Washington County receives sustainable development designation by TVA. Johnson City's greenway plan was a part of the company's consideration in making the award. Founders Park is part of the plan. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Washington County’s emphasis on green initiatives and responsible growth has earned the community recognition from the Tennessee Valley Authority that may help foster economic development.
The TVA announced Thursday that the county was selected for a gold rating in the organization’s new Valley Sustainable Communities program, one of only 13 communities in seven states to receive recognition this year.
“We started seeing more and more questions from companies about sustainability and sustainable practices in the community,” said Senior Consultant of Community Development for TVA Economic Development Millie Callaway. “We were finding that communities weren’t really able to address those questions, or if they could it was scattered and hard for them to find that information.”
After soliciting applications for the program, TVA used a proprietary scoring formula created by consultant Boyette Strategic Advisors to rank the entrants.
“There’s a lot going on here,” Callaway said. “ETSU is doing a lot, the Rails to Trails project and the downtown revitalization are just a few things out of an inventory that is very lengthy.”
Jeff Keeling, director of Marketing and Community Relations for the Washington County Economic Development Council, said a major part of the county’s marketable sustainability is the local governments’ willingness to enact policies designed to efficiently utilize resources while also promoting growth.
“It’s all about whether the local governments continue to create policies that incentivize density and green space in developing,” he said. “All the other stuff is big as well, but what TVA’s looking at as their No. 1 factor is public participation.”
The rankings will be used by the corporation to promote the communities with distinction to prospective businesses.
“It’s a differentiator for your community,” Callaway said. “If a business is looking for land and a workforce, but they’re also looking for a community that meets sustainable criteria, then you’re going to be someone they’re going to look at.”
Mitch Miller, WCEDC’s CEO, said the designation will be a boon for the local economy.
“To incentivize Tupelo Honey to come here, Johnson City really stepped up and said, we’re going to build Founder’s Park, we’re going to extend this walking trail in front of your business and we’re going to invest in things to better the atmosphere around your property,” Miller said. “It’s those kind of things that helped us to get this distinction and it’s those kinds of things that are going to attract other businesses to relocate here.”