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After the approval of funding, Catoosa County Economic Development Authority Director Keith Barclift is preparing to tackle one of his preliminary goals from when he started his job around two years ago — developing a strategic plan for the county's economic future.

On Feb. 9, members of the authority voted to approve $9,000 worth of funding for the initial phase of creating a guide outlining operations and goals to take the department in a new direction.

"I'm trying to build a department of economic development that hasn't really been here before, in a way that hasn't been here before," he said.

Barclift said a main focus of the authority under his lead will be to recruit large industries to bring jobs to the area. But he knows they must strike a balance with what already exists.

"I would like to see a focus on industry. But at the same time, we also know that we have to serve the businesses and industries that are located in the county," Barclift said. "So figuring out how to kind of marry those two pieces is going to be what's important for me."

In order to achieve such larger goals, the authority will establish a strategic plan that spans the next three to five years.

In the first phase of the planning process, Barclift said the county will begin work on developing the organizational structure of the authority and deciding how it will work with other entities such as the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce and the county's Board of Commissioners in order to reduce the likelihood of a redundancy in services.

The work to develop the strategic plan for economic development will happen alongside the county's process to craft its comprehensive plan outlining goals across all sectors of the local government, which is required by the state every five years. Keith said the alignment will further help make sure everyone is on the same page.

After the first phase of the economic development plan is started and completed — a process that is slated to take around three months — the county will begin a target market study. This will help decide which industries should be focused on for recruitment and is expected to take around six months.

All in all, Barclift said he hopes the county will complete the process before the end of the year.

The second phase will involve consultants to figure out how best to proceed.

"They'll be looking at other communities and how [they are] structured," he explained. "[They'll be] meeting with commissioners, city councilmen, the general public to figure out what the needs of Catoosa County are and how to best serve them."

Contact Tierra Hayes at thayes@timesfreepress.com.

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