Shipley pointed out the importance of the plan by saying, "The plan is to make the county better for us and our children. It's our road map for the next five years."
The process began on Feb. 9, when the County utilized the help of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), represented by Deborah Cameron, to begin developing its Strategic Economic Development Plan. TVA is serving as facilitator of the project and will actually produce the plan after the plan information is gathered through a series of meetings.
The plan is required to meet the Governor's latest changes in the requirements to the State's Three Star program.
According to Betsy Maples, Director of Economic/Community Development, Claiborne County has been a Three Star community under the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development's program for 19 years. Now, however, a five year Strategic Economic Development Plan, approved by the County Commissioners, is required to keep our county in the program.
The first meeting was a success, with many ideas being used to create a preliminary list. The Economic Development Board tried to select a diverse group of citizens to serve as Strategic Plan Community Members in these meetings. The members are (* attended Strategic Plan meeting on 2-9-05):
Seth Burner- Chairman, Claiborne Planning Commission*
Wesley Stone- President, Claiborne Chamber of Commerce*
Steve Lewis- Chairman, Claiborne Industrial Development Board
Virgil L. Herrell- Claiborne County Mayor
John Douglas- Mayor of Cumberland Gap (Sent Linda Moyers as representative)*
Bill Fultz- Mayor of Harrogate
Charles Chadwell- Mayor of New Tazewell
Steve Vass- Mayor of Tazewell*
Dennis Shipley- Executive Director, Claiborne Chamber of Commerce*
Zeka Brooks- Executive Assistant, Claiborne Chamber of Commerce*
Betsy Maples- Director, Claiborne County Economic/Community Development*
Jason Grooms- Tennessee Dept. of Economic and Community Development*
Carol Campbell- Chairman of Claiborne Tourism Committee, LMU Museum*
Carl Doane- Claiborne County Utility District
J.B.White- Arthur-Shawanee Utility District
Randell Meyers- Powell Valley Electric Co-op (Sent Ronnie Williams as representative)*
Dennis Keck- CenturyTel
Anthony Mountain- Claiborne Manufacturers' Association
Donald Dobbs- Director of Schools
Fred Parker- Walters State Community College
Jim McCune- Lincoln Memorial University
Sam McCollough- Chairman, P-16 Education Committee (Sent Ann Shipley as rep.)*
Mike Heiskell- Claiborne County Extension Agent*
Juanita Honeycutt- County Commissioner, Chairman of Quality Council
Sherri Storer- Chairman, Claiborne County Parks and Recreation Board
Harry Shultz- Claiborne County Sheriff
Dorothy Patterson- Labor/Workforce Development*
Mike Sharp- Claiborne Roads Superintendent
Tom Mottem- First Century Bank, Industrial Board
Mary Hodges- Claiborne Progress
Wayne Bridges- Communicomm
Larry Carter- LMU Station
Tim Brown- Administrator, Claiborne County Hospital*
Robin Higginbotham- Cherokee Health Systems
Bill McGaffee- Cumberland Gap Planning Commission, Board of Aldermen
Roger Ball- Claiborne County Industrial Board
Kelly Chumley- Leadership Claiborne*
Jackie Fleming- Director, CEASE Shelter
Lieven Cox- AYSO Soccer
Mark Robbins- First Priority Tri-States*
Frances Rasnic- Keep Claiborne Beautiful, member of Tourism Committee*
6 high school students- 2 each from Claiborne, Cumberland Gap, and J. Frank White
Academy (2 students from CHS and 2 students from CGHS attended)*
Maples was pleased that so many, including four of the six high school students invited (JFWA was unable to attend on that day), attended, making the Feb. 9, meeting a productive idea producing event that set the stage for the community meetings.
At the first community meeting on Feb. 22, Cameron pointed out that the county mayor should be commended for holding the community meetings. Most counties have not included public input, and Mayor Herrell really wanted the community to have a voice in the proceedings. As the facilitator, Cameron was thrilled that so many people turned-out for the meetings.
The meetings basically consisted of asking the people three questions: 1.) What are the strengths of Claiborne County?, 2.) What are the obstacles to progress in Claiborne County?, 3.) What do you want to see accomplished in Claiborne County in the next five years?
The ground rules for answering these questions and recording the data were as follows: 1.) The purpose was to generate ideas not solutions or arguments, 2.) ALL ideas have merit, 3.) Criticism was not allowed, 4.) Innovative suggestions were welcome, 5.) Cameron served as the group spokesman and listed the ideas on paper as she lead the group in the "brainstorming" exercise and posted the results on the walls, so members could see them. 6) finally, the ideas were listed and presented to everyone.
The success of the meetings was apparent when it was very hard for Cameron to keep up with the ideas as they flowed. To her credit as a facilitator, she nicely handled controlling the discussions to keep everyone focused on ideas and not "discussion" of the ideas.
Some of the strengths listed were:
The people of Claiborne County, existing water systems and those in the process of becoming a reality, History, workforce, location (within 500 miles of about 1/2 of the population of the United States), emergency responders (includes police fire, etc.), new schools, small town environment, farmers/ agriculture, colleges in the area, existing industries, etc.
Some of the obstacles listed were:
Absence of a four lane highway to Knoxville, Tax base is limited, close-minded resistance to change, lack of an animal shelter, lack of available industrial land, outward migration of young people for education and opportunities afterward, skill gap (workforce is trained but not in some of the skills needed for the future), Police Force is low-paid and does not receive health Insurance, lack of a recreation, etc.
Some of the things we would like to see accomplished in Claiborne County in the next five years:
Adequate water for rural areas, more effective law enforcement, training for animal related issues, an animal shelter, change in the structure of the county commission, drawing card for tourism, historic tour, more industrial properties, improved highway system, community driven drug task force, rezoning to improve law enforcement and provide farmers/other groups a fair tax rate, clean up the litter, group to preserve local/historical culture and values, and better utilization of newcomers/retirees in the civic arena, etc.
These are just some of the many suggestions the public had to offer. The Claiborne County Mayor and all those involved in the process appreciate the public for lending their ideas and support to this process.
Maples emphasized that she was so happy to see the high school students participate.
"Our young people are our future," she said.
"I appreciatethose that attended," Maples said before she also expressed gratitude for those individuals that helped the students be able to attend.
The ideas listed at the public meetings and those captured at the March 9, meeting will be grouped, prioritized, and submitted to TVA.
Cameron's descirption is that "after the groups review and revise the ideas (they will be listed in categories), the groups will be given dots and asked to vote on the top priorities for the next five years."
According to Maples, after TVA has produced and delivered the plan, the Claiborne County Commissioners must vote to approve the plan. Once approved by the commission, the plan will be included in the Three Star qualification process.
Once accepted by Governor Bredesen, the plan will be reviewed and updated each year. The Strategic Economic Development Plan and all subsequent updates will be available for public review in locations such as the Claiborne County Library, Claiborne County Chamber of Commerce, local High Schools, etc.
The Claiborne Progress will also publish summaries of the events outlined above.