That was the response of Union City native David Hamilton when asked what action needs to be taken in regard to the announced closing of the Union City Goodyear plant.
“The community needs to gather and decide who is going to spearhead the efforts to solicit help from various state and federal agencies,” he said. “And a point person needs to be dedicated to addressing this closure and not someone in the community with a full-time job.”
Hamilton, who formerly served as the Obion County Industrial Development Corporation executive direcor, serves as the president of the Dickson County Chamber of Commerce. While attending unrelated conferences in Nashville last week, Hamilton and a representative of The Messenger discussed the announced closing of the local Goodyear plant, which will result in the loss of 1,900 jobs at the plant and will have an effect on countless others.
“I grew up in Obion County and I have many relatives and close friends in Obion County, so I have a great deal of interest in what happens where I spent most of my life,” he said. “So when I was asked for my thoughts on what to do moving forward, I was glad to offer some ideas I thought might help out.”
Many of those ideas were presented by Union City business owner Ron Cooper Friday at a strategy meeting held at the Obion County Chamber of Commerce.
“David has been in this business for more than 25 years, has made a lot of contacts and I welcome his insight,” said Cooper, who serves on the local chamber board and recently completed a five-year term on the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission. “One thing is for sure, he’s right when he said we need to start planning for our future right now.”
Hamilton said a committee needs to be formed that would include mayors, state legislators from Obion County and the surrounding counties and congressmen, UT Martin’s president, area business leaders and other representatives from area communities.
“It would be good to set up a meeting with Gov. Bill Haslam, Economic and Community Development commissioner Bill Hagerty and Labor commissioner Karla Davis to discuss what resources are available to assist the community with the planned closing,” he said. “Ask the governor to contact the president of Goodyear to discuss the planned closing timeline and details and see if anything can be done to change their minds.”
Other suggestions offered by Hamilton included:
• Make sure the Department of Labor doesn’t close the Union City office. (Office closures are being discussed due to budget issues.)
• Ask Hagerty what resources and programs his office has available to help replace the lost jobs.
• Ask Congressman Stephen Fincher to determine what assistance is available through the federal government, specifically from the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Development Administration. There are grants to communities with plant closures to assist in developing a strategic plan to replace jobs. It also helps to identify potential industry sectors to focus on.
• Ask Hagerty or UTM president if they can get University of Tennessee to conduct a study to determine the overall economic impact the closing will have on northwest Tennessee. This will be good information to have to show various state and federal agencies of the impact the closing will have on the area.
• U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander should be contacted for assistance.
• Don’t forget about TVA. They have an economic development program and will be impacted by the closure.
• A meeting with the union and Department of Labor should be scheduled to discuss assistance available to those individuals being laid off. (Does this closure qualify the employees for Trade Readjustment Act funds through the Department of Labor?) Are there any benefits through the union?
• Contact communities that have experienced the loss of a large industry and discuss how they addressed the closure and how it impacted their communities. Suggested communities are Columbia/Springhill (Saturn) or Lawrenceburg (Murray Ohio).
• Try to determine what other local Goodyear suppliers will close as a result of the plant closing. This can help build the case for assistance.
• Someone needs to contact John Busey with the Northwest Tennessee Development District in Martin to ask them to research any federal grants through the Economic Development Administration that can be used to develop a strategic plan for moving forward.
Having a plant closure of this magnitude should qualify you for a grant.
Courtesy of the Union City Daily Messenger.