Randy Boyd (Tennessee public figure)

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Randy Boyd
File:Boyd Photo.jpg
Born October 24, 1959 (age 57)
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
Residence Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Tennessee
Occupation Founder, Chairman of Radio Systems Corp.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jenny Boyd

Randy Boyd (born October 24, 1959) is an American businessman and philanthropist. Boyd founded Radio Systems Corporation[1] and owns Boyd Sports LLC, which owns the Tennessee Smokies, a minor league Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, and the Johnson City Cardinals, a rookie baseball team affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. Boyd previously served as Gov. Bill Haslam’s adviser on higher education and as the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development.

Born in Knoxville, TN, Boyd is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and the University of Oklahoma. After graduating from college, Boyd began his business career doing stateside and international sales for Fi-Shock, his father Tom Boyd’s electric fence manufacturing company.

In 1991, Boyd founded Radio Systems Corporation.[2] The company’s first product was an underground fence. Since then, Radio Systems Corporation has expanded into a privately held company, employing about 650 people with nearly $400 million in annual sales.

Beginning in 2006, Boyd began his effort to make Knoxville the most pet-friendly city in America. In 2008, Boyd met with then-Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale about building dog parks and passing pet-friendly legislation. During the meeting, Ragsdale persuaded Boyd to get involved with creating a new scholarship program for Knox County students. Boyd became instrumental to designing and building a higher education program called knoxAchieves, a last-dollar scholarship program for Knox County high school seniors enrolling in Pellissippi, Roane or Walters State community colleges. In 2011, the program was expanded across the state, and the name changed to tnAchieves. Since 2011, tnAchieves has helped more than 10,000 students enroll in community or technical colleges around the state.

In 2013, Boyd took a year-long leave of absence from Radio Systems Corporation to take on a voluntary role as Gov. Haslam’s special advisor on higher education. The result of that year of work was the Drive to 55 and the Tennessee Promise — making Tennessee the first state in the nation to support two years of community college or technical school, at no additional cost to taxpayers.

In 2015, Boyd was sworn in as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Boyd has attempted to recruit new businesses to Tennessee, increase Tennesseans’ access to higher education and promote the state’s overall economic growth.

As a philanthropist, Boyd has contributed to many causes, including the University of Tennessee and the University-Assisted Community Schools program at Pond Gap Elementary School in Knoxville, a program that extends the regular school day for students and offers them tutoring, help with homework, evening meals, health programs and more.

Boyd is also known for working with former Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale to make Knoxville one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country by promoting pet-friendly legislation and spay-and-neuter programs.

In 2014, the University of Tennessee named Boyd one of its distinguished alumni.[3]

On March 6, 2017, Boyd announced he plans to run for Governor of Tennessee in the 2018 Tennessee gubernatorial election.[4]

Early life, education, and business career

Boyd was born in 1959 in Knoxville, Tennessee the first child of Tom and Dale Boyd. Tom Boyd was the founder of Fi-Shock industries, an industry-leading electric fence manufacturer. When Boyd was 8, he started working at Fi-Shock, earning $1 an hour on his father’s assembly line.

By 16, Boyd had graduated from Doyle High School, and by 19 Boyd, a first-generation college student, had graduated with honors from the University of Tennessee with a degree in industrial management. Boyd had no scholarships; instead, he worked to pay his way through college, graduating with no debt. Boyd continued to work for Fi-Shock throughout high school and college. At 23, Boyd decided to start his own business, Storm Alert Company. With little demand for his tornado detection unit, Boyd opened Southern Agricultural Cooperative, Inc. (SACO) and began distributing Fi-Shock products on the road.

After a customer asked for the Invisible Fence, a wireless pet fence, Boyd inquired about carrying the product; however, the Invisible Fence company only sold to franchise dealers. With the company’s patent on the Invisible Fence set to expire in a year, Boyd bought one and spent his entire life savings of $26,000 to reverse-engineer it.

By 1991, Boyd’s newly founded Radio Systems Corporation began selling its own invisible fencing unit. Today, Radio Systems Corporation is a $370 million company and has introduced over 4,600 pet-related products under the brand names Invisible Fence, PetSafe and SportDOG.[5] Forbes Magazine has certified Radio Systems as a “Great Place to Work.”[6]

In 2013, Boyd took a year-long leave of absence from Radio Systems Corporation to become an unpaid consultant on higher education in Gov. Haslam’s administration. From January 2015 to January 2017, Boyd served in Gov. Haslam’s administration as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

KnoxAchieves and tnAchieves

KnoxAchieves, an early forerunner of tnAchieves, began as then-Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale’s vision that every student who finished high school in Knox County, regardless of the student’s financial situation, would be able to attend a community college or technical school. To help make his vision a reality, Ragsdale assembled a group of Knoxville business leaders, including Boyd, Tim Williams and Rich Ray, and his deputy chief of staff Krissy DeAlejandro.

