published Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Rhea County studies tourism, industrial growth

  • photo
    John Payne, the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council's new Executive Director.
    Staff Photo by Kimberly McMillian/Chattanooga Times Free Press

DAYTON, Tenn. -- Consideration of the Rhea County areas ripe for development will begin soon now that an economic report by Tennessee Valley Authority personnel is complete, the county's economic director said.

The report's findings will serve as "fluid documentation ... the bible of what we do" and he will review it regularly, John Payne, executive director of the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council, told county leaders last week.

In April, a group of nearly 30 leaders attended a planning session with TVA officials to discuss the county's accomplishments and its needs.

Downtown Dayton, state-funded building facade renovations, the addition of three elementary schools and the construction of the new Rhea County High School topped the list of accomplishments. Two bridges that connect Rhea County to Meigs and Hamilton counties, both built within the past 20 years, also were listed as improvements.

Payne said that, although economic development stimulated growth, increased tourism is a goal he would like to work toward. He said the www.rheacountyetc.com website had undergone revisions last year but that the informational links needed simplifying for potential onlookers.

Bill Pryor, the tourism council's chairman, said the committee recently agreed to develop informational rack cards. Two years ago, the panel developed maps that detailed the county's areas of attraction.

Payne said last December that six sites were available for industry but that three sites along the railroad between Dayton and Spring City had qualified as feasible options.

State officials, he said, recently approved a certification process that sites must meet and would help site consultants find qualified locations for industries. Payne said the state had agreed to pay for the consultants, but that local governing parties would have to locate the funding for the geotechnical and economic survey costs.

Andrew Lawson, a Southeast regional economic consultant with TVA, said, "There's a lot of support" Rhea County needed.

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