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A message from the mayor — Washington County: Education, commerce, heritage remain the keys

I appreciate the invitation to reflect on the past and talk a little about what I see for the future. I look forward to hearing from readers about what they hope to see in their own lives over the coming year.

Historically, Washington County places great value on building a strong educational system, warmly welcoming commerce and preserving our heritage. These values continue today as cornerstones essential for a dynamic and productive Washington County.

Building on these values, Washington County reached several major milestones in the past 12 months, some readily recognizable while others require a closer look to appreciate their impact. 

First, in completion of an important Washington County capital project, the Board of Education plans to open the new Boones Creek K-8 School in August 2019.

The new school’s “Bars” mascot is reflective of Washington County’s deep tie to frontiersman Daniel Boone. Much like Boone, blazing trails to open a new future for a young country, the state-of-the-art facility will empower our young people to blaze their own trails by embracing our heritage while learning to compete in a global economy. 

Amid brick-and-mortar achievement is an equally important accomplishment for citizens: establishment of strategic financial management that reduced existing debt and interest so we can afford a cutting-edge project like the Boones Creek School. 

Meanwhile, the soon-to-be shuttered Boones Creek Elementary School presents another opportunity to advance the lives of our residents by improving workforce readiness. To achieve this, Washington County government is asking the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to consider BCES’ reuse as a technology training school.

Washington County also continues to nurture relationships with businesses that have invested in our community. I devote significant time each month to visiting existing businesses, like Nakatetsu Machining Technologies, to hear first-hand what the needs of our job creating industries are.

And, we have added urgently needed development inventory in the form of two new pad-ready sites at the Washington County Industrial Park that is home to Nakatetsu. These sites can accommodate large businesses needing 200,000- to 500,000-square-feet locations. As a Select Tennessee Certified Site, the industrial park is certified competitive as the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development works to locate new businesses in our state.

Another construction project is one you may not notice unless you make a point to look for it.  Renovations to our Historic Washington County Courthouse on Main Street in Jonesborough are underway.  The 105-year-old clock tower has been freshly painted, with structural work underway that will preserve the building for future generations.  Renovations continue through this summer. 

Also, many of you are aware that in late 2018 BrightRidge began deploying high-speed fiber optic and fixed wireless internet. Beneath the headlines, your county government placed a strong focus on ensuring BrightRidge also provides rural residents with a new high-speed Internet option.

At the same time, Jonesborough and Johnson City are now among a handful of communities nationwide with 10 Gb symmetrical internet available. In today’s economy, world-class broadband infrastructure is essential in both education and economic development.

And, tucked away near Telford, BrightRidge and Silicon Ranch also broke ground in 2018 on a 5-megawatt solar farm which is now providing clean, low-cost energy to residents, schools and businesses alike through the region’s first solar community offering.

In looking ahead, I believe the cornerstone of a successful future for Washington County will come through developing new partnerships.

Aerospace Park at Tri-Cities Airport is a prime example. This effort required cooperation between cities, counties and the state to construct an aerospace-oriented business park essential to attracting new high-paying jobs to Northeast Tennessee.

Similarly, Johnson City’s recognition as the Top Mid-sized Town in the 2018 Top Adventure Town contest rewards years of focus and investment in improving access to the mountains, rivers and attractions of Washington County.

And, most recently, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has granted $2 million to the Washington County Economic Development Council’s for railroad connectivity improvements. These improvements, which only happened by working together, will bring greater access to area industries serviced by the railroad. 

In closing, I again thank you for this opportunity to bring citizens up to speed on progress to date, and know that as Mayor, I strongly believe our brightest future will only be realized through strong cooperation between county departments, constitutional offices and the commission; between the city and county; and where ever it makes sense on a regional basis.

Mayor Joe Grandy