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Eldridge on economic development

Washington County Mayor-elect Dan Eldridge thinks the county isn’t doing enough to promote economic development.
“I just don’t think that we have made the most of the opportunities and assets and resources that we have in Washington County,” said the Jonesborough businessman.
Eldridge, who was elected in May and will be sworn in around September, ran on a platform of running the county like a business. He has said his top priority is job creation and touted his business experience – founding a wireless communications infrastructure company and growing it to 550 employees – as a uniquely qualifying asset.
“We need to really look at the effort we’re putting forth, and make sure we’re organized in an effective way to maximize the limited dollars we have to spend on economic development,” Eldridge said. “When it comes to economic development, job creation, and stimulating job growth, we can’t leave any stone unturned. I just really want to try to create a renewed sense of urgency throughout the county.”
He said he would be sharing details of visits he has made to two other counties in the state, where he has examined what they’re doing successfully in economic development.
“I’m trying to apply lessons learned from those counties to our efforts in Washington County,” he said.
In addition to the mayor’s office, the Economic Development Board, and other economic organizations, Eldridge said the Washington County Commission has got to get “engaged.”
“Those folks have got to understand [economic development] is a priority,” he said.
While the economy makes some officials reluctant to spend money, bringing jobs to the county is going to take an investment, he said.
“We’ve got to look at it not just as, ‘What’s it going to cost?,’ but as more importantly, ‘What can we expect in return?’” Eldridge said. “Way too often we get hung up on cost, but we have to look at both side sof the equation.”
One of the main goals Eldridge has for the county is for it to set its own goal — of a concrete number of jobs and a finite amount of time to create them.
“That’s something I want us to develop, a specific goal objective, through a collaborative effort involving all of the economic development agencies, and Johnson City, Jonesborough and the county,” he said. “That’s something I think has been lacking. If you don’t have a goal to work towards, it’s hard to accomplish it.”
On Tuesday morning, Eldridge was expected to deliver similar remarks at the West Side Roundtable meeting of the Economic Development Board in Jonesborough.