A room full of community members, business leaders and politicians determined that improving the retention and expanding existing companies in Cumberland County is one of the top five most important issues facing the community in terms of the future of its economic development.

Leaders and members of the community gathered Monday evening for a leadership workshop and dinner in order to discuss and review strategic planning issues for Cumberland County.

The workshop was presented by Dr. David Kolzow, executive director of the Tennessee Leadership Center. The workshop is a required component of being a member in Tennessee's Three-Star Community program.

The Three-Star Program is designed to assist communities in their effort to achieve excellence in community and economic development. Participating communities are guided through a plan of essential criteria developed by local economic development professionals and a cooperative collaboration of various state agencies. These combined efforts have made the Three-Star Program an important component of Tennessee's economic strategy.

Said Kolzow, "Small business and new business startups are responsible for 70 to 80 percent of job growth and employment in smaller communities."

The group also met in order to determine what the key issues are in the development of the Crossville/Cumberland County community.

"Maintaining existing industry and encouraging expansion is an important factor ... a community must be able to work with existing industry or the company may consider moving elsewhere, feeling unwanted," said Kolzow.

Five subject areas deemed the most important issues facing the community economy and development in order of importance were:

1. Improving the retention and expansion of existing firms.

2. Accommodating a high population growth rate through more integrated planning.

3. Attraction of new manufacturing firms compatible with the existing economic base through a targeted marketing/recruitment program.

4. Expansion of the local retail and customer service base.

5. Expansion of industrial sites.

The issues deemed most important were chosen from a list of more than 15 obtained through a survey and were ranked in their importance by those who attended the workshop.

Some of the other key issues on the list included expanding tourist activity and spending, local road and highway improvements, improving education and training of the local workforce for high-tech skills, and improvement of local education (K-12) through increased business involvement.

Other issues were also discussed.

"I think that there needs to be more planning. There needs to be more local, community planning so that we as a community can have an understanding of where we're heading," said Louise Gorenflo

Many attending agreed.

A formal report will be made from the recommendations at the workshop and included in the next Three-Star action plan report from the state.

The event was sponsored by the City of Crossville, Cumberland County and the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce.

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