Candidates speak out at forum

By Thomas Wilson

   Carter County needs jobs.
   That theme dominated a forum of county executive candidates sponsored by the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce at Elizabethton High School on Tuesday evening.
   However, the forum hardly generated the interest sponsors were expecting as fewer than 20 citizens turned out to hear the candidates.
   Stanley Bailey, Dale Fair, Richard Gray, Brad Green, Janet Hyder and Bobby McClain appeared to talk up their campaigns and answer questions screened before the forum by organizers. County executive candidate Kevin Colbaugh did not appear at the forum.
   Bailey felt the county's CEOs and small business owners needed to get involved in recruiting industries. He also pointed out the county should take advantage of the future opening of Interstate I-26 to draw new businesses and tourism dollars.
   "We've got to be attracted to industry," said Bailey, who said the county's declining economic growth had fueled his desire to become county executive.
   Fair touted his 21 years' experience in the banking industry and felt the county economic development team should learn the specifics of a company's needs to match the county with companies looking to expand or relocate.
   "I've worked with people looking for a loan to start a mom-and-pop business to multimillion dollar projects," said Fair. "I know how to look at a company's approach."
   Gray said the Watauga Regional Water Authority mission to increase water service would only provide water for residential needs, not industrial development.
   "We may have to fight TVA to do it," said Gray. "We will need three times the amount of water they are talking about to supply industrial needs."
   The WRWA has discussed submitting a permit to draw 12 million gallons of water per day from the Watauga River to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
   Green reiterated his plan to develop the county's economy by finding an economic development professional to improve the county's recruiting methods.
   "We need to hire a professional business and industrial recruiter," said Green. "Jobs are not going to just show up. You've got to go recruit them."
   Hyder, who said she had worked in the corporate environment and as a small business owner, felt the county needed to nurture its small businesses in addition to recruiting new companies.
   "We have so many resources around us," she said, "and I call upon the Chamber and all of us in the county to work together to bring Carter County back to its once glory."
   McClain said economic success required "team play" by county, city and state officials. He also said the completion of I-26 would create an entirely new traffic demographic of motorists coming through the Tri-Cities.
   "We've got to be ready for that. We can't wait until it's already here," said McClain. "There's going to be a retail development built on that interstate and it could be built in Washington County or it could be built in Carter County."