Church in Morristown; Oaklawn Garden in Germantown; Sterick North Garage and Hotel in Memphis; Bozo's Hot Pit Bar-B-Q in Mason; Wassom Farm in Telford; and Franklin Historic District in Franklin.

Approved locations will be sent for final approval to the register in the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Oak Ridge High, district earn state first

Oak Ridge High School has announced its official Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) certification from AdvancED.

With the high school’s accomplishment, the Oak Ridge School district becomes the first entire district in Tennessee (the second entire district in the world) to be STEM Certified by AdvancED.

Oak Ridge High School is also the first comprehensive high school in the state to earn this distinction as an entire school as opposed to certifying a single STEM program area.

“This STEM certification validates our longstanding commitment and investment in public education,” Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch says. “The commitment to excellence, which sets Oak Ridge apart, begins every day with public education. It is fitting that our school system has been awarded this certification during our 75th Anniversary year.”

AdvancED implements a research-based framework and criteria for the awareness, continuous improvement and assessment of the quality, rigor and substance of STEM educational programs.

The certification process clearly defines the qualities and components vital to creating and sustaining superior student-centered K-12 STEM teaching and learning programs, as well as clear expectations for student outcomes and mastery of 21st century skills.

The certification process comprises two days of intensive communication with school stakeholders, classroom observations to see students in action and an exit presentation of the findings from the review team.

In the spring of 2016, three Oak Ridge elementary schools earned AdvancED STEM certification: Glenwood, Linden and Woodland Elementary schools. In the spring of 2017, three more schools in Oak Ridge received this distinction: Willow Brook Elementary, Jefferson Middle and Robertsville Middle. With the addition of the high school certification, the entire district is now STEM certified.

Avant to bring 200 jobs to Blount County

Avant, LLC officials have announced the company will locate new operations in Blount County.

Avant will locate its new call center in an existing 25,000 square-foot building. The facility is expected to be fully operational by January 2018.

The financial services company will create more than 200 new jobs in Louisville, Tennessee over the next few years.

“We thank Avant for choosing to locate new operations in Blount County and for creating new jobs in Louisville,” Gov. Bill Haslam says.

“It means a great deal when a company chooses to locate new operations in our state. I look to forward to building a strong partnership with Avant and seeing its future growth in the years ahead.’’ is an online lending platform and leading provider of credit alternatives to middle-income consumers. The company also offers its technology solutions to bank and non-bank partners via its Powered by Avant product to provide an innovative digital lending experience to its customers.

Topgolf seeks Knoxville location

Topgolf has confirmed it is actively seeking a location in Knoxville.

Topgolf opened its first Tennessee location in Nashville in September. Since the opening of that location, the venue has seen more than 135,000 visits and approximately 1,000 private events that range from corporate outings to birthday parties.

“Anchored by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is a vibrant community with continuing job growth,” says Chris Callaway, Topgolf’s chief development officer.

Callaway anticipates that Topgolf Knoxville would serve approximately 300,000 guests annually. Nearly half of all Topgolf guests describe themselves as “non-golfers.”

If plans progress, Topgolf would create 325 full-and part-time jobs at this location. The three-level venue would feature 1,500-square-feet of private event space and 72 climate-controlled hitting bays that can host up to six players at a time.

Knoxville’s Finance Department lauded

The City of Knoxville’s Finance Department has been recognized for its commitment to meeting “the highest principles of governmental budgeting” by a leading professional association.

The city has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation accolade for 29 years in a row from the Government Finance Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada.

Finance Director Jim York credited his staff’s “insistence on accuracy, precision and transparency.”

“This award reflects the way the City of Knoxville publicly puts together, deliberates on and explains every facet of our budget, year after year,” York says. “The Finance Department is proud that our work, our budget documents, make it possible for citizens to understand the details of a net budget of more than $350 million.

“In short, the City’s commitment to transparency and way the annual budget is prepared and presented, promotes good public dialogue.”

To receive the GFOA distinction, a city must satisfy nationally-recognized guidelines designed to assess how well an entity’s budget serves as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide and a means of communications.

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