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Southeast Tennessee Regional Initiatives
Regionalism is not new to Southeast Tennessee. Before the THRIVE 2055 initiative was ever conceived, the southeast Tennessee region has been working across state and County lines on economic development, workforce development, tourism initiatives, and funding solutions for shared infrastructure.
Southeast Tennessee Development District is partnering with local governments, businesses, non-profits, and citizens from across the region in THRIVE 2055, a public-private initiative focused on proactively engaging people from across Southeast Tennessee, Northeast Alabama, and Northwest Georgia in creating an action plan for making the most of the region’s economic opportunities while preserving what is most loved about these communities. The Tri-State Region comprises 16 counties and 79 municipalities in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, connected by landscape, watersheds, and local issues and opportunities.
Known for breathtaking natural beauty, bountiful opportunities for outdoor fun and distinct business advantages make the region one of the most desirable in the nation. Through a remarkable sense of community spirit and a process of public-rpvate partnerships, the region’s citizens have made their home a hub for successful business enterprise, a regional tourism center, and a gracious place to live. Over the past few years, the THRIVE region has experienced tremendous economic development with the investments of over $4 billion in new business investment, and the creation of thousands of jobs. Based upon these economic development successes, the region is experiencing a great deal of optimism and is very well positioned for accelerated growth.
These growth pressures not only exacerbate existing environmental, infrastructure, and fiscal challenges and in some instances create new ones. The region’s rural areas are struggling with double-digit unemployment and gaps between current workforce skills and the demands of emerging and retooling industries. Local governments are fiscally restrained and challenged to meet the existing infrastructure needs at a time when impending growth is likely to demand new infrastructure and public facilities. While the creation of more jobs is exciting, there is a strong desire within the region to preserve the community identity, quality of life, and other elements of local flavor that have made the area so attractive.
THRIVE 2055 was established and funded by a wide array of businesses, foundations, local governments, and non-profit organizations. The initiative is citizen-led through working groups and a volunteer coordinating committee, assisted by a local project manager, a team of professional staff from partner agencies, and a consulting team. Many of the elected officials are engaged in an advisory role as well as participating in the working groups.
The first year, the “Listen and Learn Phase,” encompassed three major steps:
1. Identifying what contributes to the regional vitality based upon multiple input opportunities from residents and workers in the region
2. Analyzing forces and trends shaping the region
3. Gaining an understanding of the region’s existing performance in areas such as education, workforce development, economic competitiveness, natural environment, health and wellness, transportation, and infrastructure
As the initiative enters its second year, efforts will focus on visioning and creating possibilities around local values and key issues that will help guide the region into the next 40 years. Developing partnerships and collaborating across county and state lines will help create a competitive region where all citizens have the opportunity to THRIVE.