Pictured above: Pat Hardy
By Scott Robertson
Six individuals representing the governments of the cities, towns and counties of Northeast Tennessee are working on a plan to use the First Tennessee Development District Foundation as a regional economic development hub. FTDD Executive Director Chris Craig and Retired FTDD Executive Director Susan Reid are working with Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable, Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy, Bristol Mayor Margaret Feierabend and Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock on the proposal.
The group was named at the end of a day-long board retreat at the Clyde Austin 4-H Center in Greene County Friday afternoon. Around half of the district’s 34-member board, composed mostly of city, town and county mayors from the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee, attended.
The session began with an address and question and answer session with Mark Fuller, the ROSC Global consultant hired by Eastman to help the region move forward on regional economic development. Fuller impressed upon the board members the need for a regional economic engine to be a public-private partnership with private sector leadership.
The board then worked on a vision statement for a regional economic development hub before getting down to matters of structure. Led by facilitator Pat Hardy, management & finance consulting program manager for the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service, the board settled on a structure centered around the district’s three-year-old foundation, which operates as a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit.
“We need to flesh this out,” Hardy said. “Who does what? We need a draft of who those people are and where they’re coming from. We can flesh out potential costs, roles and responsibilities. I think it needs to be articulated within this framework that it doesn’t duplicate what the Mitch Millers of the world (Ed. Note: Miller is CEO of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership and a FTDD board member) and the other agencies that work with the state. We don’t want a sense of duplication and we don’t want a sense of turf and all that.”
“Some kind of statutory organization is going to have to be formed for it to function,” said Brock.
When NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership CEO Clay Walker indicated confusion as to how the proposed structure would work with regard to NETWORKS and NeTREP, Hardy indicated that had yet to be fully considered. Feierabend, however, suggested that perhaps the existing organizations no longer needed to pursue a merger with each other, but rather might merge into the new organization.
“There’s still,” Hardy repeated, “a lot to be fleshed out.”