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The Economic Development Council held their first meeting of  2010
by Tonya Brantley

Friday, February 5, 2010

Economic Development Council Chairman, Tom Wheeler welcomed several new members of the Economic Development Council during the first meeting of the new year. Updates were given on a variety of topics including, Wacker, New, Ongoing and Existing Industry Projects, Workforce Development, The Strategic Plan, Exit 20 Local Interstate Connector Project, the Corridor K Project status and Connected Tennessee.

Chamber of Commerce President, Gary Farlow reported that Wacker Chemie is on schedule now that Wacker's engineering team has been freed up from a project they were working on in Germany. Wacker has been successful in getting $128 million of the $280 million they had applied for in Federal alternative energy tax credit as part of the stimulus package. Farlow stated Wacker has to have all of their permits in place by the end of the year. Farlow said, "Wacker plans to break ground by the end of this year and begin construction in mid to late 2011 and is scheduled to be in pre-production by 2013. Wacker had several changes made in regards to the location of the access road. The road will be moved more to the eastern property line and then through part of Olin Chemical's property so the road wouldn't go directly through Wacker's property for security reasons.

Sherry Crye gave an update on workforce development. The Tennessee Scholars program continues to grow with 1175 students currently enrolled  from Bradley Central, Cleveland and Walker Valley High Schools and Tennessee Preparatory School. Crye said the focus now is on the senior class to determine that they have met all the requirements to graduate as Tennessee Scholars. Scholarships will again be given at Cleveland State and Lee University for Tennessee Scholars.

Teacher shadowing will be held on February 12 for the Career and Technical teachers for Bradley County schools. 29 teachers will be placed with local businesses and industries in the particular field they teach.

Workforce development recently added new BEST partnerships with CiCi's Pizza and Yates Primary and Bradley Central High, Wholesale Supply Group and Yates Primary and People for Care and Learning and Tennessee Christian Preparatory School.
Lisa Pickel updated the board on Existing Industry Programs. There were a total of 23 company surveys completed and an additional 16 company visits for the year 2009. The Existing Industry Committee will be restructured for 2010 with a new mission and goals.

Farlow reported on the outcome of the Compass Campaign saying, "We had a pretty successful campaign. We didn't reach our goal but I think we did pretty well. The original goal was $1.750 million, we actually raised $1.350 million and after expenses, we have approximately $1.1 to carry out several of the economic development programs identified as part of the capital campaign." The Chamber's Foundation administers and oversees the funds. One of the things Farlow stated the Chamber was trying to do with those funds is the career center back in Bradley County. There is a career center now operating in Cleveland State Community College one or two days a week. Farlow said once new administration is in place, the goal will be re-evaluated.

Farlow updated the board on the purpose of the Bradley County, City of Cleveland and Charleston Strategic Plan. The plan studies how Volkswagen and Wacker will have an impact on the community and how to deal with those impacts. A Strategic Plan Task Force was formed to give technical support role to consultants regarding impacts from a 10 to 15 year time frame. The idea is to get consensus from the city and the county and all other groups involved in the process to identify ways to move forward with different projects and study the financial fiscal impact analysis on growth. Farlow said it is a collaborative effort which will take six to seven months. Citizen input groups will also be incorporated in the Strategic Plan in the future.

Vice President of Economic Development, Doug Berry gave an update on the Exit 20 Local Interstate Connector  (LIC) project. Berry stated the project is a month behind the original timeline, but the earliest construction will be started will be May 2011.
Berry gave an update on Connected Tennessee in reference to broadband in Bradley County. Berry said, "The State of Tennessee is the leading state in taking a state-level look at internet accessibility and broadband accessibility and have put in a healthy request for funding." The goal is to have 100 percent broadband capable of all the households in Bradley County by 2014.

The Economic Development Council will hold their next meeting on April 1, 2010 at 4pm at the Chamber of Commerce.