TIPTONVILLE, TN., Mar 14, 2014 -- Lake County was recognized today by the Tennessee Rural Development Committee (TRDC) with its Outstanding Local Programs Award for progress made on the development of the Port of Cates Landing as well as other economic and community development in the region in 2013. TRDC is a federal/state multi-agency partnership that works to coordinate programs for economic development in rural communities.
The presentation was made at Main Street Centre in Tiptonville. Current TRDC Chair and USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Bobby Goode presented the award to Lake County Mayor Macie Roberson who accepted it on behalf of the numerous local organizations and leaders who contributed to the region’s success in working together to complete the Port, gain Select Site Status and numerous related community development projects in Northwest Tennessee.
“One of the unique aspects and main drivers for development of the new Port is its very rural location in the State’s poorest county and the one of the poorest counties in the United States,” said Goode. “Lake County and the region have suffered from the loss of textile manufacturing and declines in the number of people earning an income from farming. However, the position of Cates Landing along the Mississippi River in the heart of an agricultural region, on a point above the 100-year flood plain between Memphis and Cairo, Ill., and its relative proximity to highways and rail service combine to create a unique economic development asset for the entire region.”
Despite the challenges, Goode said, “The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority (NTRPA) Board; Dyer, Obion and Lake County governments; Reelfoot Chamber, Select Northwest TN; Gibson Electric; West Tennessee Industrial Association and other leaders have evolved into an effective economic development team that has the region poised on the brink of substantial gains.”
According to TRDC officials there is great potential for producers of commodities like cotton, grain and meat to use the Port as a hub for exports to Asian and South American markets. Within the Tri-County area there are already numerous agricultural commodities-related companies that will benefit from the improved access to world markets created by the Port and related intermodal transportation links now being improved.
Marcia Mills, Executive Director of the Reelfoot Area Chamber of Commerce and NTRPA Board Secretary, has been involved with Cates Landing since the project began. “We’ve waited so long for this,” she said. “We’ve come from almost the brink of desperation to something wonderful. The Port has already made an impact on a lot of the local businesses.”
Roberson said, “The State’s Select Site certification has also been a regional effort.”
"Certification puts Lake County and the Port of Cates Landing on the economic development map, literally," said Roberson. "It makes the Port a lot more competitive when businesses are looking for a good place to locate production." According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TEDC) website the certification program sets a consistent and rigorous standard that businesses can rely on in making critical location decisions.
Goode noted that the partner counties and cities have undertaken water improvements and many other facilities and infrastructure improvements over the last several years in preparation for the Port opening. “The new $1.8 million Interpretive Visitors Center will soon be under construction at Reelfoot Lake State Park,” said Goode. “The gateway and education center will serve as an additional way of attracting visitors traveling along the Great River Road and keeping them in the county longer.”
“The success here in Lake County is a great example of what can happen when leaders come together at the local level to develop a vision and plan for the future,” said Goode. “When that happens, federal and state agencies are in a much stronger position to help rural communities build the infrastructure that creates jobs and communities where people want to live and raise a family. This is exactly the kind of thing that USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative is designed to support.”
The StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity is part of USDA’s continuing commitment to grow rural economies, increase investments and create opportunities in high poverty communities. Goode said, “While poverty is a challenge in bigger cities as well, the reality is that nearly 85 percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural areas.”
StrikeForce helps community leaders better understand how to take advantage of existing resources. Goode said, “Here at USDA, for example, we have nearly a dozen programs that provide loans, loan guarantees and grants to help create jobs and spur investments in rural communities. But, not every community is equipped to research, apply for or manage federal, state or non-profit resources that could help.”
“StrikeForce provides additional focus for these resources in the form of hands-on technical assistance from our local field staff in places like northwest Tennessee and southwest Kentucky,” said Goode.
TRDC includes the state heads of the USDA: Rural Development (RD), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service, Forestry Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS); and state agencies including the Department of Agriculture (TDA), TECD, Tennessee State University Extension (TSUE) and University of Tennessee Extension (UTE).
Others participating in the award ceremony included Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Representative Matt Varino, Sen. Bob Corker’s Representative Nick Kistenmacher and Rep. Stephen Fincher’s Representative Ivy Fultz, FSA State Executive Director Gene Davidson, NTRPA Board Chair Jimmy Williamson, Tiptonville City Recorder Fran Hearn, TDA Asst. Commissioner for Market Development Ed Harlan, TECD Director of Rural and Community Development Kendrick Curtis, TSUE Assoc. Dean Latif Lighari and Professor Roy Bullock, UTE Western Region Program Leader Richard Powell, and USDA NASS State Statistician Debra Kennerson and RD Union City Area Director Harriet Cannon.
Recent winners of the TRDC Outstanding Local Programs Award include Dyer County in 2012, McNairy County 2011, Montgomery County "The Gathering" 2010, Henry County 2009, Bolivar Farmers Market 2008, and Chickasaw-Shiloh RC&D Council 2007.
For more information on Rural Development programs available in Northwest Tennessee contact the Rural Development Area Office in Union City at 731-885-6480 ext. 4, toll free at 1-800-342-3149 extension 1497, or visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.
Lake County officials have been awarded the 2013 Rural Development Award for Outstanding Local Programs. The annual award is made each year by the Tennessee Rural Development Committee, a federal/state multi-agency partnership that works to coordinate programs for economic development in rural communities. According to Committee Chair Bobby Goode, Lake County and officials from Obion and Dyer Counties have built a model regional partnership to create the Port of Cates Landing, gain certification as a Tennessee Select Site for industry and complete numerous related infrastructure and community development projects that support job creation, sustainable economic growth and improve the quality of life in the region.