Innovation Valley in top 20 percent

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email

Innovation Valley in top 20 percent

Posted: 05/18/2005
The Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley has moved into the top 20 percent of metropolitan areas in the nation for worker quality, according to a poll just released by a national trade publication.

In its May edition, Expansion Management magazine, which is circulated to some 50,000 business decision makers across the country, promotes the area from Four Star to Five Star Metro status.

The Knoxville area ranks 63rd in the nation among the nation's 362 metropolitan areas in the magazine's third annual Knowledge Worker Quotient. This is well ahead of our four-star, 89th and 90th rankings, respectively, in the 2004 and 2003 polls.

The article describes top-performing regions as "exceptionally well placed to attract and nurture high-tech companies and entrepreneurs because of their concentration of extremely well educated workers." Rankings are based upon performance in three specific areas: adult education levels among college graduates, number of medical doctors, and research and development (R&D) spending among universities.

"This ranking bodes well for the Innovation Valley's economic future," said Alex Fischer, chairman of the Jobs Now! regional inititiative that supports job growth, capital investment and higher average wages.

The Expansion Management article, however, comes with a warning. Bill King, chief editor, says that regions that want to stay competitive will have to make a major commitment to education.

"As more companies engage in the knowledge sector of the economy, competition for highly educated workers will become even more intense. Metros with a concentration of these workers will prosper, while those that don't, won't," he cautions.

Education is an issue that is taken seriously by Innovation Valley leaders.

"Our commitment to education and support for high-tech and entrepreneurial efforts are key to attracting and retaining well paying jobs in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley," Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam said. "This recognition confirms that these strategies will pay dividends for our economic future."

King, who recently visited the Innovation Valley, bluntly predicts that even regions known for relatively low labor expenses will have a hard time competing in the future with China, India and Mexico – all of whom have extremely low wages and sufficient numbers of educated workers.

The solution, he says, is to aggressively promote education "starting in kindergarten and extending all the way through college and beyond. Companies, he said, "will need educated workers and, if they can't find them in the U.S., they'll look elsewhere."

Fischer thinks the region is up to the challenge.

He points to the Jobs Now! effort, which is supported by more than 170 private and public sector investors throughout the region, as a sign of regional progress.

"We are making strong headway," Fischer said. "The trick now is to constantly improve our workforce training and educational opportunities. There's no substitute for a highly-qualified workforce."

He said the fact that the Innovation Valley has moved up in several national polls in the past six months shows "great momentum."

Earlier this month, Forbes magazine ranked the Innovation Valley as the 17th best place in the nation to do business and have a career. It is the only Tennessee metropolitan area to make the top 20 overall ranking.

In January of this year, Expansion Management ranked the metro area at 14th spot on its list of America's 50 Hottest Cities. Knoxville was not even on the list last year. The region has also been cited recently for its outstanding quality of life compared to other metro areas.