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ThreeStar program gets revamped, focuses on five pillars

Tennessee’s ThreeStar program is still one of the top resources for community best practices, according to Dan Hawk, rural development director for the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Hawk gave an update on revisions to the program during the March 27 meeting of the First Tennessee Development District Executive Committee.
During his travels across the state, Hawk heard communities saying the ThreeStar program was too complicated and leaders did not have the time to work on it. “We took it back to Nashville to find out how to make it meaningful for you,” Hawk said. “We want to get everyone in the program who wants in.”
The program will focus on the following five pillars going forward: jobs and economic development; fiscal strength and efficient government; public safety; education and workforce development; and health and welfare.
Hawk said his department was the first to feel the effects of streamlined government. “They eliminated the planning staff, and I’ll never be happy about that,” he said.
In order for Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bill Hagerty to put money in local government, they need to see it operating in a fiscally responsible and efficient manner, Hawk said.
For example, the establishment of an Audit Committee is a best practice the ThreeStar program is requiring all members have in place by January 2014.
A better educated, healthier and safer workforce is the long-term intent of the ThreeStar program, according to Hawk. An annual scorecard indicating the standings in the focus areas will be provided to participating counties. “What we want to do is show you where you are now to track progress,” Hawk said.
Mayor Dan Eldridge said Washington County is known as a ThreeStar community, including the municipalities of Jonesborough and Johnson City. The Washington County Economic Development Board is the body that submits the application and monitors progress toward the goals.
Now that revisions to the program are complete, a team is assembling to begin work on a plan to address the five pillars and maintain tier one status in the program.
Attendees voiced support of the program during the meeting. “This is the only program the ECD offers where the rubber meets the road,” said Tommy Olterman, regional development specialist for the Tennessee Valley Authority.