In lieu of an Economic Summit normally held in the fall, the Washington County Economic Development Council announced Thursday that it plans to hold its first annual meeting in June and use the meeting to release the final version of a strategic economic plan to serve as a guide for residents and businesses.
The WCEDC board of directors will hold a retreat in September to review and refine a strategic plan outline.
The strategic plan will include certain “pillars,” or a set of principles and objectives the council will use to guide economic and quality of life issues.
Then later this fall, key stakeholders and strategic partners will meet to provide further input. A series of “mini-Summits” will be held around November and December for the public to offer remarks and suggestions about the focus of the council’s pillars.
Lottie Ryans, WCEDC board chairwoman, said she thinks the switch from a fall Economic Summit to an annual meeting to include an economic plan is a matter of right timing for the council.
“We’ve had ... (a) great run with Economic Summit. A lot of great work has been done and now, of course, we’ve transitioned the whole economic development focus in Washington County, Johnson City and Jonesborough. I think the timing is very appropriate that we try to go ... with the intent of having a real strategic plan, with intent of getting even more community input,” Ryans said.
“With the new program, we will have mini-Summits, which hopefully can allow for more people to be engaged and involved, and perhaps the location and the timing will be more conducive to have even more ... interaction and involvement. The more people in the community, whether it’s business people, students ... retirees, whatever it might be, the more people who can be involved the stronger our plan of action will be and the better the engagement and the accountability for everybody.”
She said she foresees the mini-Summits going on for several months before the first annual meeting and to have the mini-Summits serve as a foundation of the development of WCEDC’s pillars.
“We’ve had some really strong things, like education and medical, and they’re really very important to your economy, very important to job creation and just the health and well-being of your community. We’ve had things like work and play and infrastructure, (and) I think all those things are very critical,” Ryans said. “One of my goals is to create a forum (in which) I can get people to say, ‘OK, here’s where we are, here’s where we want to go, but what’s our gap?’ If we can understand what our gaps are, I think that would help create a pillar.”
She said another of her goals is to make sure the community understands the council’s focus on economic development, as well as the good things already happening in the region.
“There’s a small group of people that know what’s going on, and other people think things are stagnant, but they’re not. We want to be able to celebrate the accomplishments, the actions of things that are getting done,” Ryans said. “The second thing is to be able to recognize businesses, to be able to ... possibly even have some awards in the process.”
Awards eventually would be given to people and organizations such as city and county officials, businesses, WCEDC members and new businesses in the area and businesses that have expanded.
In a news release, Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin said he was pleased to see the WCEDC moving toward a comprehensive strategic plan.
“The Summit has been useful in focusing our attention on economic development, and the expert and citizen input provided over the past few years needs to now be more aggressively acted upon. I’m confident they will keep the community appropriately involved in this process, and that we will end up with a practical, easily understandable strategy and a top-notch annual event to highlight progress,” Van Brocklin said.
The Economic Summit, previously run by the city of Johnson City, was turned over to the WCEDC in 2011 and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012.
For more information on the WCEDC, visit www.thewcedc.com.