County, city are now a part of Tennessee Three-Star Program

 

By KEVIN DONALDSON

CELINA-Clay County and Celina have become part of Tennessee’s Three-Star Program, state officials announced at a meeting here last week, and will be recognized by the governor on the milestone next month. 

State and area officials met with local leaders and program team members on Friday and welcomed them to the Three-Star Community.  Rick Meredith, assistant commissioner of the Dept. of Economic and Community Development, made the announcement on behalf of Gov. Phil Bredesen. 

Chamber of commerce director Ray Norris has been the local point person for the Three-Star Program.

Norris said many people have been instrumental in Clay County and Celina reaching program certification. “Everybody’s been helping to pull this wagon across the line. I’m just awestruck,” he said. 

The program’s aim is to help counties develop and sustain economic growth and development.  Part of the certification process is to develop a strategic economic plan, which includes the county’s economic goals in promoting economic growth, a plan to accomplish those goals and a projected timeline in achieving those goals.

There are also economic benefits tied to grants and loans for Three-Star Program counties and cities, including lower interest rates and lower matching funds amounts. 

Three-Star Community Development Director Melinda Keifer described the program as a “risk management” tool, and said “the key word is sustainability.

“It’s a basic foundation to keep you on task, and to keep looking forward” in economic development and planning, she said. “Most counties spent their time reacting to situations” and not planning,  Keifer said. “It’s very hard to maintain that focus.”

“We’re here to help you,” Meredith said just before making the official announcement. “This is just the beginning. This is where you start.”

Meredith told local program members and leaders a strong internet web presence is “very important. Always remember, you have someone looking at you” through the internet. 

Keifer also focused on the importance of the appearance of the community. “Looks are important” when prospective manufacturing or retail clients drive through town, she said. 

The strength of the local educational system is very important to economic development, officials stressed, and a good portion of the 90-minute “review and celebration” focused on that.

Director of schools Donnie Cherry and his predecessor Doug Young both discussed recent developments in the school system, including a summer leadership training program for high school students that has been very successful.

“Your numbers (on ACT scores and graduation rates) are very astonishing,” Meredith said. 

Another crucial part of the Three-Star program is a leadership training class  made up of local officials and business people. The local program began last year and now has seven graduates. A new class is being recruited right now, Norris said. 

A cleanup and facelift of the downtown area here is the project for the recently-graduated leadership class. 

“Ray has worked very hard on the Three-Star Program, and it will be a big plus for the community,” said Celina mayor Willie Kerr. Addressing the appearance issue, Kerr said, “we are going to clean our town up.”

The governor will recognize the local program in Nashville on Sept. 15. Meredith said. 

 

THREE-STAR PROGRAM-Several local, state and area officials attended the meeting for the announcement that Celina and Clay County are now members of the Three-Star Program. At the meeting were (seated, l-r) Clay Director of Schools Donnie Cherry, Celina Mayor Willie Kerr, state assistant commissioner of Economic and Community Development (ECD) Rick Meredith, and Clay County Chamber of Commerce Director Ray Norris. Second row are USDA Area Specialist Jimmy Allen, Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD) Planner Amanda Mainord, Regional ECD Director for Local Planning Assistance Steven Bias, UCDD Planner Jackie Smith, Tennessee Valley Authority Project Manager Millie Callaway, Three-Star Community Development Director Melinda Keifer, ECD Development Specialist Karen Brown, and local Three-Star team members Doug Young and Andrea Rich-McLerran. (Staff photo by Kevin Donaldson)

THREE-STAR PROGRAM-Several local, state and area officials attended the meeting for the announcement that Celina and Clay County are now members of the Three-Star Program. At the meeting were (seated, l-r) Clay Director of Schools Donnie Cherry, Celina Mayor Willie Kerr, state assistant commissioner of Economic and Community Development (ECD) Rick Meredith, and Clay County Chamber of Commerce Director Ray Norris. Second row are USDA Area Specialist Jimmy Allen, Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD) Planner Amanda Mainord, Regional ECD Director for Local Planning Assistance Steven Bias, UCDD Planner Jackie Smith, Tennessee Valley Authority Project Manager Millie Callaway, Three-Star Community Development Director Melinda Keifer, ECD Development Specialist Karen Brown, and local Three-Star team members Doug Young and Andrea Rich-McLerran. (Staff photo by Kevin Donaldson)