Spotlight: Connecting the Momentum Metrics to New Economic Opportunities in Tipton, TN

Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Briana Falduti
Senior Associate

Last year, Ford announced plans to build BlueOval City, a $5.6 billion mega campus that will produce next generation electric vehicles and batteries, in western Tennessee. The move will create 6,000 jobs in the region and has the potential to transform the local economy. Tipton County Schools, which neighbors the site of the new Ford campus, is working with ESG as part of the Momentum Metrics Network to identify data-driven strategies for improving the postsecondary preparation and success of high school students. We spoke with Marcus Heaston, Supervisor of Secondary Instruction, about the work Tipton County Schools (TCS) is doing to ensure its students are prepared for success in its evolving community.

What does the arrival of BlueOval City mean for the community that Tipton County Schools serves? What does it mean for how the school system plans to approach student preparation for life after high school?

The arrival of BlueOval City to our region provides our community with an opportunity to explore unprecedented economic development. Traditionally our region’s economy was primarily centered around agriculture and the school system; the arrival of BlueOval City will result in a shift from an agrarian-based economy to one that will be dependent on an innovative, skilled labor force that is embedded with STEAM concepts. As a result, there will be an increase in local tax revenue due to a growing population, an increase in wages, and a demand for community supports such as shopping centers, restaurants, and entertainment options to meet the demand of a community with increased disposable income.

Tipton County Schools will have to adjust quickly to ensure that we are providing the support and services needed for our students to be equipped to access opportunities and succeed in this competitive and highly skilled workforce.

As part of its participation in the Momentum Metrics Network, Tipton County Schools has chosen to focus on 9th grade on-track, FAFSA completion, and seamless enrollment. Can you tell us why those metrics are especially important for the district’s goals, particularly with respect to the new job opportunities that will soon be created in the region?

This partnership provides the district with resources and collaborative opportunities needed to support students, families, and school personnel in making the best informed decisions surrounding college and career options.

Ninth grade on-track and seamless enrollment were selected as our alpha and omega for the high school experience. It is our obligation to help students transition successfully and start high school strong, and also to support their ability to leave on a path toward self-sufficiency. Because the FAFSA is a leading indicator of successful transition, we selected that as our third metric. It is critical that students have access to the finances to afford a postsecondary credential if that is their path. These support BlueOval City because not only will we have Ford in our backyard, the influx of jobs and people there will mean that every industry will need to be able to respond to the new heightened demand, and we want Tipton County students to be in the middle of that uplift.

Tipton has placed a priority on engaging the broader community in this work. Why is this important to you, and how have you engaged the community to date?

Our strength is community engagement. To provide a highly skilled workforce and labor needed to meet the demands associated with BlueOval City investment, it is critical that TCS is focused on creating and sustaining a purposeful learning community that promotes awareness, accessibility, and creates action steps needed to make sure that not only our school-aged population is being prepared for these economic shifts; our adult population must be knowledgeable and prepared as well. We know we will only be successful if the community holds us accountable and is actively engaged in our school district’s success.

What has been most impactful from your engagement with the Momentum Metrics Network so far? What will this work mean for Tipton County Schools going forward?

We’ve valued the opportunity to collaborate and plan with other school districts and communities that face similar challenges associated with developing a highly skilled workforce embedded with the STEAM foundations needed to meet the demands of Tennessee’s emerging labor needs. It’s critical that Tipton County Schools strategically plan with a sense of urgency to enhance our curricular offerings and investments to successfully overcome those challenges. We seek to be a leading district in the state of Tennessee, attracting families to the region for our schools and sending out students to be successful because of the education we can provide.