Regional economic partnership being formed
Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 9:05 pm
By: Kevin Bowden, Staff Reporter
By KEVIN BOWDEN
A new economic development partnership has been formed, uniting the five-county region of northwest Tennessee and southwest Kentucky.
The Ken-Tenn Regional Alliance met for several hours Tuesday at Fulton City Hall in an ongoing attempt to get the organization off the ground.
Among those from Obion County who attended the Fulton meeting were Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire, Lindsay Frilling with the Obion County Chamber of Commerce, concerned citizen Judy Barker and Marcia Miller with the Reelfoot Lake Chamber of Commerce.
In all, the meeting was attended by a group of about 20 city and county officials, and economic development officials from across the region.
The new alliance represents Obion, Weakley and Lake counties in Tennessee and Fulton and Hickman counties in Kentucky.
At this point, it is obvious the pilot project is in the early stages of getting organized. Already, the alliance has funding commitments from each of the five counties. From Obion County, $10,000 has been committed from the County Commission and an additional $10,000 has been committed from the Obion County Chamber of Commerce. That $20,000 is being matched with another $20,000 USDA grant that was recently announced.
The USDA grant is being managed by the local chamber.
For its part in the Ken-Tenn Regional Alliance, Obion County represents the largest contributor to the alliance in terms of funding.
It is the stated goal of the new alliance to develop a strategy for attracting, keeping and growing small businesses in the region.
The timing of the formation of the new alliance couldn’t be more significant in light of last week’s announcement by Goodyear that it will be shutting down the local tire plant by the end of this year.
The impact of that announcement has been felt by the entire region.
A recently released document from the Northwest Tennessee Development District shows that of the workers at the Goodyear plant, 934 are from Obion County. Weakley County follows closely behind with 384 workers, and the list of counties continues on to include 11 counties in Tennessee and nine counties in Kentucky. There are also three workers from Missouri and one from Alabama, according to the report.
The breakdown of workers and their counties includes:
Gibson County, 146 associates; Dyer County, 72; Carroll County, 29; Henry County, 23; Lake County, 22; Madison County, six; Crockett County, four; Benton County, two; Hardeman County, two; Montgomery County, two; and Lauderdale County, one.
The total number of Goodyear workers from Tennessee is 1,627, according to the document.
In Kentucky, the breakdown is as follows:
Graves County, 142 associates; Fulton County, 121; Hickman County, 35; Carlisle County, 21; Calloway County, 12; McCracken County, 11; Marshall County, eight; Hopkins County, three; and Mason County, one.
The total number of Goodyear workers from Kentucky is 354, according to the report.
Monday’s meeting in Fulton was dominated by the Kentucky officials. The alliance is chaired by Fulton County Judge/Executive David Gallagher.
The morning meeting was led by Dr. Allison Davis with the University of Kentucky.
“I think this is a very timely project considering the circumstances in the area,” she said during her opening remarks Tuesday.
As the grant writer who put together the details of the project, Dr. Davis described the alliance as a “sustainable community project” that involves three federal agencies — the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and Housing and Urban Development.
Members of the alliance spent most of the morning session going over broad details involved in getting the alliance organized.
A key element involved in getting the organization moving will be the hiring of a project coordinator. A committee was appointed to come up with a job outline for that position and a salary.
The proposed salary included in 11 pages of handouts — $37,500 a year — was unanimously criticized as being far too low.
“If you’re going to get somebody qualified to lead this program, it’s too low,” Martin Mayor Randy Brundige said.
The ad-hoc committee is expected to come up with a higher salary amount to recommend to the alliance.
It was agreed during Tuesday’s meeting to hold a public meeting starting at 1 p.m. March 14 at the Pontotoc Community Center in Fulton.
Also, the group decided to hold a planning retreat June 14-15 at Reelfoot Lake to consider setting goals and objectives for the alliance.
Details about both meetings are expected to be released at later dates.
There appeared to be no urgency among those at the meeting to put the alliance on a fast track in reaction to last week’s Goodyear announcement. Dr. Davis said the alliance will focus on long-term strategies to benefit the region.
Tuesday’s meeting continued on into the afternoon with area economic development and elected officials discussing ways to organize the alliance in a way that will best serve the entire region.
Published in The Messenger 2.16.11