December 4, 2013
Temporary Ramp Closures Postponed on Interstate 40 and 240 in Shelby County
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will postpone the temporary lane closures scheduled for December 7 and 8, 2013 due to the inclement weather predicted for the weekend. Temporary lane closure dates and times are rescheduled as listed below:
Saturday, December 14, 2013 from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. – The 12C exit ramp on I-40 East (from Covington Pike to I-40 east) will be closed for ramp work. A detour will be posted. Motorists will be detoured through the Walnut Grove interchange back to I-40 East.
Sunday, December 15, 2013 from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. – The left lane of the 12C exit ramp on I-240 East (from Walnut Grove to I-40 East) will be closed for grinding and installation of pavement markers. Upon completion, the left lane will open and the right lane will close for grinding and installation of pavement markers.
The work is weather dependent. Should inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances prevent this work from occurring as scheduled, it will be rescheduled.
TDOT will use message boards to direct motorists around the detour route. The Tennessee Highway Patrol and TDOT HELP trucks will also be on site to assist with traffic.
For travel and TDOT construction information, visit the TDOT SmartWay web site at www.tn.gov/tdot/tdotsmartway/ or download the new TDOT SmartWay mobile app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for Android. Travelers can also dial 511 from any land-line or cellular phone for travel information or can follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TN511 for statewide travel information. Drivers are reminded to use all motorist information tools responsibly. Drivers should refrain from texting, tweeting or using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle. TDOT advises drivers to “Know before you go!” by checking traffic conditions before leaving for your destination.
Remarks Upon the Dedication of the Winfield Dunn Parkway at Collierville, Tn.
Nov. 22, 2013
Thank you all for joining with us in this celebration.
I’d like to do 2 things here this morning. First, I want to thank Governor Winfield Dunn for agreeing to allow us to recognize his service to Shelby County, the State of Tennessee, and our nation by affixing his name to this last segment of State Route 385.
Winfield Dunn is synonymous with that same sense of unity and community symbolized by this roadway. Our 43rd Governor, it had been 50 years since Tennessee had elected a Republican Governor when he won the race in 1970. Despite the partisan victory, he worked hard to unify the state in many ways. Notably for today’s purposes, he increased highway construction and created the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Which brings me to my second point. My working file on this project dates back to 1995 when I was a Shelby County Commissioner. This stretch of SR 385 was originally to be called the Collierville-Arlington Parkway for obvious geographic reasons. But there’s a metaphorical tie — and that is economic development. It is fitting that we dedicate this road during this week when history has been made in another way. Both Collierville and Arlington and others have negotiated the birth of new opportunities in education in our county. With the solidification of sound and strong school systems throughout Shelby County, SR 385 can be a pathway to prosperity for the entire community. To be certain, it can be something less. But it is now for Memphis and all of Shelby County to compete freely amongst the counties of West Tennessee for the abundance which follows the completion of this project.
We are the county of good abode, and our future is bright, and your presence here today signifies all that is good about the prospects for our future together. In the spirit of Winfield Dunn, we dedicate this road to that certain sense of unity and community.
Thank you very much.
November 21, 2013
SR 385 in Shelby and Fayette Counties to Open
Memphis, Tenn. – Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer will join former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn as well as state and local officials in Collierville, Tennessee on Friday, November 22, 2013 to celebrate the completion of the last segment of SR 385.
The $74 million project started in November 2009 and is the final segment of the nearly 50 mile highway that stretches through Fayette and Shelby Counties. During Friday’s ceremony, the final segment of SR 385 will also be officially designated as Governor Winfield Dunn Parkway.
Friday’s event will begin at 10:00 a.m. CDT at Collierville’s Town Hall. Due to the inclement weather forecasted, the entire event will be held indoors.
*Special Note: SR 385 will officially open to traffic at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, November 22, 2013.
TDOT Commissioner John Schroer
Governor Winfield Dunn
Senator Mark Norris
Senator Dolores Gresham
Representative Barrett Rich
Representative Curry Todd
SR 385 Grand Opening Ceremony
November 22, 2013
Collierville Town Hall
500 Poplar View Parkway
Editorial: Mark Norris’ proposal is another way to help veterans thrive in civilian life
November 13, 2013
Veterans Day has passed, but still in sharp focus are the questions about how to deal with the physical, mental and quality-of-life issues afflicting vets.
In Tennessee, state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, has drafted a bill that would make the state’s public colleges and universities more veteran-friendly, starting by authorizing in-state tuition for veterans moving to Tennessee.
In commemorating Veterans Day on Monday, President Barack Obama pledged to honor the nation’s commitment to its veterans by improving health care, job support and educational opportunities for those who have served in the military.
