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John Payne is the the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council's executive director.

DAYTON, Tenn. - For Rhea County to grow and thrive, efforts by its leaders and maintenance of improvements will be required, officials said at a recent Rhea Economic and Tourism Council meeting with Thrive 2055 project representatives.

"It's great to have a vision," said John Payne, the council's executive director.

The Thrive 2055 project, which encompasses a 16-county region in three states, encourages leaders to brainstorm their communities' potential growth.

Project manager Bridgett Massengill said Thrive 2055 had a $3 million budget over the next three years. She said selected groups had given more than $2 million but that more is needed.

The project will help beneficiaries thrive by "sharing the same resources ... the same playground," she said.

Payne and Graysville Mayor Ted Doss asked what other groups were represented or assigned to help determine each area's needs.

Outreach coordinator Ryan Dale listed groups, such as Chambers of Commerce, housing authorities, developers, nonprofit organizations and foundations, that would help economic leaders make such determinations.

Massengill said Dayton had 12 percent growth from 1990 to 2000, while Spring City had 5.8 percent growth.

Bryan College representative David Holcomb said the college's Grassroots fundraisers had allowed 95 percent of students to receive scholarships. Fifty-six of those were from Rhea County, Holcomb said.

United Way Executive Director Christine Ralph said she is negotiating with the county's four post offices about recycling the county's undeliverable Imagination Library program books.

"We are optimistic" the books will be recycled, Ralph said.