JECDB considers cultivating retirees to improve economy

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Marshall County's economy might be improved through a program to attract retirees looking for a place to enjoy life, according to remarks from executive committee members on the Joint Economic and Community Development Board.

JECDB Chairman Edmund Roberts attended a trade show that serves seniors who, he said, "are usually the more affluent, and they're looking for a place to move to." The convention was in Chicago last year. and this month's executive committee meeting wasn't the first time officials here considered the idea.

"We had been picked as one of the first counties to do that," Roberts said of a state program looking for counties willing to send representatives to staff a convention booth. But Marshall County "declined" because of the budget commitment required.

The Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Directors is currently preparing its budget for fiscal year 2008-09. It's to be completed in early spring so the county and its municipalities will have it in time for review as those governments' budgets are readied for the fiscal year starting in July. Roberts asked the committee if $6,000 should be spent on a program to attract seniors to retire here.

"The State of Tennessee sets up the booth," Roberts reported.

Information about who signs in is provided to counties that would be responsible for responding to the inquiries, he said. Responses are usually by e-mail.

Thousands of inquiries may be obtained through this program, said Roberts who spoke about three conventions each year for people looking for a retirement home.

In addition to responding to inquires, the program would have Marshall County send representatives to the conventions.

"This exodus is not something that just started," Chapel Hill Mayor Carl Cooper offered in the discussion among his fellow mayors and others on the executive committee. "Within the last week, I've spoken with two couples."

One is from Kentucky, Cooper said. The other is from Shelby County.

"They selected Marshall County," he said.

Reasons for seniors' relocations range from tax havens to where their sons and daughters are raising their grandchildren.

"If we get one person," asked Elizabeth McDow, director of the community college campus here, "how long does it take to get the investment back?"

Cooper spoke of new home construction, the related impact fee and property tax revenue, among other benefits to the local governments and economy.

One of the retirees wanted property on the Duck River, Cooper said.

"They want something by the river to watch the water flow," he said of someone who could just as easily have moved to Franklin where the couple's son lives.

"It would not take too many people" to counterbalance the $6,000 that might be placed in the JECDB budget, he said.

However, Cooper indicated that at least some of the retirees are coming to Marshall County without a state program.

"I love the concept," said McDow who remained uncertain about whether this program fits the purpose of the JECDB, a state-required panel that is focusing on retail development here and assisting other offices with industrial recruitment.

How much time and commitment beyond the $6,000 cost was uncertain. The dollar amount would appear to be the product of a calculation on time spent on the project and related expenses.

More information might be obtained from a state official, Chapel Hill Administrator Mike Hatten suggested, and Roberts agreed to call a special meeting so the board cold hear about the program. An announcement is to be made when that session is held.

"I think it's a great concept," Roberts said, indicating he was uncertain about it being a priority for this county's JECDB.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development administers other programs related to JECDBs established in each county under a state law that requires growth planning and fosters competition between counties for state administered government grants.