During a “State of the County” presentation held during the Shelbyville-Bedford County Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon on Thursday, Aug. 26, County Mayor Chad Graham and Shelbyville City Manager Joshua Ray discussed the importance of city-county cooperation, which Graham called the “secret sauce” behind successes such as the forthcoming new campus for Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Shelbyville and planned-for developments like revitalization of downtown Shelbyville.
Graham said that downtown revitalization is part of the “quality of place” that will help attract or retain qualified workers and businesses.
See the "State of the County" handout
Graham discussed some of the challenges of his first term in office, ranging from construction of a state-mandated new jail to protests in downtown Shelbyville to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the county has worked to manage taxpayer funds in a responsible manner. More than $9 million is being saved by refinancing some of the county’s debt, and the county is planning for the strategic use of funds released by federal and state governments as part of recent assistance programs.
Graham, who served on Bedford County Board of Education prior to his election as mayor, stressed the need for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, an end to the use of portable classrooms, and more availability of dual enrollment programs allowing high school students to earn credits towards career and technical education.
He said the county needs to do more to ensure that public safety agencies can hire and retain trained and equipped professionals, by improving pay and benefits and adopting next-generation systems and technology.
Graham noted the new concrete floor at the exhibition building of Bedford County Agriculture and Education Center, as well as pending renovations to Bedford County Courthouse.
Both Graham and Ray praised Shane Hooper, who is heading up an economic development effort jointly created by the city and county.
The Chamber luncheon was sponsored by United Communications, and United CEO William Bradford discussed the company’s broadband initiatives to bring high-speed internet to more county residents.
Chamber CEO Lacey Deeds discussed the chamber’s latest projects, including a new initiative to offer group medical insurance through Aetna to Chamber members with two or more employees. Scott Hogue discussed the specifics of the insurance program.
Deeds also said the Chamber has arranged for Office Depot to offer discounts to Chamber members. She encouraged local businesses to list themselves on the state tourism website.
Another new Chamber initiative is the “Females About Business” program, which will hold its first meeting on Sept. 16. Deeds said 53 percent of local businesses are either owned or managed by women, and the new program will give them a way of discussing the issues facing women in business.
Deeds also discussed the Chamber’s “best foot forward” program and the harmful nature of negative comments left about businesses on social media. She challenged Chamber members to imagine themselves as tourists researching or visiting Bedford County for the first time.