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Economic leaders push for more funding

Jared Felkins jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:35 PM

Joint Economic and Community Development Board executive director G.C. Hixson pitched a plan to the board’s executive committee Thursday, asking for more than $20,000 to fund a new professional recruitment initiative in Wilson County.

Hixson said the initiative would be an additional budget line item of about $25,000, included under the marketing category with funding to be split among Wilson County, Mt. Juliet, Lebanon and Watertown based on population.

According to the proposal, the initiative deals with the recruitment and location of professional, or sometimes identified as “white collar” jobs in Wilson County. The proposal was split into two phases with the first to identify and promote the present advantages and opportunities within Wilson County through the development and distribution of specifically designed hard and electronic marketing materials. Part of that phase includes an extensive analysis to be conducted to compare the community’s demographics, educational levels, per capita income, household incomes and other key location factors in an attempt to identify Wilson County’s advantages.

The second phase would involve development of a long-term marketing strategy for the community.

“We are going after a whole lot more people, and we’re going to have to step up our efforts,” said Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings.

The committee approved the budget addition unanimously.

“I appreciate you taking the initiative here, because the next four or five years are going to be really important,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto.

Jennings also informed the committee of potential problems with a Tennessee College of Applied Technology locating in Lebanon in the former Wilson County Career Technical Center. He said the Wilson County Board of Education put provisions in a contract with the Tennessee Board of Regents to take over the building at any time it deemed necessary.

The Board of Regents wants a clause in the contract for Wilson County Schools to have to pay the state back over a 10-year period for any improvements made to the building should that happen.

Jennings said so far he’s heard from Director of Schools Tim Setterlund and two school board members regarding the proposed contract changes.

“What I am hearing is not very favorable,” Jennings said. “I’m trying to hold it all together.”

The JECDB has supported the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Lebanon since it was first proposed. In October, Carol Puryear, associate vice chancellor for instruction and special projects with the Tennessee Board of Regents, told the JECDB executive committee the school would be ready to open in the spring. 

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