Leaders work to create job growth, promote economic development in region

Authored By Chloé Morrison

Leaders on the local, state and federal levels are working to promote job growth and economic development in the Southeast Tennessee region.

The Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association is partnering with the Appalachian Regional Commission to identify assets in Grundy County that can boost the economy by attracting tourists and adding jobs.

“Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association’s mission is to promote heritage tourism and increase economic development in the Southeast region,” Cindy Milligan, director of tourism with the association, said. “Economic development is a four-legged stool that includes tourism, industrial, commercial retail and entrepreneurial efforts.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission contracts with consultants, such as Cheryl Hargrove, who said she spent Thursday touring Grundy County and learning about the county’s historic, cultural and natural assets and how those might be used to promote tourism and economic development.

Thursday night, county and state leaders, along with community members, met in Grundy County to discuss options for meeting the goal.

It was the first of several meetings and research that will take place over a six- to nine-month period.

At the end of that time period, leaders hope to have established a local advisory team, an action plan with tangible implantation strategies and commitments from partners and sponsors.

Milligan said that Grundy County is a great example of how heritage tourism-which is using history and culture to draw in visitors-can benefit a community.

“With their outdoor recreation, rich history, great restaurants and attractions, as well as their unique mountain arts and crafts, the area is poised to show off their assets,” she said.

There are already projects in the works that may help with the goals.

For example, the Monteagle Main Street Initiative and the Mountain Goat Trail initiative will eventually link Sewanee to Coalmont and Palmer via Monteagle and Tracy City, Milligan said.

“Once completed, the project will create approximately 20 miles of pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly areas that will not only improve the quality of life in Grundy County and the southern Cumberland Plateau region but also attract tourists,” she said.

The city of Coalmont recently received funding through the Recreation Trails Program for an Off-Highway Vehicle Project, which will include acquisition of property, motorized trail construction and the development of trailhead facilities. 

Milligan said that across Grundy County there are unique shops, restaurants, historical sites and outdoor recreation opportunities-from the Monteagle Assembly to the state’s largest wilderness park (South Cumberland State Park) to the Dutch Maid Bakery and Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse.

“There are also a plethora of inns, cottages and unique places to stay while enjoying the plateau area,” she said. “Clearly, all of these places play a significant role when it comes to growing the regional economy. The money that they spend to shop, eat and stay overnight goes into the local economy.”