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Parsons entrepreneur center, statewide initiative aimed at growing Tennessee's rural economies

Ayers foundation
Gov. Bill Lee, Parsons Mayor Tim Boaz, and other dignitaries were on hand in Parsons to celebrate the opening of the Ayers Entrepreneur Center and launch of the Come Home Tennessee initiative.

Private and public officials gathered in Parsons to unveil a new statewide initiative to grow Tennessee’s rural economies.  

Gov. Bill Lee and other dignitaries joined the Ayers Foundation Trust Founders, Jim and Janet Ayers, to unveil the new Come Home Tennessee initiative and open the Ayers Entrepreneur Center in Parsons. The initiative aims to reduce the number of economically distressed and at-risk counties in the state and the Ayers Entrepreneur Center will serve as a central employment hub offering co-working space, training, and support for rural residents.  

Ribbon cutting
Officials cut the ribbon on the Ayers Entrepreneur Center in Parsons.

The Come Home Tennessee program will seek to connect the skilled alumni of the nationally-recognized Ayers Scholars Program and other Tennesseans with local employers and remote work opportunities that enable them to remain or return to their hometowns to live, work, and raise their families.  

Parsons Mayor Tim Boaz said local officials were pleased with the Ayers Foundation's decision to locate the facility in Parsons.  

“This is a great addition to our community and it’s a lot bigger of a program than I even knew about, but we are tickled to death with it,” Boaz said.    

Gov. Bill Lee commended the Ayers Foundation Trust for their partnership and dedication to improving the economic prospects of rural Tennessee and helping communities succeed.  

“Rural Tennessee is something that really matters to me, and it has mattered since I came into office,” Lee said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I grew up in rural Tennessee and I know what happens in rural Tennessee matters to every Tennessean. We began investing in rural Tennessee as soon as we came in."   

The Ayers Scholars Program is a nationally-recognized, highly effective college access and counseling program now working in and delivering outsized results for students in 33 high schools across 21 rural Tennessee counties.   

“At the Ayers Foundation Trust, we are creating a rural revival in Tennessee,” said Janet Ayers, President of the Ayers Foundation Trust. “Over the last 24 years, we have been incredibly successful at getting our rural students to postsecondary and ensuring they have the support they need to graduate. But if there are not enough job opportunities in our hometowns, then many of those graduates are forced to leave to find a good paying job elsewhere and they may never come back. We are determined to change that.”   

Ayers Foundation Bill Lee
Gov. Bill Lee addresses the crowd at the dedication of the  Ayers Entrepreneur Center in Parsons and the launch of the foundation's Come Home Tennessee initiative. 

Building from a skilled talent pool of over 17,000 Ayers Scholars Alumni, Come Home Tennessee will actively work to recruit employers, businesses, and remote work opportunities to rural counties, connecting them directly with Ayers Scholars alumni and other Tennesseans.   

“Thanks to the incredible support of Gov. Bill Lee and the state legislature, we are now helping more rural communities than ever before in all three grand divisions of our state,” said Burton Williams, CEO of the Ayers Foundation Trust. “Come Home Tennessee takes our work to an even higher level by launching one of the largest workforce and economic development projects in the history of the state.”   

The Ayers Entrepreneur Center will support the Come Home Tennessee initiative in rural West Tennessee, with local partners already working out of the hub including the Decatur County Chamber of Commerce, a new TCAT Crump LPN program, Mendota Insurance, and L.I. Smith & Associates.    

“We are thrilled to see so many employers and partners already embracing the Ayers Entrepreneur Center,” said Shannon Haynes, Chief Prosperity Officer of the Ayers Foundation Trust. “We look forward to growing the economic impact of the center and hope it can be a model that can be replicated in other communities across the state.”