TVA economic division rep discusses services, offers help

TVA economic division rep discusses services, offers help

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 9:01 pm
By: Kevin Bowden, Staff Reporter

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
An array of 19 economic development services has been made available to Obion County through the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The list of services was made public at a meeting Tuesday morning at the Obion County Public Library attended by about 20 local and regional economic development officials.
Heidi Smith, general manager of TVA’s economic development division, outlined each of the services available through her agency. She described her three-page list of services as a “laundry list of ideas” for Obion County and said local officials should look over the list and use those services best suited for the county.
The TVA plan was drafted in response to the February announcement by Goodyear that it will be closing its Union City plant by the end of this year. The 1,900 jobs that will be lost by the plant closure has prompted TVA to designate Obion County a “Special Opportunities County.” That designation makes all of TVA’s resources available for local economic development agencies.
Tuesday’s meeting was attended by representatives from the Obion County Joint Economic Development Council, the Obion County Chamber of Commerce, the Ken-Tenn Alliance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the West Tennessee Industrial Association and the Union City Electric System.
“We know we are facing some tough economic times and we really appreciate all the help you can give us,” former state Rep. Phillip Pinion told Ms. Smith at the opening of the near two-hour-long meeting.
He is working with the JEDC on economic development and was an active participant in Tuesday’s meeting.
Also in attendance at the meeting was TVA economic development specialist Kristi Brown, who hosted a special economic development seminar on March 18 at the library. Information from that session was incorporated into the TVA plan presented by Ms. Smith Tuesday.
The TVA plan was broken down into six sections, each of which contained specific programs designed to promote economic development.
The six categories included community development, technical service, economic research, consumer connection, marketing and other services.
Under the community development category, TVA is offering training on how to prepare and handle industrial prospects. That training would include an introduction to the site selection process, developing a sales team and different approaches to handling industrial prospects.
Many of the services being offered by TVA deal with training and will be handled by TVA economic development specialist Chuck Marquis, who works out of TVA’s Memphis office.
“I think one of the things we have to do here is put together a sales team,” Pinion said. “We’ve got a lot of pluses.”
One of the ideas that emerged from the meeting was the need for a more aggressive approach to economic development.
“If we can put together a package, I’ll go anywhere in the country,” Pinion said.
In addition to the services offered for industrial development, the TVA plan Ms. Smith presented Tuesday included several services focused on retail development. Local officials could call on TVA to produce a visual retail site plan, which could be used as a marketing tool for retail prospects.
Those at Tuesday’s meeting listened intently as Ms. Smith went through each of  TVA’s services, page-by-page, and explained how the services could help Obion County. She talked about how TVA could provide valuable economic research for the county as well as marketing research, and even marketing publications.
One of the highlights of Tuesday’s meeting was the introduction of TVA’s consumer connection services. Ms. Smith explained TVA officials could produce presentations identifying the importance of retail development to community leaders. A retail website, maps  and resources to help existing retailers increase their sales are all a part of what TVA could provide Obion County.
Ms. Smith said her agency could also provide local economic development officials with resources to help market local sites to industrial recruiters.
She said TVA also can help with financing through a special TVA loan program that could make up to $750,000 available to the county.
As Tuesday’s meeting wrapped up, the discussion subtly shifted from talk about Goodyear to a discussion of the deteriorating Reelfoot Packing Plant site on East Reelfoot Avenue.
Several of those at the meeting talked about what is now a major eyesore and its potential as a high profile retail center.
Messenger Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.30.11

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