By Susan Robertson
“We need to explore ways to achieve effective statewide delivery of the university’s full resources, expertise, and competencies to the business and governmental sectors of our state and to ensure constant statewide promotion and encouragement of research and service within the university system.”
—Dr. Edward J. Boling, UT president emeritus, to 1971 meeting of the UT Board of Trustees
What then-president Ed Boling had in mind when he made that statement to the UT Board of Trustees in 1971 was a university-based institute to work with local governments and industries. The board liked the idea, and at a specially called meeting in August 1971, it voted to establish the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service. The new institute that would fulfill UT’s land-grant mission of extending the university to the people of -Tennessee was ratified by the General Assembly in 1974.
Forty years out, it appears Boling and others who envisioned the university consulting and training all over Tennessee were onto something. Last year, IPS answered more than 28,000 requests for assistance, trained more than 18,000 people, and had an economic impact of $426 million on the state.
UT’s public service vice-president Mary Jinks says IPS may have exceeded all reasonable expectations.
“I don’t know if anybody really thought the institute would become as big as it is today,” says Jinks (Knoxville ’81, ’83, ’04). Five agencies (see sidebar) consult and train throughout the state.
The agencies get right down in the trenches, taking knowledge from university classrooms and labs and using it to solve problems and enhance performance. For example, a Davidson County manufacturer recently asked the Center for Industrial Services for help with evaluating its ventilation system and making improvements. The company is located in an old building without air-conditioning, and the uncomfortable working conditions were contributing to high employee absenteeism and turnover. CIS contacted UT architecture professor Richard Kelso to consult on the project.
Kelso reviewed the ventilation system and suggested the manufacturer build an enclosure around the boiler that supplied water to run the line of equipment. After the company made that improvement, heat from the boiler was contained mostly in the equipment room rather than flowing to employee work areas. Ventilation fans and vents were added to optimize airflow. The company said the suggestions helped lower its energy bills, retain employees, and make the workers more productive. As a result, the manufacturer was able to remain competitive in bidding for projects and retain sales of $21 million.
“In today’s manufacturing environment, any cost savings allows our company to compete better in very aggressive markets,” a spokesman for the company said. “The savings from this project helped us in retaining sales during a very aggressive bid process.”
IPS helps governments as well. Trousdale County, for one, called on the County Technical Assistance Center to help it coordinate an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant application for a $100,000 energy efficiency loan.
With the application deadline looming, the county needed an energy audit but couldn’t find anyone to complete the work before the deadline. The CTAS consultant contacted the Center for Industrial Services, which immediately sent a consultant to Hartsville to do the audit. The county ended up receiving the grant and used the funds for a new HVAC system, more efficient lighting, and a tankless water heater at the county jail and for retrofitting lights for a school gymnasium.
“IPS has a presence in all ninety-five counties and 346 cities in Tennessee,” Jinks said. “For forty years, we’ve been fortunate to have a staff of hard-working and dedicated employees, and I’m confident that will continue over the next forty years and beyond.”
The Five Agencies of IPS
Center for Industrial Services
Helps Tennessee’s manufacturers become more productive, profitable, and competitive
County Technical Assistance Service
Promotes better county government through direct assistance to county officials and their associations
Municipal Technical Advisory Service
Provides technical assistance to cities and towns across the state—their governing bodies, mayors, city managers, city recorders, and city department heads
Law Enforcement Innovation Center
Provides innovative and technology-based training and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies and communities
Naifeh Center for Effective Leadership
Provides training and professional development for public leaders in areas such as team building, ethics, and customer service