Regional economic development director added

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

There's a new man working to develop the local economy and while he was in Chicago last week meeting with consultants specializing in new locations, he's aware of the basics like taking care of the businesses you have already.

"Eighty percent of new jobs are from existing businesses, but when new business comes in, they want to talk with the local business people to know how they're treated," says Nathan A. Ward, regional economic development director for the South Central Tennessee Development District.

That's good news for the Lewisburg Industrial Development Board. Ward was introduced to the IDB by Terry Wallace, the city's industrial developer, during the panel's meeting this month.

Ward is the immediate past executive director of the Fayetteville, Lincoln County IDB. He left that position on Dec. 31. Before leading the Fayetteville- based group, Ward was responsible for over $100 million in capital investment and the creation of over 1,500 jobs in an eight-county region of Middle Tennessee when he worked for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Earlier he worked for the state legislature, and served as the chief aide to Jimmy Naifeh, supervising and coordinating bill passage, committee assignments and other important duties in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Now, he's "talking about marketing the region as a whole; the 13 counties" served by the development district. They are Marshall, Bedford, Maury, Lincoln and Giles counties plus eight others further east and west.

"It's a brand new job that started Jan. 1," Ward said, describing himself as "an additional resource" for County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett and Lewisburg Mayor Barbara Woods and their development teams. "Economic development doesn't happen overnight. It's a team effort."

Wallace has a market study by Middle Tennessee State University that helps developers like him "pair assets with growing companies that would be a good fit for us," Ward said. Once they know the kinds of businesses that are needed by others, they will "go after those companies and follow up with cards, calls and e-mails and, if we can, drive them to the site."

Ward was in Chicago last week for the Southern Economic Development Council conference. People went to the conference from 16 states to meet site consultants hired by companies to know the areas where they want to expand: "It's so they know the conditions," Ward said.

"This is the first time the conference is being held outside the south," he said. "We're just trying to get more exposure. Sometimes you have to go where the consultants are and ... hear what their thoughts are on the economy.

"I think Lewisburg and Marshall County have a bright future with the business park less than a mile from Interstate 65," Ward said.

Ward holds a bachelor's degree from MTSU and has been attending Austin Peay State University. He's also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. A native of West Tennessee, he makes his home in Fayetteville.