The president’s comments reiterated statements made by previous presidents, current and former members of Congress and state legislators, but it seems that the services offered veterans have not kept pace with the “we support veterans” proclamations.
In a Viewpoint commentary in The Commercial Appeal on Tuesday, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times surmised that the Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to use an outdated 20th century model to deal with 21st century problems.
The biggest breakdown, veterans say, is in the delivery of medical and mental health services, where doctors are swamped dealing not only with the aging vets of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, but also the younger veterans of more recent Middle East conflicts. The VA also is way behind on processing veterans’ disability applications.
Members of veterans advocacy groups maintain the problems latter-day veterans face in civilian life are no greater than the issues encountered by veterans of Vietnam, Korea and World War II, especially those who served in prolonged combat deployments. The news media, thanks to advocacy groups, are shedding more light on veterans’ issues and how the VA is responding to them.
Constant exposure to life-threatening situations and the horrors of combat can leave lasting mental trauma — known as post-traumatic stress disorder — that some veterans cope with better than others.
Norris’ proposal, if it passes in the General Assembly, would be one step to help veterans succeed as civilians by making college more affordable and also would reward colleges that come up with ways to better serve veterans.
And nationally, lawmakers, military and VA officials need to better collaborate to find the resources to cut through the red-tape and lack-of-personnel issues that are delaying the delivery of key services to veterans.
Tennessee bill for veterans proposes in-state tuition, other help
By Jane Roberts, CommercialAppeal.com
November 11, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris has drafted a bill that would make Tennessee public colleges and universities more veteran-friendly, starting with in-state tuition for vets moving to Tennessee.
“We have what I call a benefits gap when it comes to men and women returning from service,” said Norris, R-Collierville. “The G.I. Bill benefits package only pays cost of in-state tuition. Under Tennessee law, if you relocate to Tennessee, you have to wait a year before you qualify.
“This is intended to plug that gap if you relocate to Tennessee within 24 months of being discharged.”
Veterans would then have a year to establish residency and show proof with a driver’s license, motor vehicle registration, pay stub or by registering to vote.
House Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, is co-sponsor. The House and Senate bills would establish the Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act, funneling resources to help vets meet their educational goals here.
The Act would also create a VETS Campus designation for colleges taking concrete steps to better serve veterans. Schools could earn the designation by offering orientation programs specifically for vets, outreach programs or by working with staff to improve awareness of issues specific to veterans.
“The designation tells prospective students who are veterans that the school has a network of resources available that they can relate to and need,” Norris said. “At these campuses, veterans would know there are others like them. With what they have gone through, it sometimes helps to know there are others with similar experiences.”
Norris worked with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to craft the bill.
“I commend the Senate Majority Leader on this piece of legislation,” said Cato Johnson, THEC board president. “It is extremely important and extremely timely, and I know he has spent a great deal of time working with Rich Rodda (THEC executive director) and the staff as it relates to this legislation.”
Norris is chairman of the newly formed veterans subcommittee, part of the House and Senate state and local government committee. He is also on the state workforce development board of directors.
“One of the issues I have been working on is postsecondary education as it relates to workforce training and development,” Norris said. “These issues are related.”
By helping veterans connect quickly with colleges and other postsecondary options, the state can benefit from veterans’ life experiences, including training they learned in the military, he said.
Johnson, who has worked with Norris on other pieces of veteran-related legislation, represents constituents around Fort Campbell, the Army base which strides the Tennessee-Kentucky border. It is the home of the 101st Airborne Division and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Lawmakers introduce bill that would lower tuition for some discharged veterans
November 9, 2013
State lawmakers filed a bill on Friday that would offer in-state tuition to all veterans attending public colleges and universities in Tennessee.
The legislation, titled the Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act, would allow veterans moving to Tennessee and discharged within a two-year period to enroll at schools as in-state students without having to wait to estabish official residency.
The bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and House Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, would allow create a “VETS campus” designation for Tennessee schools who focus on enrolling veterans there.
“The VETS Act ensures that veterans have a clear, easy pathway to attend college in Tennessee,” Norris said. “As a state, we want to recognize and assist those soldiers who are coming home and exploring their education options.”
The bill will be considered by the state legislature when it reconvenes in January.
Improving Education a Key Theme at ECD Convention
By Michelle Willard, TNReport.com
October 7, 2013
Tennessee needs to develop a more skilled workforce to attract the jobs of the future, Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday at the 60th annual Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development conference.
“Only 32 percent of Tennesseans have a two-year, four-year degree or technical certificate,” Haslam said. “That means a whole lot of jobs are going somewhere else.”
