On April 19, Gov. Haslam kicked off a meeting of the Rural Task Force where federal, state and local leaders gathered to discuss the state of rural Tennessee.
The Rural Task Force has been busy over the last few months hosting public input sessions and gathering information needed to move forward. Now, the task force has broken into six committees to identify specific action steps for improving rural Tennessee. The topics of the committees include:
- Education and workforce
- Site and retail development
- Community and leadership development
- Tourism and conservation (includes agritourism) and agriculture
- Entrepreneurship and small business
While Tennessee is seeing an abundance of success especially in the areas of education and private sector growth, it is important to remember that this success exists much more in some areas of the state than others. As co-chair of the Rural Task Force, Commissioner Boyd has charged committee members with finding solutions to help distribute this success evenly amongst all of the state’s 95 counties. See his memo to committee members below:
April 19, 2016
First, thank you for volunteering to serve on one of the Rural Task Force’s committees. This is extremely important work and an opportunity to dramatically change the destiny of many Tennesseans and their communities. Opportunities like this come along rarely. For some it’s late in life, for some it’s early, and for some it never comes. But when we have the opportunity, we must seize it.
For this reason, I wanted to share with you my favorite quote from a hero of mine, President Theodore Roosevelt. “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, for they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” In the work you are about to undertake, you are encouraged to think broadly and boldly, discuss big ideas, and then propose imaginative and profound solutions.
Today is unarguably the best time in Tennessee’s history. There are more Tennesseans working than ever before. We have the highest post-secondary education achievement level, highest average household income and the highest GDP in our state’s history. Our private sector growth over the last 12 months is the second highest in the nation and unemployment has dropped 1.1% in the same period. And yet, in spite of these accomplishments, we are not sharing the success equally. In fact, 21 of our 95 counties are classified by the federal government as “distressed” meaning they are in the bottom 10% in the country in household income, unemployment and poverty level. We are only as rich as our poorest neighbor, and our neighbors need our help.
The good news is there’s nothing that 6.5 million Tennesseans cannot do when we come together, and we have. Our Rural Task Force started with the convening of 19 different statewide government and non-government organizations, with expertise and resources in everything from labor to tourism, from education to banking and from agriculture to health. We created a mission, objectives, and a definition of rural. We then began several months of listening sessions to hear about issues and ideas from around the state. Those have been summarized, divided and assigned to the committees you are now a part of.
Your mission is to take these next three months to review these ideas, build on them, and research specific policy ideas. Then your committee will present its recommendations back to the Rural Task Force. We will then debate, refine and prioritize them into a package to present to the governor.
Our need is great but our opportunity is greater. This is an opportunity of a lifetime to make a lasting impact on our state. I encourage you to “dare mighty things”, dream big and be bold. I’m excited to be a part of this historic work with you and thank you again for your passion and dedication to this cause.
Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
Co-Chair, Governor’s Rural Task Force