Regional economic development effort underway

Hank Hayes • Mar 15, 2020 at 12:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Talks are underway to create a new approach to promote regional economic development.

Elected officials on the First Tennessee Development District board met recently in Greene County for an all-day retreat to discuss developing a proposal.

“I would say the highlight of it was to discuss a structure for a regional organization,” Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said. “We don’t have a plan to move forward, but we do have the people in the room. We’re not moving at breakneck speed and we don’t intend to.

“There’s been some criticism, but government is awfully kind of slow. It’s important that we get it right instead of fast.”

One plan is to use the First Tennessee Development District Foundation — which can receive private funds — as the regional entity.

A group of a half-dozen elected officials are working on a proposal, but many things need to be worked out, like how NETWORKS and the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NETrep) would fit into the plan.

“We’re trying to get the two boards together to move forward. We haven’t gotten there yet,” said NETWORKS Chairman Bill Sumner.

Venable also pointed out that elected officials, private individuals, state and federal officials and educational institutions all would need a stake in the venture.

“Economic development does a lot of things: tourism, workforce development, entrepreneurship, more than just industrial recruitment,” Venable stressed.

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