Working together to benefit taxpayers

In a rare display of cooperation and good sense, five small counties in northwest Tennessee and southwest Kentucky have formed an alliance to work on economic development.

The Ken-Tenn Regional Alliance, which represents Obion, Weakley and Lake counties in Tennessee and Fulton and Hickman counties in Kentucky, operates at the other end of the state, but East Tennessee economic develoment officials would do well to pay close attention to the group’s efforts.

Working across county and state lines presents certain political hurdles, but joint ventures can serve taxpayers well if local officials are sincere in their efforts to cooperate.

East Tennessee economic development officials often talk about working together to bring jobs and businesses to the region. But talk is cheap. When push comes to shove, local officials usually are unwilling to invest in projects located outside their jurisdictions. It’s a shortsighted attitude that shortchanges taxpapers.

One of the few exceptions to this me-first attitude is Pellissippi Place, a mixed-use development underway in Blount County. A few years ago, Blount and Knox counties and the cities of Alcoa and Maryville each committed $5 million to  development of a technology-focused business park. Future plans call for development of residential, shopping and recreation components.

Deelopment was slowed by the recession, but in the long run Pellissippi Place should be a positive influence on the regional economy — provided Knox, Blount, Maryville and Alcoa officials continue to cooperate.