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ETSU center to provide development position

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
[email protected]rd.net
The Unicoi County Economic Development Board accepted an offer from East Tennessee State University’s Center for Community Outreach and Economic Development, which is projected to help bring in new businesses and industries to the county.
Dr. Jerry Leger outlined a strategy through a presentation given during the board’s meeting on Friday. Leger said he assisted Johnson County with a similar business model.
“We started by writing grants and partnering with the economic development board there,” Leger said. “We brought in over $1 million worth of grant money into that county.”
Leger said he would like to see his group renting a space in the county to house one employee for the purpose of building relationships with businesses willing to locate to the area.
Board members expressed concern whether they would have any say in which industries or businesses the employee would interact with. They also discussed the individual’s availability to meet with business owners and show them around the county. The board agreed that preparing requests for proposals will also be part of the employee’s job description.
“We’re going to work with you guys on that,” Leger said. “You guys are the contact points in those situations. I see this person as having the time to show people around and work closely with industries. It takes a lot of time and a lot of phone calls.”
He said that after a certain period of time the county may want to split the cost of the employee’s salary, but for the first few years the community center would pay for the employee.
“We are willing to fund this position for three years,” Leger said. “We will set up the office with a printer and all of that. By that point, we’re hoping this person would have ingratiated himself or herself enough to you guys that you would want to throw in some money yourself. But, it’s up to you.”
Leger said the next step would be to finalize a job description and appoint members of the board to a steering committee in order to begin the hiring process.
“[The office] would kinda be a little beehive of activity,” he said. “This person could assist in grant writing for whatever you decide are the priorities.”
Erwin Utilities Manager Lee Brown outlined the necessity of the office to the county’s vision to bring in new business.
He said this person would have the time to do the work many on the board are unable to find time to do.
“We’ve tried to get our available sites together,” he said. “We need to get a packaged list together and ready for when the state sends a request for proposal. Usually you have three to seven days to respond. If you don’t have it all put together, you just can’t do it. I see that being accomplished [through this initiative.]”
During the meeting, Leger requested a “sign of approval” from the board to proceed.
Brown motioned for the board to accept the proposal for the business recruitment office. The board unanimously voted to begin the process and will pursue helping select an employee for the initiative.
Leger said he expects to receive many inquiries about the position, and its pay would be around $42,000 to $52,000.