Faulkenberry Takes Helm of EDA
Published By: Jake Depew, Assistant Editor / JEFFERSON COUNTY POST
Updated: January 20, 2017
The Jefferson County Economic Development Alliance, formerly the Economic Develop Oversight Committee or EDOC, has a new name, some new faces and a new location. They also have a more defined mission for the new year. Adele Sensing, a familiar fixture with the organization, is continuing her charge to promote Jefferson County and bring in tourist dollars. Lauren Hurdle manages the daily operations of EDA and the new man at the helm is Scott Faulkenberry who began his stint as Executive Director in the fall. Now a few months into his new position, Faulkenberry has already come face to face with some of the challenges that are a part of the landscape in Jefferson County with one of the largest being the local Industrial Development Board’s quest for a location to build a Commerce Park. Though Falukenberry and the Economic Development Alliance are not involved in the decision making regarding a proposed location for a Commerce Park, it will be the new Director’s job to try and market that and any existing property to interested businesses.
In line with their new location, which is on the second floor of Town Hall in Dandridge, EDA is re branding and re positioning themselves, a move that will allow for a more definitive division in responsibilities and mission from the Chamber of Commerce. Faulkenberry is aware that there has been tension between the organization and groups of citizens in the past and hopes that this re branding will bring the opportunity for better relationships with all of the residents of Jefferson County. He acknowledges that there have been valid concerns and is committed to transparency, while maintaining the confidentiality of potential clients. The Director said “In the absence of information people tend to make up their own narrative and the conclusions are usually negative.” He is actively working to build a relationship with the people in Jefferson County. Consideration is being given to making meetings of the EDA open to the public but Faulkenberry realizes that it will be a balancing act. “There is always sensitive information that cannot be shared if we want to attract businesses to this area. We are working on balancing the public’s need to know with potential businesses’ need for confidentiality.” It is a work in progress but progress is the name of the game and there has been some significant progress in the past few weeks. Jefferson County has made it to round two in the site selection process for a couple of different industries looking for a location. Faulkenberry said that, while round two is great, he won’t feel comfortable sharing any specifics until at least round three. “Round two is not far enough into the decision making process to get folks excited. If we are still in the race at round three then we can start talking about possibilities.”
Despite his new position with EDA, Faulkenberry is no stranger to Jefferson County. He helped author the Building a Better Future plan a few years ago and is aware that there are differing views on the direction of Jefferson County. “In order to attract the kind of retail and businesses that improve the quality of life for the citizens of Jefferson County we have to have certain demographics. Grocery stores, restaurants, shopping, all to some extent, follow industry. Those service businesses want to locate in a place that can and will support their success and they are not as attracted to places where the majority of the work force leave the county for the better part of the day. That means that we need industry to provide good paying jobs and an educated, skilled work force to fill those jobs.” Providing a skilled work force is necessary to attract industry and the EDA is working closely with both the high school and local colleges to identify avenues to hone the skills of those entering the work force.
“It is a total package, we need a skilled work force to attract good jobs to the area. We need good jobs to keep the work force inside Jefferson County and we need to keep our work force inside Jefferson County to attract the shopping, restaurants and other quality of life enhancing businesses that the citizens of Jefferson County want to see in their community. It truly requires a holistic approach and that is what we are committed to and working for at EDA.”
Source: K. Depew, News Director