"In turbulent economic times, stabilizing a rural local economy takes a keen eye and the ability to leverage existing resources," USDA Rural Development reports in a press release following the presentation. "Faced with an increasingly high unemployment rate, exacerbated by the departure of long established manufacturing operations, Dyer County officials took action."
Dyer County's hard work was recognized Wednesday with the presentation of the 2012 Rural Development Award for outstanding Local Programs. The award is presented annually by the Tennessee Rural Development Committee, a federal/state multi-agency partnership that works to coordinate programs for economic development in rural communities.
The event took place at the Lannom Center at 11 a.m., on Wednesday, Jan. 16. The presentation was followed by a light lunch hosted by the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce.
"Small business is the economic engine of rural communities, creating jobs and helping maintain a healthy, diversified local economy," said TRDC 2013 Chair Bobby Goode. "Dyer County officials have taken outstanding steps to build up resources and infrastructure that support small-business development, including farms and ranches, and have set the bar high for other communities."
Dyer County was nominated for the statewide award alongside several communities who have demonstrated a commitment to rural development. 2012 TRDC Chairman Dr. Latif Laghari, who presented the award to Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill on Wednesday, said the 2012 competition yielded many quality applications.
Harriet Cannon of USDA Rural Development worked with Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Allen Hester and Director of Downtown Development Steve Guttery to prepare the application.
"I am proud to have a little part in this," said Cannon, as she shared the criteria and the many initiatives already in place in Dyer County that offer support to rural development opportunities.
Award criteria includes:
* Increased farm income
* Promotion of economic development
* Conserving natural resources, improving land use, reducing erosion, forestry management
* Improving facilities and services including solid waste management
Just a portion of the specific Dyer County initiatives Cannon named that support the five criteria include: an active Ag Committee of the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street Farmers Market, improvements to the Downtown River Park, Dyersburg State Community College, a low cost of living, Legacy industries, a low cost of doing business, Dyer County's involvement with the Port of Cates Landing, minimum outgoing migration, completion of Phase III of the Downtown Revitalization, McIver's Grant Public Library's new facility, the county's well-established University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University ag extension programs, a partnership with Mississippi River Corridor, industrial development packages created cooperatively by several community partners, and the Chamber's adult and youth leadership programs.
The application also required information on the number of people benefiting from each community project, evidence of community involvement, and other indicators of progress or results achieved through the initiatives.
"Dyer County thrives on its agri-business segment with more than 230,000 acres under cultivation," reads the release. "Soybean, grain sorghum, wheat, corn and cotton production pump more than $136 million into the local economy. However, the county government does not focus only on farm and farm-related economic activity.
"The county continues to focus on improving the local economy while also planning for the future. Programs such as Dyer County Leadership prepare adults and youth for leadership positions in business and the community. The opening this week of the new McIver Grant Library and the ongoing downtown revitalization project, including River Park, will draw more visitors and locals to the business district."
"This kind of application could really (compete) for national recognition," said Laghari. "It is such a good investment you are putting into your community. You should be congratulated."
State Rep. Bill Sanderson and representatives from the offices of Sen. Lamar Alexander, Sen. Bob Corker and Congressman Stephen Fincher were also at the presentation.
Organizations represented included the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce, UT/TSU Ag Extension services, Dyersburg State Community College, Dyer County Farm Services Agency, Friends of the McIver's Grant Library, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation.
"(Success like this) is no easy task," said Hill. "The reason we are so successful is the cooperative spirit of this community. We feel like we are the garden spot of the world. This is a wonderful county to live in. Thank you for this award and for all the Ag Extension people who made it possible. We've got good programs, folks. And if you want us to show you how to do it, come to Dyer County."
The Tennessee Rural Development Committee includes the state heads of the USDA Rural Development, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Forestry Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Tennessee State University Extension and University of Tennessee Extension.