published Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Rhea County economic, tourism director chosen

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

DAYTON, Tenn. — A former Franklin County Industrial Development Board director will begin work Thursday as the executive director of the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council.

At the annual Manufacturing Industry Appreciation reception Monday, John Payne told nearly 50 industrial managers, commissioners, mayors and economic board members that Rhea County had "a lot of potential" for growth directly spinning off Volkswagen in Chattanooga.

Payne, a native of Wisconsin, said Rhea County's growth would "take some work ... and a unified, cohesive plan from the stakeholders in county government."

Tom Taylor, chairman of the council's board, said Payne's more than 20 years of manufacturing and management experience, including service on the state's economic board, contributed to the decision to hire him.

The current executive director, Raymond Walker, earlier this year announced his plans to retire in early 2012 after eight years. The Economic and Tourism Council board began reviewing applications nearly six months ago and interviewing in September to allow for a three-month training period with Walker before he retired.

Before the reception ended, state Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, said he attributed much of Rhea's recent growth to the faithful and courteous efforts of Walker and that he would miss working with him.

Walker addressed the crowd at his last industrial reception as director with a somber tone of gratitude.

"We should never be in such a hurry ... to not say, 'Thank you,'" he said, and expressed his appreciation to businesses and leaders he worked with as executive director.

Walker stressed over the last year that economic development would result from community development.

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

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primitive said...

More industrial growth begets more future unemployment. What are the real statistics for Rhea County? Is this about the welfare of the stakeholders or the citizens? Has anyone looked around Rhea County recently? It is predominately occupied by small landowners. For lasting employment and security, Rhea Co. should "look to land" instead of always wishing for a savior from the outside.
The county was built by agriculture and if it leaders and citizens thought long and hard it could rebuild in this fashion instead of always focusing on the myth of progress.

December 1, 2011 at 10:34 a.m.
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