Cheatham County sits just west from Nashville and is rich in scenic beauty and blessed with numerous natural and cultural resources. The county has maintained it’s essentially rural character to this day, and boasts a relatively small population of about 40,000 people.
Due to its rural setting, small population, and lack of large employers, Cheatham County faces unique economic challenges. The county has the highest external commuting rate in the state of Tennessee, at 82.5%, with only 3,300 of the approximately 21,000 skilled workers in Cheatham County employed within the county. The county’s low daytime population puts economic stress on businesses and restaurants: Cheatham County has the highest retail leakage rate of any county in Tennessee, with a current rate of 68%.
Seeking to generate more economic development opportunities, local business leaders funded and launched Cheatham Vision in 2010 with the intent to improve Cheatham County’s economy and overall quality of life. Later that year, Cheatham Vision released Open for Business, a three-year economic, business, and workforce development strategy. One of the specific strategies outlined in the plan was to identify, develop, and market Cheatham County’s outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational assets. By developing the county’s tourism industry and targeting specific new businesses, the community hoped to create local jobs and new business development opportunities. In addition, new tourist spending would boost revenues at local businesses such as restaurants, service stations, shops, and lodging. Increased sales taxes would help schools and public services while reducing the need for property tax increases.
In early 2012, the Cheatham County Chamber of Commerce formed a partnership with Cumberland Region Tomorrow (CRT) and with their assistance secured a Rural Business Enterprise Grant through the Tennessee Rural Development Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The RBEG grant provided funding to inventory, access, and document all existing and potential tourism and recreation resources in Cheatham County and to develop a Sustainable Tourism Plan.
Led by the Chamber of Commerce, CRT worked with Pawpaw Partners, a Nashville-based natural and cultural resource planning firm, and other business leaders to look at each of the county’s four incorporated communities and determine recommendations for place-specific marketing strategies. Ashland City would be promoted as a recreational center, Kingston Springs for its historic character, and Pleasant View for its agricultural heritage. Pegram, just west of the Bellevue section of Nashville, would be marketed as a center for local crafts and music.
The Cheatham County Sustainable Tourism Plan was completed in the winter of 2013, and provides Chamber and Economic Development leaders with new marketing tools for the Vision Cheatham Tourism Cluster, along with new watchable wildlife and motorcycle tours, enhanced ecotourism, and a new arts initiative. Possibilities also include the county’s first high-end hotel, incubator spaces for artists, outdoor outfitters, and agritourism resources. Thousands of new visitors will soon discover this quiet county on Nashville’s urban edge and support local economic and community development objectives thanks to innovative planning and marketing strategies completed through this first ever Tennessee project.
CRT was contracted to provide consulting services to complete needed resource assessment, technical analysis, perform gap business and incentive analysis, coordinate community engagement, and generate the final deliverable: the Sustainable Tourism Strategy. In addition, CRT agreed to coordinate with state-level Rural Economic Development partner agencies including the Tennessee Departments of Agriculture, Tourist Development, Wildlife Resources, and Economic and Community Development to ensure that Cheatham County objectives aligned with state objectives and incentives to ensure successful implementation.
The document may be viewed by clicking on the chapter links below:
- Preface and Introduction
- Enhancing Cheatham County Economies through Tourism
- Welcome to Cheatham County
- General Tourism Resources
- Recommendations for Development of Existing Resources
- Boosting Tourism with Arts and Crafts
- Growing Visitation through Agritourism
- Business Analysis and Targeted Economic Stategy
- Community Development Implementation
- Resource Inventory
Robertson County is located just a short drive north of downtown Nashville and is mainly comprised of rural agricultural areas with several small communities surrounding the county seat of Springfield. Agriculture has historically been the dominant economic force for Robertson County, with industrial development expanding in the late 20th century, and residential-suburban development spreading from Metro Nashville-Davidson, Montgomery, Sumner counties. This increase in residential development has brought a steady population increase and the county is projected to grow by nearly 40% over the next two decades. These new residents will require employment opportunities and community services. In order to keep pace with these demands and costs, and to maintain a high quality of life for the citizens, Robertson County’s local government and business leadership have determined that the creation and adoption of a Comprehensive Growth and Development Plan (Comprehensive Plan) and subsequent updates to conventional community development and planning tools will be essential.
Evidence for a different growth strategy was made apparent in 2005 when the American Farmland Trust released the Cost of Community Services Study: Robertson County Tennessee through a grant project initiated and managed by CRT and funded by TACIR. The COCSS revealed that the residential tax base in Robertson County cost the county more to service than it collected in taxes. The study called for a balanced approach for land use planning and development decision making as a fiscal management strategy.
Following the COCS Study, CRT released the CRT Quality Growth Toolbox in 2006 and partnered with AIA of Middle Tennessee to fund and implement the region’s first Quality Growth pilot project in Robertson County. This collaborative partnership led to the A.I.A. 150 Blueprint for America Visioning Workshop for Robertson County and produced a 2007 Summary Report titled, On Preserving Open Space and Revitalizing Historic Town Centers that led to broad consensus among Robertson County citizens, “to maintain the agriculture landscape and encourage future growth around existing town centers and infrastructure,” and recommended the county create a Comprehensive Growth and Development Plan.
