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Southwest Tennessee Best Practices
Regional Economic Development Initiative
The Regional Economic Development Initiative was established by the Southwest Tennessee Development District in 210 to create a public/private partnership in 11 counties in the Southwest Tennessee Region. In their collaborative to create REDI, regional leaders are looking beyond county lines to create a unique vision for Southwest Tennessee that is distinctive and progressive. Member counties include Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Lauderdale, McNairy, and Tipton. REDI has received funds from their 11 member counties, as well as the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, USDA/Rural Development, and the Tennessee Regions’ Roundtable.
The REDI program has four areas of concentration: Education/Workforce Development, Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Capacity Building. Since its inception, SWTDD leaders have created and successfully launched its first two REDI program initiatives that improve human capital and address workforce development and education.
- Economic Development 101. This program was developed to address the capacity building concentration
in REDI. Many of our elected officials lack the knowledge or means or obtaining the knowledge pertaining to
the economic development process in their respective communities. There are programs offered but many
require a large commitment of time and money that a lot of our rural communities do not have. This program
is an overview of the economic development process, what their role is and how to make smart, economical
decisions for their communities. REDI will take this program to the community and offers a condensed
curriculum of what they need to know to do their jobs effectively. The course can be done before or after a
local monthly meeting and only requires a short amount of time with no cost to them.
- Digital Factory. This innovative job creating concept was launched in June 2011 in Parsons. The digital
factory is a center that offers training and employment in the new knowledge based economy. Training is free
and covers a 3-week class instruction by the center director in Customer Service for online jobs. At the
completion of 3 weeks, various testing and certifications are required. Upon successful completion of this
process, participants are employed by an online company working with REDI. The jobs are very flexible and
offer a solution to anyone who needs employment whether it be full-time, part-time or just supplemental
income. The shifts are available to participants at their choosing. The jobs are a good fit for any situation and
are good for any age. The average earnings of those working part-time is $8.77/hr. and those working full
time range from $12-14/hr. Participants are encouraged to work from the center for at least one-month after
graduation and then they have the option to work from home. Many of the workers continue to work from the
center feeding on the enthusiasm and success of others. REDI is in the process of launching our 2nd location
- REDI College Access Program. The cornerstone of the REDI program is its college access program.
Serving 19 high schools in West Tennessee, the program has a staff of 7 College Mentor’s who are housed
within the schools providing one-on-one services to seniors on the entire college exploration, application and
enrollment process. There are 2 College Transition Coaches housed at the 2 area community colleges, JSCC
and DSCC who work with graduating students to help transition them from high school to community college
and eventually from community college to a 4-year university. The program also has 2 Program Coordinators
and a Program Director. This program has helped to secure financial aid for over 1,500 students in the region
totaling $8.6 million. The program offers one-on-one counseling, parent education/information, FAFSA
assistance, college visits, college summits, scholarship boot camps, classroom presentations and some
financial assistance. The program continues to grow each year and is open to any student in any of the REDI
schools although we concentrate on first-generation, economically disadvantage students in the region. The
REDI college access program serves as a model for college access programs throughout the state.
REDI has received the following awards since its inception:
- NADO Innovation Award 2010
- NADO Innovation Award 2011
- NADO Innovation Award 2012
- Southern Growth Policy Innovation Award
- $1.5 million College Access Challenge Grant
Southwest Tennessee Development District
The Southwest Tennessee Development District is a regional planning and economic development organization organized in 1971 that provides comprehensive planning services and promotes economic, community, and human resource development in an eight county area.
Regional Planning Services
“Smart Development” Planning is a term that was coined by SWTDD to better describe the district’s view of the regional coordination of economic and community development projects that are economically and environmentally sustainable and of projects that are grounded in data-based decision models.
Developed in response to the State of Tennessee’s focus on regionalism and rural stewardship, Smart Development helps address the growing concern that diminishing population growth trends will create new challenges and that communities should seek to identify new ways to enhance quality of life issues, strengthen their economic fabric, improve public health and protect their natural resources.
Strategic PlanningSpecific problems require specific solutions that are specific to a location. One size does NOT fit all. SWTDD offers assistance to its communities in identifying potential changes to a municipality. These changes may include: urban growth boundaries; annexation areas and accompanying studies; street improvement plans; County Growth Plans, and, rural fire protection plans.
SWTDD positions its communities to take full advantage of improved service delivery methods and of mutually beneficial partnerships. This regional perspective enhances collaborative opportunities and leverages the collective resources at the district’s disposal.
Long Range PlanningComprehensive Planning is critical to this SWTDD’s region. Since no community is an island, it is important that communities understand their role and the benefits of participating in a regional view of social, cultural, educational, demographic and economic issues facing them and their neighbors. SWTDD provides assistance with Land Use and Planning Services, Infrastructure Planning, Capital Planning and Budgeting.
Technical Assistance is provided on a contractual basis to both counties and municipalities. Regional Planners visit the community many times during the month and provide professional advice to: elected officials regarding how best to legally chart development goals; Planning Commissions regarding, site plan reviews, zoning text amendments or zoning map amendments (rezoning requests) and subdivision regulations and subdivision text amendments. In addition, Regional Planners often advise the Board of Zoning Appeals on requests for variances
Community EnhancementEach year, SWTDD provides each of our communities with educational programs to fulfill legal requirements for continuing education. Training topics range from the history of planning services in Tennessee, to specific topics such as the legal constraints of a sign ordinance.
SWTDD has the tools and expertise to assist local governments with the visual and analytical tools afforded by GIS. This computer-based mapping and data analysis service often provides a spatial perspective to a community’s vision. In addition, mapping services provided commissioners with the environmental context affording them the tools to make better decisions.