The relationship between higher education and economic development is integral to the community, region and nation moving forward, East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland said Tuesday during the 10th Annual Johnson City Economic Summit.
“Those two systems are intertwined as we move into a knowledge economy predicated on human capital,” he said.
The public and private benefits — which are measured through increased voter turnout rates, higher levels of philanthropy, increased earnings and lower unemployment rates — of that type of system form the foundation for a knowledge economy that is predicated on investing in individuals, Noland said.
This year’s summit celebrated entrepreneurship with talks from both Noland and Nashville Entrepreneur Center Director Michael Burcham.
Noland talked about the necessity of closing the gaps when it comes to Tennessee’s post-secondary education.
With national trends pointing toward major changes in occupations and training needs, such as an increased demand for jobs within the health care industry, Noland said the region is front and center.
“So what these trends are indicating is that the knowledge economy is here — that our economy has fundamentally changed — but this is good news for us, because in East Tennessee, we’re right at the heart of this growth,” he said. “We’re right at the heart of it with ETSU with our program offerings and we have potential to really move forward with a quick clip in terms of growth and development.”
Part of that growth and development will be seen in the partnership between ETSU and the regional business community.
Noland pointed toward many of the services and partnerships available now — including the joint partnership between Matthew Bolton, the College of Business and Technology and Bristol Tennessee Essential Services; the Tennessee Small Business Development Center; the Innovation Lab; and the Eastman Valleybrook Campus — as resources that are available to assist entrepreneurs and those in need of lab space.
With the number of resources the university has its disposal, Noland believes there is more room for growth when it comes to partnering with the local businesses and industry.
“I think we’ve yet to scratch the surface of potential connections with our partners in Johnson City, our partners in Kingsport, Bristol and across the region. Our ability to grow as an institution is predicated on strong relationships with each of those entities,” he said. “Our ability to grow, our ability to diversify the educational experience, our ability to produce graduates who are ready to compete in the knowledge economy is a function of hands-on and applied practicums and internships.”