As follow-up to the CRT/AIA 150 Workshop county leaders formed a Quality Growth Advisory Committee to consider pursuing a comprehensive plan and worked with the Nashville Area MPO in 2008 on the Tri-County Transportation and Land Use Study, which included Robertson County and its municipalities. The Tri-County study, released in 2011, provides essential demographic data and recommendations for long-term land use and transportation planning and also recommends a county comprehensive plan to address projected growth over the next two decades.
In 2012, completion, adoption, and implementation of a Comprehensive Growth and Development Plan was formally called for by the Robertson County, Adams, Coopertown, and Cross Plains commissions and city councils. The Robertson County Chamber Economic Development Leadership has done the same through the recently released Realizing Robertson’s Future Economic Development Plan. USDA Rural Development has aided the county with a grant to develop a comprehensive plan and the Greater Nashville Regional Council, CRT, and the Nashville Area MPO have and will continue to provide technical support during the comprehensive planning process. A Comprehensive Planning Steering Committee will be appointed to oversee the process and ensure coordination with all involved municipalities.
The Robertson County Comprehensive Growth and Development Plan will provide an integrated framework for decisions related to growth, development, infrastructure, community services, and conservation of cultural and natural resources by:
• Providing the basis for future Economic and Community Development decision making, and support Robertson County’s diversified current and future economy.
• Describing a vision for the future of the county and the communities located within its boundaries.
• Directing how the county and cities will develop over time and function in the future, the quality of life opportunities that citizens will be able to experience, and the mechanisms for accomplishing that vision.
• Recognizing that Robertson County and its communities are keenly aware of their cultural and natural resource based heritage, which is integral to established agriculture and related land-based economies, a vibrant sense of place and unique identity.
• Providing the foundation by which policies on land use, community and neighborhood preservation, economic development, transportation and other infrastructure, social, environmental and quality of life decisions are made.
• Providing direction for land developers and homeowners on future land use, transportation and utility networks, and policies guiding the future development of the county, thereby enabling landowners to protect their investments and focus their efforts.
• Guiding the financial decisions of the county and cities to most effectively direct limited public resources to serve the greatest good.
• Focusing on the development of infrastructure to ensure effective transportation, information and water supply and delivery systems critical to maintaining and enhancing the communities efficient functioning and quality of life.
• Enabling the Planning Commissions, County Commission and City Councils and other boards and councils to make fair and consistent decisions on projects and policies, and ensure wise use of fiscal and land resources in support of future economic and community development efforts.
Robertson County Chamber of Commerce President and CRT Board Member Margot Fosnes summed up the importance of the plan in a March 2012 article published by the Tennessean.
Adoption of the Robertson County Comprehensive Plan will mark the fifth county in our region to create a county-wide comprehensive plan since release of the CRT Quality Growth Toolbox in 2006.
Recently, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer announced a grant for downtown Dickson in the amount of $627,782. The grant will go towards Phase II of Dickson’s Downtown Revitalization Project designed to improve the downtown experience, and as Governor Haslam noted in a press release,
The grant was made possible by a federally-funded program administered by TDOT. Dickson was one of 22 projects awarded the grant this year by TDOT, which has funded more than $270 million in “non-traditional” transportation projects. Dickson’s success has relied on proven strategies that have helped other communities in our region pursue similar downtown reinvestment goals.
CRT’s Quality Growth Toolbox highlights these six basic strategies communities of all size can follow:
- Define and Focus on Promising Areas
In 2007 a downtown committee made up of private and public leaders was formed to look at revitalizing downtown Dickson as the economic and cultural center of the community.
- Create a Good Redevelopment Plan
A comprehensive plan that expresses public policy regarding redevelopment within a specific neighborhood is essential to success. Using local funds, Dickson hired the Nashville-based firm Lose & Associates to plan and apply for a grant that included new downtown improvements. In 2009 a matching grant was provided by TDOT. Dickson used this grant to plan and implement Phase I of the Downtown Revitalization Project.
- Make Reinvestment Possible
To make investment in older developed areas more appealing, political and regulatory barriers should be removed as appropriate. In the case of Dickson, local leaders were aware of the success of other similar downtown communities in our region, such as Columbia, Gallatin, and Ashland City, and sought to replicate those efforts. By leveraging the political will and $1.5 million in private and public investment Dickson was able to complete Phase I in November of last year. This action clearly demonstrated the city’s commitment towards downtown revitalization efforts.
- Use Incentives to Promote Reinvestment
Renovating or removing site improvements and supporting infrastructure can be expensive, which is a significant deterrent to reinvesting in older, developed portions of the community. Sometimes the community must make reinvestment more attractive for private organizations by providing financial incentives and sponsoring infrastructure improvements. Dickson did this by partnering with downtown business and property owners in the Phase I investment which helped to fund parking lot renovations, and streetscaping.
