Leadership goes back to school to learn about money from governments

Friday, November 2, 2007
Sen. Bill Ketron

Leaders of local governments and businesses in South Central Tennessee went back to school Tuesday night to learn about sources of capital.

Nearly 65 people attended a special class at Columbia State Community College on South Ellington Parkway where state Sen. Bill Ketron introduced half a dozen guest lecturers who told about grants and loans.

"We're always looking for money," the Murfreesboro Republican told the class, "but I didn't bring my checkbook."

Among the speakers Ketron brought was Jeffrey Bolton of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, who reported that because of the community's status in TDE&CD's Three Star Program, "You would be eligible for a $600,000 loan."

Furthermore, the loan might come with a "zero interest pay back," Bolton said. "Those not in the Three Star Program would pay three percent, but there are not many who aren't in the program."

[See a story below on the Three-Star Program in today's edition.]

Loans of that size might be used to install new utility lines, or repair leaking pipes.

"There is money out there," said Lynn Manning of Community Partners, suggesting a web site listing programs that are eligible for funding.

Money can come with requirements.

Compensation rates for labor can be set by more than what's expected on a public works project, Bolton said, citing the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 and TDE&CD practices in response to the federal requirements born of a time when labor unions were more influential than they are now.

The seminar might be seen as an introductory course on the complexities of government funding, as well as an index of what's available through state and federal programs to improve the economy and lifestyle of a community.

Some of it was a statement of the obvious leading to how to further promote a strong suit here and in Bedford County.

"The Celebration is a mainstay here," said Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, assistant commissioner for community and industry relations in TDE&CD. "This area, Marshall County, Lewisburg, has a role to play in that."

"We don't have a lot of money to give out," she said, but the department's partnership in marketing has brochures and websites where programs can be listed.

Other programs aren't for industrial development, but will help improve community services such as law enforcement.

Spanish lessons will be funded for police officers because "more and more drivers in Tennessee speak Spanish only," said Kendell Poole, director of the Governor's Highway Safety Office.

County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett had asked Ketron to organize the seminar after having read about a similar program in Clarksville.

The value of the class was proved, Liggett said Wed-nesday, and was reflected in the nature of the questions. Some were skewed off the nature of governmental interaction and one reflected an official's search for help at a business that's already being helped.

A manufacturer in Mt. Pleasant needs a new roof for a building where he wants to add 25 employees.

"I think I know the business you're talking about," responded Deborah Cameron, the economic development manager for TVA in Middle Tennessee.

If some of the questions were misdirected, some of the seminar failed to deliver as Lewisburg Mayor Bob Phillips attended specifically to learn more about the Main Street Program.

"The person we wanted to see the most was not here," Phillips said.

The mayor did, however, hear how to get funding for sidewalks near schools, he noted.

Meanwhile, Lewisburg Councilman Hershel Davis said this city has sought a loan to develop a "spec-building" for new industry on the speculation that if you build it they will come.

"That's what we tried last year," Davis said, noting the city will file another application with TVA.

Ketron introduced State Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect) who represents Marshall County at the state Legislature and said, "Eddie and I are here to connect with you and represent you in the next session."

At the end of the seminar, the lawmakers were reminded that when they make decisions, programs like the ones described Tuesday will be enhanced or allowed to go fallow in accordance with the state budget.