Friday, December 28, 2012Author: Jeremy Styron
(Last modified: 2012-12-28 17:45:56)
Plan East Tennessee, the regional planning collaborative effort of five counties, is entering the home stretch with a planned symposium to kick off the new year in January.
The symposium, "Advancing Regional Competitiveness," will include discussion among area leaders based on the five target areas of economy, environment, housing, healthy communities and transportation. The five counties included in PlanET are Loudon, Anderson, Blount, Knox and Union.
"We are really seeking to get a conversation going throughout the regional business community in all five counties where PlanET is effective," Mary Beth West, with Mary Beth West Communications, said. "Certainly, Loudon County (is) among them to talk about competitiveness from a regional standpoint."
The event will take place 1-4:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at the East Tennessee History Center on Gay Street in Knoxville.
Moderated by Ted Abernathy, executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board, the symposium will be divided into three panels covering the five target areas.
Among the panelists in the discussion will be Ted Wampler Jr., chief operating officer with Wampler's Farm Sausage in Lenoir City. Wampler's company is currently developing a cellulose to hydrogen power operation that will allow the plant to generate its own power.
"The panel that I'm onis education and jobs for regional competitiveness, and so, of course, as we become a whole lot more technical in our operation people trained to operate the kind of stuff that we're doing is very important, and, at the same time, the kind of jobs we're adding and the processes we're adding will make us more competitive on a national scale," Wampler said.
He emphasized that Wampler's has worked with engineers to develop much of its own equipment, including inventing its own patty-stacking machine.
"So, it's not like you can pick up a phone and call the company, and say 'we're having an issue with communication electronics inside this machine'," Wampler said. "... We're creating this, and so inside the plant, we do make a lot of our own machinery, and we will also take a standard machine and modify it."
He said Wampler's new power-producing plant is set to be completed by mid-February. Earlier this year, the company was presented with the Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association 2012 Solar Champion Award, and Wampler was named a "catalyst" in the industry. Wampler's also has a large solar farm housed in back of the future power-producing facility.
"We're actually becoming our own electric company," Wampler said.
Participants of PlanET, which began in the summer of 2011, worked during the early stages of the process to articulate some shared goals and visions for the region, while the second phase encouraged community leaders to form a unified direction for the area. The final phase will focus on implementation strategies.
Other leaders participating in the symposium will include: Robert Martineau, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; Jim Evans, vice president of air services with McGhee Tyson Airport; Doug Lawyer, vice president of economic development for Innovation Valley; David Mansouri, director of advocacy and communications for SCORE; Carol Evans, executive director of Legacy Parks Foundation; Cindy McConkey, senior vice president of Scripps Networks Interactive; and Matt Murray, director of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
West said the last stage of the process will formally conclude at the end of 2013. She said she thought the symposium would generate a wealth of applications that companies in East Tennessee can then apply to their strategies in the future.
"We want business leaders and community leaders to be able to take the competitiveness ideas and thought sharing that's going to be part of the symposium back to their companies and really be able to think about 'what does our company need to do to be competitive alongside all of these issues and opportunities that are now part of our community'," West said.
Doors will open at 12:30 p.m., and a networking session will commence after the event. Seating is limited. Online registration is required at http://www.planeasttn.org/ETcompetes.
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