Regionalism is the topic as Sullivan, Washington commissions hold first joint meeting

J. H. Osborne • Oct 19, 2018 at 8:39 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Congressman Phil Roe joined the Sullivan County Commission and Washington County Commission at Tri-Cities Airport in what was touted as the first time the neighboring governments have held a joint meeting. The topic: regionalism. Roe’s role: present and read into the record a joint resolution declaring Oct. 18 as “Regional Cooperation Day” in the two counties.

And the movers and shakers behind the effort, namely Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy, have stated the larger goal is to attract even more Northeast Tennessee counties to the table.

The resolution, in part, states the two county commissions have agreed to “move forward to forge greater bonds of partnership and cooperation in recognition that joint workforce readiness and economic development present a tangible opportunity for the betterment of Northeast Tennessee’s citizens.”

It calls for creation of a committee to “reach out across imaginary, arbitrary lines” to conceive new ways to partner together to benefit the region as a whole.

Venable and Grandy noted the airport itself resulted from a region-wide partnership, and development of Aerospace Park at the airport is happening thanks, again, to the support of multiple local governments.

“For now, it’s a historic start where we have both commissions meeting and breaking bread together for the first time, learning about each other as we begin thinking about how we can improve our communities through cooperation,” Venable said. “There are several areas we have identified for the working committee. We know the world of work is changing and for our region to be successful over the long term, we’ll have to retain and attract people, not smokestacks.”

Mayor Grandy added he believes in the ability of Northeast Tennesseans to compete and that local governments should cooperate across political boundary lines to set the stage for their success.

“The state of Tennessee will always be an important player in economic development, but if we’re really going to pick our game up, we’re going to have to do it by working together locally,” Grandy said.