Innovation Valley Partner Education Program Wins International Award

Innovation Valley partner, The Roane Alliance’s Education Matters!, program has been selected as a Gold Award recipient by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for Excellence in Economic Development.

October 10, 2013


 Innovation Valley partner, The Roane Alliance’s Education Matters!, program has been selected as a Gold Award recipient by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for Excellence in Economic Development.

The award was presented at the 2013 IEDC Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania today.  Receiving the award on behalf of The Alliance was Leslie Henderson, Alliance president and CEO, and Allen Lutz, education and workforce development specialist at The Alliance.

Education Matters! received the award in the category of Partnerships with Educational Institutions in communities with a population between 25,000-200,000.  According to the IEDC, their Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders.

“I am so proud that Roane County and our program is getting this kind of recognition,” said Henderson. “It is especially gratifying to me, knowing that we were competing against much larger communities and won.”

“The Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize The Roane Alliance as being one of the leading organizations in the industry for innovation, creativity and successful strategies,” said IEDC chair, Paul Krutko. “These awards are meant to honor the organizations and individuals who are dedicated to making a positive change in their communities.  This organization uses creative solutions and inventive ideas, and offers other regions a wonderful example to learn and benefit from. The award represents an acknowledgment and appreciation for The Roane Alliance’s dedication to continuous growth within itself, as well as improving the industry overall.”

 “We knew that it was one of our most successful programs – it is already significantly boosting the number of Roane County children going on to post-secondary school,” Henderson said. “But bringing home the gold from the country’s top economic development organization’s annual conference, that is true validation for The Alliance and all the partners who have committed to help fund the continuation of this program.”

Henderson said, “The fund drive to keep EM! going is still on, and we are only halfway there, so we hope this recognition will help others see its value and become funding partners also for this critically-important effort.”

 “The mission of Education Matters! is that every child in Roane County gets some post-secondary education – and does well at it,” said Lutz at the award ceremony. We owe it to our kids and our businesses – as their future employers – to keep this going.”

The programs included in the Education Matters! initiative includes awareness programs, Tennessee Scholars, the Annual High School Career Day, RoaneAchieves (part of the tnAchieves program), the Internship Initiative, Educators in the Workplace Lunch & Learn program, Teachers’ Supply Closet, and more. 

In addition to receiving the award at the conference, Lutz made an “Ignite” presentation titled “Education Matters! – Programs and Partnerships” at the conference, which bills itself as the largest gathering of economic developers in the world.  Ignite’ is a five-minute, 20-slide presentation format that stimulates new thinking and provokes action.

The funding for The Roane Alliance’s Education Matters! initiative – a ‘Best Practice’ program, according to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce – was cut as of June 30 of this year. The following have committed $5,000 annually to keep EM! going: Roane State Community College; Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Harriman; Roane County United Way; The Roane Alliance; Roane County Chamber; Roane County Industrial Development Board and the Roane County Public Schools. Other major donors include Volkswagen Group of America; First Bank of Tennessee; the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Roane Metals/Roane Transportation.

For more information about the Education Matters! program and to view the Ignite presentation (when available), go to

Innovation Valley is the regional economic development partnership managed by the Knoxville Chamber. Eight partner agencies make up Innovation Valley, including The Roane Alliance.

 The Roane Alliance is Roane County's economic development organization and consists of both public and private organizations, including the Roane County Chamber of Commerce, the Roane County Industrial Development Board, and the Roane County Visitors' Bureau.

The IEDC is a non-profit membership organization serving economic developers and the largest organization of its kind.   For more information visit