Friendships and connections are being made across county lines, thanks to a new regional leadership group whose first class spent two days in Lewisburg last week.
Graduates of Leadership Marshall decided they wanted to form a regional group, said Mike Wiles, Executive Director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board.
"It took a couple of years to get a board and all the necessary ingredients," Wiles explained as the group wrapped up their visit to Marshall County. Other regional leadership groups helped with information, Wiles said.
"We took all the best practices and formed our own," he said. "We started with the board being the (charter) class. This is the first actual class. It snowballed into where it is today. We will tailor it from year to year to improve on it."
The group is named after the late Peggy Gattis, the former executive of Metropolitan Moore County/Lynchburg, who died in a car crash in June 2009.
"You gain two or three new friends a year from each county," added Wiles. "The alumni (group) really gets to be something special."
Going around the group for their comments, Terri Yates of the Giles County Career Center said what she liked was visiting industries in the other counties. Yates said she found what she learned about other counties' industries was valuable for her work. The group toured Cosmolab here, and Yates said she knew some people commuted from Giles County to work there, just the way people from Marshall County commute to factories in Giles County.
Margaret Campbell, associate executive director of the Giles County Chamber of Commerce and staff writer for the Pulaski Citizen, said she liked the unique perspective the group's visits gave into the history and roots of the different counties, and also the chance to develop new friendships.
"We can draw on each other's strengths and weaknesses to help the region," Campbell said.
"I loved Leadership Marshall," said County Commissioner Anna Childress. "Here I'm getting to see the bigger picture. It feels like we're sister counties, and I'm seeing how we fit together."
Perry Hall, president and CEO of Southeastern Grants and Urban Planning of Fayetteville, said he liked learning the diversity, and finding out each county had its unique strengths.
"There's so much opportunity for us as a region," Hall said.
Michael Whisenant, project manager for G-Squared, also in Fayetteville, said he hoped the group would grow into an economic development engine.
"We all have workforce to contribute," Whisenant said. "This has filled a void."
Wrapping it up, Hugh Jones, publisher of the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, said he had been very impressed in each of the counties. He said each county was unique, and had its own hidden treasures.
"We can tie them together in our newly formed network," Jones said.
"We need to be a group standing behind our region," concluded Wiles, who suggested the class's project might be encouraging American-made products, possibly developing a grant for locally made products. He mentioned Col. Littleton, who is making his high-end leather goods in Lynnville, and also the way the Jack Daniels Distillery buys bottles that are made in Ohio, instead of cheaper bottles from China.
During their two-day visit to Lewisburg, the Gattis Leadership group tasted some of Brother's fine foods; heard about the history of the Ladies Restroom from Lynda Potts; toured the Dixie Theatre and heard presentations from Wiles and Greg Lowe; dined with retired USMC Maj. Amy Irvin, who talked about leadership; visited the Historical Museum and heard a presentation from Edmund Roberts about the Community Development Board and the Goats Music and More Festival; toured the Industrial Park and visited Cosmolab; observed classes at Marshall County High School and Spot Lowe Technology Center; and toured the Recreation Center.