published Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Rhea County seeks to recruit industries

  • photo
    John Payne, the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council's new Executive Director.
    Staff Photo by Kimberly McMillian/Chattanooga Times Free Press

DAYTON, Tenn. -- Three governing organizations in Rhea County will review what businesses are needed to grow the local economy in 2012, the county's new economic director said.

John Payne, executive director of the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council, said recently that representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, MainStreet Dayton and the council will be "looking for something unique to not compete with what we have now."

Payne said county officials had tried to recruit manufacturing industries related to businesses in surrounding areas, such as Volkswagen in Chattanooga and Wacker in Cleveland, Tenn.

In the upcoming year or two, he said, local leaders will look at what assets are available in Rhea and use that assessment to recruit new industries.

Raymond Walker, the county's former economic director, said the county has a higher percentage of manufacturing companies than it has service industries.

According to Payne, about 20 or 30 percent of Rhea's businesses are manufacturers, and in other area counties that percentage averages less than 15.

Walker said the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union was breaking ground on the outskirts of Dayton.

Payne said he plans to make it a priority in 2012 to sustain and "help the businesses that are already here" in the county.

A Wisconsin native, Payne is former director of the Franklin County Industrial Development Board. He was hired in late November by the economic and tourism council board and began work Dec. 1.

Earlier this year, Walker announced his plans to retire effective Feb. 28, 2012, but he now says he will retire in mid-January.

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