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Shelbyville-Bedford puts “best foot forward”

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During a quarterly luncheon last Thursday, City and County leaders spoke about the area's growth and infrastructure changes--those designed but yet to come to fruition. 

 From the county 

 Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham spoke about his initiatives to give Bedford a better “quality of place”—for the young or old, current resident or prospective resident, he said. The mayor explained this can be done through public safety, education, and economic development.  

 Graham said one of his main goals is to provide high-speed internet across the county.   

 “Some people cringe when I say this...but I would argue that broadband, high-speed internet connection, I like to say, is more important than water,” he said during the event. He explained that without high-speed internet, people are “not coming to where your water is at if you don’t have broadband.” In other words, people need that internet connection to live in community.  

 United Communications sponsored the Thursday event. United Communications CEO William Bradford said the company has invested $20 million in Bedford, hired 120 local employees, and awarded $2.5 million-worth of grants to the county in order to bring fiber to the Shelbyville square and businesses throughout Bedford. 

 Graham said, “If we’re going to attract entrepreneurs, business professionals, millennials—and I believe that’s the core of making a difference in our community to strengthen it—you’ve got to have high-speed internet.” 

 Bringing in younger business professionals, Graham says, will help prevent “brain drain” -- a common term used to describe when young people grow up in town, go to college, and then move away to another, usually larger, city because there are more opportunities or because it’s a more attractive place to live.  

 “Some of that is always going to happen,” Graham said in an email to T-G, “But the more we can do to improve our quality of place, the better chance we have of keeping our graduates here in town or attracting the young professionals who would be needed by the high-tech, good-paying industries we’re trying to recruit. None of that takes anything away from our existing residents.” 

 Education is one of the platforms Graham promoted that he says adds to “quality of place”. For example, the new Tennessee College of Applied Technology facility, which will be located at the 231 Business Park, will be important in attracting the kind of professionals the mayor and his office want to see in Bedford County.  

 “It’s not about benefitting young people at the expense of an older generation, it’s about making the community more attractive for everyone,” he told T-G.  

 From the City 

 City Manager Ray also spoke about making the Shelbyville-Bedford area a better place to live, work, and raise a family.  

 “The city is in good shape. The city and county together as a partnership is in amazing shape,” Ray said at the luncheon. 

 Ray spoke about the ad valorem tax, which accounted for this year’s increase in property taxes for residents in the Shelbyville city limits. The ad valorem tax, for now, is the city’s main draw of income—about 44 percent, with sales tax coming in next around 20 percent, according to Ray.  

 All of the ad valorem tax goes to police and fire, according to Ray. And like Mayor Graham, Ray said public safety is a vital part of a growing community.  

 Both the city and the county said they hope to maintain the area’s public safety through providing trained professionals from the “next generation,” Graham explained.  

 “If you watch the news, who in the world wants to be a police officer, firefighter, or EMS?... They just beat you up in the news...They thrive on hearing the negatives, not the positives. So, we’ve got work to do there,” he said at Thursday’s event.  

 From the chamber 

 New Chamber of Commerce CEO Lacey Deeds also spoke at the event. She also emphasized supporting and building up the community.  

 “Before I got here, I did a lot of research on this area, which was intriguing...I went through Facebook and all of your social media platforms. What I read, was some of the most self-destructive comments that I have ever seen in a small community,” Deeds said at the event. 

 “We’ve all got complaints. Great. Let’s find a solution.” 

  In her plans, she talked about several chamber initiatives, such as “Best Foot Forward,” a grass roots efforts to create a positive community feel, she said.  

 In an email to T-G, Deeds explained she hopes the initiative will  start conversations about issues, such as homelessness, and alleviate them, by providing things like donations from local churches, 'career closet' for clothing, and job search help.  

 She also mentioned suggestions for making Shelbyville more attractive by getting facade grants for small businesses as well as working with the Beautification Committee and with code enforcement to ensure fewer violations are made.  

“I certainly don't have all the solutions, but a conversation within the community deserves to happen,” Deeds told T-G. 

 

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