There are three things that help a community thrive and Northeast Tennessee has all of them, according to an official with the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Earl Gohl, federal co-chairman of the ARC, said the area’s colleges and universities, Tri-Cities Regional Airport and the leadership of the region all work in favor of advancing the region’s economic opportunities.
Gohl said the ARC has a long history of working with East Tennessee State University and also economic development in Johnson City. On Thursday, Gohl visited with people at ETSU who have worked with the commission on things such as health care and education. He also visited with local businesses to talk about economic challenges and opportunities, a directive from President Barack Obama.
“The folks that we talked to this morning talked about the challenge of making sure that the work force that’s looking for jobs is matched up with critical industries and critical job openings,” Gohl said.
A big part of that is preparing children for the right jobs, he said.
“It’s not saying every kid goes to college,” Gohl said. “It’s saying every kid completes what they start, whether it’s community college, whether it’s job training, whether it’s technical training.”
Another part of the business discussion centered around creating an environment in Appalachia that is conducive to entrepreneurship.
“Everybody seems to have some kind of business that they run out of the back of their truck,” Gohl said. “And the challenge that we have and our mission really is how do we develop a system that helps them move from the back of their truck into a storefront, into a warehouse, so that they have greater opportunities and can create their part-time passion into a full-time career.”
The ARC was established in 1965 as a partnership between the 13 states in the Appalachian region and the president of the United States. Appalachia stretches from New York and arcs down into Mississippi.
“Our objective is to work in a collaborative way to create jobs and create economic opportunities in Appalachia, so that the economicstandardsoftheAppalachian communities are the same as those of the rest of the U.S.,” Gohl said.
An economic development policy centered around finding and recruiting factories to town is not as sure a bet now as it once was, Gohl said.
“The sure play is working with assets you have in the community already and helping to create and grow those assets,” Gohl said.