City votes to join regional partnership

Published 7:05 am Friday, December 9, 2016

Star Photo/Curtis Carden Washington County Economic Development Council CEO Mitch Miller provides councilmen a presentation of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership.

Star Photo/Curtis Carden
Washington County Economic Development Council CEO Mitch Miller provides councilmen a presentation of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership.

Spirited discussion from the local organizations later tied in with regional partnership that the City of Elizabethton will be able to take full advantage of in the coming years.
Mitch Miller, Washington County Economic Development (WCED) CEO, was in attendance for Thursday’s City Council meeting to provide a presentation on the goals for the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Development Partnership (NTREDP).
The goal of the organization will be to promote the region, including Carter, Washington and Unicoi counties, Miller explained. Miller also outlined a five-year plan that includes retention and expansion of existing businesses in each county, aggressively marketing the area, site development and infrastructure, regional stakeholders and community relations along with asset development and talent attract.
NTREDP will operate as a 501(c)(6), much like a Chamber of Commerce, Miller added. The WCED will staff the endeavor. With the recent successful in Johnson City, the CEO added the partnership is hoping to have all of the region be successful for the future.
Prior to Miller’s presentation, the BRATS and Carter County Proud groups addressed councilmen to share what they have done over the months. BRATS provided an update of their recent partnership with the Elizabethton Parks & Recreation Department to help beautiful different areas across the city, including parks and the Covered Bridge. Edward Jordan of Carter County Proud also addressed the board about what the litter group hopes to accomplish and their current goal of looking at joining Keep America Beautiful.
Jordan stated the group already received a $2,000 pledge from the county for a one-time fee of $4,000 to join Keep America Beautiful. When asked  for $2,000, the council agreed to wait one month to revisit the issue citing concerns of city taxpayers already paying county taxes and that they would be hit twice by contributing that amount.
While the city already budgeted $35,000 to join the NTREDP, Miller asked the council to look at possibility of taking out $2,000 to be used toward supporting the Carter County Proud’s goal of joining Keep America Beautiful.
“The outdoors is really what makes this place special,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, $2,000 is nothing compared to what these folks are doing. It’s a big part of what we’re talking about … how great this place is because of the natural beauty we have. These folks are going out and proving that opportunity for us to go out and promote it. That’s what matters.”
The council then voted unanimously to join the group.
During the comments from citizens portion of the meeting, Councilman Richard Tester added he would look at helping bridge the gap between Carter County Proud and the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce in the hopes of utilizing the hotel-motel tax, which has over $100,000 for tourism, to have funds be used for a possible membership with Keep America Beautiful.
With Elizabethton on board for the partnership, the sky’s the limit, Miller added, with each government body from Carter, Unicoi and Washington counties now pledging their support.
“This has been critical,” Miller said. “We’ve been able to go out and speak with each of the governmental bodies and Elizabethton was actually the last one we’ve spoke with. Having the public sector fully on board to work together on economic development standpoint with a united approach is big. It shows the private sector folks that these elected officials really care about opportunities coming into this community and it will encourages those folks to invest even more money.”
Each government entity will have one representative on the board with Elizabethton’s being Planning and Development Director Jon Hartman after his nomination was made by Tester, which was unanimously supported by the officials.
During the presentation, Miller discussed the successful of tax-increment financing (TIF) and praised Hartman’s work of getting the TIF project off the ground for West Elk Avenue.
“It’s going to take public sector, private sector, local citizens wanting to see results as well,” Miller said. “From that end, that’s what partnerships are all about. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, it’s the fact we want to see this place grow together.”
The project for Carter County will be geared toward promoting local outdoor attractions, too, Miller added, including the Tweetsie Trail and Roan Mountain among other options.

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