State officials hear from regional business men and women
By Becky Jane Newbold, Photos Katie Hayes
State officials including representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Economic & Community Development and Commissioner of Agriculture Julius Johnson were on hand in Waynesboro June 7, 2012 to discuss the economic condition of south central Tennessee loggers and farmers.
With an objective to talk about opportunities for Tennessee forest and agriculture products, members of the audience were asked what challenges they faced as business owners.
“Our biggest challenge is getting the product to the markets,” Brenda Sandusky of Collinwood Lumber told state officials. “There is no easy way for trucks to get here,” she continued, naming Highway 13 as the most direct route to an interstate highway. Suggested were transportation in the form of a rail spur or an industrial road for trucks to help Wayne County companies become more competitive. Speed limits on newer multi-lane highways were also noted as a problem. “We build a road designed for 60-70 miles per hour traffic and cut it down to 45 mph. Let the traffic roll,” Bob Haggard of Hassell & Hughes Lumber Company said.
“Wayne County is the number one producer of forest products in the state,” Steve Scott with the Department of Forestry reported. “Lewis County is number two.” The timber industry is a $12 billion industry in the state of Tennessee, he added. Various state initiatives were discussed including the 2012 Forest Action Plan linking healthy forests to clean water. State programs are about“using our resources to impact economic activity in rural Tennessee,” Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Joe Gaines said.
Communication issues with lack of high-speed internet were mentioned. But overall, job creation and profitability were matters of urgency to those attending. “Fifty jobs don’t mean nothing to Wayne County. One job means something to Wayne County,” one attendee said. “Give us capital and we will get on with it.”