Plan East Tennessee, the regional planning collaborative effort
of five counties, is entering the home stretch with a planned symposium to kick off the new year in
The symposium, "Advancing Regional Competitiveness," will include discussion among
area leaders based on the five target areas of economy, environment, housing, healthy communities
and transportation. The five counties included in PlanET are Loudon, Anderson, Blount, Knox and
"We are really seeking to get a conversation going throughout the regional business
community in all five counties where PlanET is effective," Mary Beth West, with Mary Beth West
Communications, said. "Certainly, Loudon County (is) among them to talk about competitiveness from a
The event will take place 1-4:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at the East Tennessee
History Center on Gay Street in Knoxville.
Moderated by Ted Abernathy, executive director of
the Southern Growth Policies Board, the symposium will be divided into three panels covering the
five target areas.
Among the panelists in the discussion will be Ted Wampler Jr., chief
operating officer with Wampler's Farm Sausage in Lenoir City. Wampler's company is currently
developing a cellulose to hydrogen power operation that will allow the plant to generate its own
"The panel that I'm onis education and jobs for regional competitiveness, and so, of
course, as we become a whole lot more technical in our operation people trained to
operate the kind of stuff that we're doing is very important, and, at the same time, the kind of
jobs we're adding and the processes we're adding will make us more competitive on a national scale,"
He emphasized that Wampler's has worked with engineers to develop much of its
own equipment, including inventing its own patty-stacking machine.
"So, it's not like you can
pick up a phone and call the company, and say 'we're having an issue with communication electronics
inside this machine'," Wampler said. "... We're creating this, and so inside the plant, we do make a
lot of our own machinery, and we will also take a standard machine and modify it."
Wampler's new power-producing plant is set to be completed by mid-February. Earlier this year, the
company was presented with the Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association 2012 Solar Champion
Award, and Wampler was named a "catalyst" in the industry. Wampler's also has a large solar farm
housed in back of the future power-producing facility.
"We're actually becoming our own
electric company," Wampler said.
Participants of PlanET, which began in the summer of 2011,
worked during the early stages of the process to articulate some shared goals and visions for the
region, while the second phase encouraged community leaders to form a unified direction for the
area. The final phase will focus on implementation strategies.
Other leaders participating in
the symposium will include: Robert Martineau, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of
Environment and Conservation; Jim Evans, vice president of air services with McGhee Tyson Airport;
Doug Lawyer, vice president of economic development for Innovation Valley; David Mansouri, director
of advocacy and communications for SCORE; Carol Evans, executive director of Legacy Parks
Foundation; Cindy McConkey, senior vice president of Scripps Networks Interactive; and Matt Murray,
director of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
West said the last stage of the
process will formally conclude at the end of 2013. She said she thought the symposium would generate
a wealth of applications that companies in East Tennessee can then apply to their strategies in the
"We want business leaders and community leaders to be able to take the
competitiveness ideas and thought sharing that's going to be part of the symposium back to their
companies and really be able to think about 'what does our company need to do to be competitive
alongside all of these issues and opportunities that are now part of our community'," West
Doors will open at 12:30 p.m., and a networking session will commence after the event.
Seating is limited. Online registration is required at