Designed as a last-dollar scholarship program for Knox County high school seniors enrolling in Pellissippi State, Roane State or Walters State community colleges, knoxAchieves paired students with an adult mentor who encourages students and answers questions about the college application process.

Together, Boyd and the team launched knoxAchieves in 2008, and as an advocate for higher education, Boyd was a principal donor and served as board chairman of knoxAchieves.[7]

In 2011, after several successful years, knoxAchieves expanded beyond Knox County, eventually becoming known as tnAchieves. To help expand tnAchieves, Boyd took a leave of absence from Radio Systems Corporation in 2013 and volunteered as Gov. Haslam’s special advisor on higher education. Today, tnAchieves partners with Tennessee Promise in 85 of Tennessee’s 95 counties to provide higher education opportunities to Tennessee high school seniors.[8]

Support of Tennessee business

Boyd has supported small businesses beyond his own for many years.

Both he and his company, Radio Systems Corporation (brand names PetSafe, Invisible Fence, SportDOG) have supported the Junior Achievement of East Tennessee and “The Pet Experience” as a part of the JA BizTown Campus.[9]

Notably, for university students he founded the Boyd Venture Challenge at the University of Tennessee.[10] He donated $2,000,000 to create an endowment that provides grants to winners of a pitch competition every year, and he writes checks for the winners every year. The competition is open to any UT Knoxville student, regardless of academic discipline or degree program.

Boyd personally donated $50,000 to found the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, the front door for entrepreneurship in east Tennessee.

In 2011, Boyd joined the coalition of 76 businesses and trade associations that supported lobbying efforts to pass the tort reform bill in 2011 known as the Civil Justice Act of 2011.[11]

In 2016 Boyd supported the amicus briefs filed when the U.S. Supreme Court attempted to overturn one of the key Tennessee reforms supporting job growth and economic development.

Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

In 2015, Boyd was sworn in by Gov. Haslam as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.[12] In that role, Boyd has worked to attract new businesses, especially high-tech manufacturing companies, to Tennessee and create better alignment between education, workforce development, and business.

Since 2010, Tennessee has added more than 45,400 manufacturing jobs. According to a report by the Brookings Institution, Tennessee is ranked No. 1 in the country for job growth in advanced industry jobs,[13] growing at an average of 4.6 percent every year. As a result, it is projected that by 2025, 55 percent of jobs in the state will require a college degree or technical certificate. In 2013, the postsecondary educational attainment rate of working-age adults in Tennessee was 37.8 percent.[14] While still working as Gov. Haslam’s special advisor on higher education, Boyd and the governor created Drive to 55, an initiative that aims to raise attainment of postsecondary degrees among the state’s workforce to 55 percent by 2025. Since becoming commissioner, Boyd has continued to work to close the gap between Tennesseans with degrees and those without.

Drive to 55 is made up of three core components: Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee LEAP. Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect focus on enrolling different groups of potential college students; Tennessee Promise is designed to help high school seniors enroll in a community or technical college, and Tennessee Reconnect helps to re-engage adults with some college but no degree. Tennessee LEAP helps prepare community and technical colleges for the influx of the students from the other components of the Drive to 55 program.

The Haslam administration’s Drive to 55 supports its initiatives to attract businesses to Tennessee by ensuring that there is a trained and qualified workforce in the state. Ultimately for the Haslam administration, Drive to 55 is as much an economic development program as an educational one.

Drive to 55

Gov. Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative aims to equip 55% of adult Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025. The initiative aims to help students complete high school and earn a degree or certificate, and it also seeks to help adults with some college credit finish their degree or certificate.

While Drive to 55 is a wide-ranging postsecondary attainment initiative, the program places specific focus on three types of students:

Adult learners: adult Tennesseans with some education but no degree or certificate

Low income students: students at special risk of not enrolling in college or not graduating

Academically underprepared students: students who enter college without the academic skills and knowledge to be successful

Since initiating the Drive to 55 program, Tennessee has become No. 1 in the nation for federal student aid completion[15] and in the first two years of the program, outstanding student loan debt by Tennessee families fell by 23%.[16] This was accomplished by using the lottery reserve funds, creating no new taxes for Tennessee families.

