Local officials accept a ThreeStar Award from Governor Bill Lee during the recent 2019 Tennessee Governor’s Conference. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

The three municipalities of Unicoi County and the Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board continue to work to get grants to help stimulate growth in Unicoi County.

Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board Executive Director Tyler Engle joined Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley, Town of Erwin Alderman Michael Baker and Town of Erwin City Recorder Glenn Rosenoff in Nashville for the 2019 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Oct. 24-25 to receive The Governor’s ThreeStar Award in the amount of $50,000 to assist with efforts to house our workforce.

To be eligible for ThreeStar grants, each county must meet all ThreeStar certification requirements, develop an asset-based strategic plan and design a program to implement a goal from its strategic plan. Fifty-nine counties were selected out of 78 applications to receive the award.

According to Engle, this grant will continue the JEDB’s efforts following strategic plans created by the JEDB, TNECD, the First Tennessee Development District and Smart Growth America to set the county on the right track and get ready for the 2020s and beyond.

“Every year we have the opportunity to work with TNECD’s Community Development Director Jody Sliger, and this year we were able to obtain a $50,000 grant for housing in the area, which is very unique,” Engle said.

Engle acknowledged that the grant could be used for more housing in Unicoi County.

“It’s very important that we develop more housing because when we bring more housing on the tax roll, that helps to stabilize the tax base and to offset future needs for the county,” Engle said. “Having housing available helps lure industry and business to our county.”

According to Engle, the JEDB is considering all types of housing for Unicoi County.

“We are looking at traditional family detached homes, we are looking at semi-attached duplexes and we are looking at apartments,” Engle said. “The last time I spoke with Smart Growth (America), they projected that the goal would be 65 percent multi-family units and 35 percent single-family units. I know it is a surprise but data suggests that folks don’t want big yards and big homes to take care of anymore.”

Hensley said she was excited when she was notified of the award and grant.

“The thing we are short on is housing and this $50,000 will help us plan for more housing in Erwin and Unicoi County,” Hensley said. “This will help us out enormously with our economy, our tax base and it will help in bringing the town up to the needs of those people that may work here, but live out of town. We hope this will help workers that live out of town and work here that they can become our neighbors and residents.”

Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely said he is proud of the hard work that went into the ThreeStar Award. 

“The ThreeStar Award is a great accomplishment for our country,” Evely said. “It takes the two towns, the county and the JEDB working together to keep that status. It is vitally important because a lot of grants and the level of matching funds to receive the grants are based on whether you have that status. I appreciate the work that Tyler Engle puts into spearheading the process to achieve the designation. Also, mayors Hensley and (Johnny) Lynch are a great asset with all they do.”