County seeks help on economic development

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

City, county and state leaders had face time with assistant commissioners and the lieutenant governor recently when they asked that this community be remembered and pitched as a prospective location for business development and new jobs.

"We want to stay in front of them," Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said when explaining the purpose of a recent visit with: Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, speaker of the Senate; Sen. Bill Ketron who represents Marshall County; Paul Sassbender, assistant commissioner of economic and community development; and Iliff McMahan, assistant commissioner of labor and workforce development.

"We hadn't met with them before," Ketron said of McMahan and Sassbender.

"We don't want to be forgotten with the unemployment situation," Liggett said to elaborate on the "good sit-down meeting" that's an introduction of leaders here and at two state departments dealing with unemployment issues and economic development.

Liggett took the opportunity to point out there's a larger concern.

There are more than 20,000 people in an available workforce in an eight-county area including Marshal County and the counties that it borders, Liggett said. The eight counties have unemployment rates at 13 percent or more.

"It's not just Marshall County," Liggett said. "It's this whole area."

Marshall's mayor also made a point expressed by his slogan for marketing the county, "Get Centered." The county's location is in the middle of south central Tennessee and is served by an interstate highway and CSX railroad tracks.

During the years since the recession began with the housing bubble burst, Lewisburg and Marshall County economic development efforts have included visits to various corporate leaders, attendance at trade shows, employment of marketing strategists, endorsement of rail freight and development of a business park close to Interstate 65.

"We went over some of the things we have been doing and laid that out," Liggett said. "They said 'We don't see anything that you're doing wrong.'

"I think a few of them want to come down in the future," said Liggett who made it clear that the door is always open.

Others attending the June 22 meeting in the State Capitol included Lewisburg Industrial Development Director Greg Lowe, and two business development consultants, Tommy Burns and Jerry Merriman, who report to Jamie Stitt who was recently assigned by Gov. Bill Haslam to be the regional director for the Department of Economic and Community Development. She's the former executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board for Marshall County and its four municipalities.