The Highlands Economic Partnership exceeded its funding goal as part of the fourth phase in the group’s five-year plan.
Pledges gave over $3.25 million as part of the Highlands Initiative, which is designed to attract new businesses to Jackson, Overton, Putnam, and White Counties. The group’s initial goal was set at $2.85 million.
George Halford is the President and CEO of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce. He said money raised through phase four will be used to help market the region towards prospective businesses in hopes of creating more jobs in the area.
“If anything good happens within so many miles of us, we benefit, especially Putnam County and especially Cookeville,” Halford said. “Money crosses lines. People don’t stay in one county and spend all their money. They shop and go to other counties, they live in other counties. It just makes sense for us to be working regionally.”
Halford noted the number of companies that have not yet donated to the initiative is still large, meaning the amount pledged could still increase.
“We’re still about halfway there in terms of [the] number of companies but it won’t be double that size,” Halford said. “We’re very grateful. This is the first six months of the five-year program.”
Halford said the pledged funding will also help ensure the region has a “21st Century workforce” to keep up with occupations that are in high demand.
“How many times do we hear around the region, ‘I can’t find people’, ‘I can’t find workers of all skills,'” Halford said. “It’s a national problem, it’s a state problem, and certainly a regional problem and a local problem.”
Highlands reported an increase in new jobs created during phase three of their plan, as over 3,700 jobs were brought into the region between Cookeville, Sparta, and Livingston between 2014 and 2017. New jobs include businesses such as Academy Sports, Jackson Kayak, and the new Shoppes at Eagle Point.
Highlands will look to attract businesses across multiple fields according to its 2018 outlook, including those in advanced manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, and information technology.