To bring those jobs here, the governor lauded his “Drive to 55” initiative, which aims to encourage Tennesseans to pursue advanced education after high school.
“A lack of training beyond high school limits opportunities,” he said.
Tennessee is projected needed 55 percent of its workforce trained beyond high school to attract and retain jobs by 2025. If the state stays on track, it will only have 39 percent with a certificate or degree beyond high school in 2025.
To accomplish this, the state as a whole has to change expectations for what comes after high school and help the 940,000 adult Tennesseans who have some college credit but didn’t graduate with an advanced degree.
For this part of the equation, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris championed the Labor Education Alignment Program last session. LEAP aims to meet the demands of employers’ rising skill requirements by allowing adults to transfer technical training to four-year degrees.
“LEAP provides the pathways we need to enable Tennesseans to work, earn and learn,” Norris said.
The program was recognized Friday by a report from the Brookings Institutions’ Advanced Industries Series for meeting the demands of employers’ rising skill requirements.
“Brookings confirms this and suggests strategies to implement action between the public and private sectors designed to maintain competitiveness and move Tennessee forward,” the Collierville Republican said.
In his speech Friday, Haslam said public and private partnerships are exactly why businesses are coming to Tennessee.
The public and private sectors have worked together over the years to create excellent infrastructure and raise the quality of life in the state, he said. Both have also invested heavily in education.
State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, agreed, pointing to the state-funded technical education center that is being built in Smyrna. The $38 million education center is a joint venture by the Tennessee Technology Center in Murfreesboro and Nissan.
“This is the largest investment in Smyrna since Nissan opened,” Sparks said, adding the tech center will provide training on maintaining high-tech manufacturing equipment like robots and other computer-controlled processes.
“We want to be the best location in the Southeast for quality jobs,” Haslam said, which means tech centers need to focus on emerging sectors of the economy.
The Smyrna tech center is doing just that, Sparks said, by teaching skills that can be used at area manufacturing facilities like Nissan, Bridgestone and General Mills and distribution facilities like the ones opened by Amazon.
“We have a lot going for us right now,” Haslam said.
Gathering Targets Region’s Workforce Development
By Bill Dries, MemphisDailyNews.com
September 4, 2013
When state officials gather at The University of Memphis University Center Wednesday, Sept. 4, to talk about workforce training, it won’t be with a check in hand to lead the effort.
State Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, who organized the 8:30 a.m. to noon session, wants state labor commissioner Burns Phillips and others from Nashville to listen to details of the training programs local business and higher education leaders have cobbled together over the last three years.
The goal of the Conversation About Work gathering is to begin to put that response on a more permanent footing, with the hope that such a response will be another incentive for businesses looking to relocate or expand in the Memphis area.
“It is sort of all getting on the same wavelength so we can say what, if anything, can we do to help,” Norris said.
So Phillips and other state leaders will hear about programs like the Assisi Foundation of Memphis’ use of the Bridges Out of Poverty concept. It is a comprehensive approach to poverty that has the ambitious goal of changing the circumstances and conditions of poverty.
They will also hear about specific training programs at Southwest Tennessee Community College that were the immediate response to the first pool of job applicants at Blues City Brewing and Electrolux.
Executives at both plants said the pool yielded too few qualified and trainable workers. That set in motion the local effort to find workers in Memphis who could be trained or had manufacturing experience who would also be better suited.
The effort put employers in the classrooms to not only teach but also to get a look at prospective employees to see directly a more specific pool of job seekers.
The University of Memphis is also involved, with interim president Brad Martin setting a goal of 10-year workforce development plans with the top 30 employers in the region.
Martin’s vision is workforce development that leads to bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as certificates of training and associate degrees.
The goal underlies the drive to make such training more comprehensive than a specific skill for a specific job.
For Norris, the Wednesday session had its origins in an exchange he saw a year ago in Memphis during a roundtable with business and higher education leaders chaired by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Among the business leaders was Larry Gibson, plant manager at the Unilever facility in Covington, Tenn.
“We are really desperate for technical skills – people who understand human-machine interface and how to run an automatic packaging line,” Gibson said. “There’s something that goes back to the fundamentals of education. You have to know how to do math. It’s not like technology is leaping forward. It’s creeping forward.”
Gibson’s point was confirmed in a more recent Greater Memphis Chamber-Workforce Investment Network survey of manufacturers in the region, many of whom said they were unaware of workforce training programs offered by higher education institutions.
Gibson’s comments drew an immediate response from Southwest Tennessee Community College leaders at the same session and led to a training program specifically for Unilever.
At the same session, other business leaders told Haslam they are looking more for critical thinking skills and adaptability in the workforces they will employ in the future than the ability to perform a specific task.