Tennessee Promise

To help close the achievement gap among adult Tennesseans and move the state’s workforce closer to 55 percent postsecondary attainment, Gov. Haslam and Boyd created the Tennessee Promise. Tennessee Promise is based on Boyd’s knoxAchieves program, a last-dollar scholarship fund for high school seniors that was launched in 2008 and became tnAchieves in 2011.

As the first state in the country to offer two years of community or technical college tuition-free, Tennessee has led the country in making college more accessible for high school graduates. While the nation’s public college attendance rates decreased by 1.7 percent in 2015, Tennessee’s rate jumped 24 percent. The success of Tennessee Promise caught the attention of Washington, and it became the model for America’s College Promise.[17]

Tennessee Reconnect

To reach 55 percent postsecondary attainment by 2025, the Drive to 55 initiative Tennessee Reconnect seeks to re-engage Tennessee adults with some college but no degree. Under Tennessee Reconnect, all Tennessee adults can enroll at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology and earn a diploma or certificate tuition-free.[18]

Tennessee LEAP

As a result of Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, in 2015 Tennessee’s 13 community colleges saw a 6 percent jump, on average, in full-time student enrollment.[19] The third component of Drive to 55, the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP),[20] was designed to ensure that Tennessee’s community colleges and technical schools are producing degrees and certificates that Tennessee’s employers, specifically, are looking for.

The Governor’s Rural Task Force

Boyd served as a co-chair for the Governor’s Rural Task Force, a 120-member task force created in 2015 to address the unique challenges faced by Tennessee’s most rural areas, including health care, education and economic development. Out of 95 counties in the state, 17 are in the bottom 10 percent of the nation for household income.[21] In the fall of 2016, the task force presented its findings and recommendations to Gov. Haslam’s office, some of which require new legislation.

The Broadband Access Report

In 2015, then-Commissioner Boyd held listening sessions with people from across the state. Almost half of his conversations involved increasing broadband access. After an assessment of the state’s broadband infrastructure, Boyd’s department released a study that outlined their assessment of the state’s broadband access and how to improve its availability.[22] According to the report, 13% of Tennesseans don’t have access to broadband at the federal standard download speed of 25 megabytes per second.


In addition to his service as a member of the Haslam administration, Boyd is also a well-known philanthropist and has served on the board of numerous nonprofit and educational organizations committed to providing better opportunities for Tennessee’s youngsters.

Pond Gap Elementary School

To help build a strong educational foundation for children in Knoxville, Boyd got involved in the University of Tennessee’s community school program. Initially, Boyd planned to raise money for a new charter school in the area, but after meeting Dr. Bob Kronick of the University of Tennessee, he decided to focus on helping at-risk kids at Pond Gap Elementary School in Knoxville.[23]

The Pond Gap Full-Service School Initiative provides 3.5 hours of educational instruction and after-school enrichment activities. The program also serves dinner to 90 of the most at-risk students at the school. Not only did Boyd donate money to the program, he also visits the school to tutor students and participate in athletic activities. In 2012, the Boyds donated $450,000 to the community school program at Pond Gap.

Making Knoxville Pet-Friendly

After attending a 2006 charity tournament in Phoenix where a speaker suggested that Tennessee and other southeastern states were still backwaters in regard to animal welfare, Boyd returned to Knoxville, determined to change the culture of the city and promote it as the most pet-friendly city in the country.

With the help of then-Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, Boyd began the effort to build new dog parks, promote spay-and-neuter programs and support pet-friendly legislation, including a law that allows dogs on patios at restaurants.

In 2005, Boyd’s company PetSafe donated money for the construction of five new dog parks, including a one-acre park in downtown Knoxville.[24]

Boyd’s Radio Systems Corp. sponsors Knoxville’s Annual Mardi Growl festival, a parade themed around Mardi Gras. Dogs dress up in costume and march through Downtown Knoxville. Proceeds benefit the Young-Williams Animal Center.

