published Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Rhea officials make plans to lure industry

Kimberly McMillian/Correspondent

DAYTON, Tenn. — Rhea County officials, commissioners and mayors at a recent joint meeting with the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council were told to strategize and work together to woo industries to the area.

Marshall Ramsey, the state’s economic development specialist, said the leaders had a “small window of opportunity” recently and lost a company because of a lack of square footage and the county’s distance from Interstate 75.

Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said Rhea County officials should aim to identify available acreage and to develop as a customer-driven community.

She suggested they “spend a little bit of money” to level existing sites to better attract potential industries.

Millie Callaway, community development consultant with the Tennessee Valley Authority, said Tuesday that businesses aren’t “looking for reasons to keep you” on their lists of potential sites as much as they’re looking for reasons to cut unsuitable sites.

“You need people who can respond to a request for information” by answering the specific questions asked, Callaway said.

Commissioner Bill Hollin said that as a county in the state’s Three-Star Program, which works to strengthen economic development, Rhea should “have the advantage” on knowing what companies are looking for.

Callaway also said that increasing the county’s Internet presence to better advertise what’s going on there is “imperative in today’s society.”

Rhea County Executive George Thacker said his office will have a county website running in 30 days.

At February’s monthly economic and tourism council meeting, Executive Director Raymond Walker announced his resignation effective Feb. 28, 2012.

Tourism council Chairman Tom Taylor said the panel will review applicants to replace Walker later this year.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bellsouth.net

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