The chamber has exceeded its fundraising goal for the newly minted collaborative community plan, but how will it move it forward?
CROSSVILLE – “The Horizon Initiative is not owned by anyone. It is a partnership,” explained Brad Allamong of the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce.
“What is Horizon?” Allamong explained, “The Horizon Initiative came from a series of 19 visioning meetings held across the county with citizens giving their input on what the community needed and what the problems they face were. Horizon now is all of Cumberland County working cooperatively on the dreams of our residents. I think that the beauty to Horizon is that it really is an umbrella for these dreams, these wishes of our residents to come to pass. Where common groups that share goals and visions can come and be discussing issues that they never really had before.”
Thursday, Allamong announced the chamber had exceeded its $120,000 goal in private sector support for the initiative – with donations and commitments totaling $132,000.
While Cumberland County’s check for $40,000 is cut and ready to be delivered, the city voted to disburse its $40,000 in funds only upon appointment of an oversight committee and receipt by the chamber of at least $120,000 cash in the bank. Currently, the chamber has other several outstanding commitments to reach that amount but Allamong told the council he was confident they would meet that requirement shortly as checks were continuing to come in.
Allamong gave background on how the Horizon Initiative came about, where it is now and where he and other partners hope it will help take the community in the future.
“Horizon has it roots in the visioning program that was designed to get input from all Cumberland County residents,” he said. There were 19 different meetings at different locations, often schools and public meeting places where the public was invited to share their ideas and concerns.
“We wanted to have input and views from citizens on where we had been, where they think we are now and where they’d like the future to be. It’s really important to have consensus as you move forward,” Allamong stressed.
Although the community is losing Ficosa with the company’s relocation to Cookeville, Allamong said they continue to recruit retirees and tourism has held it’s own.
“Horizon became the banner or label of every success that would come out of this plan. The first announcement under the banner was the January announcement of Apex Energy,” explained Allamong. Other announcements included 150 new jobs at Co-Linx and the three state bowling tournaments to be held in Crossville in the next 12 months.
Allamong pointed out that while the city and county were working as partners – something they hadn’t often done in the past – those working on the plan realized that if something was going to be done about workforce development, they would also need help from the schools district, Roane State Community College (RSCC) and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT). As more partners came on board, a simple cooperative agreement was drafted that says “were all going to work together to advance this Horizon plan.”
The Horizon fundraising campaign was, according to Allamong, a pretty good deal for the city and the county.
“The city put up $40,000 and the county put up $40,000, and we said we would come with $120,000 and I think going forward, this 60/40 split thing, we’re going to continue to pursue that going forward,” he said.
“The campaign was for some very specific things. We wanted a targeted industry analysis that will give us a professional consultant’s look at the resources of Cumberland County. The land, the utilities, the workforce, etc. What are those companies that are in the expansion mode that we could attract and it’s in their best interest to be here.”
Currently, the chamber gets leads from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development – but so does every other community in the state.
“With a targeted industry analysis, you are looking for the companies with the best match, the best suited to you,” Allamong said. “What we hope to get out of a targeted industry analysis, don’t tell me I need more ceramics companies, tell me what companies I can attract that will help us anchor those ceramics industries.
“Workforce development strategy was another thing we want to do,” he added. “Before we go out and do a bunch of programs, which may well cure some of our workforce ills, tell us what the strategy is and then the programs follow. The targeted industry with the workforce strategy will tell you that you need to work on bringing these companies here. Once you know the profiles of the companies you’re attracting, you turn it over to the education folks and say ‘what are we doing to prepare the workforce to accept those jobs in those companies that you’re recruiting?’ That sounds like a new thing, but it’s not.”
In a similar vein, Allamong said that while the area has property available for industry, until the area knows what type of industry it is trying to attract they won’t know if they have the right property with the right infrastructure.
“Horizon carries the banner to encompass the vision process, any announcements if it’s out of the visioning plan as a success. One of the nice things about our city-county-chamber partnership is that none of us are hung up on the issue of who gets credit,” according to Allamong. “The community gets credit and we all win.”
Allamong added that some of the recent local political headlines do make his job harder, that it would be better to find accord and diplomacy, “Because that’s the darndest thing about Google, you can pretty much find anything out there. But I would love to be known as the community that found solutions to its workforce problems. I wouldn’t have to market, they’d come here.”
Allamong admitted, “We have done the worst job of communicating, post visioning, where is Horizon? It almost needs its own marketing strategy. We’re going to fail if we don’t communicate back to the people that wrote the plan. I would love to go back into the communities and periodically revisit visioning.”
The Horizon Initiative steering committee is currently meeting monthly and organizing around six focus areas: social, identity, infrastructure, economic, leadership and organizational. Nancy Burns, steering committee chair, said the group is finalizing its bylaws and currently has 18-20 members. Each focus area has a chair, and they are working to establish volunteers and work plans to move the project and the community forward.