- Design Attractive Community Centers
Using design guidelines, streetscapes specifications, and civic design principles can ensure that redevelopment efforts contribute to the unique features of communities. Phase II of the improvement project will include ornamental street lighting, sidewalks with brick pavers, cross walks, resurfacing, and landscaping
- Maximize Organizations and Resources in Revitalizing Areas
Many groups exist to help downtown revitalization efforts, such as The Tennessee Main Street and Tennessee Downtown Programs. From 2006 to 2010 the region’s four Main Street communities: Columbia, Gallatin, Franklin and Murfreesboro totaled $341.1 million in downtown reinvestment. Dickson worked with its downtown business and property owners to pursue enhancement grants provided by TDOT.
CRT applauds the City of Dickson, along with the many other communities in our region that are working to enhance and revitalize downtown centers and corridors. As our region and local communities continue to pursue economic development, Quality Growth and the principles and strategies of downtown reinvestment will continue to play a key role.
Click Here to learn more about CRT’s Quality Growth Toolbox.
Downtown reinvestment from 2006 to 2010 in the region’s four Main Street communities of Columbia, Gallatin, Franklin and Murfreesboro totaled $341.1 Million:
|Total building rehabilitation projects: 978|
|Number of public improvement projects: 40|
|Number of new construction projects: 80|
|Number of housing units created: 78|
|Total Value of all private investment: $175.6 million|
|Total Value of all public investment: $165.5 million|
Source: Tennessee Main Street Program, Reinvestment Statistics–Middle Tennessee, 2010.
Cheatham County is located just a short drive west of Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County and though the county is literally on Nashville’s doorstep, it maintains an essentially rural character and has a relatively small population (39,105). The county is home to some the Middle Tennessee region’s most diverse outdoor recreation opportunities ranging from the 21,000 acre Cheatham Wildlife Management Area to the Narrows of the Harpeth State Park. While Cheatham County has experienced growth over the past two decades it is unique in that it has the highest external commuting rate in the state of Tennessee, with over 80 percent of workers traveling outside the county to work. This inflow/outflow creates a very low daytime population, increasing the economic stress on businesses and restaurants in the area, and has led to having the highest retail leakage rate of any county in Tennessee at 68%.
Recognizing the need for more economic opportunity within the county, Cheatham Vision was funded and launched in 2010 by the local business community with the intent to improve Cheatham County’s economy and overall quality of life. Later that year Cheatham Vision released Open for Business a three-year economic, business and workforce development plan. One of the specific projects identified in the plan was to identify, develop, and market Cheatham County cultural and recreational assets to a local, regional and national audience in order to generate jobs, positive economic activity, and increased sales tax revenues.
In early 2012, the Cheatham County of Commerce formed a collaborative partnership with Cumberland Region Tomorrow (CRT) and applied for and secured a Rural Business Enterprise Grant through the US Department of Agriculture. The grant provides funding for an eight-month project to inventory, assess, and document all existing and potential tourism and recreation resources in Cheatham County, and to develop a sustainable tourism plan with a specific emphasis on enhancing the county economy by targeting specific business types to attract even more tourists, sportsmen, and recreationalists.
CRT and Pawpaw Partners were contracted to provide consulting services to complete needed resource assessment, technical analysis, perform gap and incentive analysis, coordinate community input processes, and generate the final deliverable—a Sustainable Tourism Plan. In addition, CRT agreed to coordinate with state-level Rural Economic Development partner agencies including the departments of Agriculture, Economic and Community Development, Tourist Development and Wildlife Resource Agency to ensure Cheatham County objectives align with state Rural Development objectives and incentives, and ensure successful implementation.
“This is a true rural economic development project aimed at improving the Cheatham County economy by developing and enhancing a tourism and recreation industry based on its unique natural, cultural and recreational resources,” said Gary Scott, Cheatham County Chamber Board Member
The project’s main goal is to develop a long-term strategy to promote tourism in Cheatham County while at the same time, emphasizing the conservation of the very resources which visitors will want to come to see.
The project will be broken down into five main tasks:
Task Two: Determine realistic economic enhancement strategies based on existing and other potential attractions.
Task Three: Identify specific businesses to be targeted to provide for additional tourist and recreational use of the county’s resources, and develop detailed demographic and usage data to enable local businesses leaders to recruit such businesses and generate new jobs.
Task Four: Identify economic development incentives from local, regional, state and federal sources that can help existing and new businesses that will targeted through Task Three.
Task Five: Generate a written sustainable tourism plan for ongoing public and private development and support . Provide county business groups and organizations with copy, photography, graphic icons and links for online connection or use in development of own media
By enhancing the county’s tourism industry and by targeting specific new businesses related to the county’s recreational and cultural resources, new and more importantly, local jobs can be created. In addition to new jobs, additional tourist spending will boost revenues at other county businesses such as restaurants, service stations, shops and lodging, and also increase sales taxes.
Cumberland Region Tomorrow sees this project as a successful strategy and replicable model for economic and community development in rural communities. Stay tuned for more updates and the great results it will create.
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