Tri-Cities leaders who once pushed their separate municipalities into fierce competition for jobs and residents are now realizing how entwined our economies and social lives are. They’re now aiming for a new spirit of cooperation they say will benefit everyone in our area.
It’s called regionalism.
The idea from economic development officials and elected officers is to recognize the shared culture, business activity and social structure of the multi-county region in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia in which we live.
By sharing resources and combining efforts, proponents say we will have more impact when trying to land a new major employer, for example, or when seeking grants for infrastructure or arts projects.
As proof of the concept, those pushing regionalism point to the Tri-Cities Airport Authority, a governing board that has overseen operations at the regional airport for decades. Recently, the members of the authority, who represent most counties and cities served by the airport, committed to funding for a grading project to ready more than 100 acres near the airport for a new aerospace park.
Regionalism efforts have also led to the creation of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, a group that includes representatives of Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties, their municipalities and the businesses contained inside them. The group and its staff steer economic development in the three counties and marked the region to prospective businesses.
Those calling for cooperation say regionalism will be very important for our area and its residents in the coming decades, so we want to hear from you.
What do you think about regionalism? Do you have concerns about it or hopes for what it will produce? How do you picture a united region in the next 10 or 20 years?
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