Old City Revitalization

Boyd and his wife Jenny own large sections of Knoxville’s historic Old City. Jenny Boyd owns and manages the Boyd’s Jig & Reel. Opened in 2010, the traditional Scottish pub focuses on preserving and protecting Appalachia’s musical heritage. As part of the Old City’s continued development, the Boyds donated land for an urban garden for the downtown area. The Old City Gardens is a subscription-based vegetable and flower garden for Old City residents.[25]

In 2016, Boyd purchased the 6.9-acre Knox Rail Salvage property in Knoxville’s Old City for $6 million. Though Boyd has stated that he has no definitive plans for the property,[26] some hope that Boyd will move the Smokies baseball team out of Sevierville and back to Knoxville. The Smokies moved out of Knoxville in 2001, and their lease in Sevierville ends March 15, 2025.[27]

The University of Tennessee

In 2016, Boyd and his wife Jenny donated $5.5 million to the University of Tennessee Track & Field program,[28] a gift that will fund Phase Two of the program’s renovations at LaPorte Stadium. Phase Two includes the creation of the Boyd Family Track & Field Center and a new press box for the Tom Black Track.

For years, the Boyds have been leadership donors to the University of Tennessee. The Boyd Center for Business & Economic Research in the Haslam College of Business is named in their honor.

East Tennessee History Day Business and Technology Scholarship

Every year, the Boyds donate to the Jenny and Randy Boyd East Tennessee Business and Technology Scholarship, a scholarship that focuses on students conducting primary source research.

Personal life

The Boyds were married in March 1986 at Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, and they have been members of Erin Presbyterian for over 30 years. Boyd has spoken openly about his faith.

The Boy Scouts have played a pivotal role in shaping Boyd’s life. Boyd grew up scouting attaining the rank of Life. With his own boys he was active in the scouts, founding Knoxville Troop 757 and was its Scoutmaster for 7 years, helping over 10 boys earn their Eagle.

Years ago, Boyd and Tracy Thompson created the “All DownHill Gang,” a group of hikers who still meet on occasion and hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee.

Supporting Republicans

While never elected to public office himself, Boyd has supported Republicans for statewide and national races, including GOP presidential nominees. Public records indicate that the Randy and Jenny Boyd have personally contributed more than $500,000 to Republican candidates and causes in the last decade.

In 2002, Boyd served as the Knox County Finance Chair for U.S. Senate Candidate Ed Bryant. In 2012, he joined President Trump’s nominee to serve as Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, in Co-Chairing Mitt Romney’s Tennessee election efforts.

Board memberships

Over the course of his professional career, Boyd has been on several corporate, non-profit, education and government boards.

Corporate Boards


  • Clayton Bank, Corp., a Knoxville-based community bank


  • EDP BioTech, a bio-science company doing cancer and DNA research
  • Chairman, Radio Systems Corp.

Community Non-Profit Boards



Education-Related Boards




Government-Related Boards

  • Chairman, LaunchTN
  • Chairman, Governor’s Workforce Sub-Cabinet
  • Chairman, Aviation Task Force
  • Co-Chair, Rural Task Force


  • 2017: Great Smoky Mountain Council’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year[29]
  • 2016: Red Cross of Chattanooga’s Humanitarian of the Year Award[30]
  • 2015: Knoxvillian of the Year Award
  • 2014: Pinnacle’s James A. Haslam, II Leadership Award, University of Tennessee Alumni of the Year
  • 2009: University of Tennessee’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Tennessee Business Magazine’s CEO of the Year
  • 2008: Junior Achievement’s East Tennessee Hall of Fame Inductee, Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southeast



