University Economic Development Association


Asset Based Planning in Rural Tennessee Counties (2018)

Award Category: Place
Project Site: Asset Based Planning in Rural Tennessee Counties
Submitted By: The University of Tennessee
Contact: Beth Phillips , 865.974.0268

Case Study

In 2016, the UT Center for Industrial Services (UTCIS) and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) developed an Asset Based Planning Program serving 23 rural, distressed counties throughout the state. The purpose of the program is to help participating counties identify 2-3 economic development projects that build on community assets and can be implemented within a twelve-month period. UTCIS and TNECD expanded the program to an additional 21 counties in 2017, and has continued to grow and improve the program through 2018.

The program has several unique factors, including: (1) an ABP meeting in each participating county to help community leaders define community assets and identify economic development projects; (2) network of university agencies and development districts that provide the reach, capacity, and reputation to quickly ramp up, deliver and continually improve a statewide program; (3) ongoing technical assistance effort involving TNECD, Development Districts and UTCIS to assist counties throughout the process, revisit existing plans, update goals, and evaluate results; (4) central role in state rural development strategy and integration with other regional and state funding and technical assistance efforts; (5) emphasis on positive actions that build on community assets and strengths; and (5) collaborative partner efforts to continually revise, improve and strengthen the program.

Results include: (1) 44 completed asset based plans and reports that identify key themes, community assets, and actions; (2) Identification of approximately 150 short-term projects addressing site development, tourism, retail development, workforce, and other topics; (3) TNECD grants and other funding to help counties implement projects; (4) projects that are completed or close to completion in each of the initial 23 counties; (5) More visible university role in rural development; (6) Statewide network, approach and process to to assist with project implementation, plan revisions and evaluation; (7) Proven rural development approach that is ongoing, replicable and producing results; and (8) Positive planning environment that focuses on capitalizing existing strengths and extensive partner-community collaboration.

Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Milwaukee on October 22 and 23, 2018. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.