State of the County: Chamber president shares successes, hopes for 2020

Part 1

The Anderson County Chamber of Commerce serves every city, town and rural area in the county other than Oak Ridge. (Oak Ridge has its own highly successful Chamber of Commerce, as does Rocky Top).

Our main purpose is to encourage businesses and developers to invest in this place we call home.

We support and encourage our local business owners and entrepreneurs, but we also reach out and encourage folks to bring their business here.

While I’m proud of what the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce accomplishes every year, this past year has been even more exciting than usual.

Our goals in 2019 were to increase membership, improve our Tribute to Business event, and expand our “Dream It, Do It” program to third grade.

“Dream It, Do It” creates awareness among young people and those who influence their career decisions about the outstanding training and job opportunities that exist in advanced manufacturing today.

We also wanted to move to a two-day Antique Festival.

I am happy to say that we met those goals.

Retail and development

Right around 70 new businesses opened in Clinton alone in 2019. Now, that includes businesses like landscape companies, remodeling companies, and other businesses that don’t necessarily have a storefront.

But it also includes a large number of businesses that set up brick-and-mortar shops in downtown Clinton. The swift retail growth on Market Street surprised us all a little bit.

Dogwood Carpentry, the Spindle Tree, Clinch Valley CrossFit, the Stair Agency and E. Claire’s Coffee House all opened downtown this year, and they all quickly became important parts of the community. These businesses were opened by people who believe in the Downtown Vision and the possibility of a growing, vibrant downtown life. They’re helping to bring it to life.

The Downtown Vision progressed well in 2019. The city of Clinton landed a couple of grants from the Tennessee Planning Organization that will improve the water and sewer systems in downtown Clinton. Why is that important? Because unless the sewer and water lines are upgraded, no restaurant will come to downtown Clinton. But once those are improved, there’s no telling what could happen.

We also received a $15,000 grant for signage in downtown Clinton. We continue to work with the planning commission on changing policies for the growth we have.

Further on down the road near Exit 122, excavation has already started on the Fairfield Inn in front of Walmart. That hotel will have a major impact on the county once it’s built. Having another hotel like that means other restaurants and retailers will follow. Major construction will begin in the first quarter of 2020.

One disappointment: the stalled progress on Magnet Mills. What’s happening there now? Not a thing. No development, no plans. But, we continue to work with the city, and will continue to recruit potential developers.

Goals for 2020:

Continue to increase membership.

Work with the City of Clinton on the Downtown Vision as we move forward with other projects, including housing and retail growth.

Redevelopment of the Magnet Mills project.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve the county and help it grow in an intentional, positive way. Without strategic planning and cooperation among the business community, municipalities and county, growth can be chaotic and, let’s face it, ugly. Our goal is to help Anderson County thrive economically, while maintaining that small-town feel we all love. It’s why we’re here.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Check back here next week to find out about housing, entertainment and recreation.