  1. "Radio System Corporation™ - Randy Boyd | Board of Directors" (in en). http://www.radiosystemscorporation.com/leadership/randy-boyd. 
  2. "Radio System Corporation™ - Randy Boyd | Board of Directors" (in en). http://www.radiosystemscorporation.com/leadership/randy-boyd. 
  3. "Alumni - Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna" (in en). http://alumni.utk.edu/s/1341/utk/index.aspx?sid=1341&gid=2&pgid=3459. 
  4. staff, WATE 6 On Your Side (2017-03-06). "Randy Boyd announces plans to run for Tennessee governor". http://wate.com/2017/03/06/randy-boyd-announces-plans-to-run-for-tennessee-governor/. 
  5. "Radio System Corporation™ - History of Radio Systems" (in en). http://www.radiosystemscorporation.com/history. 
  6. "Radio Systems Corporation" (in en). http://reviews.greatplacetowork.com/radio-systems-corporation. 
  7. Gibson, Mike (2015-04-01). "Who Is Randy Boyd? Knoxville’s Least-Known Animal-Loving Multi-Millionaire Business Magnate Philanthropist.". http://www.knoxmercury.com/2015/04/01/who-is-randy-boyd-knoxvilles-least-known-animal-loving-multi-millionaire-business-magnate-philanthropist/. 
  8. "About Us" (in en). https://tnachieves.org/about-us/. 
  9. "JA BizTown® Shops – Junior Achievement" (in en-US). http://www.jaeasttennessee.org/biztown/shops/. 
  10. "Boyd Venture Challenge | Anderson Center" (in en). http://andersoncei.utk.edu/competitions/boyd-venture-challenge.asp. 
  11. "Governor Signs TN 'Civil Justice Act'". 2011-06-16. http://tnreport.com/2011/06/16/governor-signs-tn-civil-justice-act/. 
  12. "Randy Boyd named Tennessee's head job recruiter". timesfreepress.com. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2014/dec/19/boyd-named-states-head-job-recruiter/278904/. 
  13. "Tennessee is Top State in US for Advanced Industry Job Growth, Brookings Institution Report Finds". http://www.tnecd.com/news/328/tennessee-is-top-state-in-us-for-advanced-industry-job-growth-brookings-institution-report-finds/. 
  14. Tennessee Higher Education Commission. "Postsecondary Attainment in the Decade of Decision: The Master Plan for Tennessee Postsecondary Education 2015-2025". https://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/thec/attachments/MasterPlan2025.pdf. 
  15. "On College Signing Day, A Look at FAFSA Completion Rates" (in en-US). Ahead of the Heard. 2015-05-01. http://aheadoftheheard.org/on-college-signing-day-a-look-at-fafsa-completion-rates/. 
  16. "tnAchieves Statewide Update: Class of 2015". https://tnachieves.org/lib/file/manager/2016tnAchieves.pdf. 
  17. Mitchell, Ted. "America’s College Promise: A Ticket to the Middle Class". America’s College Promise: A Ticket to the Middle Class. https://blog.ed.gov/2015/01/americas-college-promise-a-ticket-to-the-middle-class/. 
  18. "TNReconnect.gov" (in en-US). https://tnreconnect.gov/. 
  19. "College Enrollment Jumps Under TN Promise" (in en-US). Drive to 55 Tennessee. 2015-09-16. http://driveto55.org/college-enrollment-jumps-under-tn-promise/. 
  20. "Tennessee LEAP" (in en-US). Drive to 55 Tennessee. 2014-08-06. http://driveto55.org/initiatives/tennessee-leap/. 
  21. "Rural task force focuses on health, entrepreneurship" (in en). USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/money/business/2016/10/12/rural-task-force-focuses-health-entrepreneurship/91939472/. 
  22. "Report: More than 800,000 lack broadband access in Tennessee" (in en). The Tennessean. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2016/07/20/report-more-than-800000-lack-broadband-access-tennessee/87358932/. 
  23. "Local businessman Randy Boyd committed to Pond Gap school" (in en). http://archive.knoxnews.com/news/local/local-businessman-randy-boyd-committed-to-pond-gap-school-ep-360799472-356988621.html. 
  24. "Dog Parks - City of Knoxville" (in en-US). http://www.knoxvilletn.gov/government/city_departments_offices/parks_and_recreation/parks/dog_parks. 
  25. TEGNA. "Urban gardening coming to Knoxville's Old City" (in en-US). WBIR. http://www.wbir.com/news/local/urban-gardening-coming-to-knoxvilles-old-city/114162369. 
  26. Staff, WVLT. "Randy Boyd: No plans in place for Knox Rail Salvage purchase" (in en). http://www.local8now.com/content/news/Smokies-owner-buys-Knox-Rail-Salvage-property-on-Jackson-Ave-392488681.html. 
  27. "Emails: Boyd would wait until ‘last year or two’ of Smokies lease before moving team" (in en). http://archive.knoxnews.com/news/local/possibility-of-baseball-returning-to-knoxville-discussed-for-2-years-emails-show-3c791332-4b40-5689--393449661.html. 
  28. "Randy & Jenny Boyd Provide Lead Gift for New T&F Center". http://www.utsports.com/sports/c-xctrack/spec-rel/101416aab.html. 
  29. "Randy Boyd Distinguished Citizen 2017". http://www.bsa-gsmc.org/document/east-tennessee-scouter-january-2017-edition/169481. 
  30. "Red Cross Honors Local Heroes At CHI Memorial Luncheon". http://www.chattanoogan.com/2016/10/3/333259/Red-Cross-Honors-Local-Heroes-At-CHI.aspx.