GROWWTH - In the News


December 2022 - A Community partnership led by the University of Memphis has produced the largest grant in UofM history.

In May, the Growing Relational and Occupational Wealth for West Tennessee Households (GROWWTH) proposal received a $25 million Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative Implementation Grant. The Tennessee Department of Human Services Families First Community Advisory Board awarded the grant. 

GROWWTH was one of seven awardees selected from 17 finalists and an original pool of more than 80 statewide applicants. The grants are designed to move families from a temporary safety net of benefits to self-sufficiency and economic mobility. 

GROWWTH’s efforts will be highly collaborative. Led by the Center for Regional Economic Enrichment, a variety of units within the University will work with a network of three regional workforce boards, the Greater Memphis Chamber and a group of community organizations and local business. 

“I want to congratulate the GROWWTH project leaders who worked to secure this historic grant,” said UofM President Bill Hardgrave. “This is a testament to the ability of departments across our University and partners in our region to work together and create upward economic opportunities for West Tennessee families. We greatly appreciate the Department of Human Services for recognizing GROWWTH as a worthy recipient of such a highly competitive grant.” 

The funding will allow GROWWTH to work toward its goal of eliminating key barriers to self-sufficiency for low-income wage earners in a 21-county West Tennessee region. GROWWTH has developed plans to improve family access to needed resources for economic mobility, implement a holistic approach to improving the personal and professional well-being of families, strengthen the existing system through partner resources and inspire families to appreciate the value of growth and lifelong learning. 

The counties within the target region include Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, McNairy, Obion, Shelby, Tipton and Weakley. 

Additionally, GROWWTH will address labor-force challenges experienced by existing regional employers and prepare for the evolving workforce demand of Ford’s Blue Oval City, which will create approximately 6,000 jobs in Stanton, Tennessee. 

The goal is to serve 2,500 low-income households in West Tennessee during the three-year funding period. The resulting outcome would yield a net benefit of an estimated $850 million over the next 10 years, including a boost to the gross domestic product and a savings of $330 million from reduced social safety net spending. 

“The GROWWTH team and its partners are anxious to work with the Tennessee Department of Human Services on enhancing the self-sufficiency and economic mobility of low-income West Tennesseans and addressing the region’s workforce needs,” said Dr. Richard L. Irwin, GROWWTH principal investigator and executive dean for UofM Global, the Center for Regional Economic Enrichment and College of Professional and Liberal Studies. 

Plans also include the GROWWTH Academy — an accelerated workforce readiness program designed in direct response to the needs of local businesses and the target population. The innovative curriculum of the Academy will address preparation for stable employment and employer readiness for offering sustainable career pathways. Businesses throughout the region have committed to hiring Academy graduates. 

A special feature of GROWWTH is the selection, coaching and nurturing of West Tennessee microbusinesses, which is of great importance to the local economy. The three-month microbusiness module focuses on empowering participants to combine their existing skills and knowledge with business competencies and resources. 

“I believe our GROWWTH project, with its collaborative design, is set up to eliminate the pre-existing barriers to sustainable self-sufficiency,” said Keusi Donald, executive director of Economic Opportunities Memphis, a GROWWTH community partner. “Our aim is to see a transformation that will ultimately create bridges to never-ending pathways, giving low-income families access to living-wage employment and improved quality of life.” 

RECORD-SETTING GROWWTH, page 12 - University of Memphis Magazine | President's Report 2022



What: Tennessee Department of Human Services Commissioner Clarence H. Carter recognizing the University of Memphis-led community partnership receiving a UofM record $25 million Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative (TOPI) Implementation Grant for its Growing Relational and Generational Wealth for West Tennessee Households (GROWWTH) proposal.

The TDHS vision of moving Tennessee families with economic, social and developmental vulnerabilities beyond their current circumstances and on to self-sufficiency requires unique approaches in the use of Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF) grant funds. As one of seven multi-million dollar pilot initiatives selected in the state, the University of Memphis’ role as  a research institution and community conduit, positions it for a study in innovation.

When: Monday, July 18, 2 p.m.

Where: Wilder Tower 12th Floor on the UofM campus
              3675 Alumni Ave. and Patterson Street

Who: Clarence H. Carter, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Human Services
             Dr. Richard L. Irwin, Executive Dean, UofM Global, College of Professional & Liberal Studies and
                                                Center for Regional Economic Enrichment
            Keusi Donald, Executive Director, Economic Opportunities

Parking: Complimentary parking lot next to Wilder Tower on Patterson Street


$25 Million Grant for GROWWTH Largest in UofM History
University of Memphis - May 5, 2022

$175 Million in TANF Funds Awarded to Seven Groups Across the State for 3-Year Pilot Initiatives
Tennessee Department of Human Services - May 5, 2022

New UofM program looks to alleviate poverty in West Tennessee households
WMC Action News 5 - January 24, 2022