Think tank to focus its efforts on area’s economic development

Think tank to focus its efforts on area’s economic development

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Identifying opportunities for economic growth, with a definite focus on the environment, is the goal of a newly formed think tank group based out of Crockett County.
The Crockett Policy Institute was recently formed with a four-pronged approach for economic development: Jobs, energy, education and government.
Retired Lt. Gen. John Castellaw is the president of the Crockett Policy Institute and retired Congressman John Tanner is currently serving as chairman of the board.
Castellaw is actively involved in promoting the need for Tennessee to support clean energy initiatives and is bringing his message to northwest Tennessee later this month. The non-partisan policy and research organization is co-hosting an open forum with the University of Tennessee at Martin scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 29 in the humanities auditorium on the UTM campus. The forum is entitled “Renewable Energy and Job Creation in Northwest Tennessee.”
“We’ll talk about what is being done in terms of research and development,” Castellaw said.
He will open the forum and former UTM Dean of Agriculture Dr. Jim Byford will serve as the moderator. Among those who are scheduled to participate on the panel will be state Sen. Roy Herron, state Rep. Curtis Halford and Dr. Joseph Mehlorn.
Co-sponsoring the UTM forum is just one of the methods Castellaw said his institute is using to challenge conventional thinking and consider new approaches to economic development. He said the institute will use its new website, is writing op-ed articles for newspapers across Tennessee and will join forces with other like-minded think tanks to promote its agenda.
“We’re devoted to facilitating civil discussions of issues important to Tennessee,” Castellaw said.
He hopes to bring together the public and private sectors to come up with new ideas and initiatives to address challenges being faced by the state.
At the top of the institute’s list of challenges is promoting an eco-friendly environment through the use of renewable energy.
Castellaw said he and others involved in the institute would like to see “a better future for our children.”
One of the ways to achieve that goal is to work toward more environmentally friendly and renewable energy sources, according to Castellaw. He is able to recite statistics and figures related to Tennessee’s reliance on fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas.
Castellaw is also quick to identify organizations such as UTM and Fed Ex that are making tremendous strides toward eco-friendly energy initiatives. Other renewable energy developments taking place in West Tennessee include the ethanol plant north of Obion, the West Tennessee Solar Farm in Haywood County, a wind power experiment in Dyer County and a Lexington company formed in 2009 that has developed residential solar panels.
West Tennessee is a prime region in terms of its potential for environmentally-friendly developments, according to Castellaw, who said he hopes to tap into the region’s resources.
“Our greatest asset is always brainpower,” he said.
Castellaw is a native of Crockett County and is no stranger to UTM. He played freshman basketball at the university, was a member of the school’s Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and was a member of UTM’s ROTC unit. He is a teaching fellow at UTM and most recently was the keynote speaker at UTM’s December 2010 commencement.
Castellaw graduated from UTM in 1972 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. His long and distinguished military career covered 36 years and included high-level military operations around the world.
He first served in Marine tank and amphibious tractor units before becoming a pilot. During his career he held several Marine commands and also served with U.N. peacekeepers during the Siege of Sarajevo. Castellaw served as the chief of staff for the U.S. Central Command at the height of the war in Iraq and he held senior administrative positions while working in the Pentagon prior to his retirement in 2008 with the rank of lieutenant general.
Castellaw currently serves on several boards, works with economic development organizations and advises corporations on management and strategic planning.
The mission statement for the Crockett Policy Institute focuses on “improving the lives of Tennesseans by providing practical, workable and fair solutions to address the challenges facing the state.”
The institute is currently made up of six members with diverse backgrounds. Castellaw said new members will be recruited to be a part of the fledgling think tank organization.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 11.18.11

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