May 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.
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
"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
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
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.